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Themes you won't read?

Romance - from historical to contemporary

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Jun 17, 2008, 7:23pm Top

I was reading romance blogs and other romance book reviews today, and I just started thinking about how picky I am about plots. There seem to be a number of standard plots that just turn me right off, and I started wondering how much I'm missing by not reading them.

Here are the things I can think of off the top of my head that cause me not to buy a book, even if it's highly recommended:

* Heroine was/is a courtesan (in historical romances, obviously).
* Any variation of a secret baby plot.
* Heroine is pregnant when the book begins.
* Couple has a one-night stand, time passes, then they meet again.
* Couple is married when the book begins, and having trouble.

I know a lot of people have trouble with the older virgin or virgin widow plots, or the plots where the hero is promiscuous but immediately recognizes that the heroine is his one true love, but not me. I don't even have a problem with the 'magic penis' plots. Instead I'm stuck with an aversion to these other perfectly respectable story lines. I try to fight it, but end up just not reading the books if I buy them.

You can imagine that having a problem with secret baby or pregnant heroine plots means I don't find a lot of Harlequins I can read! Seriously, there must be a ton of readers out there who love, love, love those plots, or they wouldn't publish so darn many of them. Give me a good 'vulnerable-scared-woman-comes-to-town-to-escape-abusive-ex-and-meets-big-tough-alpha-cop-who-finds-he-has-a-soft-spot-after-all" plot any day, hackneyed as it is.

So how many of you out there have plots you just can't read? And do you try to fight it? Does it work if you fight it, or are the books just sitting in your TBR pile the way mine are?

Jun 18, 2008, 10:22am Top

I can't think of any plot lines I'd flat out refuse to read, although I certainly have preferences.

Jun 18, 2008, 10:40am Top

There aren't many plotlines that I absolutely refuse to read, but those few are:

The secret baby - I'm definitely with you on this one. There's always so much Dire Secret + Nastiness because everyone feels Betrayed. Yech. If I wanted to read that, I would just pick up something from the bestseller list.

Infidelity - I don't care how much he/she grovels. It's not romantic. It makes me dislike whichever partner is involved, and if I'm not in love with both of the main characters, what's the point?

Rape, but he's really sorry and grovels/marries her afterwards - Completely disgusting. (perhaps less of an actual plotline and more of a theme? Regardless, I'll hurl it at the wall.)

And I absolutely hate snivelling heroines overcome by their desire for unbending domineering men - so nothing from the 80s Harlequin era, please...

Jun 18, 2008, 11:52am Top

I don't read a lot of straight romance, mostly romantic suspense, where you don't see so many of the plotlines you've mentioned. However, there are a couple I avoid.

1) marriage in trouble -- this always reads like "women's fiction" rather than "romance" to me

2) step-sibling romance -- pushes my "ick" button

3) secret twin substitution -- oh, please. just, oh, please.

Jun 18, 2008, 12:16pm Top

I can usually handle most storylines/plot devices/themes if they are well done. Sometimes I tire of certain ones, like cross-dressing (how can they not notice?) or amnesia (it's just so daytime soap opera). But even these can be good if they are done well (and not done to death).

caramel - I'm with you on the infidelity. That is probably the one plotline I cannot take at all, no matter how good the author is.

Jun 18, 2008, 5:17pm Top

I forgot about rape -- that's definitely one, caramel. I'm with you on the 80's stuff. I really like Jayne Ann Krentz but everytime I pick up one of her 80's books, I can't even finish it. The guys are just MEAN.

adeptmagic, I agree with all of those. I saw a book the other day that was about a stepbrother who had been secretly in love with his stepsister for a long time. Ick.

If I have a really favorite author, and she writes a book with a theme I don't like, I'll usually buy it because a great author can make anything work it. For me, when it gets hard are the new authors everyone is raving about. Fortunately, there aren't too many secret babies or secret twin substitutions in those anymore :->.

Jun 18, 2008, 6:25pm Top

I have a hard time with marriages in trouble and secret baby stories.

Since reading (for me) is about escapism, the whole marriage on the rocks generally hits too close to real life. I know people with marriage troubles. They aren't having whirl-wind romantic get-back-togethers. They are going to counselors and crying on their girlfriends' shoulders.

And I do not find the secret baby storyline sexy or romantic. So I don't read it.

I don't find rape sexy. That was the thing that I had the toughest time with when I read The Flame and the Flower as a teenager. I just didn't understand how Heather came to no longer hate Brandon. I mean, I'm glad they found true love and all, but it never made total sense for me.

Edited: Jun 18, 2008, 6:38pm Top

Caramel, you've listed pretty much every one of my "no way, no how, I'm reading this book" themes. My distaste for coercive or violent behavior extends beyond the physical (rape, kidnapping, non-consensual bondage or imprisonment of any kind) to verbal and emotional manifestations. Heroes who verbally abuse a heroine, call her names, insult her, her family or associates, who belittle her efforts, talents or character or work in some way to imperil her happiness, livelihood, social status or future, especially if these actions are in "revenge" for some imagined slight or past hurt, are major turn-offs for me and I won't read anything where I get even the slightest hint that the hero is essentially a glorified sociopath. I understand that other readers like these themes and I think they have every right to read and enjoy them (this is fantasy, after all!) but I find them absolutely repugnant and want nothing to do with them (er...the themes, not their readers!)

Expanding on the apparently love it or hate it "Secret Baby" plot line, I have to say I've got no patience for babies in romance at all. They can show up in an epilogue or as a minor story distraction belonging to a character other than the hero or heroine, but, beyond that limited role, for me babies are a sure-fire romance killer. Oddly enough, children beyond toddler-hood are fine with me; in fact, I find a well-developed child character (whether it "belongs" to the H/H or not) can add a lot to a story. Carla Kelly uses them beautifully in her novels. Some of my favorite examples of her work (One Good Turn, Beau Crusoe, Miss Chartley's Guided Tour) incorporate them into the plot in ways that actually further the romance and help give it emotional depth. I've never seen "secret baby" do this last: the baby itself is almost invariably superfluous and the situation is simply a stock device (much like the equally ubiquitous "arranged marriage") used to force together two characters not likely to pair up otherwise.*

*Can anyone here who is a "secret baby" devotee recommend a book she thinks exemplifies the genre well and goes beyond using the plot as just a structural/mechanical device to get the romance going? Thanks in advance!

Jun 18, 2008, 6:31pm Top

You know, I have to say that until I read further into this thread it never occurred to me that y'all were talking about the hero raping the heroine when you said you avoided rape themed stories. Because I read romantic suspense, I tend to run across rape quite a bit, but I don't think I've *ever* read a book where the hero used force on the heroine. I may have read a couple back in the late seventies/early eighties when I was reading historicals, but that's too long ago for me to remember!

Edited: Jun 18, 2008, 6:44pm Top

Not into the following:
1. amnesia
2. secret baby
3. hero/heroine in disguise
4. not too fond of Native American (I'm not racist, but I've only ever experienced Cassie Edwards, ugh!)
5. terrorist romantic suspense (I can't suspend my disbelief enough most of the time and a lot out there is just bad, IMO)
6. where the heroine is pregnant by another man
7. rape/coercive behavior (but the line is a bit blurry because I like dominant heroes)
8. where the hero is WAAAAAAAY older than the heroine (Diana Palmer, I am talking to you)
9. where the hero and heroine are parted for large portions of the book or flashbacks (there can be exceptions, but most of the time I don't like this)
10. stupid suspense devices in historicals (where the villain is oh so obvious or not really villainous)
11. stepsiblings (Nauti Boy, ick)
12. timetravel (there are exceptions)
13. NASCAR, Lori Foster's cage fighters or whatever they are

I'm sure I'll think of more, LOL.

Jun 18, 2008, 9:07pm Top

Time travel, paranormal, fantasy, witches, vampires, werewolves, fetishes and Dom/Sub plots.

I have nothing against all you folks who like to swing from the ceiling in a cage or be led around in a dog collar, but it ain't for me.


Jun 18, 2008, 10:16pm Top

I agree with almost everyone else's posts so far. And sure, there are some that fit those categories that I have read, but that does not mean I liked them. :)

CC, I do have to disagree with you *partly*. Of course, everyone has their own preference. I personally love time travel, paranormal, fantasy, witches, vampires, and werewolves in my romance. Now, of course, there are some that are poorly written, et cetera, and I do not love. But as a subcategory in general, I love those!

Now as for the last ones you mentioned... I don't liked those. Specially the fetishes. Now, SOMETIMES, I don't mind reading an erotica that has a LITTLE bit of Dom/Sub scences, but I don't like it to be really hard core, especially if it is not something that both of the characters really want, but if it's talked about once, and it's well written, I can usually stand it. Usually.. But only if it's between the hero and heroine and you already know that this 'relationship' is more than just sex to them. If not, then it turns me off the book, and makes it hard to finish that book.

Edited: Jun 18, 2008, 10:49pm Top

TBQ, I agree with you completely about Dom/Sub. One recent book that flirted with it, and which I thought was superb was Lora Leigh's Killer Secrets. Have you read it? I'd love to know what you think of it.

With apologies to you and all my other LT friends who love the paranormal/fantasy themes, loathe and despise are not strong enough words to describe how I feel about them. Sorry!


Jun 18, 2008, 11:23pm Top

Oh, don't worry about not liking certain kinds that I or others do like. I'm sure we dislike ones that you love also. :)

I have actually read Killer Secrets in fact, I finished it.. two weeks ago, I believe. I loved it, like all of her other SEALs books (I also love her Breeds Series, but I'm not sure what you thought about them, if you've read them). I think she knows how to incorporate just enough to tease and satisfy the average reader while still providing a great storyline and romance at the same time. I want one of her SEALs agents-- especially Ian. I love that name now, for a hero. And the heroine's name, Kira, is kind of original, also, for a romance book *that I have read* at least.

CC, it seems like we always have a fair amount in common while talking on these threads! :)

Jun 19, 2008, 4:57am Top


I'm totally with you on the emotionally abusive/coercive aspect of romance novels. I hate that ridiculous, I shall revenge myself upon you for some imagined or blown-out-of-proportion wrong by cruelly playing upon your physical desires then REJECTING YOU! Ha! That'll show you! approach. (see review for The Seduction of an English Scoundrel). Ick... It just always seems so petty and mean to me.

Jun 19, 2008, 11:44am Top

CC-"loathe and dispise"? LOL You are such a purist, but I love ya, baby!

Edited: Jun 19, 2008, 1:54pm Top


I had to laugh...I hadn't thought to mention entire genres in this discussion. I don't do "fangs or fur" myself, though I don't mind a bit of "spooky." Someone who catches glimpses of the future, or has disturbingly realistic dreams of a previous life? Sure, why not? But sex with a werewolf? Ummmm...no, thank you.

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post on a mystery-writing blog about the overwhelming surge of "paranormal"...er..utter crap...at the bookstore. And I don't mean the high quality, well-written, well-developed fantasy worlds. I mean the stuff where authors are clearly being told "paranormal romance is what's hot and selling, so your hero has to be a werewolf or a vampire, or we can't sell it."

I think "genres we can't read" might be worth another entire thread! LOL!

Edited: Jun 19, 2008, 3:08pm Top

Sorry, I misinterpreted the question, apparently. My bad.

I don't like females disguising themselves as boys or Heroes and heroines pretending to be their twin; deception, even for a good cause, in general; children, in general; and my pet peeve - meaningless conflict.

TBQ, I actually have read a few of the Breeds books. I tolerated them, a man with lion DNA was better than a man who turned into a lion, but after the first few, the plots were almost exactly the same, so I gave up on them. I have read most of the Bound books, too, in case you're wondering.


Jun 19, 2008, 3:25pm Top

Hey everyone, I'm new! :)

I actually don't like anything on the original posters list. Babies, pregnancies, other children especially bother me. As do Divorces and courtesans. Also, being primarily a reader of historical romance, I don't really like it when the male love interest is a gypsy or highwayman or something equally poor. I can't help but think that true love only goes so far before being poor just turns into a major downer. However, the female love interest can start off poor. Oh and I don't like the heroine being raped by the hero and then them falling in love. That is a bit too out in left field for me... or just patty hurst like.

Oh and I guess I don't really like the supernatural historical romances either, however in regular romance I don't mind it so much.

With some of the plots I try to fight it (especially when I'm desperate for a book), but then I inevitably find something better and don't have to read it!

Edited: Jun 20, 2008, 12:53pm Top

Welcome Paris-Dakota!

Yes, I have read almost all of the Breed series and, true, some of the plots seem to be used over and over again, but sometimes I don't mind. If I like the author's work, and she reuses the plots, or makes them errily similar, I can usually handle it. Is it something new to read? No, but it's something good to read *once again, depends on if the author and plot being reused is pretty good to me*. Personally, I liked the idea of the DNA of different animals in them--- takes the description 'Alpha male' to a whole new level, which I like. Some of the books in the series I liked better than others, that's true, but all in all, I like them. Still have some of the first books in the series to read, but my bookstore doesn't get them in too often. Oh well, I'll just wait. :) I have not *yet* read any of the Bound books. Are they any good?

Sorry for going off in left field last couple of posts.

Okay, so back to the themes I won't read.

Sometimes I don't mind the gypsy man, maybe because it adds a little bit of adventure/excitment in the book. But it can be over used, and poorly done, and true, if it was real life, what use to be a happy-completely in love-poor married couple will just be a poor married couple. But isn't that the point of a romance book? To be almost like an adult 'fairy tale' that gives you fantasies from it? Maybe it's just me.

The baby/secret pregnancy them is one that I will not read. Now if the child *whether it's a child of the hero or heroine or not* is partly grown *say over 5, but preferably older...* it sometimes adds to the story-- and, in a way, makes it seem more 'believable' if that's what you are into, at least. But please, no babies. Now, I don't mind it *usually* towards the end of the book, but it is not interesting nor tolerable if the books starts and BAM! she's pregnant. Also, no marriages on the rocks theme. Not me. If I wanted a book that tells of how a couple fixes there marriage, I'd go for a self-help type. Or better yet, turn on Dr.Phil! :)

Jun 19, 2008, 6:25pm Top

I'd love to hear from somebody who likes the baby theme (secret or otherwise). There's just so many of books with that theme that it must really strike a chord with a lot of people, or I assume the publishers wouldn't publish them.

Jun 20, 2008, 11:03am Top

I agree with a lot of the above (secret baby, rape, etc.) However, I have one more that no one's mentioned that I just can't stand. Pirates. I hate pirates. I'm not sure why. Carmelluncy, I know you like them, so I apologize. The whole plot of being trapped on a ship, usually the heroine is the only one on the ship, and the hero is the captain, so he gives her is quarters and then ends up sharing them...I just don't care for it.

Jun 20, 2008, 11:33am Top

>20 The_Book_Queen: BookQueen - I know this is way off topic, but have you ever watched Dark Angel with Jessica Alba? I bet that you would love it.

Jun 20, 2008, 12:35pm Top

22, lily

No need to apologize. The world would be a sad place if we all liked the same heroes. I've been bitten by the seafaring bug, so anything to do with the sea makes me happy.
But I honestly can't deal with the ever-popular 'tortured hero', though I know a lot of people who love them. Luckily there are books for all of us :-).

Jun 20, 2008, 12:39pm Top

I LOVE a tortured hero! LOL

I remember liking a few of the Bound titles, but can't remember which ones at the moment.


Jun 20, 2008, 1:00pm Top

No worries about going off topic, Jensen. We've all done it a few times, and luckily we have some great people on here who do not mind when we do...and will usually join in on the topic even if it's not what was originally intended! But to answer your question, Yes,I have seen a couple of them, but unfortunately, not all. About...a year ago? I think... They had a marathon of them on Sci-Fi, but I was only able to catch a few episodes *in the middle of them, no less... :(* before I had to run off to work. I am hoping that they put them on again soon or I find them somehow in the stores. What little I saw, I loved, and I hated leaving in the middle of Dark Angel last time! Anything vampire related *well... almost everything... bloody/gory 'scary' movie vampires not my thing* and I have to read/watch it!

I have to agree with CC on this one--I LOVE a tortured hero also... as long as he can overcome that in the end and give all of his love to his sweetheart, and accept it in return.

For the most part, pirates don't really do it for me either, but it depends on how well written the story is,etc. But the cliche of the lady being captured, they are alone or almost alone on the ship and she has to use his quarters to sleep in, and not always by herself does get old after a while. Now if a great author could write a new and interesting pirate romance, who knows? I might be into them again!

Jun 23, 2008, 10:47am Top

I thought you'd like Dark Angel because it works into the whole genetics thing like the Breeds books where they mixed human and animal DNA to make the perfect soldier. Maybe even CC would like the show (what do you think?)

Jun 23, 2008, 3:09pm Top

hehehe don't count on it!

Jun 23, 2008, 3:13pm Top

Yes, that is true. I don't know.. maybe she might? But then again, CC doesn't usually got for alot of the paranormal type... But I think it's a great show-- the DNA plot is just something on the side, to me.

Jun 24, 2008, 3:32pm Top

It if has a lot of sex, she'd probably like it.

Jun 24, 2008, 3:55pm Top

Hi! I'm new!

I've also read a few of Lora Leigh's wolf breeds and they were interesting but I perfer more paranormal to science fiction. It generally seems to work better than the world building that's required of science fiction.

As for the themes I won't read. Well, I agree with most everyone that if the baby shows up quickly in the story, I'm unlikely to read it. I don't mind if the heroine's pregnant throughout the story or if the children are a bit older but babies require so much time and effort that most stories where the babies are the kid of the hero/heroine seem a bit unbelieveable.

I also can't read rape scenes at all (like everyone else).

One theme I can't stand is where there are lots of scenes of a previous marriage before the story between the hero and heroine. A couple of examples is When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn or another chance to dream by Lynn Kurland. I've never been able to finish either of those books despite the authors being favorites. Flashbacks or comments about the previous marriage are fine but generally if the previous marriage lasts more than chapter I can't finish the book. I'm not sure why this theme bothers me but it does.

Jun 24, 2008, 4:24pm Top

Welcome to the group, lady_perrin!

Jun 24, 2008, 4:59pm Top

lady_perrin, I have the same reaction to stories where they spend a lot of time on the previous marriage. I'm not sure why it bothers me either.

Jun 24, 2008, 8:23pm Top

Oh yeah-- Lora Leigh's Breed Series has plenty of sex in it. Lots of steamy, hot, wild sex. And it's with 'animals' *as some of the stupid mere 'humans' like to call them.. TSK TSK... I wouldn't mind one!* so needless to say, it's very alpha male type control with the sex, but not so much that you are thinking 'okay, So it's dom/sub plot.. moving onto a new book'
I personally liked them, though, yes, I'd rather have a real paranormal type romance than a 'science fiction'. But I still loved the series.

Edited: Jun 25, 2008, 12:39am Top

1. An alpha male crossing the line from forceful to abusive. Along with a female who learns her lesson from such a guy and is grateful.

2. The "I hate you but I love you" couple who fight, insult each other, make out... If they can't even like each other, I can't buy their True Love and HEA.

I've read a couple of the "secret baby" stories that worked; there's a Balogh Signet (Chance Encounter?) that uses this plot to move the story forward, and bond the couple together. It helps if the secret baby is at least in their tweens or thereabouts.

Jun 25, 2008, 11:47am Top

>30 CarolinaCatherine: CC- There is some sex and definitely a romantic interest part in the Dark Angel series, but it is more of an action/suspense show. Since you said you liked (at least sort of) the Breeds books, I thought you might like that as well.

Jun 25, 2008, 12:03pm Top

#35 Ann_Louise - I totally agree the books where it seems that the couple is always fighting but somehow seem to make it turn into true love is rather unbelievable. I don't mind the stories that start out that way but gradually the fighting gets less and they learn more about each other that can work (if done right). But I've read a few where's fighting up until the last chapter or two and then everythings okay - very hard to believe.

Jun 25, 2008, 12:20pm Top

>35 Ann_Louise:, 37

I think for me it totally depends on the kind of fighting. If there's a lot of sparring like Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing or say, It Happened One Autumn, it doesn't bother me at all. To me it seems to be a mask for underlying sexual tension that the characters don't really want to admit to. And I totally love those stories (if done well of course).

But if they're downright mean to one another as opposed to just irritated with one another, then I find it completely unbelievable... I read one fairly recently called Husbands and Other Strangers that pretty well epitomized how very very wrong this can go.

Jun 26, 2008, 10:55am Top

Demon, I'll be honest and tell you I probably would only read one, but I'm game to try it. Which one do you think I should read?


Jun 26, 2008, 1:29pm Top

#38 -

I totally agree that the fighting in Much Ado About Nothing is a great example of conflict that is done well. (I haven't read It Happened One Autumn.)

Jun 26, 2008, 5:09pm Top

Caramel, that Husbands and Other Strangers sounds dreadful! I hate that kind of conflict in a romance (well, in pretty much any sort of book) because it's clearly manufactured and psychologically clueless to boot.

Great review, though-you really made it clear to me as a reader precisely why I need to avoid this book at all costs (of course, the cheesy cover probably would have put me off anyway ;-))

Jun 27, 2008, 7:39am Top

>39 CarolinaCatherine: Actually it's a television show from the '90s that was directed by James Cameron and starred Jessica Alba. If your library has DVDs you might be able to borrow it. There are some novelizations based on the series, but those are never as good.

Jun 27, 2008, 2:25pm Top

Demon, I remember that show. The guy who plays on NCIS was in it, he was in a wheelchair, right? I watched it a few times.


Jun 27, 2008, 3:10pm Top

Yup, that's the one!! I didn't realize he was on another show.

Edited: Jun 28, 2008, 9:05am Top

My issues tend to be with the type of hero:

Pirates. I do not want to read about them in a romance novel. I have read a few books where there are pirates and I just want to get through those parts as fast as possible.

Cowboys. I am not into reading romance novels with western themes.

Native Americans. Again, I don't find these heroes all that sexy. I guess in my mind, they are too practical and survival is their motivation, not romance.

What I really like are characters who are witty and can verbally spar. They don't even have to be especially good looking. Plain Janes are fine with me, and I tend to like the stubborn, tortured hero too.

I don't mind babies if they help the plot. I really liked Cathy Maxwell's A Scandalous Marriage where the hero claims the child as his own. (I guess I like guys who are willing to handle babies.) I'm the only one to give it 5 stars. I read it on vacation this spring, so maybe that had something to do with my enjoyment of the book.

Also, I didn't intend to read this on vacation, but it was on a community bookshelf at the resort we stayed at so I picked it up and once I started reading it, I didn't want to put it down. Even though I've read a ton of her books, I found this one to be quite a pleasant surprise.

I'll read other genres, but I don't expect or really want any romance in them.

Aug 16, 2008, 10:00pm Top

Paranormal, time travel, vampires (why are so many books about vampires today?)

Edited: Aug 16, 2008, 11:55pm Top

There are many themes that I'm not very interested in. I won't read most Romance Novels with the following themes:

~ futuristic
~ baby or pregnancy (in the beginning of the book)
~ most time travel
~ amnesia
~ most paranormal
~ beginning in marriage
~ reuniting
~ divorces
~ outer space romance
~ where the female protagonist is simpleminded
~ when the female protagonist is meek & compliant
~ rape (realistic depictions)

I guess that’s about it.
I hadn't realized that there were quite so many themes I don't like...hmmm.

Thank you anamuhandis for asking us this question! :)

Edited: Aug 17, 2008, 4:09am Top

I agree with most people's choices here, though there are few themes/genres I haven't tried yet... >.>

31: lady_perrin
33: anamuhandis
I don't like any books that spend a lot of time on a previous relationship instead of building up and developing the hero and heroine's relationship. The fact that someone from the previous relation keeps coming up is like a third wheel, in my opinion...like a nosy grandmother looming over the heroine's shoulder while she's on a hot date with the hero or something. Ha!

The main thing that bothers me about secret baby plots is the fact that the father of the baby (or child) doesn't get to bond with his child (or children?) and the fact that the hero and heroine lost a lot of time when they could have been together. When I think about that, I always feel sad...

I also don't like stories with paparazzis or people who get a lot of media attention either. Paparazzis can be soooo cruel~! D:

Aug 17, 2008, 8:50am Top

What's strange to me is that a lot of the themes we all seem to agree on disliking (particularly 'secret baby') are some of the most popular plots used in romance novels today! Are we all just different? That doesn't seem likely. I wonder if publishers just get stuck in a rut. They have to be going by sales numbers, though...

Of course, it could be that the people who disagree and who DO like these plots feel uncomfortable saying so in a thread where so many others are expressing their dislike. Any lurkers out there who can help explain why these themes are so popular?

Aug 17, 2008, 10:13am Top

Bringing up paparazzi made me think of something else I don't like. I don't like it when the main characters are movie stars. I love the Chicago Stars sports hereoes, but in general, famous people as main characters and all the baggage they have to deal with, agents, entourages, overzealous fans, etc., just don't interest me.


Aug 17, 2008, 3:03pm Top

I hope everyone feels comfortable enough to type their theme preferences :)

We all have our own likes, dislikes & opinions so it’s all good!

It’s just great to find out other ppl's thoughts on lots of different topics :-)

Aug 17, 2008, 4:25pm Top

I don't mind the secret baby theme if it's handled well - young kids who get pregnant and are too afraid or stupid to talk openly so the baby isn't known to the dad, but who end up together again a couple of years later are sometimes pretty nice. Plus the baby is little enough not to grow up remembering that dad wasn't always there. I can imagine some other scenarios that might work - maybe mom thought dad had been killed (accident or military, say) and has the baby alone. Or maybe pregnancy is the result of a one-night stand. Just like most other plot devices, it is sometimes better done than others, but I don't have an automatic aversion to this one. I don't like it when too much attention is focused on the child, I don't like it when the secret was kept maliciously or spitefully, and I want mom and dad to get back together regretting that they stayed apart so long.

This is definitely not my favorite theme, but I wanted to make an argument in support of it in response to #49 and #51.

One theme I won't read are the vampires. I'm not wild about paranormals in general, but will sometimes go ahead if I get "tricked" into one. And I've read some that are pretty entertaining. Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick's Arcane series is the exceptional paranormal that I read intentionally, but they aren't my favorites. But if there's even a hint of vampires, the book goes back to the library immediately!

Aug 23, 2008, 11:21pm Top

Wow, I like this thread. It is so fun to read about what everyone likes and doesn't like. So I thought I'd add my two cents.

I will try everything at least once. for the most part there really isn't a theme I avoid as a whole. However, I am picky about the style within particular themes. For example, vampires. I know some people love them and some people hate them. I on the other hand will only read them if they are a lighter type of vampire. Example? Lynsay Sands Argeneau series. Her vampires aren't blood sucking fiends but are a quirk of medical technology gone wrong. (Sorry, I refuse to put in a spoiler. If you want to know, go try one out.)

Really what I avoid is when there is a lot of violence between the main characters or when one or both of them are being stupid or pig-headed for no apparent reason.

Edited: Aug 24, 2008, 12:04am Top

Hmm. I'm still pretty new to romance, so I haven't experienced reading a whole lot. (Um.. what's "secret baby" and "magic penis"? Are they exactly what they sound like? Because, personally, if "magic penis" is exactly that, I want to read it - only to see the penis perform tricks!)

Anyhow, things that will make me put a book down if I even see a hint of it on the back blurb, much less in the story:

-Physical abuse (rape, coercion, beating, etc.)

-emotional abuse (from either party)

-really really bad cliches (and I mean REALLY bad - like Cassie Edwards bad, or "All Scots - even lowlanders! - wear kilts and carry hugeass broadswords and are sheepfarkers" (um.. okay. Personal rant there.) Or if I see too much of anyone (though it mostly seems to be Scots) wearing a sword they cannot possibly draw (5' claymore across the back, anyone?) But that's just a personal history geek thing.

-Shallow heroines. I couldn't STAND Queen Betsy after the first oh.. two books. (I know, I know, it's not technically romance, but you know what I mean.)

-Heroines who are weak-minded and/or weak-willed.

-Oh yeah, and Heroines who don't get their fair share of the fun in sexytime! It really frustrated me when I read a book with a REALLY good plot and great characters, only to find that when it came to the sex, the hero got to come, but the heroine never did - and didn't even realize she was truly missing something! WTF?

-Any plot which seems forced, really. It's like the author went "hey! I like character A. And I like character B. And I like writing sex. Now, I know A and B would never meet, given their natural inclinations or even a few coincidences. I know! I'll make the entire thing coincidences and force them together and MAKE them sleep together!" No thanks. Had enough of that reading bad fanfic, thanks.

ETA: One thing I've discovered I like, though, are two strong characters going at it (mentally, physically, whatever). Yeah. Alpha male is good - so long as he has a woman who's up to the challenge of taking him down a peg now and then.

Aug 24, 2008, 9:27am Top

Hi, Ankhet! 'Secret baby' is when the hero and heroine meet, have a brief encounter, then he either leaves before she realizes she's pregnant or she deliberately keeps it from him. Then they get together later on; she has a child and he doesn't know it's his. Even when there are good reasons for the deception, I just don't like those books. The worst one I read was by Eve Asbury. He got her pregnant, knew she was pregnant, left anyway, and she still took him back later! She's a really good writer, so probably made it work, but I'll never know because I stopped reading when he actually LEFT.

'Magic penis' is when the heroine has issues with sex but the hero is able to make all better with just his touch, and he's the only one who can do it because he's got the magic....well, you understand :->. I don't actually mind those. I like the whole 'he's the only man for me' element.

Aug 26, 2008, 8:17pm Top

This is a fun thread, I am pretty much ok with anything. I do prefer the happily ever afters, but I will take the occasional tragic ending. Right now I am trying to be open to the vampires and demons that are everywhere to be found. I just kind of go with my mood if something sounds good at the time, I read it.

Aug 27, 2008, 10:46am Top

>56 onyx95: I always try to stay away from the tragic ending thing myself. However, I occasionally get tricked into it. Most recently I had asked a fellow LT member if a particular book had a tragic ending. She kind of hedged around giving a straight answer and ultimately I read the book, which did have a tragic ending, and I liked it anyway. So, I guess you could say I'm glad I was tricked into it LOL!

I'm very partial to vampires and demons myself :-)

Aug 27, 2008, 2:30pm Top

lol, it all depends on your current mood sometimes doesn't it?

Sep 7, 2008, 11:50am Top

I don't like any form of actually proceeding to sexual contact when the heroine says no. In fact, any sort of ongoing physical contact that would not be acceptable if it was the villian doing the same thing. I think almost all Christine Feehan and Christina Dodd main male characters should get a quick knee to the nuts and the heroines should find someone else.

I'm also kind of not fond of "fated mates" generally as theme of being preordained. Immediate unlikely chemistry and only on one side is fine, and I'm fine with the hero (or heroine) being persistent. (and maybe even some touching that would be squicky if he weren't the hero.) But no more.

Sep 7, 2008, 1:16pm Top

romsfuulyn, that's a very good point! I've often read a scene between hero and heroine early on in a book (before she knows he's the 'hero') where the heroine would have squawked big-time if the villain had done the exact same thing.

Have you also noticed how often physical characteristics are used to define the villain: weak chin, receding hairline, overweight, rounded shoulders? Last I checked, those are things you're born with and they don't actually affect character.

Funny, it doesn't usually bother me at all when physical characteristics are used to define the hero, but it does when they're used to define the villain. It's probably because my husband is balding, yet he's definitely my hero!

Sep 9, 2008, 7:18pm Top

I have found that I cannot stand any of Diana Palmer's books. Her heros are mean, bullies that subject "their women" to humiliation and constant rejection. My definition of alpha male is completely different from hers.

I am also not sure how I feel about 3somes. I have read some but I usually flip through them fast.

Sep 17, 2008, 3:51am Top

Hey all... I enjoyed reading everyone's responses!

I was also scratching my head at 'secret baby' and 'magic penis' - lol! Thanks for the definitions. I haven't really noticed the secret baby thing coming up a lot... though... can you say Harlequin Presents, anyone? I just keep thinking they've gotta run out of titles soon - The Italian-Greek Desert Island Billionaire's Second Secretary's Assistant Secret Amnesiac Love Child - it's like story by MadLibs. And magic penis - I thought that was like Lora Leigh's Breeds with their 'special' appendages!

I guess I've read so much that I don't really have any more 'just do NOT go there zones.' If the author's good, they can do just about anything and make it work. I can understand the no-vampire thingy - I was exactly like that til Robin McKinley's Sunshine - I was at WAR with myself over that book - on the one hand I will read ANYTHING she writes, on the other - vampires. Ugh. No thank you. I'm not one of 'those' people. But I read it - kept me up all night actually - and Con's gotta be one of the baddest ass vampires out there! Since then I've read a lot of other vampire and paranormal stuff, and like anything else, it's a mixed bag. For those of you who don't like the blood-suckers, but want to be open-minded, I'd suggest starting with J.R. Ward's beloved Dark Lover series in which vampires are a different race who do not feed on humans at all - a unique twist. I like authors who do different things in the paranormal genre- like Richelle Mead's succubi, Shana Abé's dragons, and Virginia Kantra's selkie.

I think, more than what people WON'T read, I'd love to see a thread started on themes people DO love - especially those you might not admit to in mixed company! And on a more serious note, I think it would be very worthwhile to have a a discussion on the seduction-coercion-rape thing. When does it cross the line? Personally, I am more okay with so-called 'Dom/Sub plots' that occur within a consensual setting, than with a lot of the coercion/rape but-its-okay-cause-he-loves-me tripe previously mentioned. Lora Leigh. Christine Feehan. Susan Johnson. Diana Palmer. Etc., etc...

Unfortunately, this heritage the romance genre has is all too prevalent still. Did anyone else read Linda Howard's Raintree:Inferno?? Published just last year, this book had some really oogey moments - including something called 'mind rape.' I thought it was pretty bad, but I know someone else who thought it was so bad, she will never read another Howard book, despite having been a fan for over a decade. And the more I think about it, this whole so-called 'alpha' trend really bothers me. There's a difference, to my mind, between dominant and domineering. Like I say, it's a whole separate subject, maybe, but I'd be very curious to hear other opinions on the subject...

Sep 20, 2008, 1:49pm Top

In general I think it depends on the author, because I've read really good and truly awful examples of the same theme. But like many others I am absolutely not a fan of any type of abuse. That obviously covers coercion, rape and violence, but it also includes abuses of trust like adultery. And although I feel a little mean saying it, I don't really enjoy books which have a back story of sexual abuse. I just get too hung up on it and can't enjoy the rest of the novel. Especially if it's Acheron and the abuse lasts for 400 pages.

What I wonder is why these themes seem to keep reappearing. Do authors honestly think that we're enjoying these themes? I caught an interview with a romance publisher who said that if you stick a half-naked guy holding a baby on the cover of a novel, romance readers will buy it. I think maybe she needs to redo her market research. And get a clue.

Sep 21, 2008, 10:45am Top

I am also new to LT and the forums. Glad to have found you!!

I've only read 1 book I enjoyed that had a baby at the beginning. This one, don't remember that many years ago, the father was military and was killed within days of the couple finding out. Otherwise, I feel like the baby is being exploited somehow.

I don't like the rape/abusive/adultery themes.

Vampires are another "animal". You either love them or hate them. I usually LOVE them. I did recently get one, L. A. Banks, that was actually too "evil" themed for my taste. But I thoroughly enjoy Linsey, Hamilton, some Feehan.

Sep 21, 2008, 6:23pm Top

Hi, SusieC. Welcome to the group!


Sep 24, 2008, 1:26pm Top

Thanks! CC. I've so enjoyed reading everything here. Look forward to a long relationship!

Oct 1, 2008, 1:21am Top

I don't know why, but I really like "secret baby" themes. It surprises me that so many of you dislike that theme.

I was thinking about the "magic penis" concept. I am reviewing a book right now that I guess I would call an "urban romance" (not really sure what that is) and it is full of paranormal characters of every imaginable type. The responsibility of one of the main characters in the novel is to impart information to the heroine so she is up-to-speed on what is happening. The ONLY way he can accomplish this is through sexual intercourse. Also, he is a shape-shifter and he accomplishes this by touching the appropriate tattoo on his body (wolf, bear, rattlesnake, etc.) Guess what appendage represents the rattlesnake? Of course, he imparts his knowledge of shape-shifting to the heroine by helping her turn into a rattlesnake by (of course), touching his penis. Talk about "magic penis"!

Oct 1, 2008, 11:52am Top

>63 MysteryWatcher:: IMO the back story of sexual abuse by authors is probably used to show the characters change from being the victim of the worst imaginable to being the hero/heroine. Some of them (the authors) can do it tacktfully and respectfully and others just exploit the horrors. To me that is the difference to being able to see past the abuse story or not. There has been times where it is not written well and I just put the book away and never finish it. I have more of a problem with the non-fiction collection that seems to be coming out that revolves around these people who had to truly grow up with this kind of abuse, those are near impossible for me to read any more of.

Oct 1, 2008, 3:35pm Top

>67 lrobe190: I reviewed that book as well :-) I thought about commenting on the snake thing in my review but forgot. It really does give new and alarming meaning to the "magic penis" plot though, doesn't it? LOL!

Oct 3, 2008, 10:50am Top

Onyx95 - You're right, of course. Which is why I felt mean saying it. Everyone deserves an HEA, and it certainly is a legitimate plot-line in character development. It's just that at this point it's not what I'm looking for in an enjoyable relax with a novel.

Oct 3, 2008, 1:22pm Top

OK, lrobe and DL, I have to know what the book with the snake "magic penis" book is!

Oct 3, 2008, 2:25pm Top

MysteryWatcher, completely agree that it is not usually for relaxing. Depends on the mood whether I will even start one - if I know what it is about.

Oct 3, 2008, 3:09pm Top

>71 adeptmagic: I guess it's not too big a secret LOL! It is probably the most reviewed book over the last couple weeks, Any Given Doomsday. A whole bunch of Early Reviewer copies went out. Most of the reviews aren't all that good, but I didn't really mind the book overall. I thought it was okay. I guess it's because I generally really like urban fantasy and romance mixed.

Oct 3, 2008, 4:48pm Top

Aha. I figured you wouldn't mind saying since you were going to be reviewing it anyway. I don't like that kind of paranormal romance, so I wouldn't read it. I don't mind romantic elements in my fantasy, but I don't want a full on fantasy-romance if that makes sense.

Oct 31, 2008, 8:02pm Top

I don't mind the secret baby or the magic penis themes, but I can't handle much bondage or S&M, even if only performed by the villain, and I don't really like threesomes. I don't mind vampire stories, but I feel kind of squidgy if the only way they can be together is for him to convert her so they can "unlive" happily ever after. I'm also not so fond of the "former prostitute with a heart of gold redeemed by a good man" theme.

Oct 31, 2008, 9:07pm Top

I'm with you on the bondage, S&M, and menages. I think the main reason is that I really like the romance part of romance novels. If it feels like it's just sex, it doesn't give me what I'm looking for. I find that with a lot of poorly written books where the characters don't feel real, and the author just throws in a lot of sex.

Nov 4, 2008, 9:44am Top

I never realized so many dislike whole themes of romantic literature, you guys don't know what you're missing! Or maybe you do and that's why you dislike it :P

Anyway, I never really thought about actual details or specifications to what subject matter I wouldn't read, I like to think I'm pretty open to reading anything as long as it has Happily-Ever-Afters. And after reading through what others won't read, I found myself agreeing with some of the opinions, but I actually don't mind secret babies, amnesia, couple trouble, and a lot of the previously mentioned dislikes. However, some of my dislikes stem more from situational progression depending on the way the novel's written and where the story is going with the theme.

I'll try to describe what I'm trying to say!

Like I don't mind menages at all. Ellora's Cave seems to stock quite a bit under that category and I couldn't help not reading a few. However, I start losing interest if there's any hint of discord among the individuals involved. Like one I read, two best friends find this girl that needs help and along the journey, they share her... sexually, but one of the guys actually starts feeling jealous and resentment for sharing because he got really attached to the girl. That's when I just shake my head and go look for something else to read. If the characters start resenting each other for the multiple involvements, I find it hard attaching to the romance in the story. But! That's not to say that all menage themed novels are that way. I actually enjoyed reading the August Men series by Lora Leigh. The love was felt all around and though the subject matter is considered taboo or too much for some, it didn't detract me from the romance that was there.

Another theme that I don't mind is the whole Native American era. I actually went through a phase reading quite a bit of novels themed with it (mostly by Janelle Taylor) and I found them enjoyable. The only thing I don't like is when the novel depicts a lot of the real cruelties they had to face when America was being colonized by the Europeans. I don't want to read a romance novel to be depressed about the atrocities of history, I want to read for the happily ever after! So if the novel starts detailing cruelties, I won't finish the book.

There is one theme that I absolutely refuse to read. It's male-on-male relationships. Oh don't get me wrong, I accept the choice and lifestyle of males who go that route, but I just don't like reading about it. Surprisingly, Ellora's Cave has quite a number of novels with the theme so it seems that it's quite popular, just not for me. The menage thing sort of ties in here, but if the m/m relationship takes in a female as well, it's just meh. One novel I read, the story started out with the two guys who take the relationship to the next level, but one guy is actually bisexual and has a mistress who he loves already (which was known to the other guy). The story was just a mess and the vivid depictions of the male interactions just didn't sit well with me.

Now to BDSM. How fun! :P I don't mind reading it if it's of a romantic nature where the male and female surrender absolute love and trust with each other in order to experience the joys of bondage, domination, and submission. But as others mentioned, if it starts going into the S&M part or just purely sexual, I can't take it. Like one novel I read. The female protagonist found this Master who takes it upon himself to teach her the lifestyle of being a submissive. In the beginning of the story, it started out fine, he seemed loving, stripping her inhibitions, giving her confidence, but later on, she finds out he's actually a trainer. He starts "training" her to "love" as a submissive even if it's "loving" strangers and to take the training/whip/submission as a "sign" of "love". Not for me.

Another thing I don't like. Masculine women. Not talking about the physically masculine women who are strong or muscle-y. Talking about women who don't know how to act like women! I'm all for the confident, hard-working, independent woman, but when the woman is actually more dominant than the male, not something I want to read. I encountered these types mostly in Chick Lit, not sure if it's a prevalent theme, but I tend to stay away from Chick Lit since then... which is a bit mixed because I do read contemporary, just not.. Chick Lit.

Now, coercion can be a bit controversial.. and as Gracer said, the line is a bit blurry. I like dominant heroes, so seduction, forceful maneuvers, and the like are okay to me as long as it's done with tender intentions. With such a touchy subject, I feel like I'm walking on eggshells, so I'll just leave it at that!

Soooo... I felt rather long winded there, but I actually thought about what I do and don't read since I haven't really thought about it before! It was an interesting topic :)

Nov 4, 2008, 10:07pm Top

FayeG, I think you bring up a really good point that applies to a lot of us. I can read themes I don't normally care for, if there's true romance involved. Once the romance is taken out, though, and it's just pure sex, then my comfort level goes way down.

A lot of it also has to do with the skill of the writer, in my opinion. A skilled writer -- Linda Howard, Anne Stuart -- can make even coercion work for me, while with most authors, that's an automatic wallbanger.

I just finished reading Love's Prisoner, a shapeshifter novella by MaryJanice Davidson. There's a scene in there that's essentially rape. Paranormals can get away with a lot more than contemporaries, but it was still rape. Yet I have to say that she made it work for me. So I'm less likely to avoid a theme I don't like if it's done by an author I do like.

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