Okay, I said I was going to make this list after my last blog, but going back and reading that blog, I realized that along with things I want in a romance, I already listed several things that I didn’t want in a romance:
-Mary Sue characters
-cliff hangers or tragic endings
So it looks like I’ve already done this. 😦 Still, I had some other things I could add, and seeing as it’s “blog day” I think I’ll list a few more things I don’t want to see in romance novels. Mind you, everything I’m going to list next is a matter of opinion. I know that some people will disagree with some of my points and I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Perhaps you can convince me to look at these things again and reconsider. I’m always down for a second opinion, especially when it expands my reading choices. For now, this list is the type of stuff that will usually have me putting the book down without finishing it.
- Fated Mates
Okay, I know that this is a MUCH loved trope in romance (usually paranormal romance) and I’ve seen it done extremely well, so this isn’t always a deal-breaker for me. However, far too often lately, rather than adding any conflict to the relationship and the plot, the fated mates trope kills all conflict and acts as a magic wand to bring two disparate people together without doing any of the work required to convince the reader that they did (or will) fall in love.
You have generic alpha shifter A and generic human girl B, and she’s his fated mate so rather than have her struggle with the very idea of shifters and shifting and living a life like that just to be with this obviously super-hot guy, she just embraces the idea because “fated mate.” Yawn.
Also, every fated mate scenario I’ve read (except for the HeartMate books by Robin D. Owens-which I love!) tends to play it safe when it comes to the kinds of issues two people can face when getting together. When a sexy, alien barbarian wants a huge family to help repopulate his planet, his fated mate is never infertile (at least not for long). This means she also can’t be older, no matter how old he might be. So, he might be a thousand-year old vampire, and his fated mate is a young twenty-something virgin! (Really? No one else finds that immersion-breaking?) My question: Why did the fates hate him SO much that they didn’t even create his mate until he was already 980 years old? Fates are jerks!
I also never see stories where the fated mates are already married to someone else and have families and kids. So alien barbarian lands on Earth to pick up his fated mate (who will just drop everything and go with him because fate y’all), and lucky for him and her both, there’s usually only a total jerk of a cheating ex-husband/boyfriend for her to say adios to. Not once have I read a romance where the heroine has to make a choice between a good man (and even their children) and her fated mate, who is the only person she will ever find true happiness with. Now that would be a powerful story with lots of conflict and a deep and profound choice to make!
But you don’t see that, because fated mates almost always get it easy when it comes to their selection. Fortunately, they also always find their mates beautiful the moment they see them. I’d love it if a fated mate story had it where the hero was not instantly in love with the way his mate looked. (or vice versa)
See #1 😉
Seriously though, this is probably one of my bigger issues with the fated mate trope, and sadly, that’s not the only case where it happens. I expect a bit of instant attraction in a romance (heck, it happened to me in real life with my husband. I knew I wanted him from the moment I met him). Insta-luv though should not happen. You should not be ready to just up and abandon everything you are and everything you hold dear after a day of knowing some stranger. Perhaps in the narrative it might work if everything else is done well, but even then, the character should have some doubts.
- Unrealistically beautiful heroines
I don’t mind a beautiful heroine, as long as she fits into what is normal human beauty (before Photoshop and Snapchat filters 😉 ). For a while, back in the day, there seemed to be a surplus of silvery-haired, purple-eyed demure but stunning (and humble, of course) heroines in romance novels. Those were what I like to call “wall-bangers.” 😉 Of course, now that I have a Kindle and do most of my reading on that, I have to be careful about throwing it. It already has a couple of cracks that are starting to get distracting.
Unless the heroine is some form of alien species, please spare me the “brilliant purple eyes” and “silvery blond hair” or some other variant of coloring that is extremely unnatural and/or exceptionally rare. Also, if a heroine is extremely beautiful, do not try to convince me that she is also very humble and demure and perfect in nature. Unless she was abused as a child, odds are, the more beautiful she is, the more she was spoiled by the people around her. She can still be a good person, but she should have flaws that reflect this. Such as arrogance and a sense of superiority over “lesser mortals.” It’s okay; these flaws can change throughout her story. In fact, that’s what makes the heroine a dynamic character. If she starts off perfect, she has nowhere to go.
- (Too Stupid To Live) TSTL heroine
These types of heroines are frustrating in the extreme if you come across them enough. There are many examples of TSTL heroines, but I usually encounter them in paranormal or science fiction romance, or romantic suspense. This is the type of heroine who immediately follows the hero into mortal danger just because she’s mad that he told her to stay put so he could go fight the (insert plot device here). Seriously b***h! Stay put! Now you’ve put both of you in danger! (Hello wall, meet Kindle)
TSTL heroines are far too often “strong, independent women” who don’t need no man. That’s great, except when they bumble into trouble, then make it worse trying to prove that they don’t need no man and aren’t going to listen to the hero’s advice or orders because they are strong and independent. Arrrggghhh! Stop! Just shut up and listen to the person who has more experience! Who cares that it’s a man? These types of situations are far too often a plot device to put the heroine in danger when any sensible woman (yes, even strong, independent ones) would listen to the hero and stay away, because they have enough brains to recognize that they don’t know how to fight everything by themselves. Here’s a newsflash. You’re on an alien planet facing off against enemies you’ve never seen before, but your sexy, alpha, alien barbarian, fated mate has been fighting them all his life. He does not need your help! I don’t care if you’re a tenth degree black-belt in space-marines karate! Stay put! Do what the seven-foot tall, super-buff and strong alien man says. Sheesh!
Okay, I got that off my chest. Next.
- Heroes that are too handsome
Some folks (maybe a lot) are going to disagree with me on this one, and that’s cool. This is definitely my own personal preference, but I like heroes who aren’t Ken doll perfect. I like scars, both physically and emotionally, in my heroes. I like alien heroes who may have some features that aren’t so beautiful, or monster-type heroes who may not always look like male models.
A super-handsome hero isn’t always a deal-breaker for me, but as with a super-gorgeous heroine, I expect certain character flaws in someone who has been beautiful all their lives (and not had any extenuating circumstances that would change his character). If he’s not arrogant and somewhat superior in his attitude, then I have a difficult time buying into his character.
- Promiscuous heroes
This one probably relates to #5 somewhat, because gorgeous men don’t have any trouble finding women to sleep with. I don’t like my heroes to be ladies’ men. This is again something many people will disagree with me on, but personally, I don’t find it appealing to imagine that the hero has slept with countless women prior to the heroine. Even though he will obviously be deeply in love with the heroine and none of those other women meant anything… well, maybe it’s because none of those other women meant anything. Ick.
I want the hero to be thoughtful about intimacy. I want him to choose carefully who he shares his bed with. I want him to view it as more than just scratching an itch with whoever happens to be available to hop into the sack with. I want him to have standards (and no, just because every previous woman was super-beautiful doesn’t mean he has standards). All of these things make it more meaningful when the hero and heroine come together intimately. If he sleeps with every other woman out there, what makes the heroine special? I know, I know, he settles down with her and leaves his womanizing behind him. See, she’s special! Um. I can’t say I’m convinced that life after the HEA will live up to the “Ever After” part.
Wow, this ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would! These are just some things that I don’t like to see in the romance novels I read (or games or movies or graphic novels, etc.) I know that many of these are accepted tropes, and that some people love them. I’d love to have a discussion about that, so if you disagree (or agree) with any of these points, feel free to leave a comment. I love hearing from you guys and enjoy getting a different perspective on things that I might not have considered before.
All photos courtesy of Pixabay.