Here Romance Rehab, we love the romance genre. Heck, we even wrote a defense of the genre to shut down all the small-minded critics out there who so enjoy slamming our choice of reading materials. But no genre is without its faults. With that in mind, here are our picks for the top 12 things we never again want to see in romance novels:
(Listed in no particular order)
Look, we’re not saying that we’re looking for authors to start writing about virginal heroes. (Although that’d totally be OK with us, too) But the word “playboy” in romance novels seems to have become synonymous with “dude who has dipped his wick in every available vagina within a ten mile radius of his homebase.” There’s just something about a “playboy” that, for us, brings to mind images of, well, syphilius-ridden manwhores. There’s nothing sexy about syphilis, folks.
The only exception we’re going to allow on this one is for Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland’s Playboy Pilot. Why? Three reasons:
Long-story-short: if you send us a review request that uses the word “playboy” in the blurb or query letter, we’re probably going to reject it. Just sayin’.
Bad covers can happen in any genre. We get that. But we’re not talking about other genres here. We’re talking about romance. And in the romance genre, there are a crap ton of laughably awful covers that make us want to pour bleach in our eyes just so that we won’t ever have to see them again. In fact, one of our favorite other romance blogs, Smart Bitches Trashy Books, has a regular feature that does nothing but make fun of bad romance book covers.
Long-story-short: If we never see another half naked dude Photoshopped over a bear/wolf/mountain lion in such a way that it looks as if the man is about to hump the animal, we can die happy.
But because we’re givers here at Romance Rehab, you can check out some examples of gorgeous book covers that do the genre a great service here. You’re welcome.
If the entire plot of a novel depends on a huge misunderstanding and the hero and heroine failing to act like grown-ups and having a REAL conversation, count us out. There’s no excuse for weak plotting. Ever.
So much this.
And that’s all we have to say about that.
Unnecessary love triangles
Unless the plot is about the love triangle, we don’t want to see anymore unnecessary, pointless love triangles in romance. As an author, if the only way you can convince readers that your heroine is super desirable is to have every man she meets, befriends, or passes in the dairy aisle at the supermarket fall hopelessly in love with her, then maybe you should consider rethinking your chosen career path. Same goes for setting up a love triangle to prod your hero into jealously confessing his feelings for the heroine.
Super “unique” wording in sex scenes
Look, we know that writing sex scenes is incredibly hard. (Ha! Hard. See what we did there?) But no one wants to read about a hero putting “his iron-hard love staff” into the heroine’s “weeping womanly channel of desire.” First of all, ew. Second of all, why beat around the bush? (Ha! Bush. See what we did there?) There’s really no need to get too creative when writing a sex scene. It ends up coming (Ha! Coming. See what we..ahem. Sorry. We’ll stop now) across as silly.
For more information, check out the official list of words and phrases we NEVER AGAIN want to read in our romances.
No one is perfect. So why do so many authors create physically flawless heroes and heroines? Characters with flaws are sooooo much more relatable than perfect ones. Whenever we read about flawless heroes/heroines, we tend to think the authors are trying to live vicariously through their characters by giving them the traits they always WISHED they had for themselves. We don’t mean to be harsh, but that’s kind of like literary masturbation, isn’t it? And NO ONE wants to read about that.
Hugh Jackman is the exception because let's face it, he really is perfect.
But, again, because we’re givers, if you—like us—prefer your characters to have some flaws, check out our favorite deliciously imperfect heroes and heroines.
We’re not saying love at first sight is impossible. (We’re not that grumpy and jaded) But can we all agree that it’s highly improbable? With that in mind, how about a slow-build up to the “l” word, huh?
Note: we’re willing to make an exception to this rule for paranormal romance, especially shifter romances. Why? Three reasons:
The little red dress
Plain Jane heroine who’s been secretly in love with the hero for years puts on a sexy red dress and suddenly becomes desirable to the man of her dreams, who up until that point either a) thought of her like a sister or b) had no knowledge of her existence. We love a sexy little red dress as much as the next girl, but not even the BEST sexy little red dresses have this kind of magical power. And what the hell was wrong with the hero that he didn’t even notice how attractive the heroine was until that dress showed up? It kind of reminds us of how Lois Lane couldn’t tell the difference between Clark Kent and Superman because of the part in his hair and his nerd glasses. (Which made Lois look like a complete dumbass, in our opinion) A beautiful woman in a red dress is just as beautiful OUT of that dress, (or in a pair of sweats and baggy T-shirt, for that matter) and if the hero can’t see that, the heroine should forget about that blind loser and find a REAL man. (Drops mic, walks away)
Hero and heroine HATE each other so much that their screaming fights turn into make-out sessions. We’ve hated LOTS of people in our day. Bosses, neighbors, co-workers, people who block an entire aisle at the grocery store to examine every word of every label for every product they pick up, the people who don’t know how to merge into traffic on the highway...and so, so many more. Never once have we just been so mad at someone that we had to throw them to the ground and have our merry way with them. We’re calling bullshit on this trope and would be happy if it never darkened our Kindles ever again.
Bitchy vs. feisty
There’s a big difference between a feisty heroine and a bitchy heroine. We don’t want to call any particular heroines out, but...you know who you are. Readers know it, too.
Dylan McKay’s eyebrow
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read about a romance hero who had a “small scar bisecting his eyebrow.” We blame Beverly Hills 90210 for this. It would seem that an entire generation of romance writers came of age back when Luke Perry (aka: Dylan McKay) was the hottest young heartthrob around. Nothing against Mr. Perry and his eyebrow, but can we stop with the eyebrow scars? Can’t a romance hero have a scar on his chin or something? It worked for Han Solo. And we say that if it’s good enough for Han Solo, it’s good enough for us.
What about y’all? Anything you’re tired of seeing in romance novels? Speak up! We’d love to hear from you.
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