Not my normal genre, but…
While scrolling through Amazon looking for my next TBR, I noticed something peculiar. In the reviews for Caught, a historical romance by Christina J Michaels, I saw several comments from readers who felt the need to add disclaimers to their comments. For example:
We get asked a lot of questions here at Romance Rehab. The most popular are:
The answer to the first one is easy. Check out our 5-star reads section, or our 1-click wonders section. The second question is pretty simple, too. The answer is maybe. Check out our review guidelines. But the third question...well, that’s where things get a little dicey.
If you read paranormal romance, you’ve heard of (and probably read) JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and her other books set in that world. These books are fairly universally loved, usually garnering thousands of glowing reviews and ensuring the author will pretty much live on every bestseller list for weeks (or months) following each new release. (The hype is warranted, too. The series is fabulous. But I digress…) So when I found out that JR Ward had a new release, I checked out Blood Fury on Amazon eagerly and immediately. That’s where I noticed something weird. Something I’m not used to seeing on JR Ward books.
Back in the old days (sometime after dinosaurs roamed the earth, but before Amazon had a stranglehold on the book selling market—back when I was a teenager, in other words), the difference between porn, erotica, romance and romantic erotica was vividly clear. Erotica was relegated to a tiny back corner of the local indie bookstore, while porn inhabited a small little back corner of the Books and Company (my medium-sized town’s only mainstream bookstore). Meanwhile, romance took up half of both stores.
But today, the lines between porn, erotica, romance, and romantic erotica are so blurred that it’s nearly impossible to separate the categories on Amazon. Folks looking for good old-fashioned romance have to sort through page after page of misclassified porn and erotica to find it, and folks looking for porn and erotica have to filter out all the romance to find what they want. It’s frustrating and confusing, and readers everywhere are asking, what’s the difference? What constitutes porn, erotica, romance, and romantic erotica? We’re glad you asked. Here’s our take on it.
When I first watched The Force Awakens, I told my husband about the crazy-sexy chemistry I noticed between the Big Bad, Kylo Ren, and Rey, the last-nameless junk dealer who is just brimming with raw Jedi talent. He looked at me like I was nuts. (Not exactly a rare occurrence in our house, but still, it was mildly insulting) He pointed out that the film was clearly setting up a relationship between Finn, the Stormtrooper turned rebel hero and Rey, to which I said, Pfffttt. Those two will never be anything more than friends. There’s no chemistry there. (Now, Finn’s chemistry with fly boy Poe...well, that’s another story entirely. But I digress…)
Not too long ago, I was the biggest paranormal romance fan out there. And no, not because of Twilight. I loved vampires and shifters and witches and fae long before Bella stumbled clumsily into Edward’s arms (and Jacob’s arms, too, for that matter. She sure did stumble a lot, didn’t she?). But lately, my love for the paranormal has waned somewhat. I’m starting to feel like I’ve read pretty much everything out there. I’m seeing the same old tropes and characters over and over (and over and over) again. But I don’t just want to give up on a genre that has brought me so much entertainment over the years. So, what’s a paranormal romance novel addict to do? No, seriously—I’m asking. What should I read, y’all? But before you start offering your suggestions, let me tell you what I’m NOT looking for:
Look, we’re usually the first people in the room to advocate for romance novels. We even wrote a pretty thorough defense of the genre as a whole a while back. The fact of the matter is that we LOVE romance novels, and we think they’ve come a long way from the old bodice rippers of the 70s and early 80s. But we’re also not blind. As much love as we have for romance (and it’s A LOT), there are still some lingering sexist tropes that we’d like to stomp out of existence—for the good of the genre, all readers, and all women, really. For example:
We’ve all played dump, date or marry at some point in our lives. It never really gets old, does it? With that in mind, we’ve got a good one for you. Which one of these contemporary romance novel heroes would you dump, date, or marry? We’ve got our answers, even though it was anything but easy to decide (see below)...
Look, we realize our audience is probably 90% women, and this post might not reach a ton of dudes. That’s OK. Because we still want to help the men out there. Just because the majority of them aren’t in our reading audience, doesn’t mean we like the thought of them blindly stumbling through this holiday season, making gifting faux paus that could haunt them for years to come. If we can help only a handful of dudes make smart buying decisions this year, so be it. With that in mind, ladies, we’re asking that you pass this one along to the men in your lives. (Subtly, of course. Let them think they found this one all on their own.) So, without further ado, here is our list of gifts you should NEVER give the woman in your life:
So, not too long ago, we posted our thoughts on romance tropes we never want to see again. And we had a few people ask, well, if you don’t want to see those tropes, what DO you want to see? Glad you asked. We have a few things we’d LOVE to see more of in Romance Land going forward.
You all know how to play, right? Only let’s not make this a drinking game, because here at Romance Rehab, we’d end up with alcohol poisoning…
So, this weekend, I was reading a book that I should have liked. I say “should have” because it had a good cover (super hot guy...who doesn’t love that?), a good blurb, and a ton of good reviews. I went into it with every confidence that it’d be great. Well, I made it to 4% of the story before I gave up on it. Why? It was all about one of my least favorite tropes in romance history: the secret baby.
My biggest problem with the secret baby in this particular romance was that there was absolutely NO REASON for the heroine to have kept this baby from the father. The hero wasn’t an abusive drug addict, he wasn’t some deadbeat loser. He was an upstanding, nice guy who deserved to be a part of his kid’s life. Why did the heroine keep the baby’s existence from the father? Well, she’d had a rough life and didn’t trust people easily. Oh, boo freakin’ hoo, lady! Lots of people have had sad lives and they don’t vow to do everything all by themselves, even when the father has billions of dollars and the heroine is in debt to a loan shark to pay for the baby’s heart surgery. (I’m not even making that up. I wish I was.)
After all this, I thought it might be a good idea to list out some tropes that I never again want to darken my Kindle. (Other than the secret baby baby thing. I think I’ve made myself clear on that one) Maybe authors will take pity on me and stop writing these things once and for all:
Let’s face it. If The Walking Dead was a romance novel, Daryl Dixon would be the hero. I mean, sure, Rick is handsome and smart and sexily ruthless at times, but his track record with women is pretty awful. (I say a little prayer in every episode that Michonne won’t suffer the same fate as Lori or Jessie. My heart couldn’t take it.) And Aaron is an awesome guy, but he’s clearly taken. Jesus is an option, but he’s still a little too mysterious at this point for me to make a final decision about his book boyfriend status. I really enjoy Ezekiel and LOVE that he has a pet tiger, but I’m not a huge fan of the whole “king” act he has to put on to keep his people happy, so he’s not my first choice. Don’t even get me started on Morgan and his pacifist tendencies. (The zombie apocalypse is no place for pacifists!!) That pretty much leaves Daryl, which, as it turns out, isn’t a bad thing at all. So, without further ado, here’s why Daryl Dixon would make an exceptional book boyfriend:
I’ve watched every episode of Supernatural. Through the good and bad, the deaths and rebirths, the tears and laughs, I’ve remained loyal to the show and to (my future second husband) the incredibly talented Jensen Ackles (aka: Dean Winchester). And as a fan of the show who is also a HUGE fan of romance novels, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Dean Winchester would make a phenomenal book boyfriend. But in real life...well...not so much. Now, before all you Dean fans jump on me with both feet, hear me out:
Here at Romance Rehab, we love self-published authors. For starters, they release books faster than traditionally published authors. (More books + Less time waiting = happy book bloggers) They’re also able to express their creative visions without having to first filter them through the lens of the traditional publishing industry. (And let me tell you executives in the publishing industry something: you guys don’t always know what all readers want. So, when you say that paranormal romance is dead? Yeah...not so much. We can find you thousands upon thousands of romance readers looking for new vampires, shifters, and other supernatural characters to read about.) On a whole, self-published authors are fast, flexible, and fearless—and we respect the hell out of them.
But… (There’s always a but, isn’t there?)