So all readers have things they don’t like to read or things that can quickly ruin a book for them. I find that romance readers tend to be the most vehement about their dislikes — probably because we’re reading for enjoyment and happiness and don’t want anything spoiling that. I’m no different when it comes to certain themes, characteristics, or situations.
Before I dive into my opinions, I want to clarify that I am talking about genre romance novels, not women’s fiction, chick lit, or love stories found in other sections of the bookstore or library. The Romance Writers of America (RWA) has the following to say about the Romance Genre:
Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.
When I’m talking about my talking about no-no’s, I’m being specific to standard, happily ever after genre romances.
So, what are the things that immediately stop my reading, fire up my angry thoughts, and make me wish I could throw a book/kindle?
Probably my biggest one is when a character cheats on another. Luckily this is few and far between as it’s a pretty big problem for most romance readers. This includes our hero and heroine cheating on each other or if one of them cheats on someone else or an ex (yes, past cheating counts too). I do not find this to be an endearing character trait and it can make me unreasonably angry when it does come up.
Exceptions: The “cheating” is coming from very exceptional circumstances. The best example I can give is Hard As You Can by Laura Kaye (an amazing book and series) where the heroine, Crystal, is stuck in an abusive relationship while she pays off her father’s gang debt. She is technically cheating on her “boyfriend” when she starts something with Shane but she’s trapped in that relationship and the situation is completely different.
Coming across this was a lot rarer before the infamous Edward-Bella-Jacob debacle of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (don’t even get me started) but after that, they seemed to be everywhere, mostly in young adult fiction and urban fantasy. Either way, I can’t stand this plot element in anything I read, but especially in my romances.
Exceptions: None, I just don’t read these.
Multiple Partners/Sleeping with Someone
Wow, that title ended up being long. Basically, once the hero and heroine meet, I don’t really want any other relationships, one night stands, or casual hookups to occur with other people.
Exceptions: There are certain instances that I might let this slide if we’re just talking a date or a kiss. For instance, books that have one character trying to help another find love but they end up falling in love instead would likely be fine. This type will probably include some blind or humorous dating scenes but the cut off for me is when sex is involved; I guess I’m old fashioned that way.
Love in the Family
Falling in love with your ex’s brother or sister? Not my thing. In fact, it makes me a little uncomfortable. I don’t even like a story with a friend’s ex. Pretty much being able to compare the same sexual partner with a friend or family member is just too close to home for me.
Exceptions: super rare but I might give it a shot if it’s an author I love and trust to handle the issue well. Though I have not come across an instance yet.
I’m not crazy about these other situations, but if the author, plot, or reviews are good enough I’ll give them a shot:
Rock Star Romance – if the attitude isn’t too big
Fifty Shades Knockoffs – please no more red rooms; I don’t mind BDSM but treat it with respect
I’m a Jerk Because I Hurt Inside – really? grow up
Step Sibling Romance – again, too close to home; I’ve yet to find one I’m willing to take a chance on