Lately when I look at new books, and when I look for new things to read in the romance genre, I find that the most important consideration for me is innovation and originality. Many online romance readers complain about the same-old-same-old in romance, and I count myself among those readers.
I actually like the Regency setting, but I am getting tired of it. Some say that we over-romanticize the Regency, but I think there is a certain amount of that, and expectation of that in all romance, and in all literature. So it's not the romanticization (is that a word?) of the Regency that bothers me, but that so many authors seem to buy into the same romanticization. Everyone does rakes, everyone does Almack's, everyone does heroines that don't want marriage. All of these things can be good in small doses, but I find that I am happiest with a book when it uses some of these conventions, but also switches things up. One of my all-time favorite romances, The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase, has many of these conventions, but her rake is a true libertine, a man who is living a throw-away life for his own pleasure. And the heroine may not want marriage, but she also is living outside of society's norms in many ways and I appreciated seeing this glimpse of a non-ton hero and heroine.
I am actively looking for new hooks or premises in romance. Vickie Taylor's Carved in Stone caught my attention (despite the cover I dislike) because the hero is a gargoyle. Now when have you seen that in romance, or much of anywhere, before? If you have, tell me, because I want to read more romance novels with great ideas like that. I look forward to what Gena Showalter has upcoming because every one of her stories seems to have an original premise.
The blurring of genre boundaries is another factor I've been looking at in romance. I've long read books in other genres, and it's refreshing to see romance authors try to bring what's great in other genres into romance, rather than just leaving. The 2176 and Crimson City series from Dorchester, and authors like Melanie Jackson, bring science fiction and fantasy ideas into traditional romance stories. Or how about this upcoming series from Susan Grant (always innovative) -- "The first two books in a romantic comedy suspense featuring strong, smart women...and the aliens who love them!"
It's not just in the paranormal/alternate reality romances that I've seen innovation, either. Authors like Tracy Grant combine what I love about historicals, mysteries, and romances together. Authors like Emma Holly and Jaid Black bring the daring ideas and sexual freedom of erotica into romance.
I find that my favorite authors are the ones like these that think outside of the box, along with the authors who are extremely gifted at crafting words and stories. Laura Kinsale and Judith Ivory are such high-calibre writers. They bring the incredible prose of literary fiction into romance. Anyone outside of romance who looks down on it ought to read them. Yeah, there's crap (like any type of fiction), but there are gems as well.
So, where have you guys seen innovation lately? New authors, new ideas from established authors, anything that has caught your eye. I'd love some more ideas and some more books to look forward to.