They were estranged, she briefly took another lover.
They were young, in an argument, she hit him.
She asked him who he was, for reasons he couldn’t say, he lied.
Her best friend from forever was a guy, his jealousy burned out of control.
When these–or other compromised situations–happen in a romance, can you forgive them? Can you forgive almost of all of them except for one? Is there something that is just an utter no-go?
Let us know: what, if anything, is unforgivable in a romance?
Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.
Cheating (between the main characters) is a no for me, in the sense that I find it pretty much unforgiveable. Yet from time to time I do deliberately seek out books with this theme. I’m still looking for the one where the grovelling is so good that I can forgive it, but it hasn’t happened yet. I always end up hoping for the character that was cheated on to kick the cheater to the curb, which is not really the ending you want in a romance novel.
I don’t have entirely hard and fast deal breakers because I’m fairly open to giving things a chance. But one plot that will get me to stop reading almost immediately is when the hero presses the heroine to become his mistress even after she’s said no for all the logical, realistic, life-saving reasons a woman would say no in a historical time-period.
There’s a Julia Quinn title that many love, An Offer from a Gentleman (I believe), that just made me rage-y when I read it. The heroine repeatedly tells the “hero” that she does not want to be his mistress because it will ruin her life. He persists long past the point of no return to my mind. It’s always weird to me in HR’s regencies – ostensibly the progeny of Jane Austen’s works – that the “heroes” are the ones trying to get with the women without benefit of wedlock, without even considering wedlock. In Jane Austen’s books, those guys are the villains.
I’m not averse to relationships in HR between unwed partners who are both wanting the relationship – though I’m always giving them a side eye because of what it would do to the woman if anyone found out – but the ones where the guy is like, “I want you, be my mistress”, she says no and he keeps pushing. Big nope for me.
I’ve been nodding my head at pretty much all of these comments, but have realised that I don’t have many dealbreakers that will mean I won’t continue reading a book; if it’s for review, then I slog on to the bitter end and then vent my spleen in the review! So I will read a review book, even if it contains things I don’t like, becuase that’s part of my “job” as a reviewer, I think.
For me, a dealbreaker is sometihng that would make me stop reading – or not want to read a book – and that’s happened to me only once in the last decade or so, which was a piece of historical fiction about Nell Gwynne, which featured a scene in which an eleven year old Nell was… I could say “tricked” into having sex with several older boys/young men, but nah, I’m calling it gang rape. That turned my stomach, and I set the book aside.
I read a lot of romantic suspense and mysteries, so violence isn’t too much of a problem. although the cannibalism thing.. yeah, no.
But most of the other things listed here are things which I might not like, but which wouldn’t necessarily stop me reading a book, especially if it was a book for review. Incorrect titles in historicals make me see red, I generally dislike the “chicks in strides” trope and don’t get me started on those books in which the heroine can only show what an independent, unconventional person she is by stamping all over the hero and treating him like shit – and he luurves her so much and thinks the sun shines out of her arse to such a degree that he gives in to her on absolutely everything. (That’s not a relationship of equals – which is what a romance should be.)
Agreed! I don’t have deal-breakers generally and tend to want to see how an author develops ideas and tropes, even if they are ones that I personally dislike. The only time I set a book aside and call it quits is if I am so bored that it is taking me far too long to get to the end. It’s rare that this happens but when it does, I can become paralyzed by my inability to finish a book and can’t give myself permission to pick up a new one.
I am heartily sick of the latter trope.
And yet it seems to be cropping up more and more as part of the current trend you identified over on my review of the new Caroline Linden book. It’s becoming almost a requirement for heroines to be unconventional and working to overthrow the social norms in HR – and before anyone jumps on me, I’m well aware that there were women pushing boundaries and I’m absolutely not saying all heroines in HR should be doormats. What I am saying is that a true HEA should be one between equals – and that is NOT a story in which the hero bends over backwards to do everything the heroine wants and she’s all take and no give. (*cough* Pandora Ravenel *cough*)
Not to mention the odious trend of the feminist heroine who in order to triumph has to make the hero give up something huge for her. I think that’s almost an inverse of feminism but it seems to be en vogue.
I agree with this completely. It’s like the flip side of the “old school” romances where the women were subjugated by the men. It’s not romantic to me when one partner, no matter the gender, has to turn into a martyr for the relationship to work.
chrisreader, that’s it exactly. Two wrongs don’t make a right and all that! Just because the ‘heroes’ in romance thirty or forty years ago behaved that way doesn’t mean the heroines should completely turn the tables. We women are better than that, aren’t we?
I don’t have much to add to all the excellent comments here, but the Pandora Ravenel reference made me remember one plot device I find very tiring: The last-minute life-threatening event that has barely been set up in the story and just swings in to make the characters realize the depth of their feelings for one another. I can see why some people might like this – often it comes with some very sweet conversations between the two principals – and if it’s been adequately explained/foreshadowed in the story, I don’t mind it as much. But usually when I realize we’re headed for a scene like this, I just think, oh, MUST WE?
I never say never to tropes I dislike, but reserve the right to complain if it’s executed poorly. :-). It really comes down to context and the skill of the author and whether it makes sense for what has been established for the character and that character’s journey in the story. In other words, that character better grow during the course of the journey!
I do have tropes I dislike that will be harder for authors to get past my internal critic and that initial first 50-pages of the book test. I hate instant mental lusting, love at first sight, childish bickering between characters that is supposed to be sexual tension but really isn’t. I also hate it when characters confuse social injustice with just not getting their way (there IS a difference, and it trivializes cases of true injustice with the expectation of instant deference and entitlement).
The idea that a man, to be a man, must have lots of sex. If he’s not actually having sex, he must be thinking of ways to get it.
So if he and the heroine are separated, he must bang numerous women who are little or nothing more than warm bodies for him to use.
If he and the heroine have to work together but she tells him, “I don’t want to have sex with you”, he can’t rape her, because the eighties are long gone. Instead he’ll say something like, “You didn’t say we can’t dance. Mmm, your hair smells good. What about kissing? You might have a no-sex rule, but that doesn’t mean I have to be a saint.”
The heroine will accept this as evidence of his virility, and will never call him out on his refusal to respect her boundaries. If the book is clearly a dark or edgy romance, sure. Do all this and go the distance. But in a more mainstream (for lack of a better word) romance, and especially if the hero is billed as someone admirable who cares for the heroine, don’t sell me this entitled sexual aggression and expect me to like it.
I really think some writers are having trouble deciding how all those “markers” for virility (sexually harassing female staff, making pointedly-sexual comments to & about women, having a “hit it and quit it” attitude) are to be changed in the #me-too world. I read a book a few months ago that had been published in 2013. The hero/boss was such a horn-dog, but even six years ago, romance was more accepting of that behavior.
Don’t you think the heroine can be OK with kissing and still say she doesn’t want to have sex? Romance will be dreary if no seduction is allowed. I, for one, don’t want to read a romance novel with the premise that the only stuff that can go on is neutrally agreed on.
For me, if someone doesn’t want to have sex, I think it’s up to that person to show what, if anything, they are comfortable with. If the heroine says, “I don’t want to have sex with you, but kissing is fine”, that’s great. Or she can show that she wants kissing, which works for me too.
However, if the heroine says, “I don’t want to have sex with you” and the hero then tries to kiss her, touch her, etc. it doesn’t work for me.
I think seduction is great. But if there’s a limit laid down by either party, I want that limit to be respected, rather than pushed and tested. Just my preference. Other readers might feel differently.
For me, if someone says I don’t want to have sex with you, especially in contemporary romance, it’s not cool for someone to try and have sex with them. But I don’t necessarily see that if someone says I don’t want to have sex with you that means that they don’t want to kiss. Again, if an author can convince me of both partners’ joy, I’ll accept a lot of actions.
This conversation makes me think of Flowers From The Storm and To Have and To Hold. In both those books, the author makes me believe that the actions of the leads were what they had to be for true love to survive and, by the book’s end, I believe in that love. I know those books are controversial because of their approaches to consent but, to me, Gaffney and Kinsale write those dynamics in ways that don’t ethically compromise their stories.
“Again, if an author can convince me of both partners’ joy, I’ll accept a lot of actions.”
I agree. If I were to read a romance where either party’s position was “I don’t want to have sex with you, but I do want to kiss you”, that would be fine. Unfortunately, whenever I’ve read “I don’t want to have sex with you”, kissing was not wanted either.
That said, despite the heroine telling the hero to leave her alone, she enjoyed it when he kissed her and touched her anyway, so perhaps that’s part of the controversial aspect of these books.
I am curious what you mean by “neutrally.”
For me it’s when due to lack of research S &M love scenes cross the line into humiliation and degradation. Just because it is written she or he enjoyed it, if I’m cringing or disgusted as I read it then it crossed my line. This can be avoided by researching more the real relationship between a Dom and Sub. Keep in mind that at all times it’s the Sub that is in control of her or his situation. No books where a lover use their lovers sadist needs and desires against them to humiliate them out of anger.
In an English historical or Regency …
… when the author can’t be bothered to research the correct forms of address for the nobility.
Deal breaker. Book goes down, and a fresh book chosen.
Greatly disappointed in a recent book about, um, bringing down a duke…
That reminds me of an excerpt I read which referred to the “Baron and Baronette”.
I… just… FFS, have these people never heard of using the internet for research??!
WandaSue – I did like that particular book in spite of the inaccuracies; the storytelling was strong enough to enable me to… set them aside for the duration.
There’s no need to spend time on research if you’re aiming for a readership that doesn’t need historical accuracy. More cost-effective to use that time producing another book which has what that readership wants instead.
Yes, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. This type of stupid error almost always makes the book a DNF or 1* read. I have never understood why an author wants to use a British aristocratic setting and then completely cock it up. I’ve been banging on about this here at AAR for more years than I care to remember.
Rape. Years ago I read M.M. Kaye’s Trade Winds, in which the “hero” rapes the heroine to get back at her fiancé. I would have been fine with it if she had killed him, but instead she falls in love with him. To top it off, he’s a slave trader.
I know that book is billed as historic fiction rather than romance, but it still leaves a bad taste every time I remember it.
I can’t stand any book where the hero and heroine just don’t actually like each other. It’s more a thing of the past, but I never could enjoy books where the two just fight the entire book (not sexy banter or verbal sparring) but yelling, name calling etc. then occasionally fall into bed then start over again.
I despise any book where the hero just irrationally thinks the heroine is a “whore” and that means he can do whatever he wants with her. Or that she is related to/friends with etc someone who has WRONGED HIM and he will break her (or any other innocent person) to get his revenge. Get over yourself.
I also hate books where the hero is put through things that would kill, warp or break any human ten times over but comes out not only big, strong, fully functioning and handsome but with just a few artful scars. Same with heroines who are starved and neglected most of their lives yet manage to look like Victoria’s Secret models.
I hate heroes who are hitting every disease ridden bordello then hook up with the heroine. Gross.
I also really hate big public groveling or when the hero and heroine enjoy the humiliation of the other.
I too hate the latter and have been distressed to see this trope growing in popularity.
The one where the hero can make the heroine’s body perform like a trained seal whether she wants it or not, so she must be in love with him. Since her body just. Can’t. Resist him, even if her mind is protesting, everything will work out in the end. Ugh.
Trained seal, huh? That cracked me up! I just keep seeing some poor woman balancing a beach ball on her nose and barking…lol!!
There are some BDSM plots that are skeevy, too. There was one where the h had had a terrible and traumatic childhood and, as an adult, her long-term spouse was her dom. She found being a sub ‘theraputic’, but never pursued actual therapy. Then, the dom gets terminal cancer and while he’s still alive he hands her over to his friend so he can be the new dom. First of all…BDSM as therapy?? Just no. A hard, hard NO! And then to just pass her off to someone else while she’s going through this new trauma? Blech.
If the dom had really loved her, he would have spent the 20 or so years of their marriage getting her actual therapy. I understand that people are into the lifestyle, and if pain is your kink, bully for you. But when you start messing with psychological stuff it becomes dangerous imo. So that’s a trope I can live without just fine.
I’ve learned not to rule out most anything in and of itself in my reading because it depends on an author’s ability to pull it off.
I do have a particular squeamishness for power dynamics that put women in submissive positions, and of course, consent in any sexual encounter is necessary for me to believe in a couple’s chances of long-lasting happiness. I feel optimistic though about romances today because I’ve seen many changes in the genre just in recent years. Bigger cultural events and ideas are impacting writers and vice versa.
Here’s a really specific one, but… in Anne Bishop’s The Others series, it becomes evident that the hero has eaten humans. Not, like, in a vampire way, and not in a sexy metaphorical way, but in an actual breakfast-lunch-dinner way.
Ugh that reminds me a dragon shifter book I read where the hero was a dragon that required young women to be sacrificed to him, and after he slept with them, he would eat them. He wanted to do the same thing to the heroine too, until he fell in love with her and she became a dragon shifter too. And then in the end, she ends up eating humans too (even though she had been one not too long ago…). I’m still baffled by why the author thought that was a good idea to include.
Man alive. No pun intended. I thought cannibalism happened only in SF and horror.
Wasn’t there a reference to cannibalism in Beau Crusoe by Carla Kelly?
Ha, I was looking for a”wow” emoji rather than a happy/sad face for this one. Cannibalism is not something I encounter in romances, but I don’t read paranormal writing much.
A lot of mine have been mentioned above (Rape/Drugging/Creepy Possessive Behavior/Giving Up of Dreams/Degradation of other female characters), but I’ll also add:
* Babies ever after after booklong infertility plots/an entire book filled with “I don’t want to have/am not ready to have kids”
* Busybody asshole relatives who push the hero/heroine together for selfish vs altruistic means (“I want grandchildren! Yeah, I already have grandchildren from the other three characters in this series, but I want them from YOU too!”)
* Hero or heroine were previously married to someone else and has a kid, previous mommy or daddy is made villainous (or commits the awful sin of Not Being as Good As Hero/Heroine) to make the new partner look perfect. Also the minor child in the situation acting as if previous mom or dad never existed because they’re so excited about new Mommy/Daddy (double plus ungood points if a child is an orphan and is scooped up by hero and heroine and never ever mentions their bio parents or shows any sign of trauma).
* Anal sex between parties that doesn’t even include a mention of lube. Double plus ungood points if there are jokes about how the heroine/hero “hurts so good” afterwards.
Oh, all of these.
“Babies ever after after booklong infertility plots”
Sometimes I think that even if the heroine had a hysterectomy, she will be pregnant in the epilogue.
“Busybody asshole relatives who push the hero/heroine together for selfish vs altruistic means (“I want grandchildren! Yeah, I already have grandchildren from the other three characters in this series, but I want them from YOU too!”)”
One of my coworkers has a six-year-old child. She was happy with the one child, but she told me her family kept insisting she have another, because it wasn’t good for her child to be alone. Finally, to please them, she got pregnant. The entire pregnancy, she’s had poor health, and finally she had to go on maternity leave four months early.
So I really don’t care for, “You undergo the stress and pain and danger of pregnancy so I can have a grandbaby to cuddle”. Especially in a historical, where there was an even greater risk to the woman’s life.
“Hero or heroine were previously married to someone else and has a kid, previous mommy or daddy is made villainous (or commits the awful sin of Not Being as Good As Hero/Heroine) to make the new partner look perfect. Also the minor child in the situation acting as if previous mom or dad never existed because they’re so excited about new Mommy/Daddy”
I hate this too. Especially if the child takes one look at the hero and heroine and starts asking mom or dad if this can be their new parent. I know, it’s a wish-fulfillment fantasy that a stepchild will love and accept you without any problems, but it’s not my fantasy. I never forgot my mother despite how thrilled my father’s family was about his second wife.
We’re totally in sync RE all of these!
I agree about children who conveniently forget about their biological parents and begin calling the new adopted parent(s) Mom and Dad. Especially if it is an older child.
The worst example of that I can remember is a thirteen year old doing it after their original guardian had died slowly and tragically of cancer.
I remember this bugging me in Conor’s Way by Laura Lee Guhrke. I think the oldest was around 14. I don’t remember how old the children were when the heroine started taking care of them after her friend’s death (friend was the mother).
Now I’m curious as to how old the kids were.
@Lisa, I had to go back and look. Kids are 14, 9 and 6 in main story. Heroine took them in when her friend died six years prior. It’s understandable that the two youngest wouldn’t remember their mother, so began calling her Mama. The oldest also called her Mama. I was bothered that the heroine didn’t do much to keep her friend’s memory alive for the children. I suppose I’m also sensitive to this because my sister died when her girls were around 6 and 8. My BIL remarried a year later and while they got along with their step-mom, she never replaced their mother. They’re grown now with kids of their own, and they still post on Facebook how much they miss their mom. I know every circumstance is different, but the way it was handled in the book bugged me. I know many readers weren’t bothered at all about it.
Oh yeah, if the kid’s six when the mom died, that probably won’t happen.
If a writer writes the story in a believable way, then I’m not fussed about almost anything.
Drugging either the hero or heroine whether CR or HR and I’ve come across a few of those – yuck; no, no, no. I feel rape, particularly if the heroine is drunk, drugged or just asleep are pretty unforgiveable. I dislike kidnapping, particularly by pirates (how utterly stupid) and I also won’t continue reading a book where there is any hint of paedophilia. Age differences must be realistic and sensitively handled I can deal with the odd slap (from him or her) in some HR as we must remember that, in England in pretty recent times (19th c), women were chattel and “disciplining the wife” was permissible. Never in a CR. Unfaithful? Depends a lot on the old who, what, where, when and why. And I don’t think I could read a so-called romance about a religious couple wherein the heroine must be veiled and/or covered up and denied what most modern women consider a rightful existence. On the other hand, I wonder if such a story has been written. Does anyone here know?
You made me think:
I think that a lot of old historical (written in 80-ies …) had just that dynamic, only it was medieval or something (where virtuous women covered their hair…), not current religion, but our own one, in its old version : Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers, Bertrice Small, old old Catherine Coulter, Judith McNaught’s Whitney my Love, Taming of the Shrew, …whenever the free/ tomboy heroine got forced into a good womanly place…often with a priest advising on the rebelliousness being a sin…
I liked them at the time, cannot read them now.
Ugh, I hate those too!
I meant the veil/cover up in a CR. Happens in HR, of course, but it’s my curiosity as to whether this sort of scenario could be written and could be read in the here and now in a contemporary setting.
That’s pretty much how I feel. I’m comfortable with the past but there are books I used to love that I just can’t get through now.
There are plot devices and premises that I dislike, but sometimes an author’s writing and story telling abilities will pull me in anyway. So it’s not so much that things like rape, cheating, violence will put me off. I’m put off by bad writing, poor story telling and plot construction, poor research, cardboard characters, too stupid to live heroes and heroines, faulty logic, etc. So I can forgive some cheating and some violence if it makes sense in the story. I don’t like the hero forcing himself on the heroine before she eventually realizes she’s “in love”, but I have read a few (very few) stories where it was done well. I think in the one or two stories that I can remember, there were extenuating circumstances that mitigated how the relationship began. I think a good writer can make you believe in and forgive many things,
Oh, I have a couple more.
In a historical, the hero wants revenge on the villain for whatever reason. So the hero sets out to seduce/ruin the villain’s daughter/sister/ward.
I hate this one so much that I won’t read a romance with this premise. The heroine in this scenario is an innocent person, but the hero doesn’t even see her as a person – she’s just an object he can use for his purpose and then discard. I don’t care if he grows a conscience later and marries her. That’s like soaking someone with gasoline, lighting a match, then realizing you were wrong, and throwing a bucket of water over that person.
The other one is where the hero kidnaps, abuses, and rapes the heroine. The heroine makes some sarcastic remarks to him.
Her words are then given the same significance as his actions. Sure, he threatened to kill her family and then he forced himself on her. But she snarked back to him! Either this is evidence that she is a Strong Woman and therefore his soulmate, or it’s justification for his dragging her to bed again, or both.
I can never understand the “sarcasm from a woman = abuse from a man” mindset.
The “hero kidnaps innocent female relative of the man who has betrayed him” is a frequent trope of “dark romance.” It’s right up there with “heroine offers herself to morally-ambiguous hero in order to erase male relative’s debt.” Again, it’s if the writer is able to pull off the premise. I do read dark romance and have my favorite writers in the genre (Skye Warren, Natasha Knight, Keri Lake). I go in to a dark romance with a different set of expectations than I do with (for want if a better term) “non-dark romance.” I realize this may be somewhat off-topic, but the sub-genre of a particular romance often has me more (or less) willing to accept “unacceptable” behavior.
I don’t mind the heroine offering herself as payment for a debt, because at least she has some agency in this scenario. Although I wish she wouldn’t martyr herself on her male relative’s behalf – would he prostitute himself if she were in debt? No, I’m guessing he couldn’t give it away, let alone sell it.
But I agree, knowing in advance that a romance is going to be dark makes a difference. I just finished Bertrice Small’s LOST LOVE FOUND, and since I knew what to expect going in, the kidnap/harem fantasy aspects didn’t bother me at all (though that was partly because I found it impossible to take anything about that story seriously). It’s when I don’t have that mindset in place – or worse, expect something different based on the author’s previous books – that the dark-romance tropes can be problematic.
Beatrice Small is an interesting case as she likely had to “cloak” her “hotter” sex scenes under abductions, “forced seduction” or just plain force, because at the time she wrote most of them “good girl” heroines (and the people reading them) couldn’t admit they liked or were interested in a lot of what was going on. The heroines were “forced” to engage in things they ended up enjoying as a way to leave them “blameless” and allow the reader to read about it without “approving it” or maybe even admitting to themselves they were interested/intrigued by it.
In her later books her heroines are modern women who choose to fantasize or engage in the behavior (or role play it) that the earlier heroines had to “suffer”. Now these scenarios are their fantasies -and they are the one in control. It’s like time and reader taste had to catch up to Ms. Small’s ideas.
Bertrice Small is indeed an interesting case. It was fascinating to follow her in the 90’s and 00’s, when erotic romance was becoming more common, and her heroines could choose how and when they wanted to be seduced.
Yes! Vengeance by ruining/destroying/whatever an innocent party pretty much eliminates the avenger as a hero as far as I’m concerned. And this trope has been used far too often.
Rape and sexual assault are absolutely out for me no matter who is the rapist (looking at you, JULIA QUINN). So are situations that maybe aren’t garden-variety rape/assault, but involve one character running roughshod over the other’s stated boundaries and “no,” whether this involves sex or not.
Anyone giving up their career or lifelong dreams. I hate it when someone is in law enforcement, say, and they immediately retire as part of the HEA so that their partner won’t have to worry. I also hate it when someone’s career is incidentally ruined so that neither person has to make a choice.
Heroes who somehow magically know how the heroine’s sexuality works without her telling them, especially if she didn’t know herself. No. Too many men have tried to do this to me when I already know how my sexuality works, thank you — and they’re always wrong.
Purity/innocence/virginity fetishes. Relatedly, objectification/dehumanization of women in the hero’s sexual past.
Cheating is usually a no-go for me, but I think I’m more willing to make exceptions than a lot of readers, depending on the context (I’m struggling to articulate what those are). I definitely don’t usually consider it cheating if the couple is officially estranged.
Super possessive behaviour by heroes, or heroes ordering heroines not to do things just because it makes them worry when she will be fine. Especially when painted as romantic (as usually it is).
Crazy unreasonable behaviour on the part of the heroine that is sanctioned by the author. When heroes behave unreasonably and the author sanctions it, it’s almost always something that falls under the label of toxic masculinity. When a heroine’s unreasonable behaviour is sanctioned by the author, it’s usually just… inexplicably wacko?
Cheating is a really difficult one. Are there any romances that successfully navigate cheating and then provide a plausible HEA?
I don’t like it when either partner resorts to physical violence, but I’m more apt to keep reading a book where the heroine, say, slaps the hero’s face than one where the genders are reversed. The only romance I can remember where the hero hit the heroine and the HEA was still effective was a very early Edith Layton—THE ABANDONED BRIDE (mid-1980s, iirc). I suspect if Layton had written that book even a decade later, she would have excised the scene where the hero slaps the heroine.
“Are there any romances that successfully navigate cheating and then provide a plausible HEA?”
The only one that comes to mind is Mary Balogh’s THE SECRET PEARL. I knew there was a death sentence hanging over the hero’s wife’s head, but the rest of the book works so well that it’s a keeper. I still get a bit teary-eyed over certain parts of it.
Also, I recently wrote a historical romance which I queried as “a husband and wife fall back into love after an Indecent Proposal in Victorian England”. The hero and heroine were on the verge of bankruptcy when a rich man offered the heroine a great deal of money for one night, and without letting her husband know, she accepted. As a result, she saved his estate, but now they’re estranged, and the story begins with her starting to rebuild their marriage by offering to give him an heir.
But I know the cheating will be a no-no for a lot of readers, and it’s already been rejected by one publisher saying that they don’t allow cheating between hero and heroine under any circumstances.
I’m sorry your book was turned down—it has an intriguing premise. I think there’s always an exception that proves the rule and I do think it’s possible to incorporate almost anything into a well-written story as long as events proceed organically from the character traits already established for the hero & heroine. In a couple of Mary Balogh’s earliest books, the hero continues to visit his mistress after his (arranged) marriage takes place.
Glad you like the premise! Rejection is part of the business, and I do have a full of this manuscript out with an agent, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Worst comes to worst, I can always self-publish. I held off on doing that because I wanted to have a couple more books in this series ready to go, and I just finished the sequel.
I’d read it.
Thanks. I hope you’ll get a chance to, some day. :)
I’ve read it – it’s head and shoulders above most of the HR kicking around at the moment! :)
Thanks, Caz. I’m so pleased you liked it!
The Secret Pearl – one of my secret delights.
“Are there any romances that successfully navigate cheating and then provide a plausible HEA?”
A couple of older category romances to try (I wouldn’t presume to say what works as a plausible HEA for anyone else): A PERFECT MARRIAGE by Laurey Bright (1995) and THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL by Michelle Reid (1996).
Too many times you see books where the hero cheats with the sister/best friend/girl who tormented the heroine in high school, gets her pregnant, and marries her (effectively stealing all the heroine’s dreams and gifting them to another woman). Then when it doesn’t work out *surprise!* he wants the heroine to give him another chance, after all, he’s been miserable for the last 8, 14, 21 (pick one) years so he deserves some happiness (poor baby).
I find that unforgivable. I won’t even read a book with this scenario. It would just enrage me to watch the heroine roll over and right into bed with the hero. The author never takes into account the fact that they are NOT the same.people they were before. You can’t just jump back into the relationship like none of the past 15 years happened.
When he abuses her for most of the book, including rough sex verging on rape, then sees the light on the last page, and claims to love her. Also, Stockholm Syndrome.
Something unforgivable I don’t often come across, thank goodness, is when the hero drugs the heroine.
Maybe he slips her sedatives to keep her safely out of the way while he fights the bad guys. Or maybe she’s upset that they have to get married, and he’d really like her to relax a bit en route to Gretna Green (both these situations are from published novels, and neither author seemed to find them problematic).
Whatever his reasons, I detest this. Rohypnol is not romantic. And drugging someone without their consent or knowledge is assault. There was no mention of the heroes calculating the correct amount of whatever they used, so it was fortunate they didn’t overdose the heroines, and that the heroines didn’t have adverse reactions to the drugs.
Thanks for the interesting topic!
When one person tries to seduce or heavily flirts with someone who is in a committed relationship, even if they are miserable.
Lack of consent, even for something as simple as a kiss.
Those two things make me squirm, and take me out of the story.