For years I thought that my problem with romance novels was that they were "soppy" or "goopy," or at least that many of them were. I assumed that it was the characters and/or plots that would get me. But mostly I can't get that far because of the prose style. A lot of the prose choice seems to be centered around envisioning a scene in cinematic detail, and that is not what I read for. This is what I mean when I talk about "reader protocols" in a genre: obviously not all SF readers are allergic to these prose choices, because I know several SF readers who also read romances. But for the most part, I think it's impossible to read the two genres for the same reasons, and the things the romance publisher wants to sell are not things I want to read.
--Author had clearly watched too much TV, or at least watched too much TV without thinking about it very thoroughly. TV is a different storytelling medium than written prose. If you want to write for TV, write for TV, do not try to torture the page to make it do with great difficulty what TV does naturally. I know it's hard to break into TV writing. It's also hard to maintain a career in written, unperformed prose when you really suck at it. Lots of things are hard. That doesn't make them worth your time.
Have you seen a cop show? Yeah? So have your readers. I don't watch all that much TV, so if I read your scene and think, "I've seen this a dozen times on TV," you screwed up. And if I think, "...and it was awful every single one of them," you really screwed up. Some stock cop show scenes have not been fresh within my lifetime. Treating them as though the reader should be surprised by them is a bad, bad idea.
--The plot required people to be idiots. Not only idiots. Not only idiots in their supposed fields of expertise. But idiots in their supposed fields of expertise, in which they had supposedly had great success. I went to college; I'm familiar with people who are idiots in their supposed fields of expertise. But they were not considered rock stars by their peers, or else they relied on a much higher order of idiocy than the work in question portrayed.
Authorial contempt for a field does not mean that it's actually possible for any idiot off the street to attain soaring levels of success in it. You may not personally have much respect for actors, drug dealers, religious leaders, [you pick yours here]. But that doesn't mean that other people have no standards for those professions, or that success in them is pure luck.
--Every character was a contemptuous stereotype except for the main two, who were fawning stereotypes.
--The authorial voice was so damn smug I wanted to hurl the book across the room. Please note: this is not me being unable to deal with a point of view contrary to my own. I agreed with this smug bastard. I just wished I didn't. Some people can make you think, "Okay, fine! Human rights and treating people as worthwhile individuals were misguided after all, so long as I don't have to agree with you!"
--The author had not done basic research into a group to which I belong, and had chosen a plot that hinged on the behavior of members of that group. Oops.
--Pointless flashback structure in the first two chapters. If you're going to bother to use flashbacks, something non-stupid should happen in them. In fact, something non-stupid should happen in every device you choose. It's a good rule of fiction, really: something non-stupid should happen on every page.
--And finally, it was just not doing enough wrong because it was not doing enough at all. Right, wrong, whatever: I read 100 pages of this last book and could not steel myself for the remaining 450, not to mention the sequel, because I was in the mood to read, but every time I sat down to read, I would think of towels that needed folding, or had I wiped down the kitchen table? Maybe I should. Maybe family members had e-mailed with more news. Maybe I should check. Maybe someone had posted to livejournal. Etc. This is not the mindset one wants an eager reader to fall into. I put it down and will not pick it up again.
Clearly, I am a cranky and unpleasant person and should not be allowed near innocent books.