I’ve seen these questions asked many times in the book blogging community:
What do you hate in romance novels?
What tropes can’t you stand?
What are your romance novel pet peeves?
I used to have several definitive answers to this question, but slowly, as I’ve read more and more romance novels, I’ve come across so many books that have proven me so very, very wrong.
Now, whenever this question comes up, I struggle.
I struggle because even though there are many books that get these things wrong, there are still those few who get them right and part of me feels like I’d be betraying those great books if I listed those pet peeves. I know, it’s silly, but for those of you who view reading books as time spent with close friends will understand where I’m coming from.
And even if I haven’t come across a book that defies me yet, I know that one may exist – I just haven’t read it yet.
Honestly, I think this mindset could go for any genre of books. I mean, if the story is good enough? The things you think you hate can easily turn into the things you love … if done right.
Here is a list of my romance novel pet peeves… and the books that proved me wrong:
Romance novels have a bad rap for being predictable and, to be fair, it isn’t for nothing.
There is a certain formulaic pattern that most romance novels follow and while it can be annoying to know exactly what is going to happen in the end, that doesn’t always mean getting there isn’t an amazing journey in the mean time.
Here are some novels that were totally predictable, but still absolutely wonderful:
The Marked Men series by Jay Crownover was full of fairly predictable books, but I loved every second of those stories. You know right from the beginning who is going to end up with whom, and you can even predict the hiccups that will come between them, but almost every book in that series was a 5-star read for me!
Mariana Zapata’s books are fairly predictable and, after you’ve read every single one of her books (as I have), you can pretty much guess what is going to happen in the end… but man, those slow burns still scorch you from the inside out in the best way! Read my reviews.
This is probably one of the most common things that readers get annoyed with, and I’m certainly not immune to the annoyance.
Typically, I can’t stand when two characters lock eyes across a room and immediately fall desperately in love.
The reason? Because it’s really damn hard to build convincing chemistry between two characters in such a short amount of time.
But it isn’t impossible.
Here are a few books that proved instalove can be done right:
Lauren Rowe is the queen of making instalove work, particularly in her Morgan Brothers Series.
November 9 by Colleen Hoover also takes the cake for one of the best instalove books I’ve ever read. The chemistry between the two characters that is solidified in just a matter of HOURS is breathtaking.
Single Mother Trope
This trope isn’t nearly as popularly disliked as instalove, but it is one that I, personally, tend to avoid.
As soon as I see “single mother waitress” in the synopsis, the word “NEXT” immediately pops into my head.
I wish I had a good reason for this, maybe it’s because I know all too well what it’s like to be a working mom with kids, I like to occasionally slip into the life of someone who isn’t for awhile.
Reading is an escape for me, after all.
Mom of the Year Moment: Though I do have kids, I’m not really the biggest fan of any kids of I’m not related to. I love my own kids, but even reading about kids can annoy me sometimes. ::shrug:: I know. I’m the worst.
Book that proved me wrong:
Until it Fades by KA Tucker
I avoid this trope so much that my sister had to force me to read it and since her and I tend to have very similar taste in books, I decided to bite the bullet and ended up falling in love with this story. Read my review.
I’m not sure why, but huge age gaps tend to be a turn off for me. It’s just hard to believe that the chemistry between two people in such different parts of their lives can exist.
I know. I KNOW! Cheating is a HUGE no-no in romance novels.
How can a hero or heroine ever come back from it?
How can you trust a character after they have cheated already — whether they end up with the person they’ve cheated with or back with the person they cheated on?
Well… here are the books that pulled it off for me:
Lover Eternal (Black Daggar Brotherhood #2) by JR Ward was able to pull this off for reasons that I won’t spoil, but it honestly didn’t bother me at all.
The premise behind Lover by Marni Mann and Gia Riley actually made the cheating ok for me. Somehow it made sense.
This is an entirely personal preference.
I don’t usually like suspense novels or mystery novels, so I’ve avoided the romantic kind as well.
That is…until I discovered Trisha Wolfe.
Overly Obsessive Heroes
Heroes that are creepily obsessed with their romantic interest can be completely unbelievable and over-the-top. It often makes an otherwise mysterious, strong hero seem weak and predictable… and it takes me out of the story.
But then I met Colton from With Visions of Red and he was calling Sadie his “goddess,” and essentially worshiping the ground she walked on … and I didn’t hate it.
In fact, I was living for it.
Maybe it was because Sadie is absolutely worthy of his praise, maybe it is because though he essentially spoke in poems when it came to her, he was still the Dominant in that relationship. There was a balance between them that made his obsession so much more than OK. It was one of the things I loved most about their relationship.
And he’s not the only obsessive hero that I fell for.
Here are a few more:
Grayson from the Darkly Madly Duet by Trisha Wolfe – This obsession is dark and insane as the title suggests, so the obsessive nature of Grayson makes total sense.
Jacob from Jacob by Jacquelyn Frank – Paranormal and Fantasy romance novels can pull off the obsessive hero when they throw in supernatural causes such as imprinting as Jacquelyn Frank did in the Nightwalkers series.
I still hang pretty firm on this one.
I typically can’t stand cliffhangers, particularly in romance novels because WHY?!
But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t at least one novel that proved me wrong.
I’m still not happy about it, but this is also still one of my favorite books:
My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares not only leaves you dangling off the ledge… BUT THERE IS NO SEQUEL! WHY?!?!
I honestly never thought that a threesome romance could be done convincingly. I wanted to enjoy this trope, but any time I’ve read it before, it seemed gratuitous … as if the author was just spewing his or her fantasies onto paper without regard for storyline or chemistry.
And then I found American Queen by Sierra Simone and I was all in. I was all in for all three of the characters. I loved each one of them with each of the others so much and pretty equally. Not to mention the gorgeous writing!
This may be an unpopular opinion as I know that my sister loves a good surprise pregnancy, but I find myself rolling my eyes more often than not when this happens in a novel. In my mind, it almost ruins the fantasy life I like to imagine for my characters.
Of course I wouldn’t mind if most characters eventually have kids, but I almost always want them to have some years to themselves before that happens.
However, it has been done well in a few books:
In Gideon by Jacquelyn Frank, the way Gideon finds out about the pregnancy made it all worth while. I still get butterflies thinking about it!
The Virginal Heroine
Maybe it’s sexist, but the virgin trope holds very little appeal to me when the girl is a virgin. I actually don’t mind if the guy is a virgin, possibly because there are so few of those and so many where the girl is one.
Lauren Rowe admitted that though this is one of her least favorite tropes as well, she loved it in her novel Misadventures of a College Girl and oh my goodness I totally agree.
This is Virgin Done Right, in so many ways (even the dirty ones, LOL!).
Our heroine isn’t your typical completely innocent girl, she’s sick of being a virgin and wants to get it remedied as soon as possible.
Hero/Heroine Already In a Relationship with Someone Else
I actually don’t know if this nags anyone else, but it makes me uncomfortable when one (or both!) of the two people who are clearly the main couple in a romance is already in a relationship.
My reasoning is similar to my reasons for not liking cheating in romance novels: trust.
What does it say about a person’s character when they are developing feelings for someone else, but refuse to leave their current relationship?
There are a small handful of books that pull it off, though. Here they are:
In Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover, I TOTALLY understood why our hero was not leaving his girlfriend. It actually spoke volumes about his character as opposed to dampening it.
In Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, it was a little bit harder to forgive Etienne for not leaving his girlfriend, however, the development of friendship and the inevitability of the romance made it all worthwhile in the end.
Series that Follow the Same Couple Throughout
Typically, I prefer romance series bounce around between groups of friends, telling each of their love stories, as opposed to following the same couple.
Mostly because, in contemporary romance in particular, the ways in which couples are torn apart seem contrived and overdone. And if you have a couple that is happy together throughout a series with no real turmoil – it gets boring.
Basically, it’s a no-win situation.
There are several paranormal and fantasy romance novels that pull this off just fine because the main arc of the story isn’t usually the romance, but the whole saving the world thing (or whatever the case may be) and those supernatural situations end up tearing a couple apart. (I’m thinking of the Georgina Kinkaid series by Richelle Mead, The Shifters series by Rachel Vincent, Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor to name a few).
This is much harder to pull off in contemporary romance, as I’ve mentioned. But the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series by Jenny Han has done a really great job with it! (PS I’m so excited about the movie on Netflix, I can’t even.)
A character who sleeps with other people for a living can’t possibly make a good romantic lead, right?
The Main Love Interest Dies in the End
I mean, obviously, right?
Who the heck wants to read a romance novel where the couple not only doesn’t end up together in the end, but one of them freaking DIES?
However, there are actually three books that come into mind for me…. And I’m going to hide them behind a spoiler tag for obvious reasons.