Sometime past mid-December, I discovered that Samhain had an Advent calendar of free holiday stories. So I read most of them, and ended up getting books by a couple of the authors. The great majority of the stories were m/f, but there were a few m/m ones in there, too. Back before I knew that Samhain was an e-publisher, I had gotten a couple of print m/f books from them (via Amazon) -- contemporary romances. The books were okay, but I didn't think they were worth paying close to $15.00 each for. In the one, I don't think the couple actually ever had sex. My fault, for not looking at how many chile peppers, or flames, or whatever, the book had as the "heat rating." But if I'm going to read a romance, I want one where the h/h at least have sex. And I can get m/f romances at the library, or at a secondhand bookstore. I expect that I generally need to buy m/m romances to be able to read them -- although I look forward to the day when I'll be able to find them at the local library. It could happen. Eventually. After having read a range of m/m books, I'm tending to stick with authors I know I like. But being able to read free stories was a great way to get me trying authors who were new to me. And I tried one just from surfing the website, because the blurb and excerpt sounded good. I must have a thing for cat-people from outer space, because that one was a m/f story with cat-people from outer space. Whether it's a m/m story or m/f story, a constant theme in them seems to be showing the reader how you get a tiger-man to purr. Oh, yeah.
Now that I know that Samhain is an e-publisher, I realize that their prices for e-books really are pretty reasonable, and I did have some happy shopping fun. The other thing they did to get readers to try certain books was to put up the first half of the book as a freebie download, with the link to purchase the whole book. I think I posted about this before, but I read the first half of My Fair Captain, and did go get the whole book -- and the sequel. I'll probably get My Fair Captain in print sooner or later, too. I had gotten most of J.L. Langley's books in print format before I realized that they were originally e-books. In my very recent e-book shopping, I also picked up a couple of books from Linden Bay Romance. They seem to have an interesting range, too. I tend to like the historical stories -- they've got some good authors writing historicals. And I got a couple of stories that had been reviewed by Elisa Rolle (http://elisa-rolle.livejournal.com/). I think at least one of them was from a publisher I hadn't heard of before. She seems to read e-books from so many different publishers -- I think I've discovered half a dozen publishers from her reviews. I know I've gotten print books based partly on her Amazon reviews. I can't always tell if I'll like the book based on what she writes, but I'll have an idea of what the book is about. The reviewer from whom I seem to really get a feeling for whether I'll like the book or not is Lisabea at Nose in a Book. Her reviews are so vivid.
As far as looking back, I had gotten some new editions of "classic" romances by Jayne Ann Krentz. Did they transcend their genre? To the extent that they could, I think. I believe they were originally published in the Silhouette Desire line. When I was a teenager, I read countless category romances. It was interesting to go back and see what the guidelines must have been for them in the early eighties. There was a mention of the hero's "surging hardness." It was a bit of a shock to my system to go back to reading euphemisms like that after proofreading erotica and reading erotic romance. But the books really didn't come across as terribly dated. They're slices of life on the West Coast, most often Seattle; the heroines are spunky; the heroes eventually unbend enough to explain themselves -- which is about what you could expect for the time. I think I picked up probably a dozen or so of these reprints. I liked some of the heroes and plotlines better than others, but they're a good quick read.
Apparently, I have a pretty high tolerance for genre fiction that follows some pretty strict guidelines -- or at least that tolerance when it comes to romance. I don't mind formula too much if the author has good character development, and at least a bit of originality in the plot twists. As I recently commented, I like to know I'll get my happy ending. I really don't like books where the hero(s) or heroine or both die in the end, or are permanently separated. I like a certain level of realism in the details of the books I read, and in the characterization, but I'm not looking for books that are like real life. Much of what I read is paranormal or historical romance. I'm reading about vampires, werewolves, psychics, knights and dukes -- if I can suspend disbelief enough to read a story with werewolves, I can certainly suspend disbelief enough to enjoy a happy ending. I can want the h/h to have realistic dialogue and relationship development, and make a solid commitment to each other at the end of the story. I don't think any of that's mutually exclusive -- whether they're werewolves or whatever.
Thinking about it, I don't mind the formula of a cozy mystery either. Again, what is really a requirement for me is whether I like the main characters. I want some character development in there with the mystery. I like the historicals there, too. Roberta Gellis' Magdalene la Batarde series and Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael series are favorites of mine. They seem to have enough realistic historical detail for me, while still having the characters come across as very human. The protagonists are familiar with the rules of their societies, and know how to work within (or around) them. I never solve the mysteries before the hero or heroine does, so I really do like to have good settings and characters to enjoy while I'm along for the ride.