Posted by: Jennifer | July 20, 2009

Things I Hate in Romance Novels

Penny Watson, over at Penelope’s Romance Review, piqued my interest with a blog post entitled What Really Drives Me Up A Wall in Romance Novels. I was so intrigued that I feel the need to play along. Penelope has 8 things that drive her up a wall. They are

  1. The Big Misunderstanding – Would there actually be any romance novels without The Big Misunderstanding??? Only kidding. I don’t actually have a problem with this plot device as a rule. It only truly bothers when I think that the misunderstanding is very silly. If the big misunderstanding seems really stupid, I then think less of the main characters. Of course, if I think poorly of the characters, the book itself is ruined for me. I have to add that I hate it when the big misunderstanding is over love. I can’t stand the “But he/she doesn’t love me” misunderstanding. It happens quite a bit because we are talking about romance novels after all.
  2. When the Hero/Heroine has sex with someone else – If the sex takes place outside of a committed relationship, this doesn’t bother me. I see this happening more often these days, especially in erotic romance. I do have to admit that I definitely agree with Penelope  about sex that takes place with someone close to the heroine (best friend). I do not want to read about this.
  3. Plot overshadowing character development – I SO agree on this one. Romance novels are all about the happy couple for me. Like Penelope, I want to fall in love with the characters. So, character development is critical for me. Without it, a romance novel is rather useless to me.
  4. In depth description of death and destruction – Another one that I agree with totally. This can go hand in hand with too much plot. The only worse than too much plot is too much plot about death and destruction.
  5. Rape and/or child abuse – I never, ever need to read about this. Ultimately, I want to be entertained. Depressing and violent subject matter overshadows the romantic aspects of the books.
  6. The disappearing storyline – This drives me batty in any genre. I want everything to be resolved within the confines of the book that I am reading. I will also add here that I dislike extraneous facts that are given when they do not seem to add anything to the plot. I find this happens more with tv shows than romance novels. However, it is irritating all around.
  7. Snarky and clueless first person heroines – I don’t know that any snarky and clueless first person heroines come to mind. As a rule, I tend to have a very difficult time with first person heroines. I often find them difficult to read – and I don’t really know why. I can say that I dislike snarky heroines in any voice. I fully admit that I am harder on heroines than on heroes. I find myself expecting much more from heroines, and snarkiness can ruin a book for me.
  8. Series that lose momentum – Who doesn’t hate this? What I find terribly interesting is that everyone’s opinion on when series lose momentum seems to be very different. There does seems to be a rule that every series will eventually start to annoy readers, it just isn’t easy to predict when this will be.

My Additions:

  1. Lying or withholding of information to make the other person prove their love – There is this plot device where authors let their heroes or heroines hide information from (or outright lie to) their love interest in order to make the person prove their love. This happens often with fortune-hunter type heroes/heroines who have to marry money to save their families. I absolutely hate it when authors use this device to create discord. I don’t want the hero or the heroine to lie outright to the person with whom they are going to live happily ever after.
  2. Condoms/birth control/disease prevention discussions that disrupt the scene – I completely understand why people think it is critical in contemporary romance/erotic romance to deal with this subject. However, I find that more often than not, it seems as if the discussion between the hero and heroine is disruptive to the intimate scene. Since reading romance is a form of escape from reality for me, I would prefer the issue not arise. Again, I will say that given the seriousness of the issue, I do just try to overlook the entire thing.
  3. Love Triangles – It is very important to me that I know who the happy couple is from reading the book description. This is non-negotiable for me. When there is doubt about who the heroine (or hero) will end up with, I can’t fall in love with the characters. If I get emotionally vested in the character who does not end up with his/her true love, I am left with a really, really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach at the end of the book. This is not fun for me.
  4. Anthology novellas – While I don’t really hate these, I am finding myself more and more annoyed when reading them. First of all, I find that very few authors can develop the characters enough for me to become invested in the story. I also dislike having to buy an anthology when I am interested in one story. Yes, sometimes, this is a good way to discover a new author. But, more often than not, I find that my decision to avoid certain authors is reinforced. My last anthology gripe, you ask? I do not like it when an author with an established series publishes a part of that series as a novella. I understand the whys of this, but I can often feel as if the characters were cheated out of a full-length story.
  5. Magic/ghosts – All of these dislikes are personal preferences, but I find that this one comes from my own personal dislike of magic and of ghosts. Personally, I probably dislike the concepts of magic and of ghosts because I believe deep down that each could be true – and they scare the bejesus out of me. So, I consciously try to avoid books dealing with these subjects. I still remember how upset I got when I found out that Vishous’ love from Lover Unbound (Dr. Jane) was a ghost. Yuck!
  6. To Be Continued Plot – Now, I both love and hate this plot device used in series. With series, there are often multi-book arcs that are necessarily not entirely resolved. Without this device, there would be no series. However, I hate it when I am finished with a book and have to wait until the next book is published to find out more.


  1. Hi Jennifer! Thanks so much for the shout out for my blog! I like your additions to my list…I actually don’t mind the love triangle, anthologies (that are well written) are my cup of tea, and I really dig ghosts/magic (I am, after all, a paranormal author!). However, I totally agree about the irritating lying angle, birth control interrupting the scene, and leaving the end unfinished (and therefore unsatisfying for the reader).–except for Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series…I don’t mind the cliffhanger endings there…I LOVE that series. Read any good books lately? Let me know!- Penelope

  2. Hi Penelope – no problem, I really enjoyed your post. I haven’t read any books by Moning yet. I will have add some to my list. I hear such great things about her works. July has been a little bit light in terms of reading. However, I have a box full of new books waiting for me at home. 🙂

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