Romance novels are about escapism. They’re about believing in falling in love and living happily ever after. Because of that, there are some situations I don’t want to read about in a romance novel no matter how realistic they are. To me, they’re romance novel mistakes, and they knock me right out of the book.
Warning – potential triggers ahead.
5 Romance Novel Mistakes (IMHO)
Treating a Character’s Behavior as Right When It’s Wrong
Characters don’t have to be angels who never do anything wrong (or there’d be no plot, would there?). When they do something wrong, however, I expect someone in the book to call them out on it. When everyone in the book supports their behavior instead, it makes me angry.
There’s a Nora Roberts book called Bed of Roses where this happens. Warning: Spoilers ahead.
In this book, the heroine assumes from the beginning that the hero is totally against being in a committed relationship. After they start dating / having sex, she continues to assume that and even rants to her friends about it – who tell her that she’s out of line because she’s never brought up the subject with him.
That’s right. They call her on it because she’s wrong to keep getting mad about something without ever giving him a chance to fix it. Especially when at least 90% of what she’s mad about is an assumption she’s made, not anything he’s done or said.
A couple hundred pages later, however, she breaks into his home (she gets the key from the neighbor, but it’s still illegal entry) to set up a romantic evening (although, clearly, that wasn’t the full motivation). He gets home after a long, tiring day and because he is surprised to see her, she gets offended and yells at him for not wanting to commit to her and basically runs out.
Mind you, he didn’t even say anything mean or insulting. He was just surprised to find out she’d broken into his home. She assumed the rest.
Those same friends that said she was wrong to not give him a chance to fix the problem? They support her. All of them treat her like she’s right and him like he’s the biggest jerk who ever lived. Even though she still had never told him it was an issue. So he’s gotta go crawling because “it’s all his fault.”
No, it’s not, and the hypocrisy of the 2 scenes drives me crazy. Could he still apologize for making her feel that way? Sure. Because relationships require putting the relationship before being right. But she sure as hell owes him a much bigger apology for what she did.
And if even one person had called her on the crap she was shoveling, it would’ve been better. From my perspective, it might’ve saved the book. Instead, I read the other books in the series and skip that one. Because, clearly, treating wrong behavior as right irritates the crap out of me.
Calling Abuse Romance or Love
I run into this more with romance novels written decades ago. You know, the ones where the guy doesn’t stop when she says, “No,” and she falls for him because he’s so strong – yeah, that bull$#*&.
Unfortunately, new ones can have the a similar problem with treating abuse like it’s ok or good. Fifty Shades of Grey for example.
That series is about an abusive relationship, and it tries to justify the abuse by calling it BDSM. FYI: What is described in that book isn’t BDSM. In fact, everyone I’ve talked to who is actually into BDSM is seriously offended or angered by those books.
Why? Because it taught the average person the wrong definition of what BDSM is, and it’s a definition that BDSM groups have been fighting for a long time.
And if you want to learn more about that, I suggest you find a group to ask about it on Reddit. You’ll learn a lot fast.
If it happened a long time ago, and the person is still dealing with the fall-out, I can handle reading it. If someone attempts rape but is stopped before succeeding, I don’t like it, but I can handle reading it.
If a character in the book is raped during the storyline, I’m done. Especially if it’s one of the main characters.
I know it happens. I know it happens far too often. But traumatic events are the absolute opposite of what I want out of a romance novel. I’m trying to escape the cruelty of real life. If I wanted to read about that, I’d be reading a newspaper.
Easily Solved Emotional Problems
This one goes hand-in-hand with the last one. Namely because rape or sexual assault are some of the most common traumas romance protagonists find themselves trying to overcome.
Here’s the problem: If a character has a serious emotional problem, and it goes away quickly and easily because that person falls in love, it’s insulting to anyone who’s ever dealt with emotional or mental issues.
I know. I just said that I don’t want reality, but if you’re going to throw a topic like that into a book, you have to treat it with respect. I don’t need it to be 100% accurate – it can happen a bit faster or with a little less effort. However, it needs to be clear that effort is required.
That said, unless the author is especially insulting, I won’t always give up on the book with this one. I will get irritated and be more inclined to stop reading if it crosses another line though.
Current Events / Politics
I have really strong feelings about current events and politics. Let’s just say there are lots of negative emotions going on there (Pretty sure I’m not alone in this).
I don’t want to have to deal with those emotions when I’m escaping reality. Like other options listed above, it pushes me out of the story and back to the world I’m trying to leave.
If it’s politics from a far-distant century, that’s fine. I don’t have strong feelings about those. Today’s politics? In a romance novel? Those 2 do not go together.