Valentine’s fan or not, February puts love on the brain. I’m not a Romance novel fan, personally. My own writing typically focuses more on family ties than budding love (thought it’s not absent), so I’m not exactly an expert here. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good love story woven into a fantasy, mystery, or horror plot. I think every reader has their favorite book couple. If you’re subscribed to my newsletter, you know my personal top three, but in this post, I’m going to poke some lighthearted fun at the common romance tropes that drive me bonkers. But for the record, all these tropes can be utilized well, in fresh and less frustrating ways.
Oh, brother. Starting off with a doozy. I enjoy some sexual tension as much as the next girl, but Lord have mercy, if you’re dragging out a “will they, won’t they” scenario for five-plus books *cough, Queen Rowling, cough* I ask you … WHY?! The idea behind this is that the payoff is supposed to be enormous. When the characters finally collide in a moment of passion, it’ll be explosive, the audience will leap to their feet and cheer!
Problem is, in many cases, it’s not a bang, it’s a fizzle. After so long of nothing actually happening, the non-relationship often gets boring. The same “almost …!” scenarios get overdone and old. And after sooo much waiting, it’s very difficult to create a situation that makes the payoff live up to the expectations readers have built up in their heads.
The One-Point Connection
Relationships typically start based on a singular connection. Maybe it’s initially just physical attraction. Maybe you struck up a long conversation over a hobby you have in common. But if a romance never evolves past that surface level connection and the relationship never gains a new dynamic, making it a central piece of your plot dulls the narrative. A good girl having a thing for a bad boy doesn’t hold my attention unless some layers are peeled back, on both characters. The fact that the protagonist’s chosen partner is sweet is great, but if they only interact in ways that display that “sweetness,” I’m left with questions. How does the dynamic shift when things go wrong? If it doesn’t … or things never go wrong … the story feels less real.
The Asshole Factor
I will never understand the appeal of the “macho” or “rude boy” character. Or this new “hot stalker” trend that’s going around, for that matter. PSA, people, stalking is NEVER justified!! I don’t care if he had a shitty childhood. Dark eyelashes, confidence, and mediocre poetry do not justify presumption, aggressive dominance, or disrespect. Period.
If that broody bad boy is going to win the leading lady or gentleman’s heart, he’d better get a serious attitude adjustment over the course of the story, or I’m throwing the book.
The Endless Uphill Climb
Conflict and difficult obstacles in the way of a leading couple (or almost couple) keeps the plot complex and interesting. But there’s a limit on how much I, as a reader, am able to take before I start groaning and putting away the book for three days to cool off my frustration. Let me demonstrate what I mean …
He’s afraid of love; she has a boyfriend. They share a moment that leads to her dumping the competition. She goes to tell him her new status, but he interrupts and says he’s got a date with her sister. He finally admits he loves her, but she’s given up on him and fears being hurt again. He’s wounded in battle, and she realizes she can’t live without him, but oh no, he’s got amnesia! End of book one. AAHHH!
By this point, if I really like these characters and want them to be together, I’m ripping my hair out. If I don’t particularly care if they get together, I’m either putting away the book or skimming the love scenes.
The Idiotic Miscommunication
Couples fight. Couples get angry or scared and don’t adequately convey their feelings, leading to separations or serious disagreements. That’s life. But when a rift is torn between a couple because one half said absolutely nothing at all when a resolution could have been achieved in one or two sentences? Kill me now.
I don’t like shouting, “Moron!” at the page (or the television screen, for that matter). That’s not a good reading experience.
The villain put a curse on you that makes your kiss the Kiss of Death? Freaking tell your monster-slaying almost-boyfriend/girlfriend. Uh, maybe they could help? Why are you pushing that person away? So you can throw an even bigger pity party? Solid plan.
Is your partner’s best friend making blatant moves on you? Maybe you should tell your partner? Ever think of that? Nah, that would be too obvious and easy. Let’s just wait till it comes out at the worst possible moment.
I can’t do it, y’all. I can’t do it.
What are some of your romance pet peeves? Drop them in the comments. And if you want to start receiving extra content, like my top three favorite romances list or a free copy of the Arcamira prequel short story coming out soon, subscribe!