All of my readers know I read multiple cozy mysteries each month. And, I do a regular book chat featuring cozy mysteries. One of my sisters reads cozies as well, and she's a better critic of them than I am. We appreciate mysteries set in small towns with a cast of characters that become familiar over time. A cozy mystery series means a return to a comfortable small town and a community of friends. The towns are usually cute little tourist towns. And, there's usually a hook. The protagonist, usually a woman, owns a bakery or restaurant or a craft shop, or some variation. She may be a bookstore owner or a librarian, a literary agent, a florist. She may be divorced, or lost a job, and moved to the small town. Or, she grew up there, and has returned. The books are comfort reads. But, sometimes there's a problem.
Cozies often go bad when romance enters the picture. Anyone who reads cozy mysteries suspends disbelief. How often is there a murder in a small town? And, how likely is it that the same woman knows the victim, knows the suspect, and gets involved in multiple murders in that town? Those of us who enjoy cozies are willing to "believe" all that happens. But, let's be realistic for a minute. How likely is it that this small-town woman has two men fall in love with her, men who just happen to be handsome and eligible? And, there she is, in book after book, indecisive as to what man she loves.
Please. Even in a romance, the main character finds her true love early on. I'm not going to call anyone out, but I gave up on one long-running mystery series. For how many years can the main character not decide which man she loves when one man builds a house for her and her cat, and the other one cheats on her? I'm sorry. I can accept the murders, the amateur sleuth's involvement time after time. But, those romantic issues are not realistic. And, they're not necessary.
Some of my favorite mystery series feature happy couples. Lee Harris wrote a wonderful series featuring Christine Bennet, a former nun, who married early in the series. Her husband always respected her intelligence, and the way she thought through the cases, usually cold cases. Armand Gamache and his librarian wife, Reine-Marie, are a wonderful couple in Louise Penny's books. Reine-Marie is not the sleuth, but the love, support and intelligence is there. Kate Carlisle's bookbinder, Brooklyn Wainwright, can admire a good-looking man, but she knows which man has her heart. I'm currently reading Jane K. Cleland's Ornaments of Death. Josie Prescott has been dating the man she loves throughout most of the series. Again, he respects her. And, Clare Cosi in Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse mysteries is a strong woman whose police detective boyfriend is not only supportive, but, in the most recent book, Dead to the Last Drop, he goes on the run with her. I can name other series in which the sleuth doesn't dilly dally around making decisions about her love life.
Maybe it comes down to respect and intelligence. When the female, whether amateur sleuth or spouse, has enough respect for herself and her intelligence, she finds a man who respects her and her abilities. The right man. And, she's intelligent enough to pick one man, and not put up with an emotional tug-of-war.
I'm not critical of romance in general. I love Nora Roberts' trilogies and Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunters romantic suspense novels. I am critical of romance in cozy mysteries when an otherwise intelligent amateur sleuth turns stupid, taking forever to decide which man is right. That's when good cozies go bad.