I read a lot of romance novels. They play a big role in my life as stories I can spend a few hours with. Sometime in the future I’ll probably write about why I love them so much and what they give to readers, but today I’d like to talk about some of my pet peeves. You know, those tropes that occur over and over again that make you roll your eyes so hard your contacts come out. (I’ve lost more contacts this way…)
I love all genres of romance, but I’ve certainly read more historicals than anything else. So this list mostly comes from that reading.
1) The “zing” of love at first sight. Okay, I get it. I know that people are attracted to each other right away. You can even have crazy lust for someone right away. But I find romances relying too heavily on the “I felt a surge of something in my loins so I am clearly destined to be with this person forever and ever amen” to be a bit much. Yes, this is generally followed by a period when the characters get to know one another and decide they generally really do like each other. But I’m afraid I’m a cynic when it comes to the instant recognition of eternal love for someone else that some writers rely upon to get their characters together in the first place.
2) Descriptions repeated ad nauseum. Another one I get on an intellectual level and as a writer myself but one that drives me crazy as a reader. That one characteristic that comes to define the character. Like if someone is constantly described as “blue-eyed” or “feisty.” The example of this that sticks out most in my mind is a book that shall remain nameless in which the heroine smelled like cherries. It was implausible to begin with. Ain’t no historical people who spend time in a pirate ship on the ocean smelling like cherries. But the author brought it up every damn time the hero got anywhere near the heroine. In the end, it just became a distraction that took me out of the story.
3) Ridiculous action. Look, I don’t ask my historicals to be accurate. I don’t quibble about whether certain words would have been used during the time period or whether something “really” could have happened. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief. But when the characters perpetrate ridiculous actions, it makes me want to throw the book across the room. (And I have, indeed, been known to do this.) For example, I was once reading a book in which the heroine was sword-fighting for her life. As in, she would be killed if she did not win. As in, d-e-d dead. Finito. Same for the man she was fighting. The author made a point to say how evenly matched they were in this fight. Yet in the middle of the fight, the dude was focusing on the heroine’s breasts! An entire paragraph about the rise and fall of her breasts as she breathed heavily and TRIED TO KILL HIM. Ridiculous. Now, maybe this heroine did have super-nice boobs. But when you are fighting TO THE DEATH, are you really gonna stop and ogle? Anyway, it’s this kind of ridiculous action that gets my eyes rolling on down the road.
I’m going to stop here. But I want to know… what are your pet peeves when you’re reading romance novels (or any novels, for that matter)?