Romance is one of the largest, if not the largest, genre out there in the world of fiction. Yet, it is one that receives so much shade, especially its subgenre, erotica. Romance often is criticized for being cheesy or predictable, but this can occur in any genre. So, why does romance have so many critics? Well, here are a couple of reasons.
- Characters are all beautiful and/or perfect. Some readers find it difficult to relate to the main characters in romance land. See, real women wake up with eyes matted, breath that smells like tuna stuck in an exhaust pipe, and hair that will damn-near extract the bristles of any horse brush while the lovely heroine rolls over after a long night of evading bad guys in high-speed chase with little more than smudge lipstick and a flyaway strain of hair. Readers be like, “Beeotch, please!”
- Too high expectations. In my opinion (like anyone cares about that), this criticism comes from men and is related to the behavior of the hero in the story. In many (dare I say most?) romances, the heroes are alphas and are allowed to get away with saying and doing all kinds of hellish behavior whereas an ordinary man would get slapped nakkid, clothes hid, and smacked with a sexual harassment lawsuit. Compare a novel’s sexy billionaire restraining women with silk ties on his yacht to a real-life minimum wage Joseph Blowhisnose who binds women using a galvanized poly dacron rope in the back of his hoopty pickup. Who’s going to jail? Well, both of them if the women didn’t consent. The point is, one sounds far sexier (and acceptable?) than the other, provided the reader is into that sort of thing. (No shade being thrown for having kinks.) The average man may feel that he can’t operate on the same level as billionaire boy toy alpha hero in romance stories; therefore, it is easier for him to criticize the genre. Ironically, this is an alpha move—suppress all the competition (even if the competition is words on a page).
- Too expensive. This is primarily another male argument. “Who can afford to take a date for a lobster, caviar, and champagne dinner three nights a week and then jet off to the Bahamas for a spa weekend?” I’m going to go out on a limb here and argue that most women don’t expect this. (Heck, I don’t want this, seeing how I’m allergic to shellfish. Anaphylaxis shock isn’t the kind of thrill I actively seek.) Okay, so maybe the date example that I gave was extreme. However, I don’t think most women want expensive dates. I think all they want is NICE dates or fun dates. Hot dogs in a park at a free concert would be great. A rooftop picnic under the stars can be super romantic. In most romance stories where the couple goes out on a “romantic” date, it is the creativity and thoughtfulness of the date that steals the woman’s heart. And that’s how it is in real life the majority of the time, too.
- Too trashy. Here’s a dirty little secret about romance. It isn’t dirty even when the couple is rolling around in the mud. There are all levels of heat in romance novels. Not every romance contains sex, and sex doesn’t equal romance. Some sweet romances only show hand holding or pecks on cheeks/foreheads. Some may display a brief kiss or maybe a slightly more passionate one. Others may just allude to something has occurred while others leave nothing to the imagination when it comes to getting to the nitty-gritty. The point is, sex is innate and natural, and humans are sexual creatures. So, what is trashy about that? I suppose if a couple starts going at it in a dumpster that would be pretty trashy—not to mention would probably warrant a tetanus shot. The days of being shamed over sexuality or sexual desires are passé antiquated. The notion that women shouldn’t express sexuality is chauvinistic. Women are entitled to their desires as much as men are.
- Poorly written. This criticism appears to stem from a bias of comparisons. Any book in any genre can be poorly written. A terrible book (usually due to poor character development or major plot holes/weak plot) frequently occurs when a book has not been well or properly edited or has been rushed into production. It needs to be noted here that there is a difference between a poorly written book and a book that is poorly received by readers. The former is a novel with grammatical, structural, continuity, redundancy, fluff, etc. (As a side note, in my opinion—yeah, that again—I think continuity issues is the worst sin out of the previous list.) A poorly received may be well written but for some reason didn’t click with readers. Of course, there are some poorly written books that have sold well, but they are more of an exception than the rule. Romance authors who take writing seriously are professionals and take the time to ensure that they produce a well-written book. It may not resonate with readers, but it won’t be due to inferior writing.
- The sex is never that good. What? Is someone not doing something right? Okay. Next!
- Tacky covers. Not everyone is going to agree on everything. Some romance readers like to see hot bodies on the covers while others may enjoy ones that highlight scenery. Tow·mah·toe. Tah·mate·toe. Some prefer a matte finish while others appreciate glossy. It’s a matter of preference. In comparison to other genres, romance covers overall are no more tacky others.
- Predictable ending. This is only a real problem for persons who dislike happily-ever-afters (or happy-for-now). Yes, romance has a predictable ending—boy and girl fall in love (or boy/boy, girl/girl, boy/girl/boy… I’m not about to get into all of this, but you get the point.) Romances have a formula: they meet, fall in love, get torn apart, get back together, the end. The beauty of romance is the path taken to get from beginning to end. It’s the journey that is the thrill, the ups-and-downs of the roller coaster. By the end of the ride, the reader is satisfied if the author has done his/her job correctly.
- I honestly have to say that I don’t mind this. Yes, I know many people find it cringy and odd, but I know plenty of people in real life who fell for each other the moment they met or after the first date. The difference is, most of them did not profess this love to each other right away. But the feelings were there. I guess I see how it could be weird or creepy to profess to someone you just met you love him/her. And chances are it’s probably lust and not love (or one too many shots) anyway. I think the reason instalove happens in books, especially in shorter length stories, the action must move fast. Most people don’t go on vacation for months on end. So, if the story is about a couple who meet on a two-week cruise, the author has two weeks to get them together. The clock starts ticking the minute their feet hit the deck. Think of the 1994 movie, Speed, with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. The characters Jack and Annie had a deadline of a leaking bus gas tank (Spoiler alert … oops, too late. But hey, who hasn’t already seen this movie?) to get together as a couple. Yes, it was a subplot, but the relationship had to develop quickly nonetheless.
- Unequal characters. This bothers me a lot when I see it. Usually, it’s the hero that has it all together and the heroine is a mess. Sometimes, even strong heroines are written to dumb as dirt who requires saving. Listen, sometimes a man can be a hero without the heroine being helpless. Years ago, I was about to enter a store when one of the workers gathering the shopping carts noticed I had a flat. Now, how it managed to go flat as the pavement the minute I parked I don’t know, but it hadn’t felt like a flat on the drive there. He volunteered to help. Bless his heart, he had no clue. I had to tell him he had the jack upside down. Ultimately, I ended up changing my own tire, but he was my hero that day. Why? Because he noticed the flat. Had it not been for him, I probably would have driven (or attempted to drive home) and destroyed my rim which would have cost far more money than replacing a tire… although, that tire wasn’t cheap. Just saying.
And that’s all I got. As a romance writer, I was probably a little biased. Okay, I was definitely a lot biased. But as they say in the navy, “oh, well!” I hope this article brought you some chuckles. If you like this article, give me a like or hop on over to my blog (Creole Bayou) and check out what I’m doing at www.genevivechamblee.wordpress.com.
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