It’s Not You, It’s Me: Nine Things I’m So Over in Romance Novels

Romance is my favorite literary genre. I read 4-6 a month. But here’s a list of things I’d like to see receding in my reading rear-view mirror:

  1. Building up the heroine by tearing down other women. This typically involves comparing her favorably to either the hero’s ex or his faceless army of sexual conquests. When her positive attributes only show up against the backdrop of all the lying, gold digging, narcissistic, and promiscuous women he’s ever known, I learn a lot more about him than her. As a reader, I’m more interested in why this particular woman is special to this particular man.
  2. The Insecure Heroine (aka the nearly inevitable result of #1). Are some women insecure? Sure. But lots of us aren’t. Or maybe we’re insecure in one area of our lives, but confident in another. I suppose some writers think that readers can connect with a heroine who feels intimidated all the time. But when a protagonist questions the value of her existence every time she encounters another attractive or competent women, she’s annoying, not relatable.
  3. The Slamming of the Brows. Every genre has its version of “a dark and stormy night,” and my annoying cliche may be some other reader’s delightful turn of phrase. But I wonder, is there a way to signal hero displeasure other than the slamming together of eyebrows? I mean, how tough is this guy that he can make a loud noise with hair follicles? And while I’m at it, how about something besides a “smile that doesn’t reach her eyes” to convey insincerity? And someday a heroine is going to raise her chin, not to show her feistiness, but to, I dunno, shave it with a straight razor, or gaze upon her country’s flag as she earns an Olympic medal for biathlon.
  4. The Wonder Virgin. When a sexually inexperienced character who has never kissed, never desired, never even looked at her own smush mitten, is game for — and expert in — a range of sexual activities that makes PronTube look like Sesame Street, I slam my eyebrows together, hard. It’s like a newbie pairs skater stepping on to the ice for the first time and saying, “ok, sure” when her partner invites her to try the Iron Lotus.

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