Saturday, December 31, 2016

EDITORIAL: Shall These Unromantic Trends Be Forgotten: A Plea to Contemporary Romance Writers

🎉Good-bye 2016🎈Hello 2017 🎉
A new year is almost upon, and resolutions are about to be laid.  If you’re an author in the romance community, do you mind if a few suggestions are made?
 My plea is to writers from famous to virtually unknown, if you’re selling your book in the romance market, can you make them ones romantic readers truly want to take home?
 Because there are some literary devices out there that are a bit yucky when it comes to the fucky. Yes, you read that right. When readers get to the sexy nitty gritty, we don’t want to run in freight.
So my poetry sucks, but I'm not a poet. I'm a romance book blogger and in that role I do my fair share of reading—everything from contemporary romance books to the reviews and comments of other readers on those titles. So I’m going to close the year with a little commentary on the trends in the current romance market. While not everyone is going to agree with me because everyone has different opinions, I did not pull this list out of my ass either. I might have compiled it with sass (*groan* I know, another bad rhyme), but it does represent a fairly valid summation of complaints I see from readers time and time again. 

#1 The Manwhore Characterization
“Yes, I’d like to order a new contemporary romance novel please?  Heavy on the smut factor but go easy on the manwhore. However you prepare him, please don’t supersize him!”
Those so-called sexy male sluts are everywhere. Except when did they become sexy? And when did they become the staple of the romantic hero? Seriously, it’s hard these days to find a male lead without this characterization to some degree.  

Some of them were manwhores in the past, but they’ve now changed their ways after finding love or lust at first sight with the heroine. That’s okay. Romance readers are big on redemption as well as the heroine being the game changer. But writers, ask yourself this before you pen those lurid past details: If the past is really in the past for this character, why is he relating all the titillating tidbits to the reader in the present? Because just like it's not cool to talk about your exes or former conquests on a real date, it can be equally unromantic to the reader when a character does it. 

Look, I get you’re trying to convey that your hero is a winner between the sheets. He has experience; every woman wants him. That’s great. But there’s a finesse to this, a subtly if you will, that makes the difference between conveying him as a talented lover and a walking STD.

It’s okay to drop a few details about his sexual history if it's relevant so long as you don’t beat the reader over the head with it, especially right off the bat. One of the biggest ways I get turned off as a reader is when the hero is introduced with a monologue about how frequently he gets laid and with how many different women. Or worse yet, he is introduced displaying his prowess with someone other than the heroine. Which brings me to …

#2 Hero Has Sex with Other Women (OW) Scene
“Give me a gallon of brain bleach, please?...What you don’t sell that? Then how in the hell am I supposed to get the image of the hero bending one of his bitches over a desk out of my head?”
I don’t want to imply any double standards here, so let me be clear. The heroine having sex with another guy (OM) in a romance is just as counterproductive as the hero having sex with another woman. If it happens after they have they connected/become involved, well then see #4. But even if it’s depicted before the hero and heroine cross paths, what purpose does it serve?  Are you trying to convey they had a life before meeting each other? Yeah, I think most readers are smart enough to figure that out without the TMI. Are you trying to amp up the steam factor in your novel? Well that can be accomplished between the hero and heroine!  Because unless you’re writing straight erotica, with no intentions of a romantic vibe, then leave the panting and moaning action to your main couple. Otherwise it just makes it harder for the reader to picture the pair you’re trying to put together actually together because they're distracted with the image of the hero or the heroine with someone else
🙈🙉🙊 And if it isn’t bad enough when the reader has to endure it, it’s even more revolting when…

#3 Heroine Hears or Sees the Hero Having Sex with Other Woman (OW) Trope
“I’d like to speak to a manager! Page Dr. Phill. Is Dr. Ruth around? Or maybe…summon the ghost of Dr. Sigmund Freud? We might need to break out the big guns to analyze this one.”
On what planet did this scenario become foreplay? Because I’m pretty sure on Earth, most women are more likely to break into tears upon seeing or hearing their crush fidgeting the midget in Bridget than they are to suddenly become hot and bothered and want him all the more.  Buzz kill doesn't even begin to describe it. It's heartbreaking, pure and simple. 💔

Now perhaps if you’re trying to convey that your heroine has secret fantasies of becoming a swinger, then this type of scene might work. But if your goal is make the reader connect with the hero and heroine solely as a singular romantic unit, then this trope needs to go the way of the dinosaurs. Enough said. Moving on to another one that should have been extinct in the romance market long ago...

#4 'Cheating' Plot Conflict
“Customer Service, please…Yes, I ordered a romantic hero but I was given a cheating bastard instead. I’d like my time and money back pronto. There’s some deceptive advertising going on in your establishment.”
I’m not even going to go into explanation on this one because I’m pretty sure you don’t need a book blogger, Dr. Phil, or Dr. Ruth to tell you that cheating is not only unhealthy in a relationship, it’s also decidedly unromantic. It doesn’t belong here. And if it’s in your novel, then romance is not what you’re writing. And don't try to skirt the issue by having the main couple break up 40% into the novel, screw other people till 90%, and then get a rushed reconciliation. It might technically not be cheating up, but it's unromantic just the same. 

Still feel compelled to use cheating in a ‘love story?’ Allow me to direct you on a little vacation to the Freudian section of the psychology bookshelves where you might gain some insight into that fiction novel you're really writing. In the meantime, the rest of us will be over here analyzing this next one…

#5 ‘Breeding’ Diction and Theme
“I’m sorry; I thought I walked into a contemporary establishment. I must be in the wrong year or maybe I accidentally 1-clicked an erotic edition of Animal Farm!”
I have a post coming up in greater detail on this one, but it needs a mention on this list too. So even if you’ve managed to create a hero who avoids all the issues in #1-4 but then succumbs to #5, he’s still a creep.

Two people in love making a baby 👶 can be a beautiful plot development in a romance, but when the hero spouts off chauvinist gibberish that contain this ‘B’ word, whether it be to the heroine or in the hero’s head, the romance just went out the door. 
Can’t you just smell the chauvinist manure?  💩

“Breeding” in a romance book is a problem with both word choice as well as the message it sends.  It goes beyond being simply a poor use of the word. It’s distasteful and implies a whole lot more than just conception. It’s a misogynist theme. Real liberated men don’t need to conspire to impregnate their woman to claim her or keep her so romantic heroes shouldn’t either.

Writers, you want your hero to show the world that she’s his? Write an epic public marriage proposal. 💍 You want them to have a baby together? Then write an intelligent conversation between a man and a woman who mutually decide to procreate together. 👪 Or have the freaking condom accidentally break. Whatever! But this is not a decision to be made by only one person in the relationship. No doubt readers would look down on a heroine who got pregnant on purpose to trap the hero. Cease the double standards. A hero who does the same should not get a pass.  Heroes who want to "breed" their heroines are not swoon-worthy over-the-top alpha males. They are insecure sexist pigs without an ounce of integrity or respect for the woman they claim to adore. 🐷

🎶 Should these trends be forgotten? And never brought to mind?
Frankly, I’m not sure how they ever became synonymous with the word romance to begin with. They are about as far from romantic as it gets. And if there's one thing that's key to the romance genre, it's certain expectations that readers come to expect when they flip open the pages to escape for a few hours. Positive depictions of love culminating in a HEA is what essentially defines the romance reading genre. If you decide to deviate from that, you're not cutting edge, you're not infusing gritty realism, or thinking outside the box.  You are outside the box! As in, you're no longer writing in the genre. 

And bear in mind, I’m not telling anyone what to write or not write. What I’m saying is that there’s a growing consensus in the reading community that romance, one of the biggest book buying genres, has become a dumping ground for everything from angsty melodrama to erotic suspense to short story porn. So before you slap that “Romance” label on the cover or market it in the romance category, make sure what you’re really presenting is romantic. We need love more than ever these days!

🎉 Happy New Year Everyone! 🎈

🍸Let’s close with a toast….
To a more romantic 2017! 🍻


  1. I came across this blog by pure coincidence but I'm glad I did because this post is hilariously true!!

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Happy New Year!