Yes, I read romance novels. They are not my most sought out genre, but I do like to pick one now and again. And I make no apologies for it. Those of you who are sticking their nose up in the air, better hope it doesn’t get stuck like that.
My interest in romance novels has a long history. From the first Mills and Boon in 8th grade to Sarah Maclean today. While I have not read many, I have coveted them often. Only to be disappointed however by the repetitive and trope-y aspects. I am here to share some of them with you.
First and foremost, the heroines. Oh lord, the heroines. They are either; a spinster with large bosoms, or a beautiful petunia looking to be wed. Nope its never in between. While some authors do try to mix this up a bit, it always comes down to this. Let me elaborate a bit more.
Description: Usually a headstrong, determined woman. That is, till she meets the right guy. And by right guy I mean one fourth cup of cute and the three fourth cup an asshole.
Physical features include: Big bosoms and a plump figure, long hair which she likes to keep tied in a bun till her handsome hunk comes and feels the need to unpin it all, and may or may not have dark skin.
What is wrong with this? What starts off as a headstrong woman quickly becomes a woman who cannot keep her judgement intact in the company of a good looking man, and soon loses all discretion and self respect in the name of love, and therefore loses the right to be called headstrong. The physical features are important because what constitutes as an account of a woman more than her looks, the story soon becomes more about nibbling each other’s necks and releasing the ample bosoms from the corsets.
The beautiful petunia looking out only for a suitable match
Description: Wants to get married.
Physical features include: Whatever will get her married the fastest.
What is wrong with this? There is nothing wrong with wanting to get married. But in these books, it always seems like the heroines want to get married for all the wrong reasons. If it is not to attend the fancy balls, it is for all the pretty clothes. There is never a real look into what marriage entails, like never, and that bugs me.
Then come the heroes. They are usually simple to classify too; classic asshole, sly asshole, the goody goody which drives to the asshole in the first place.
Description: Leads the woman on by abruptly kissing her and groping her. Will act aloof later on. Will be jealous when feeling reciprocated. Will again grope the heroine demanding explanation. Will act aloof again. Repeat this for a good 200 pages. Will redeem himself by some heroic act. Goes back to being an asshole, but now with a girl.
Physical features include: Big chest, big shoulders, big thighs, big everything.
What is wrong with this? You are kidding right? What sort of guys are these heroines who are supposed to be sensible interested in? Aren’t these heroes just abusive love interests but really fluffed up?
Description: Oh you gotta watch out for these, they are really sly. Thus, the name. These are the ones that usually appear when the classic asshole becomes too much to handle and the sly asshole swoops in with some snarky remark or two, saves the heroine. This is the adult version of the childhood rule, ‘If he is mean to you, he likes you.’
Physical features include: Everything Big.
What is wrong with this? He is no better really.
The goody goody
Description: Too much of a norm follower. Will not even look at his betrothed in a room full of people. Pinch a bottom every now and then, jeez! (Only of your betrothed though).
Physical features: Complete opposite of big.
What is wrong with this? There is nothing essentially wrong with this. We all know people who are prudent. What is wrong with this though is the lack of dimensionality in the characters. Usually and always these are the characters that drive heroines to seek out above mentioned assholes. Once I would like a heroine to appreciate a guy who respects her enough to not treat her as his property. And for once I would like a prudent hero to be a fireball in other areas.
The lack of historical in historical romance
Have you ever picked up a romance novel intrigued by the promise of a historic setting? Have you ever flung the book on the wall when it fails to deliver what it promised. Yeah, me too. It feels like most of the historical romance novels out there use the historic setting as a background. They always promise more, but somehow they never deliver much except for in the categories of; expectation from women, and the way men and women dressed back then.
I understand that people often turn to romance novels in order to escape. And there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with the genre either, or the fact that you can always find a happy ending in it. Rather it is the hijacking of the genre by authors and turning it into formulaic dribble which is one of the reasons why many people skip this genre. If romance authors want to be taken seriously, they need to step up their game.