It's poll time and this month we're asking what makes you choose one book over another? Is it the shiny cover, the author, the price, the back blurb or a sneaky peek at the end?
Kristina Knight — I Love Peeking Ahead
There is nothing like the feel of a brand new book in my hands. I like to wander the aisles at our local Books-a-Million and our library, and I will admit that the covers are what first cause me to pick up a book. But that is only the beginning.
I also peek ahead to the back page. But that ruins the book?! Maybe, but I don’t think so. I think peeking ahead just makes the journey so much more fun and exciting. Sure, I might know that on page 257 that the hero and heroine will kiss and all will be right in their worlds.
But I still don’t know the things that are wrong in their world. Or the ways that they challenge themselves to change their world. Or the steps they take to embrace that flaw that they really, truly hate on page three. Peeking ahead doesn’t ruin those things, not even a little bit. It makes those moments even sweeter; at least for me.
Real life is stressful. Reading a romance, especially a romance with darker elements and Big Issues, can also be stressful. By peeking ahead, I can enjoy those moments that might otherwise make me put down a book or skim because I need to make the bad moments last not-quite-as-long.
You might say, “but all romances end with a happy ending, so you don’t need to look ahead.” Maybe. But it’s still something that makes the books more enjoyable for me.
Corey Alexander — I Love Tropes
For much of my adult life, I was the only romance reader I knew. One of the joys of finally connecting with other romance readers was learning our shared language for the genre. I loved learning the names of favorite tropes; it was exciting to finally have language to talk about patterns I’d learned through reading on my own. It was similar, in some ways, to learning how to read queer coding in films; there was this whole other language underneath the story, one you could understand if you learned it. It also made it more possible for me to think about which romances I particularly loved, and go looking for more like them.
Tropes are one of the main things that make me decide to buy a romance. My faves include friends to lovers, forced proximity (especially snowed in), second chance romance, single parent romance, and slow burn. Any of these will make me consider buying, particularly in contemporary, BDSM or holiday romance. Combine it with one of my other favorite things that aren’t quite tropes but often lean that way, like MCs in a creative field (dance, art, writing, fashion design, music), geeky MCs, MCs who work in some food-related capacity, or a wedding-related job or setting, and I’m all in. Combine favorite tropes with MCs who are collaborating together to accomplish something, and I’m definitely on board. Books that tick three or more of these boxes are insta-buys for me, even with unknown authors.
One of the pleasures of reading by trope is appreciating the nuances and little surprises in a particular author’s approach to something you know well. It has the comfort of a favorite treat, interpreted in a new way, which is part of what makes it so delicious.
Frankie Reviews — I Love Auto-buying
I often hear people talk about their auto-buy list and since I became a reviewer, I get asked about mine all the time, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t have one! I know it sounds very odd especially as I do claim to be a book fanatic. True, I could roll a host of amazing authors off who I follow diligently, I don’t auto-buy them, that doesn’t mean I don’t support their work. I am, and always have been an odd book buyer, I buy when I can, whether that is in WH. Smiths, Amazon or charity shops. Maybe this is because I am not a true book lover? Or maybe it’s because I know that the true value of reading books that I genuinely love and not books that I have pressed the auto-buy button to get.
I very rarely set out to purposely buy new books every time one is released, there are exceptions—as I will get to—I always feel very uncomfortable setting out to buy for myself, I feel incredibly selfish. I think this really stems from growing up on the breadline; we had to make every penny count. As a child, I rarely had new books; when I did need/want a specific one, I always went to the library. I grew up knowing all about money struggles and that a book won’t put food on your table or won’t buy another electric token. It may sound brutal, but it’s true! Even now as an adult, the whole concept of going on to Amazon and automatically buying every book that a favourite author releases is still an uncomfortable thing for me to get used to.
Please don’t think I am a complete Scrooge! As I mentioned I do have an exceptions—book series! There is something about latching onto a book series, and collecting everyone that the author releases. It is so satisfying having them all. I think that once a reader has found that series which awakens them, no matter your financial situation, those books need to be on your shelf. This happened to me when I was introduced to The Inferno Club by Gaelen Foley. Those books were fundamental for me, they were the books that brought me back to reading romance. No matter what struggles I faced, these books were always at my side when I needed them, they are an escape from reality, and they made it okay to be a little selfish. These books gave me the confidence and strength to go out there and say, 'yes it is okay to buy a book every so often'.
I am still way behind times and a bit stuck in my ways in regards to auto-buying, but I am beginning to ease up and try not to fret as much. This whole new point of view came from reading just one book which I found on a library must read shelf; My Ruthless Prince, book four in the Inferno Club series. That book was the making of the reviewer I am today and hopefully in time the book buyer, I want to be.
Ali Williams — I Love Book Covers
There's that old adage: don't judge a book by its cover. And I agree, a book cover shouldn't be the only reason you don't pick up a book; but to ignore a book cover's importance is equally foolish.
In today's market, especially amongst online books, a cover is so damn important. There are an infinite number of books out there, and the cover is often the thing that'll stop you as you trawl through the thousands of romances.
Plus there are other benefits to book covers.
They're coded, much in the same way that category romance titles are coded. Just by looking at romance cover, I can usually tell what subgenre it is: Half naked men on the cover? Usually erotic romance or sexy romance. Pastel colours with a sweet clinch? Usually a small town contemporary romance. Of course, there are exceptions to the rules, but it's a great shortcut for finding the kind of romance you're in the mood for.
And also, it indicates the kind of characters you're going to read. Over the last couple of years, I've been reading more and more diversely in romance, from PoC protagonists, to LGBTQIA love stories, to neuro-diverse outlooks, to disabled heroes and heroines. And though a cover won't tell me if the author is #ownvoices, or if the book's any good, when I'm actively looking to expand my reading, a book cover with LGBTQIA representation, or PoC is a good place to start.
Ali Williams is a romance editor, academic and writer, and one of the hosts of Into the Stacks: The Bookcast, a podcast about speculative fiction. For more information about Ali and her projects check out her website. and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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