>Historical Romances… A few things we would prefer not to read.

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Thanks to Book Chick City‘s summer romance challenge, I have been enjoying a re-read of many old favorite romances, both contemporary and historical, while trying out new authors in the genre. Some books, I really loved, they prove that romance novels are not “bodice rippers”, and that the authors behind these tales of Happily Ever After are truly talented. Then there were the “other books”, the books that got me so angry I literally threw them across the room in frustration (ok, one was a digital book, so I threw the other one twice). The lack of plot, the trembling heroines, the wretched heroes… When real life starts looking more like a fairy tale than the romance novel – something is wrong.


I’m not usually eager to give a bad review, usually it hurts to have to criticize someone else’s work – I can only imagine the amount of work and frustration that goes into every single page, but in this case I feel duty bound to do so. The review will be posted later today, but I realized I was so frustrated that something extra was needed. The result – a three part blog I like to call:

Female readers (and male! hey, enjoy!) are not idiots, respect our intelligence – a few things to avoid when writing a romance.
Chapter I 
I know I’m not perfect, but I’m so close it scares me

“Practically Perfect in Every Single
Way”

Heroines (and heroes) are wonderful people, but this does not mean that they must be practically perfect in every single way. I realize that certain physical attributes are necessary, but really, does the hero always have to be the tallest man in the room? Usually, the problem is the heroine – she is kind, smart, intelligent, good with animals and children, blushes prettily, smiles with her perfect pearly whites, has acquired an education that most modern day women would envy, is either a ravishing beauty that no man can resist (but poor, so they do anyway) or exceedingly plain, but undergoes a transformation by the hero who claims her (more on the use of that word later). Please, pick three out of the above attributes and stick with them.

Then there is the hero. As I already mentioned, he is always taller than every other man in the room, has a physique that only Fabio (he he) could recreate, and is usually brilliantly intelligent, has business savvy that Donald Trump would envy, or is dirt poor and living in a huge moldy family pile that only marriage to a rich heiress will save, but has been caring for his *insert extremely heartrending family member or friend here* and so has our sympathy. Now, I get it, no one wants to read about Mr. Couch Potato, beer belly and all – certainly not me, but I still don’t see why the author needs to refer to the hero’s “bulging biceps”when all he is doing is giving the heroine a friendly hug.

“Her countenance distinguished
by a pair of candid gray eyes,
a somewhat masterful little nose,
and a very firm mouth and chin”

I subscribe to the Georgette Heyer method when it comes to describing the heroes and heroines of her books. Less is more. Let the reader create a picture. Yes, Heyer does have beautiful heroines in some of her books, but she doesn’t dwell on their beauty. For the most part her heroines are not ‘beauties of the first water’ in fact, their most distinctive trait is usually ‘fine eyes’ (Austen’s Lizzy Bennett anyone?), their laughter, smile, sense of humor, and the fact that they have ‘quality’. The heroes range from the handsome to the swarthy, the athletic to the dandy, and no, not all of them are basketball player tall.

The problem is, that so much effort (and page space) is put into constantly explaining how truly wonderful (and fit!) the hero and heroine are, that we aren’t left with much room for dialogue between the two protagonists. In fact, in some books we get more pages of the hero and heroine talking about each other rather than with each other. Usually these conversations are part of the ‘there was a huge misunderstanding which is why we hate each other (but still manage to have awesome sex in the next chapter), and instead of discussing it we will mope, cheat, and disparage each other until the last five pages of the book’ plot.

Sometimes these plots work out very well due to the brilliant writing of the author, but there also has to be something else that the author puts into the story that makes it work. I humbly request that authors put perfection in its place – elsewhere. Perfection might be great to look at, but it gets so boring to read about! Mind you, most heroes are usually far from perfect in anything but looks, in fact, they sometimes give Fascist dictators a run for their money…but more on that next time, when I hope to share Chapter 2 – “Caught in a Bad Romance…Plot”.

Share your thoughts in the comments – what did you think of this post – do you have pet peeves when it comes to romances?

Happy Reading!

*Below you can find links to some romances I enjoyed – read them? What do you think?*

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=paperbackdolls-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=074343787X&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=paperbackdolls-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1439194734&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=paperbackdolls-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1402214766&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

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16 responses to “>Historical Romances… A few things we would prefer not to read.

  1. >I think most of the points you make apply to all books. I do not need to be constantly reminded what the characters look like or what they're wearing and yes, they don't need to be 'perfect'. In fact, it's usually the 'imperfections' that make a more endearing character/person.Great post. Can't wait to read the rest of them

  2. >Trillian – very true! I guess that in romances I notice it more because the genre is so focused on two people getting together. I always believe the imperfections make the characters more interesting…and harder to write šŸ˜‰

  3. >What annoys me the most in some romance books is the completely unbelievable male psychology. You are right, some of the heroes are people I would not like to meet in real life: bossy, patronizing, disrespectful and even cruel. I do not join the line of thought according to which everything is fair in love: human beings are human beings; being in love does not allow you to behave like a moron.That said, back to my original statement: male psychology. I had to throw away more than one book because I could not stand the utter perfection of the hero. Wish fullfillment at its worst: men as a woman would like for them to be, rather than believable characters. I might be a little harsh here, but give teenage girls this kind of picture of men and love, and they'll spend the rest of their lives looking for Prince Charming and finding faults in every living male on earth!

  4. >Do you have books that you would consider "good" romances?

  5. >Are you asking me, Noa? If so, of course, I am a romance reader all the way. I really don't mind a little bit of idealization, it is the excess I cannot stand.

  6. >Yup! I'm asking you both – I have some favorites and I was wondering what you like…

  7. >Well, for instance, I really like some of Jo Beverley's titles. I have a huge crush on Rothgar. šŸ˜€

  8. >Irene – I love Rothgar! That whole series was wonderful!

  9. >Wonderful post. I used to live for Historical romances until the same themes kept being played out.1. The nosy overbearing heroine that does what she wants and thinks she knows better then everyone else.2. The overbearing hero who will believe a complete stranger over the woman he loves.3. The "kidnap,forced seduction" scenes. These irritate me the most because the heroine is kidnapped, ravished, THEN has to comfort the hero after he falls in love with her and feels guilty over how he treated her. Naturally, he will then abandon her after that because even though he's done everything to bind her to him-what's best is to ruin her and leave her high and dry. The make matters worse, she falls in love with him.Just once I want the heroine to nail him in the "you know whats",tell him he's a complete arse, and to take a hike.

  10. >Tori – you are going to love Chapter II ;)I agree 100%.

  11. >I completely agree with you…. I hate it when the hero and heroine are just sooo perfect in a romance. I think having imperfections makes a character stand out more than simply being beautiful or handsome.:P I especially understand your point about romances with "lack of plot, the trembling heroines, the wretched heroes… When real life starts looking more like a fairy tale than the romance novel". I've thrown a few of those books at walls. I mostly only read romances because I know they have happy endings, but when a novel is like that… it makes me wonder what the author was thinking.Hehe, I'm looking forward to Chapter II.

  12. >I've gotten to the point where I specifically choose books where the hero or heroine has some kind of physical disability, just because I'm so sick of all the perfection. One of my favorite Regency reads this summer was Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah Maclean which featured a somewhat plain, spinster heroine who just wanted to put some adventure into her life. Another one that I just loved was Victoria Dahl's latest, A Little Bit Wild, where the hero was kind of rough looking and the heroine was, well, a bit shallow, and definitely not a perfect lady, to put it nicely. These books are a bit harder to find, but it's usually worth it.

  13. >I like Shiloh Walker's romance books:)*hee hee*Great post Noa.

  14. >Noa – I'm looking forward to reading your series of posts on this topic. What you're writing about it so true!

  15. >First, I would classify myself as a fairly avid romance reader. Escapism at its best! That said, I am INCREDIBLY choosy and careful about reading anything by an author I haven't tried before. There's so much potential for DISASTER, as Noa's series of articles make very clear. And even usually reliable authors, if they use the same device over and over again, become irritating and cliched. And MUST publishers insult our intelligence and taste with the paintings of half-fainting damsels and half-naked godlings on the front cover?? I don't like to have to feel ashamed to take a book in public. Pictures like those allow the rest of the reading community to give romance novels a really bad name (and make merciless fun of those of us who read them!).And to answer Noa's question – I'm a fan of Jo Beverley's work, too. I am also a huge fan of about 50% of Jane Feather's books (they are either splendid, first class stuff, or really really forgettable), most of Julia Quinn's work, nearly everything Victoria Alexander has ever written, some of Mary Balogh, Judith McNaught, and Jude Devereaux, and most of Eloisa James.

  16. >Elvie, it's like you're my twin! those are my favorites! We need to have a chat… šŸ˜‰

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