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.
|“Practically Perfect in Every Single
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?
*Below you can find links to some romances I enjoyed – read them? What do you think?*