I liked what Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout had to say about critics and criticism:
...criticism is not written in a vacuum. It touches real people, people of flesh and blood, and sometimes it hurts them. If you don't know that—and I mean really know it—you shouldn't be a critic....He goes on:
Writing for the Kansas City Star taught me that lesson, and it also taught me that critical standards have to be appropriate. You don't review a college opera production the same way you review the Met. That's another reason why critics should ideally have hands-on experience in the areas about which they write: It teaches them proper respect for what Wilfrid Sheed calls "the simple miracle of getting the curtain up every night." It's hard to sing Tatyana in Yevgeny Onegin, or to dance in Concerto Barocco. It's scary to go out in front of a thousand people in a dumb-looking costume and put your heart and soul on the line. Unless you have some personal experience of what that feels like—of the problems, both psychological and practical, that stand in the way of getting the curtain up—then you may err on the side of an unrealistic perfectionism, and your reviews will be sterile and uncomprehending as a result.
I think Terry's nailed it. If you haven't tried writing a romance novel, you can have absolutely no concept of how difficult it is to write even a bad one. And writing a book is only half the struggle, anyway. Try selling one. Try submitting your pride and joy to editors and agents knowing that the odds are wildly against you receiving anything but rejection letters. And if you do manage to sell, you'll be in for yet another gut-wrenching experience: waiting to hear what the critics think of your work.
Anyone who suggests romance novels are slapped together by people who have little regard for quality writing is ignorant of the most basic facts of writing for publication. Given that most writers will never be published and that most who do achieve publication will never make a big splash in the book world, just how logical is it to assume that any romance writer would produce anything less than the very best work she's capable of? Trust me--we're all writing our hearts out.
Romance novels are character-driven. By definition, the books are deeply emotional. So if you've just figured out that romance writers must be people who feel things deeply, you're catching on. Yes, we're sensitive.
Again, Terry puts it beautifully:
None of this is to say that criticism should be bland and toothless. Sometimes it’s your duty—your responsibility—to drop the big one. But you shouldn’t enjoy it, not ever. And you should always make an effort to be modest when writing about people who can do something you can’t, even when you don’t think they do it very well.