I've ridden both flatbar and dropbar bikes and concluded flatbars belong on MTB's and very casual Railtrail bikes and that about it. In fact, I recently converted an old hardtail MTB to dropbars so it would get some use.
If you found the bars and brake levers too far away on the bikes you tried, it was probably mis-sized for you despite the frame being "my size". By choosing the proper frame size, stem length, angle and height and dropbar configuration (they're not all alike) you should be able to find a comfortable fit. A knowledgeable bike shop should be able to help.