Each person has their own unique limit of what they can or cannot tolerate in fiction. However, despite its absolute requirement for a happy ending, the romance genre can still be filled with deal-breakers for readers looking for a pleasurable experience that takes them away from reality for a few hours.
Our Pet Peeves
Some of our negative book reviews at Sweet Savage Flame have focused on pet peeves for the reasons why we ultimately couldn’t enjoy our reading experiences.
In Nadine Crenshaw’s Captive Melody, there were two negative tropes that were deal breakers for Blue Falcon: a captive who experiences Stockholm syndrome for her captor and the hero seeking to inflict vengeance upon an innocent party. There are cruelties that characters experience that cannot be offset by writing skill or a conveniently happy ending.
As I’ve stated in several reviews, such as for Dana Ransom’s Love’s Glorious Gamble, I can’t enjoy a romance where the hero is still mourning the death of a previous love. While I prefer a heroine to be the hero’s only love, I can accept a rival for his affections, so long as she is alive. A flesh and blood woman will always pale to the perfection of a saintly ghost.
We focus on vintage reads on this site, so there may be stories we review that consist of “dated” tropes or “politically incorrect” behavior or beliefs that could be offensive to modern mindsets. Whether to accept these books as products of their age or dismiss them outright is solely up to the individual reader. Everyone has a right to their own personal opinions or idiosyncrasies.
Perusing several forums and sites, I’ve come upon various pet peeves in romance, from the most minute issues to the most indefensible.
Cheating seems to be the most commonly held deal breaker. Many older romances featured heroes who would be sexing it up with their mistresses on page one, and often even after he’s met or been intimate with the heroine. It takes an extremely talented writer to make their audience accept and move on from this point. If cheating is the main obstacle in a romance, such as in Laurey Bright’s A Perfect Marriage, some readers may not be so forgiving.
In a similar vein, there are readers who don’t want to know about a main character’s past sexual experience. The fantasy of romance novels that appeals to some fans is for the hero to be the heroine’s one and only lover. This is a plot point that is easy enough for historical romances and vintage romances but more difficult to believe in a modern contemporary novel unless the heroine is very young or was raised unconventionally.
The abuse or death of animals, the elderly, or children might not appear often in romances, and there’s a good reason why. Those are issues that can be quite upsetting emotionally to folks seeking escapist entertainment.
Sometimes a pet peeve may not be a plot point but a word used. I can’t say how many times I’ve heard romance readers exclaim they can’t stand the word “moist” to describe how, er, excited a heroine gets. No matter how erotic the scene, once that word rears its head, visions of Duncan Hines chocolate cake or alcohol-soaked sanitizing towelettes come to mind.
What are your pet peeves in romance? Is there anything that can make you overlook your pet peeves, such as literary skill, or are there some things you just won’t accept in a love story?
Please, drop a comment and let’s talk romance.