Our Reading Lives

Please Don’t Make Me Read in Order

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Amanda Diehl

Staff Writer

Amanda Diehl escaped to Boston to get her MA in Publishing & Writing. Though she loves her new home in the Northeast, she will forever mourn the loss of Publix and sweet tea. As for Amanda’s voracious love of reading, she got it from her mama, though her favorite genres are romance, horror, and the occasional memoir. She reviews romance novels for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and when she’s able to scrounge together some free time, you can find her napping in front of the TV with the latest trashy reality show or scarfing down brunch-related foods. Twitter: _ImAnAdult

At this point, I’ve been reading romance for more than half of my life and I’m well-versed in its conventions and tropes. While I’m very much of the opinion of letting people enjoy things and not yucking anyone’s yums, there is one thing that grinds my gears on a personal level and that’s the dreaded connected romance series.

It can be rare to find a standalone romance, as authors are great at providing sequel bait. Sometimes it’s a grumpy brother who needs a chance at love, or that cute baker who only gets minimal page time but wins over readers’ hearts. And when it comes to a series, there are a few ways to build them. There is the type where each book is a self-contained story and you can dip in and out at your leisure. While the others either build upon the same couple of the course of the book, a la Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews, or separate pairings per book but with an overarching plot, like the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh.

I dislike those very much and I realize these feelings mostly stem from laziness and impatience.

My Attention Span Just Cannot

Listen, I love a slow burn romance with lots of yearning and pining, but the interest rarely lasts longer than 350 pages. The main characters may spend hundreds of pages together, fighting demons and sharing heated glances, though if there’s no climax (and I do mean in a biblical sense) at the end of the book, I feel cheated. I can only wait for a happily ever after for so long and while I can be motivated to soldier on, the longer each book goes without one, the more my interest drops. I stopped reading Kate Daniels after book three because for me, I prefer the romantic arc to take center stage with all the other conflicts being ancillary. Yes, these main couple series get there eventually, but I can’t seem to stick it out until then.

Who’s Got the Time?

When it comes to a series, I prefer to get in on the ground floor, staying on top of new releases to make things more manageable. Few things intimidate me more as a reader than being recommended a book and realizing it’s part of a 10+ book series. My reading energy is already very bizarre right now. I’m picking up and putting books down at an alarming rate, simply because I need something that grabs me and quiets my brain. Knowing that I have to power through nearly a dozen books to catch up makes me feel like I’ve just been assigned some tedious homework, and there’s definitely a reason why I never felt the urge to return to college and get a PhD.

Friends-to-Lovers Need Not Apply

The biggest reason I dislike romance series that require a reading order is that I like what I like and I know what tropes don’t work for me as a reader. For example, I don’t like second-chance romances or one where dating a friend’s sibling is off limits, regardless of author or sub-genre. There are also certain character professions that don’t appeal to me. Like dating a rockstar sounds like my personal kind of hell. I’d love to be able to skip around in a series and grab the installments that appeal to my reading tastes. I think that’s the beauty of a series with books that operate somewhat independently of one another. The author is creating this wonderful world, by allowing readers to choose how they experience it. I don’t want to have to slog through a friends to lovers romance just to get to book three where Grumpy begrudgingly falls in love with Sunshine.

Admittedly, part of me feels a major sense of FOMO. I have very active romance readers who dearly love certain series, where the enjoyment relies on reading books in order. You get to know the world more intimately and watch background characters change and grow until they get their own book. I know that feeling of loving a book so much you just want everyone else to read it, and you’re envious that they get to experience it for the first time. But committing to a romance series that relies on reading seven books before I get to the one that really taps into my favorite romantic beats is a big ask and I know my limits.

Of course, the beauty of the genre is that there’s something for everyone. There are plenty of series that do just what I’m asking. I just want to beseech my well-meaning, romance-loving friends. If you care for me at all, if you hold any fondness for me in your heart, please don’t make me read in order. Your recommendations are lovely and I love finding a new gem for my TBR pile, but if you insist I have to read a dozen books to catch up, surely know that I will not. And if I do, I’ve clearly been kidnapped and it’s a cry for help.