August Top 5: The Top 5 Things We Love To Hate About Romance Books

In Top 5 on August 21, 2010 at 12:10 am

This month we tackle the top 5 things that romance writers include in their stories that we wish they didn’t.  We love these books, but some things we read in them we just don’t like. These are things like topics, story lines, and even settings that just make us want to scream and close the book or make us look around and say “What??”  Below the list is our discussion of our choices.


1. Virgin romantic heroes/No diversity in heroes
2. Sick female characters/Rape in romance
3. Scottish settings and accents/Heroes who change into animals
4. Impossible sex/Heroines who cave in to the hero’s seductive charms but fight the romance
5. Dialogue that would never happen/Heroines’ jobs

So why do you hate your number ones?

Alexandria: This trend in romance novels to have virgin heroes is counter-intuitive to the whole idea of why women read romance novels. How can a virgin be a sex machine that the role of romantic hero requires?  Readers want a romantic hero who can please a woman completely, not a man who doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. Worse yet is that romance writers want us to believe virgins can take a woman to heaven and back. J.R. Ward’s Zsadist and Phury characters are examples of this. Neither vampire has had sex, and in fact, she has them both wondering how to please their respective women. Yet somehow readers are to believe that when they have sex, they’re expert lovers right out of the gate. Hint to writers: leave virginity to the females.  We do it better.
Moira: Virginal male heroes don’t irritate me necessarily, but the idea that they are expert lovers from the “get-go” is not realistic.  Where we differ in opinion is that I think a patient lover….a giving lover….an eager lover ….a tender lover… could all also be virgin lovers.

Moira: #1 Thing I love to Hate…….  Where are all the sexy Persian, Eastern European/Gypsy, and Native American heroes? Although I love a strapping Scot, variety is the spice of life.  I would like to enjoy heroes from the groups above.  I mean, seriously…this broad, if doomed to a life as the bride of a green-toothed frontiersman named Jed, who dared to approach my bedroom in his smelly, red, woolen long johns…Please!  The next Indian attack on our wagon train would have me yelling, “No!  You all run back and save yourselves. Don’t worry about me…I’ll lead those golden brown, mostly naked heathens the other way…I’ll sacrifice myself and force myself…somehow…. to ride bareback on a pony behind one of those lean warriors covered in war paint with that silken black hair blowing in the breeze…”.
Alexandria: I think I got a little sick thinking about Jed, Moira.  But I’m all for some more Eastern Europeans.  The big strapping kind.

Ok, so what is the deal with your second hated things?

Alexandria: I don’t know when sickness became associated with romance (Is this because of that sappy 1970 movie Love Story? Damn you Ali MacGraw!), but it needs to stop.  Think about the last time you had the flu.  Can you imagine doing anything sexual, even if the most beautiful male who ever existed came to you to seduce you and please you like no other man ever could?  Of course not!  You’re sick!  Even your hair hurts.  Sickness, however, doesn’t seem to stop romance heroines from fucking like porn stars and behaving like you and me on our best days.  Once again, J.R. Ward is on our list.  Rhage’s woman, Mary, in Lover Eternal has leukemia.  Yet that character can sex that 6’8″ superhot vamp and fight with him like any feisty woman.  Amanda Ashley’s female character Shannah in Dead Perfect is dying from some unknown disease and is close to death even at the beginning of the story, yet she can follow the hero for months and camp out across the street from his house stalking him.  Writers, please stop giving incredibly hot romantic heroes sick girls to fall in love with.  Sickness is not sexy, and a person close to death has a pallor that is anything but a turn on.
Moira: Being sick is the absolute worst in my world.  Fevers leave me delirious, aching with what my grandmother referred to as the “old fashioned grip”, and whining for Advil.  I look and feel like Medusa on hard-core drugs, and couldn’t have a romantic thought if I tried. (Picture yourself the last time you slathered yourself up with Vick’s Vapo Rub, swallowed  a double dose of NyQuil, and slept with a Kleenex stuffed up your nose……uhhh yeah, see what I mean….?)  None of this is sexy.  I’m so glad you addressed this irksome trend by romance writers.

Moira: #2 Thing I love to Hate…….Rape In Romance…..  I understand we need drama in our romance novels, but I’m not a fan of rape in any circumstance, especially a novel that’s supposed to be about romantic love.  Authors!  There is nothing sexy about rape.  Stop writing it, please.  I have nothing funny to say in this second complaint, as there is nothing funny about this topic.
Alexandria: I blame General Hospital/Luke and Laura from the late 70s for this.  He rapes her one night in the disco he owns and they’re the greatest couple since Romeo and Juliet by the next year. Yeah, rape usually leads to marriage, right?

And your number three things you love to hate about romance books?

Alexandria: Holy fucking bagpipes, Robin!  What is with all the stories set in Scotland?  I can’t troll the romance aisles at the local Borders without finding dozens upon dozens of romance novels about Scottish Highlanders.  Why?  It’s not that the setting of Scotland is that bad, but it certainly isn’t the sexiest place to set a story.  I would think Italy, Spain, anywhere that would allow characters to wear something other than woolens nine months out of the year would be sexier.  No, it’s not the setting so much as the dialogue that comes along with a story set in Scotland.  The Scottish dialect isn’t sexy the way it’s done in romance novels.  Sentences like, “Ay, lassie, mayhaps I be in love with you” are simply pure torture.  Mayhaps?  Even Sean Connery circa late 1960s wouldn’t have been sexy with words like mayhaps leaving his lips.  If I didn’t have such an incredible aversion to the lie that virgins are good in bed, this Scottish story issue would be at number 1.
Moira: Nay, Alexandria, I canna agree with ye on this matter.  Dinna I tell ye of my love for a handsome hunk of a highlander?  I want my highlander to whisper an, “Aye Lass, dinna I tell ye I would have ye for my woman?”  Oh, and I’m sure he would also refer to “getting his bairn on me”, too… Ha!

Moira: #3 Thing I love to Hate……Heroes who are/change into animals/beasts/etc…..  It would seem you can’t swing a dead cat (no pun intended…well, okay, it was intended) without hitting a romance novel in which the hero changes into a cat, dog, werewolf, or a logosh.  Werewolves are usually not a problem, as long as they stay in human form when involved with their romantic partner, but many of these wretched stories come quite close to bestiality, and I have only one word to say about that…deee-sgusting.
Alexandria: I could definitely do without men who are also some kind of animal.  The only kind of changing I like is some sharp teeth in the mouth.

Why are your number fours on the list?

Alexandria: It’s understood by anyone who reads romance novels that the sex is going to be more incredible in these stories than actually occurs in real life.  In fact, that’s probably one of the main reasons why readers love them.  Who wants to read about how some woman’s boring husband got his 5.5 inch penis semi-hard and proceeded to pound away at her, never thinking of how she might want it, and eventually after sweating all over her, came about an ounce?  No one.  So I’m not asking for pure reality, but when a character is said to have been neglected by her husband for 12 years after she only had sex twice (once each time to become pregnant with her children), then I find it a bit difficult to believe that she can have super sex with the romantic hero who possesses a cock sent straight from God with dimensions that include the number 10 and a head that resembles a plum.  A plum?  I stood in the grocery store after reading that story and held a plum and all I could think was “Damn…”  After 12 years of no sex, she’s basically been revirginated, for God’s sake.  There’s no way she’s accommodating a 10 inch member and its plum sized head.   I understand well hung men need loving too, but not with a woman who is tighter than a frog’s ass.  It just doesn’t work.  Also in this category are the male virgins who somehow can rock a woman’s world with no experience behind them and sick females who can do things when they’re close to death that would require any other woman to visit Helga’s House of Pain for a session with Inga to ensure she didn’t dislocate a hip during the kind of sex found in romance novels (thanks Moira).
Moira: ….. you said “revirginated”…..(mimics my best Beavis and Butthead laugh..huhh huh…huhhhh huh..hu huh…)  I can only add that I gave a hearty “oof” when I contemplated that meritorious member you refer to from our infamous sheik.

Moira: #4 Thing I love to Hate…..Women who succumb to the romantic endeavors of the hero, only to run away/leave him/lie about how they feel……  Stop the madness!  If one of these tall drinks of water invaded my personal space so ably, you wouldn’t catch this broad running anywhere….and neither would you run……  Just admit it, I did.
Alexandria: I wouldn’t stay around for any virgins or men who are also animals. I don’t care how fine they are.  I don’t teach men in bed and I don’t comb them out.  Two very solid rules of mine.

Finally, what are the problems with your number fives?

Alexandria: Dialogue is a very difficult part of the writing of a story.  Even some of the greatest authors struggled with this skill, and some, such as Hemingway, never succeeded at writing dialogue that works.  This seems to be a problem for romance writers.  Dialogue should reflect the character’s individual style and experiences.  For example, if you are writing about a vampire who is hundreds of years old, why the hell would you have him end sentences with the word true?  When did he pick this up and why has he kept it despite the fact that no others around him who he’s lived with for years say anything like it?  And why write male characters’ dialogue that has them speaking like they are analyzing Tiger Woods’ latest lame attempt on the green?  Statements like “She’s one fine female” are simply not something that would come out of any man’s mouth after watching some heroine do something he thought was cool.  This area also includes strange uses of body part names as sexy turn ons during conversations.  Referring to anything with the word glands is just not sexy, true?  See, it doesn’t sound right.
Moira: It takes a special writer to conjure good dialogue in romance.  I can think of a good many things I’d like a man to say to me, and it has been rare that I read anything that comes close.

Moira: #5 Thing I love to Hate……The Same Professions for Heroines…..  Are there no sales clerks in romance land?  How about insurance sales people?  I enjoy romance books, but could be perfectly happy if I never encountered a female doctor, archeologist, reporter, or FBI agent/investigator again in romance land.  There is nothing wrong with these professions; however, they are overused.  Remember, teachers, farmers, and deli workers need love too.
Alexandria: I think a great occupation for a romantic heroine is college history teacher.

  1. Okay, where to start with the comments haha. First off I think you both did a good job, I laughed my ass off! Now for my opinion lol.
    1.I agree with the virginal lover thing. Men who are virgins are just flat out not good at sex for a bit. That’s natural though, I mean we all remember our first time. It was awkward, painful, and downright embarrassing. So the idea that a virgin could be patient and tender? I think he’d be exceedingly impatient! That man would last about 30 seconds!

    2. I agree, rape is just something that I view as being as far from romantic as possible.

    3.Scottish guys huh? Oh jeez. I can only imagine a Scot whispering in my ear sensually, I could see myself replying something along the lines of “Okay no more talking, just bring out the plum” LOL!!! (You guys know!) Haha.

    4.Speaking of plums, I read this and thought to myself ‘sweet Jesus!!!!” After having sex with Professor Plum I can only think that woman was saying to herself, “I’m not gonna bounce back from this” Are we serious with ten inches and a plum resting on the end? My lady parts are in pain just thinking about it!

    5.I can’t say too much in reference to dialogue seeing as if I read a romance novel I’m not really looking for pithy dialogue. I’m looking for some hardcore sex. Anything other than that is just taking away from it.

    And as far as professions go, I TOTALLY agree, why can’t we have the simple bagel girl getting a little extra cream cheese on the side huh?

    Anyway I’ll stop dumping my opinions on you all lol. Great post guys!

  2. August Top 5: The Top 5 Things We Love To Hate About Romance Books…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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