“Do the right thing and happiness will result” is one I can get behind. In real life, sometimes bad things happen to good people but it’s still an idea to live by. But sometimes it comes through “Neglect yourself and someone will rescue you”–a bit dodgier as a principle.
But really, when I’m deep in a good book, I’m not thinking about messages at all, I’m just annoyed if I’m interrupted and then I wonder why those demanding children want dinner again, after all I fed them yesterday… 🙂
When I’m writing my own stories, I try to ignore any messages that come through because I don’t want them to seem forced. While I wouldn’t go so far as to agree with Mark Twain that “persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished”, I hope no one notices any at least until she’s finished the book.
Maybe messages come out wrong when the reader is too obviously smacked over the head with them. But romance as a genre gets dissed for unrealistic messages. Naysayers interpret “Love has healing powers” as “If you love him enough, an abusive man will change”. I don’t know which (if any) specific books cause them to make that leap.
Do you think about messages when you read/write? If messages get twisted, do you think it’s through clumsy writing or perhaps readers’ prejudices?
Which messages in romance novels resonate most for you? Least?