Prepare yourself ladies and gents, I am about to clamber on to my high horse and stay there for the remainder of this post. In this Random Thoughts of a Romance Blogger I want to
rant discuss what is off limits, or perhaps should be off limits when writing a romance novel. And, it isn’t that I believe in censorship, I just believe in having good sense judgement, so I am going to talk about some of the things that have me seeing red when I read a romance.
Historical Bad Guys
It isn’t that I don’t know that history is written by the victors and sometimes some of the “good guys” bad deeds aren’t glossed over. However, there are some events in history and some organisations which don’t seem like an appropriate for a romance novel with a nicely wrapped up HEA at the end.
In my mind it trivialises the events and the people involved, for example a romance between a Nazi officer and a Jewish woman would be extremely complicated and tragic. Should it be tackled in fiction? Of course it should. In a 300 page steaming hot historical romance? Probably not, it doesn’t seem like the right outlet for such a heavy and complex issue. It doesn’t feel like it has the right gravitas. Does that mean I think that romance can only tackle easy subjects? Of course not, there are lots of romances that have made me think about hard subjects differently.
What I disagree with is distilling something that deserves a lot of respect and research into a book that just wants to find a taboo “hero” or subject and exploits it.
Age of Consent
If there is a subject that is likely to enrage me whilst reading a romance it’s when there is an age of consent issue. And, I’m not talking about YA when the hero or heroine may be 15 and their love interest a few years older. Although books like Twilight bother me because the heroine is young, really young, and although the hero may look the same age he isn’t, he’s a dirty old man who just happens to have a good body. Why is he interested in a girl who is still in school?
Okay, back on track and to the books that have the ability to start some kindle flinging. If the hero or heroine is under the age of consent (aka 16) and the hero is a mature adult then it’s wrong. Even if they conveniently don’t do anything until she/he is old enough for it not to be statutory rape, if the relationship started before that time it riles me up. Even if the she/he seems old before their time. Guess what? They aren’t. They are still teenagers. Even worse, most the time the younger hero/heroines seems to be ones that have gone through some kind of trauma or abuse. And the abuse continues, but it’s okay because it’s framed as a romance… *blind rage descends*
This is a subject for which I can rant on for a long time and I understand that taboo romances are a great outlet for fantasy that you would never want or act on in reality. But, for me age of consent is a hard rule and it goes beyond “taboo” and becomes something else entirely.
Abusive or Asshole?
There can be a thin line between a hero – sorry guys, but I only ever seem to see this is heroes and not heroines, although that doesn’t mean to say that there aren’t any – I just haven’t read them – being an asshole or being an abuser. Having an alpha hero is almost a requisite to write a successful romance, we want a commanding hero who knows how to handle a situation and take control in the bedroom. It’s hot.
It’s when that control starts to leak into every other aspect of life that I start to become disturbed. And I’m not talking about a BDSM romance, where that control is something that is agreed upon and fulfills a need for both players. I’m talking about heroes who want to control everything and like to think they own their heroine. Like we are back to the medieval times and the heroine is their chattel. A dress shows too much leg or cleavage…she has to change. She talks to other men…that’s not allowed. He doesn’t like her friends…well she shouldn’t see them anymore. That all smacks of an abusive relationship to me.
There seems to be trend for these uber controlling and abusive heroes and most of us know that we would never tolerate that type of behaviour in real life. Apart from all those women who do life with that behaviour. And don’t realise that it isn’t normal. Then read it in a romance novel, which reinforces that it’s okay.
Those were my three things that I just can’t tolerate and will immediately turn me off and stop me reading a book. And when I narrow it time to some root cause, I suppose what I actually hate is taboo for the sake of it being taboo. It doesn’t add anything to the story, it just sensationalises it to grab attention but doesn’t intelligently address any of the issues that it raises. It seems like senseless exploitation to me.
*climbs down high horse*
What are your thoughts? What is off limits for you?
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Annnnnd I will stop myself there, before I start waxing lyrical about my love of historical romance and fantasy as well; no one needs to know about my elf fantasies. As you can tell, I adore and day dream about most romance genres, and my three big loves are 1) reading about romance 2) writing about romance and 3) talking about romance with my gals. Which, is why I love Under the Covers so much, I get all my bookish needs satisfied and don’t get judged when I talk about my favourite characters like they are real people. Which they are right?