A few years ago, I picked up my first romance novel. It was a hot and humid summer and I was stuck working my first retail job. I had just finished reading Lolita, and though I enjoyed it, I felt like I needed a palate cleanser. Something consensual and non-child rapey. So, I picked up Kiss of Crimson by Lara Adrian. In the years following, I read all the books in the series, because once you get past the cheesy covers and interchangeable titles, they’re not half bad. The writing’s pretty banal and there’s only so much enthusiasm I can muster for yet another story about a willowy/petite/svelte heroine and a 6’5” beast of a man with no body hair, but it never induced a rage stroke in me. Well, not huge rage strokes. Maybe little ones once in a while, like the book that had the gay best friend caricature of a character. Plus, I like non-sparkly vampires.
But in the past year or so, I have really resurrected my fanfiction writing that I had abandoned in high school, because search as hard as I might, I could never find another series of romance books as tolerable as the Midnight Breed. Writing my own stories is just a better expense of time at this point. I have pretty specific tastes – I pretty much only read supernatural romance – and everything I’ve found so far has been steeped in some really ridiculous tropes. I really don’t understand who likes this stuff, because it’s all such a huge turn-off for me. So, here are my least favourite romance novel tropes. Feel free to share your own.
1. Life mates
So, most romance novels follow a predictable script. Plucky heroine meets tall, dark and handsome stranger with a mysterious past, they are forced in close quarters for a few days by unlikely circumstances, sex god male character is overwhelmed with lust for usually very lacklustre female character, they bump uglies a few times, obstacles are surmounted, happily ever after. In supernatural romance, authors love to use the trope of mating for life, like a couple of sexy gibbons or swans or something. For example, in the Midnight Breed, the vampire males and the Breedmate females (humans, but with special abilities) form an eternal bond by drinking each other’s blood. The lady-boner-killing part of this for me is that these eternal bonds are always made after the characters have spent like, a week tops with each other. That’s not even enough time to find out if your beloved routinely leaves skid marks in bed, let alone to decide to hitch your wagon to theirs for all of eternity.
And then you have to leave your life behind and go live in your vampire/incubus/fallen angel/were-panda life mate’s underground bunker with all his buddies’ girlfriends as your only companions. And don’t even get me started on the Surprise!pregnancy after a week of boning as a happy ending.
As soon as I find out that the female heroine is a virgin, the story is ruined for me. Especially because, the male love-interest is always some macho dude who’s lived his whole life crotch-deep in pussy until he meets the one magical virgin vagina that tames him. Just no. Gross. Just once, I’d like to find a book where the female character has had just as storied a sexual past as the male character
4. Ridiculous male characters
Supernatural romance authors have some hilarious ideas about what makes a man sexy. Lara Adrian of Midnight Breed thinks it’s huge, hulking roided-out guys with no body hair and alien skin markings that function like a mood ring over their whole bodies, except face and dick. Because that would be just weird.
J.R. Ward of Black Dagger Brotherhood fame has a group of vampire warriors (so many vampire warriors) who all live together in a frat house, blast rap music (?), swear a lot (so manly) and have names like Zsadist, Rhage and Wrath.
I nearly died laughing once while reading Spell of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning, because the heroine awakes to find her Highlander paramour watching over her with a hard cock. Like, he was just standing around with a No Reason Boner watching her sleep. Because god forbid, his dick be soft, or he throw some pants on, while performing his creepy sleep voyerism.
So, what are some of your favourite ridiculous romance novel tropes?