Random Thoughts of a Romance Blogger: What’s Off-Limits?

Posted March 23, 2018 by Suzanne in Random Thoughts, Under the Covers / 30 Comments

OFF LIMITS

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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Suzanne

Blogger/Reviewer at Under the Covers Book Blog
Gosh, we all seem to be admitting our ages…and I hate that I am at the point in life when admitting my age is a “thing”…whodda thunk it? I was kind of hoping I would remain 21 forever. However, I have moved out of that New Adult stage of my life and am now strictly in the Contemporary Romance age zone of 28. I would prefer to be in an Urban Fantasy arena, but I don’t think I own enough black leather. However, I could probably squeeze into some PNR, I am fully prepared to give a horn job to my favourite demon, or suck on my sexy vamps…fangs and I am definitely up for some heavy petting with some fine looking shifters. Than again their’s always Sci Fi…I am fully prepared to do the right thing and help some poor alien race with more 6 packs than a supermarket repopulate their planet. Not that I am loose woman or anything.

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?
Suzanne
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Alex
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Alex

I completely agree with everything here, but especially the abusive hero. I like to call these heroes “alpha-holes” and they drive me up the wall. I struggle so much with this because I feel like my asshole line is lot more sensitive then other readers and I just don’t like jerk/bastard heroes. But I’m always shocked when I see clearly abusive behaviors in romance novels and we’re supposed to just accept it. No thank you! And yes, the age of consent one always grosses me out. Just no. Don’t do it authors.

Under the Covers Book Blog
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Under the Covers Book Blog

Hi Alex,

I feel the same, I read something where the hero is clearly an abuser and then look at the reviews and wonder if I read the same book as everyone else! It’s funny you mention the alpha-hole things, I was going to mention it as I have heard it called that before, but I always think its smacks too much of a euphemism for what it actually is so decided to just put the word “abuser” out there.

Suzanne

Darynda Jones
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Darynda Jones

I love this, Suzanne! I agree with a solid 95% of it. LOL. My only dispute (and I JUST had this discussion with one of my assistants where I had to justify my hero’s interest in a 17-year-old girl) is the paranormal aspect of age and consent. Consent, certainly! But Interest? Romance? I just think about it like this. The paranormal guy looks 18. Yes, he is really 200, but problem number one is, where can he find a 200 year old woman to woo? (Especially, as in my story, he is the only one of his kind.) And number… Read more »

Under the Covers Book Blog
Guest
Under the Covers Book Blog

Hi Darynda, 95% isn’t so bad 😛 I see where you are coming from regarding the PNR aspect regarding age, and I definitely don’t think that people should always stay within their age bracket. It’s just the YA seems to be dominated by such big age gaps, what do these young girls and much older vampires have in common? Why are they interested in school girls? Not that young people don’t have great things to say, it just never quite strikes the right note for me. On the other hand there’s also something in the societal expectations of the age… Read more »

Darynda Jones
Guest
Darynda Jones

I totally understand! I definitely see where you are coming from and while it’s in adult books as well with no one blinking an eye (for obvious reasons), it does tend to dominate paranormal YA as well. It is an interesting topic for sure!

Kathleen Bylsma
Guest
Kathleen Bylsma

Age of consent is a hot button for me, too. Applies to males as well as females.
Historical point exceptionally well made.
Abuse is abuse and is intolerable.
Well done!

Under the Covers Book Blog
Guest
Under the Covers Book Blog

Thanks Kathleen, I am glad to see it isn’t just me that these subjects bother!

Suzanne

JenM
Guest
JenM

I recently read an amazing LitFic called All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, that had me unable to put it down while at the same time being utterly repelled because it featured a relationship (I won’t call it aromance) that starts when she’s 9 and he’s 20. Initially it’s not sexual, they are just 2 lonely, damaged souls and their relationship is the only stable, good thing in their lives. However, it turns sexual when she’s 14. He knows how wrong it is, but he’s just as damaged as she is and can’t say no to her. As a LitFic,… Read more »

Under the Covers Book Blog
Guest
Under the Covers Book Blog

Hi Jenm, The book sounds fascinating and there’s definitely a difference between marking that kind of book as a work of literary fiction and a romance. It’s still horrific and disturbing but it isn’t selling it as a love story. That’s a great point regarding the power differential that age differences can create, I think any imbalance in power in a relationship is a bad thing, it’s why I am weary of student/teacher romances or when the hero/heroine is the boss. Thanks for the recommendations, I will have to take a look. Yes, I love a strong heroine! I think… Read more »

Kathy Valentine
Guest
Kathy Valentine

Great article suzanne,I agree with your thoughts on most except for paranormal romance their is a difference to me. I don’t know why dark romances that have rape,non consent,under age and basically the guy is a totally douche bag or just plain dick face are so popular! I have read some dark romance that I loved where the guy is scarred,but he’s over all a good man. I’m so tired of titles and books with the words virgin and daddy’s something,something!!! What every happened to good old romance!!! Shared on all my socials!!

Under the Covers Book Blog
Guest
Under the Covers Book Blog

Thanks Kathy,

I agree, I don’t if that makes us unadventurous been as the really dark stuff seems so popular, but for the most part I can’t stomach it and it makes me angry.

Haha yes, if the word “virgin” or “daddy” or (“step brother” for the matter!) is in the title chances are that I will avoid it completely.

Thanks for sharing 🙂

Suzanne

Alex
Guest
Alex

I completely agree with everything here, but especially the abusive hero. I like to call these heroes “alpha-holes” and they drive me up the wall. I struggle so much with this because I feel like my asshole line is lot more sensitive then other readers and I just don’t like jerk/bastard heroes. But I’m always shocked when I see clearly abusive behaviors in romance novels and we’re supposed to just accept it. No thank you! And yes, the age of consent one always grosses me out. Just no. Don’t do it authors.

Under the Covers Book Blog
Admin
Under the Covers Book Blog

Hi Alex,

I feel the same, I read something where the hero is clearly an abuser and then look at the reviews and wonder if I read the same book as everyone else! It’s funny you mention the alpha-hole things, I was going to mention it as I have heard it called that before, but I always think its smacks too much of a euphemism for what it actually is so decided to just put the word “abuser” out there.

Suzanne

Darynda Jones
Guest
Darynda Jones

I love this, Suzanne! I agree with a solid 95% of it. LOL. My only dispute (and I JUST had this discussion with one of my assistants where I had to justify my hero’s interest in a 17-year-old girl) is the paranormal aspect of age and consent. Consent, certainly! But Interest? Romance? I just think about it like this. The paranormal guy looks 18. Yes, he is really 200, but problem number one is, where can he find a 200 year old woman to woo? (Especially, as in my story, he is the only one of his kind.) And number… Read more »

Under the Covers Book Blog
Admin
Under the Covers Book Blog

Hi Darynda, 95% isn’t so bad 😛 I see where you are coming from regarding the PNR aspect regarding age, and I definitely don’t think that people should always stay within their age bracket. It’s just the YA seems to be dominated by such big age gaps, what do these young girls and much older vampires have in common? Why are they interested in school girls? Not that young people don’t have great things to say, it just never quite strikes the right note for me. On the other hand there’s also something in the societal expectations of the age… Read more »

Darynda Jones
Guest
Darynda Jones

I totally understand! I definitely see where you are coming from and while it’s in adult books as well with no one blinking an eye (for obvious reasons), it does tend to dominate paranormal YA as well. It is an interesting topic for sure!

Kathleen Bylsma
Guest
Kathleen Bylsma

Age of consent is a hot button for me, too. Applies to males as well as females.
Historical point exceptionally well made.
Abuse is abuse and is intolerable.
Well done!

Under the Covers Book Blog
Admin
Under the Covers Book Blog

Thanks Kathleen, I am glad to see it isn’t just me that these subjects bother!

Suzanne

Elizabeth
Guest
Elizabeth

Of the three abusive/a**hole is my top. I just can’t do it and not just because if him but the live interest as well. I’m like can’t you see tyou deserve to be treated better?! The historical bad guys can be a delicate subject. Like you stated, it can be done, but a lot has to go into it. Age of consent is bothersome. Not so much in pnr for similar reasons already stated, but in other genres? Yes.

JenM
Guest
JenM

I recently read an amazing LitFic called All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, that had me unable to put it down while at the same time being utterly repelled because it featured a relationship (I won’t call it aromance) that starts when she’s 9 and he’s 20. Initially it’s not sexual, they are just 2 lonely, damaged souls and their relationship is the only stable, good thing in their lives. However, it turns sexual when she’s 14. He knows how wrong it is, but he’s just as damaged as she is and can’t say no to her. As a LitFic,… Read more »

Under the Covers Book Blog
Admin
Under the Covers Book Blog

Hi Jenm, The book sounds fascinating and there’s definitely a difference between marking that kind of book as a work of literary fiction and a romance. It’s still horrific and disturbing but it isn’t selling it as a love story. That’s a great point regarding the power differential that age differences can create, I think any imbalance in power in a relationship is a bad thing, it’s why I am weary of student/teacher romances or when the hero/heroine is the boss. Thanks for the recommendations, I will have to take a look. Yes, I love a strong heroine! I think… Read more »

Sophia Rose
Guest
Sophia Rose

I think your final comment is the biggest point about any hot button issues- motive for including it in the book. Taboo for being taboo and other types of emotional manipulation get me mad. I think the age difference is the least clear-cut for me especial the vampire or PNR ones particularly when they get into the gray world of ‘fated mates and immortals and stuff, but, its all in how the author writes, it too, whether it feels dirty.
But overall, yes, these are definitely things that would get me not liking a book.

Kathy Valentine
Guest
Kathy Valentine

Great article suzanne,I agree with your thoughts on most except for paranormal romance their is a difference to me. I don’t know why dark romances that have rape,non consent,under age and basically the guy is a totally douche bag or just plain dick face are so popular! I have read some dark romance that I loved where the guy is scarred,but he’s over all a good man. I’m so tired of titles and books with the words virgin and daddy’s something,something!!! What every happened to good old romance!!! Shared on all my socials!!

Under the Covers Book Blog
Admin
Under the Covers Book Blog

Thanks Kathy,

I agree, I don’t if that makes us unadventurous been as the really dark stuff seems so popular, but for the most part I can’t stomach it and it makes me angry.

Haha yes, if the word “virgin” or “daddy” or (“step brother” for the matter!) is in the title chances are that I will avoid it completely.

Thanks for sharing 🙂

Suzanne

Elizabeth
Guest
Elizabeth

Of the three abusive/a**hole is my top. I just can’t do it and not just because if him but the live interest as well. I’m like can’t you see tyou deserve to be treated better?! The historical bad guys can be a delicate subject. Like you stated, it can be done, but a lot has to go into it. Age of consent is bothersome. Not so much in pnr for similar reasons already stated, but in other genres? Yes.

Sophia Rose
Guest
Sophia Rose

I think your final comment is the biggest point about any hot button issues- motive for including it in the book. Taboo for being taboo and other types of emotional manipulation get me mad. I think the age difference is the least clear-cut for me especial the vampire or PNR ones particularly when they get into the gray world of ‘fated mates and immortals and stuff, but, its all in how the author writes, it too, whether it feels dirty.
But overall, yes, these are definitely things that would get me not liking a book.

Amy R
Guest
Amy R

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, does have the age of consent issue but I actually loved the book as a whole and was rooting for those characters to have an HEA. I’m not personally a fan of the abusive or excessively asshole heroes but again there are exceptions; Undeniable by Madeline Sheehan which pushes the consent age as well. I haven’t yet found the something that I can say is a hard limit for me to DNF a book but the more I read the pickier I’m getting. The reasons I have DNF’d a book are excessive angst, I… Read more »

Amy R
Guest
Amy R

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, does have the age of consent issue but I actually loved the book as a whole and was rooting for those characters to have an HEA. I’m not personally a fan of the abusive or excessively asshole heroes but again there are exceptions; Undeniable by Madeline Sheehan which pushes the consent age as well. I haven’t yet found the something that I can say is a hard limit for me to DNF a book but the more I read the pickier I’m getting. The reasons I have DNF’d a book are excessive angst, I… Read more »

Timitra
Guest
Timitra

Totally agree with you on historical bad guys and abusive/assholes.

Timitra
Guest
Timitra

Totally agree with you on historical bad guys and abusive/assholes.