Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Things I Dislike in Book Romances

Each week, The Broke and the Bookish holds Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly book blogging meme. We’re discussing romance in books this week, our likes and dislikes.

I must confess to finding this one a bit difficult to write. While I’m not anti-romance, I certainly don’t gravitate toward romance novels. Many of the things I read don’t have what one might see as a proper love story.

But then again, it’s difficult to read something that is entirely void of romance. Readers enjoy reading about it; writers enjoy writing about it. It’s part of the human experience, and so of course it makes its way into books of all sorts, not just romance novels.

Here are some of my romance-in-fiction pet peeves:

1. Formulaic plots. Does this romance stem from childhood? Is there a Major Misunderstanding? Is one of them Hiding Something That Will Later Rock Their Worlds? Is there a Love Triange? All stock rom-com plots, and though they can be used with great effect, that is the exception rather than the rule.

2. Sloppy or stilted dialogue between characters. This can kill any story for me, romance or otherwise—but it is especially noticeable when two characters are romantically involved.

3. When one partner in the relationship exhibits behaviors that are dangerous and the book does not acknowledge the abuse because Love Trumps All (like when Edward Cullen breaks Bella’s truck to keep her from leaving).

4. The romance is unnecessary to the story or feels tacked-on. I tend to prefer books in which everything clearly advances the plot somehow and/or changes the character. If the romance isn’t doing any of those things, it’s just filler.

5. When the First Love is the Only True Love. It’s just—-too easy, too simplistic.

6. Over-description, especially during sex scenes. Now I’m no prude, and I don’t mind some sexy talk. But I don’t want Hustler stories creeping into my novels.

7. Romance that doesn’t make sense. The characters loathed one another, but suddenly they kiss and everything is awesome. Oh, no.

8. The character suddenly realizes that (s)he has been in love with the Best Friend all along. Best Friend has been sitting quietly through a sequence of lovers, waiting for the main character to figure it out. (I loved My Best Friend’s Wedding for the honesty it handled this with.)

9. The characters spend a lot of their time discussing why it is a Bad Idea to Have Sexy-Times. This is usually something to do with guarding the woman, protecting her from her own desires.

10. A forced relationship of opposite sex characters rather than exploring chemistry between same-sex characters or asexuality. Sometimes characters have chemistry—heteronormatvity be damned.

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  1. Oh, Bless You!!!

    For all the points you’ve mentioned (2, 4, 7) and of-course, especially for the comment about Twilight (3). It irks me that certain people dislike the book only because Edward’s a sparkly vampire, and completly miss how it romanticizes an abusive relationship. Just like GoT, FSoG and so many Mills and Boons books.

    It’s unhealthy and terrifying.

    I mean, I like romance. However, most times I want to slap the wimpy female lead and garrote the boorish, idiot male lead. Arrgh!

    On a more cheerful note (for me!), have you read Venetia and The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Having now spent about eight months getting familiar with the romance genre… Sturgeon’s Law applies. 90% of everything is crap. In this case, I prefer to phrase it “90% of romance is not to my taste,” but still.

        Things get interesting when you start looking at subgenres. An awful lot of the romance subgenres are indistinguishable from non-romance genres.

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        1. Paranormal romance and urban fantasy are distinguished mainly by marketing. Romantic thrillers and “normal” thrillers mainly by the existence of a female POV. Etc. There may be more of a focus on the relationship in a “romance” novel, but not MUCH more. 😉

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    1. 🙂 I don’t read a lot of romance novels, so I was mostly going for things I dislike about when a romance occurs in a book that isn’t a romance or erotica book. My feeling in 6 is that it’s best to think about what the rest of the genre does. I don’t want Hustler in the middle of my epic sci-fi novel. But if I’m reading sci-fi erotica, I’ve better get some erotic scenes.

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  2. This made me think hard about my own book, Deception. I think I’ve tried to avoid all these annoying traits in a romance, or dealt with it in a semi-logical manner (hopefully!). I’d love for you to read my book and tell me what you think.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. #3 is a big one for me. As a friend, if you saw someone you cared about in a relationship like that, you would call that out! But since the author knows all (or can write everything to work out, no matter how unrealistic), the characters get a free pass on the whole, “thank for your concern, but my love GETS me.” It’s stomach churning at best, dangerous at worst.

    P.S. Glad you called out all of these tropes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree.

      I was trying to be very open-minded about Twilight. I read it at a time when I was really out of the age range for the book, and so many people were over the moon about it. But Edward was busy guarding Bella’s chastity and breaking her truck to keep her from leaving, and I’m thinking “THESE ARE SIGNS OF ABUSE!” while half of creation is swooning.

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  4. Completely agree with all of these – especially formulaic plots (so funny – I did the capitalization thing as well!) – volatile relationships, unnecessary romance. I didn’t even think about number 10 but I completely agree.
    My TTT!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I capitalize things at will. I blame it on reading a lot of Winnie-the-Pooh. Milne tends to do it throughout the book, and I’ve always liked it. Seems a good way of emphasizing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hehehehe your point no. 5 reminds me of Twilight and Romeo & Juliet. I agree with point no. 6 too. I’ve read a few erotic romance (it differs from erotica) that are overloaded with “creative” sex scenes but they lack emotional intensity. I don’t want technique; I want emotions!

    Oh wow thank for introducing me to a new word. Never heard of heteronormatvity before!

    Feel free to check out my Top Ten Tuesday list at https://ssreaderscorner.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/top-ten-things-i-like-dislike-when-it-comes-to-romances-in-books/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it definitely includes Twilight and R&J, but I was thinking more along the lines of books in which the characters are older and haven’t managed to find anything as wonderful as their first love despite the 30 intervening years or something. Just so rare, and so unrealistic.

      And I don’t mind sex scenes that are a bit graphic—but if the book isn’t erotica, I don’t want it to read like erotica. lol

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      1. Hhhhmm I would finish read those stories if authors had good reasons to create those heroines (usually they’re late boomers because of a past incident hence they become guarded with their hearts). IF the heroines are whiny, then I wouldn’t be surprised with having first late in their 30s.

        Liked by 1 person

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