There were a few minor details of plausibility and that sort of thing, but those are easy to dismiss if the book is otherwise totally engaging. And, in fact, I was totally engaged by the book until about halfway through, when there was this shift I felt but didn't stop to analyze at the time. And while there was plenty of spark in the romance, I was never engaged enough in it to really *squee*.
It was thinking about the romance that I started to figure it out. I've seen people remark that the love interest was what made the story for them, because they loved him so much. So I asked myself, did I feel that way about him? Nope. Because I didn't really believe he was real. Thinking about it, the character was about as close to perfect as a person could get. He does only one thing wrong in the main character's eyes throughout the book, which once it's explained is perfectly justifiable and it's hard to imagine how he could have done anything differently. And he has kind of a weak moment at the very end, but given his circumstances, again, perfectly understandable and he overcomes it quickly. He never made a true mistake and had to try to make up for it, or had to overcome any element of his personality in order to face the outer challenges of the story, or anything like that.
If I'm going to fall in love with a character, or get completely invested in that character as a love interest, I've got to feel that s/he's real. And perfection isn't real--or very interesting--to me. It's too... easy. I much prefer a romance where both partners have their flaws, and don't always know the exact right thing to say or do at any given time, but they care enough to keep trying anyway.
Once I figured that out, I realized my overall problem with the story was similar. I was totally engaged by the main character for the first half of the book because she had two major issues she was struggling with, parts of her personality that she didn't like and/or didn't know how to deal with.
And then, just before the halfway point, she deals with one of those issues. And just after the halfway point, she finds a way to accept the other. And suddenly we have a character who is reasonably happy with who she is, and goes through the second half of the story just being herself and getting through stuff because she knows how to get through stuff. There were plenty of external problems, but the internal struggle was pretty much gone. And with it went an important part of my stake in the story.
So I'm wondering--how do you all feel about this sort of thing? Do you find near-perfect characters intriguing or unreal? Do characters's internal issues (or lack thereof) affect your enjoyment of their external struggles?
Because I am kind of wondering just how weird I am. ;)