I used to be an incredibly open-minded reader. I’d read just about anything and not much bothered me. But as I’ve gotten older, I’m finding that I have way more “line in the sand” moments while reading now than I ever had in the past. And by “line in the sand”, I mean stuff that I just will not tolerate. There are a few things that’ll make me DNF a book so fast your head will spin. (And if I do somehow manage to finish the book, you can bet it won’t be getting a 5-star rating from yours truly) Listed in no particular order, those things are:
Now, I’m not talking about vampires, so let’s not get all technical here. I’m talking about books that are marketed as romance and end with the death of the hero or heroine. There’s an unwritten rule in the romance world that true romance novels end with a HEA (happily ever after) ending, or a HFN (happy for now) ending. So, authors, if the hero or heroine dies at the end of your book, please don’t market your book as a romance. (I hate false advertising as much as I hate dead heroes and heroines) And if you do, don’t be surprised if I rip you a new one in my review.
Note (SPOILERS AHEAD): there is one notable exception to this rule, and that’s Emma Scott’s Full Tilt duet. I wasn’t able to finish book 1 in the series because I could see the ending coming a mile away and knew it would break my heart, but I went on to read the second book, All In, and ADORED it. But if you’re like me and can’t stand dead heroes in your romances, go ahead and skip book 1 and dive directly into All In, which ends in one of the best HEAs I’ve ever read. (Teddy is on my top 10 list of all-time great book boyfriends. He’s yummy. That is all.)
Child abuse on the page
If characters have been abused in the past, I can take it. (I don’t like it, but I can take it) But as soon as I start reading graphic scenes of child abuse, I’m out. I’m a mom. Child abuse just makes me sick and I don’t want to read about it in my romance novels.
One novel that did a great job of giving me enough detail to understand what had happened to a character without getting overly graphic was Carian Cole’s Tied. I knew just enough about what happened to the heroine to empathize with her and understand just how far she’d come by the end of the book, but not so much that it gave me nightmares. Unlike Lisa Gardner’s Say Goodbye, which I still have nightmares about to this day. Not that I’m bitter or anything. (I’m totally bitter, though)
I’m not OK with heroes who cheat on heroines in romance. Once that happens, I want the heroine to nut-punch the hero and move on to eventually find a great, LOYAL guy to settle into HEA with. If anything other than that happens, I’m unhappy and totally prepared to write a ranty book review.
Animal abuse/dead dogs
I won’t read about animal abuse for the same reason I won’t read about child abuse: it makes me sick. I have two rescue dogs of my own, and the thought of anyone hurting them makes me violently angry. I don’t need my romance novels to make me violently angry. And, I’m sorry, but there’s no good reason for a dog to die in ANY romance novel. If the dog in the movie version of The Mountain Between Us can survive a plane crash, hypothermia, starvation and wild animal attacks, any dog in any romance novel anywhere should be able to survive. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Note (SPOILER ALERT): the only exception is dogs that die happily and peacefully in their sleep of old age, like in the Kristan Higgins classic Catch of the Day.
Graphic rape scenes on the page
Once again, if a heroine’s past tragically includes a rape, I’m OK with it. (Not happy, but OK) But when it’s graphically depicted on the page, I can’t and won’t read it. I don’t believe that readers need the gory details in that scenario. We all know how horrible rape is. We don’t need the play-by-play.
I’m not a fan of Flowers in the Attic, nor will I ever be OK with brothers and sisters having sex. Ew, ick, and gross. And that’s all I have to say about that.
What about y’all? Where are your lines? Let us know! We’d love to discuss.