Some folks online are very open about the books they just can’t finish – the DNFs. Here at AAR, if we’re reading a book for review, we have to finish it. I’ve had a few that were almost physically painful to finish, but I made it to that last page. In my own offline life, though, there are plenty of books that are DNFs for me. Heck, some of them become DNFs for me before I ever leave the bookstore! In case you wonder, I’m one of those people who lurks in the corner reading the first chapter or two of my books before hauling myself up to the register.
I used to make myself finish every book I started because I just couldn’t make myself quit something midstream plus I knew the author had put time and effort into writing the book. It took me years to get over the guilt. I don’t know what changed my mind. Partly, I felt better after seeing so many people confess their DNFs online and also, I came to realize that the TBR mountain range was going to take over my house if I didn’t watch myself. So now, if I start hitting a point where I just can’t make myself pick the book back up, out it goes.
What makes me consider a book a DNF? Obviously, the usual wallbanger issues would take me there. Poor writing, too much purple prose, overly TSTL heroes and heroines and well, overbearing jackass heroes are a special pet peeve of mine. I know that sounds strange from someone who reads Harlequin Presents, but there’s a difference between being alpha and being disrespectful. And the disrespectful guys are the ones who get the boot from me. I read romance because I want to read a love story. If I get the feeling that the heroine’s spirit is being crushed and that she is losing some crucial part of herself to a selfish creep who is only(or mostly) out for his own pleasure, it doesn’t put me in my happy place. There are any number of blackmail/forced marriage plots that have landed in the DNF bag in this category for me.
And then there’s the ultimate jerk – the rapist hero. I still remember starting to read The Flame and the Flower because I knew it was supposed to be a romance classic. What I didn’t realize is that it featured a rapist hero – and some truly hilarious purple prose. The idea of forgiving your rapist and staying with him forever just doesn’t sound romantic or even healthy to me, so I couldn’t take it. And lest one think that older romances are the only ones featuring these princes, I’ve found a few in modern books as well. Just recently, I picked up the latest Sara Craven (I’ve liked some of her fairly recent books) only to discover that the plot of The Innocent’s Surrender centered on the hero forcing the heroine to have sex with him or else her family would be ruined. I couldn’t do it, just couldn’t read it.
Aside from the utter wallbangers, dullness can get me, too. How many times have you started a book and enjoyed the beginning only to find it sagging terribly in the middle? If the slog through the middle becomes too interminable, I’m now inclined to simply move on to something that I am happy reading. I don’t mind reading a densely plotted book that keeps me thinking hard as I read or that requires me to read slowly and carefully. However, I do mind those books whose middle chapters feature an endless parade of Big Mis, “Oh, I’m not worthy!” or “I love you, no I hate you, no I love you, …..”. Ugh.
Life is too short for me to read everything out there. So, I figure I may as well devote my time to the books I truly enjoy.
So, what about you? Do you finish every book you start or do you have DNFs, too?
– Lynn Spencer