I've come to realize that I have very picky tastes when it comes to romance novels. When I first started reading romance novels, I was seventeen and feeling grossly in need of catching up. I read every romance novel I could get my hands on, starting with Jude Deveraux and Judith McNaught, then Amanda Quick and Catherine Coulter. I loved the period romances, especially if they involved dukes and duchesses and the requisite reformed rakes (or rakes in the process of being reformed). Eventually, I tried authors like Elizabeth Lowell and Jayne Anne Krentz, who introduced me to the joys of present-day romances, leading to another splurge of reading. Much more recently I found Katie MacAlister and Jayne Castle, who bridged the gap between my first love
(fantasy) and my second love (romances). For at least seven years, if there was a love story, I read it.
It took several years before I began to refine my selections. First, I stopped reading anything that looked like it was going to be too chaste, for I like my romances to have physical romance, too. Then I stopped reading anything that had story lines that I found depressing or aggravating, like '80s romances with outdated ideas about the roles of men and women. Later, the Victorian-era romances lost a lot of their appeal for me. The female characters who didn't quite fit in, had to struggle to find themselves, and who were so very, very young no longer appealed to me or were as relatable as they had been when I was in high school. It's a rare find these days that draws me back into the world of the British society, where the ton rule and there is a social season filled with virgins hunting for a husband.
I continue to read modern-day and paranormal romances, but it took me even longer to realize that I've refined that category down even further. I actually have a very specific subcategory of the romance genre that I prefer. I don't want to read about a couple who fall in love and then separate for most of the book, held apart by outside circumstances or internal feelings of inadequacy or superiority (like many Victorian novels I was finding). I don't want to read romances centered around one character's internal obstacles that must be overcome (a horrific past that continues to haunt the person, making them untrusting, unable to love, and fearful).
Very specifically, I enjoy when the two protagonists (lead female and lead male), get together early on, either romantically or just by situation, and remain together working to solve an exterior problem. Fortunately for me, there are a great many variations in plot and characters to fill this subgenre and a lot of authors out there who enjoy writing the types of novels I like to read.