Since Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us, it makes sense that this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is asking about things we love (and hate) when it comes to romances in books. I’m a sucker for love stories, so I had a lot of fun coming up with my list! I’ve listed five things I really enjoy in a fictional romance, followed by five things I hate. Here they are, in no particular order…
Things I Love:
1. Marriage of convenience — For some reason I really like this trope, which generally occurs in historical fiction: hero and heroine marry for money (or some other non-romantic reason), then slowly grow to love each other. I enjoy this type of story because the obstacles are built into the plot. Both parties entered into the marriage with a common understanding of the rules (it’s about convenience, not love); but as their feelings begin to change and deepen, they’re unsure if their spouse feels the same way. So this trope is a great way to introduce conflict that doesn’t feel silly or manufactured.
2. Friends become lovers — I’ve always loved stories where a girl and guy are longtime friends, but eventually romantic tension evolves between them. I think it’s a satisfying story because we already know the protagonists get along well and have things in common, so their love is based on a solid foundation. Whenever there’s a love triangle between the heroine, her best male friend, and the hot new guy, I always root for the best friend!
3. The slow burn — There’s nothing better than watching a couple’s relationship evolve slowly, tentatively, excruciatingly towards romance! To me, the slow burn is much more realistic than a relationship where the characters fall in love, or in bed, instantaneously (see insta-love, below). It’s also a better move from a writing standpoint: building a romance slowly increases the dramatic tension and makes the resolution all the more satisfying!
4. Beta heroes — Sure, I’ll admit that there’s something appealing about strong-willed, take-charge alpha heroes who know what they want and aren’t afraid to go after it. But these heroes also tend to steamroll over anyone who disagrees with them — including the heroine! I prefer love stories where the hero listens to and respects the heroine, even when they disagree. Plus, beta heroes tend to be brainy rather than brawny, and I’m definitely of the opinion that smart = sexy!
5. Banter — My absolute favorite romances are the ones where the hero and heroine tease each other, exchanging witty banter and jokey one-liners with reckless abandon. Humor is such an important component of romance, to me; I think it’s really important that couples make each other laugh, are amused by the same things, and can deal with life’s problems with humor and positivity. In short, I’m a rom-com girl at heart, and I’m not ashamed to admit it!
Things I Hate:
6. Love triangles — Okay, I don’t hate every love triangle, but I think it’s really hard for authors to write them well. Usually it’s a situation where one person is clearly right for the protagonist, and the other person is clearly wrong — in which case the protagonist comes off as stupid for not immediately recognizing who the right person is, and the wrong person feels like a pointless distraction. And if the protagonist is trying to choose between two equally right people, then regardless of which person s/he picks, the outcome won’t be satisfying, because the odd man out will be too sympathetic.
7. Insta-love — I’ve already mentioned that I prefer slow-burning romances, and the flip side is that I hate romances where the hero and heroine fall in love too quickly. In these cases, it seems like the couple’s “love” is based almost entirely on looks and sexual chemistry, rather than on more substantial foundations like shared values or similar interests. Not to pick on Twilight, but this was my main problem with that book: Edward and Bella fell in love right away, for no discernible reason, and as a result, neither character was really developed very well. (To be fair, I didn’t read the sequels, so maybe that happens in later installments?) I never figured out why they loved each other, besides Edward being super hot and Bella having great-smelling blood.
8. Weird euphemisms — I tend to shy away from very explicit romance novels, but in my limited experience, there are some freaking weird euphemisms being used for male and female reproductive organs. And they can be extremely distracting in the midst of a love scene!
9. Big Misunderstandings — I understand that it can be hard for authors to maintain dramatic tension when they’ve created two characters who are obviously perfect for each other. Conflict has to come from somewhere, and I get that. But I hate when the only obstacle facing the characters is a silly misunderstanding that could have been avoided, if only they had actually talked to each other like human beings. If the hero and heroine are having trouble communicating, there should at least be some kind of basis for that (trauma from a past relationship, etc).
10. Sad endings — I know some people enjoy tearjerkers where the hero and heroine fall in love, and then one of them dies in a car accident or gets a terminal disease or marries somebody else. I am not one of them! I want my hero and heroine to end up together! Maybe that makes me a sap, but I don’t care: I want the happily-ever-after, dammit!