Well, I like thrillers, mysteries, and novels of suspense. I read a lot of Clancy, Baldacci, Grisham, Flynn, Grafton, and Meltzer. All of these writers know how to produce a great story that keeps me up turning the pages, but in many cases, I would close the book with a slight sense of disappointment when the hero didn't get the girl (or didn't even try).
It's not about sex scenes, though I never object to a few well-written encounters. ;-) It's about the emotional build up between the MC and the love interest, and getting the payoff at the end. It's about finally resolving the sexual tension that's been hovering over the story for 300-400 pages.
Maybe I didn't pick up on it because Follett, Finder, Francis (hmm, there's good stuff in the F's) and Cussler usually gave me some kind of happy ending, even if it wasn't an HEA. Grisham too, on occasion.
It was only recently, after spending the last 18 months devouring romances that I came to recognize that sense of disappointment for what it was. I'd just never given it much thought before (unusual for me, I know).
What brought on this moment of self-awareness was David Baldacci's book TRUE BLUE. (SPOILER ALERT!) I had a hard time putting it down, and he even built in some sexual tension between the heroine and the guy she starts pal-ing around with. I spent the whole book waiting for the payoff, but at the end there was none. NONE! Not even a kiss.
He's probably setting this up as a mini-series, but for me it was as if he set up a joke and failed to deliver the punch line. The joke was on me.
If you like Baldacci, TRUE BLUE won't disappoint, but if you're looking for even a hint of HEA, just keep looking.
So now, when I pick up some of my old favorite authors, I do it with full knowledge that I'll probably enjoy the book, but I won't get my happy ending.
If only I'd realized this years ago, I could have been reading romances all along.