Thank you, Robyn. Like you, I prefer to read about what characters are doing, not what they've done. Frankly, I think back story should be minimal---just enough so that the reader can make sense of what's going in in the main narrative.
Just my opinion, but too many writers, especially romance writers, burden their characters with not only too much back story, but the wrong kind. That is, the least interesting kind.
The tortured hero is the most common example. For many readers and writers, he's an archetype. For me, he's a stereotype. Not to mention a cheap shot, a lost soul the heroine can save. How convenient!
I'm just not interested in reading about how bitter and angry he is, and how he got this way. I want to shout, "Oh grow up! Everyone has troubles. Haven't you learned how to deal with them yet?"
All tortured heroes are cynical, but most are also rich and powerful---a billionaire if the story is a contemporary, a duke if it's a historical. I ask you, what's he got to be cynical about?