Top Ten Things I Like/Dislike When it Comes to Romances in Books

Top Ten Tuesday 2

We all have our deal-breakers and deal-makers when it comes to romance, whether in real life or in fiction. Here are some of mine—I’d love to hear about yours in the comments!

Likes

  1. Realistic descriptions of attractiveness. Seriously, guys, not everyone can be incredibly attractive. Obviously if you love someone, you think they’re attractive, but every single piece of their physique isn’t perfect. No one is perfect. It really annoys me when people are described as “other-worldly” good-looking, because no one is actually that good-looking. Everyone has flaws. In fact, it’s kind of endearing when the main love interest has a flaw that the protagonist notices, but likes anyway.
  1. Realistic descriptions of sex. Oh, you just slid it in after 90 seconds of foreplay and she immediately had an orgasm? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. But give me a well-written sex scene with lots of build-up to the big moment and I’m all yours.
  1. Relationships that are based more on intellectual/mental attraction rather than mutual lust/physical attractiveness. Yeah, sure, Hot Girl and Hot Guy were probably made for each other in the looks department. Relationships based purely on lust can be sexy and exciting. But after a little while it gets boring, no?
  1. (Mostly) Drama-free relationships. I’m not saying that any conflict in a relationship is bad—what would move that part of the story forward otherwise?—but when 99% of a couple’s problems could be solved by simply talking to each other, and they insist upon not talking to each other, I’m out. (Looking at you, Tris and Four.)
  1. Also, relatable drama (if there’s gonna be drama). Andrew and I don’t fight often, but when we do, it’s almost always over something totally inconsequential, like should we have a real Christmas tree or a fake Christmas tree. (Fake tree masterrace all the way.) I realize all couples disagree/fight differently, so this will mean something different to everyone. But I just can’t relate to most drama in literary romances because no one in literature fights about whether to get a real or fake Christmas tree.

Dislikes

  1. Superfluous romances. Most authors seem to ask themselves, “Does my book need a romantic subplot?” and most seem to answer themselves, “Yes, definitely.” Most of these authors are wrong. I would argue that 80ish percent of the books I read that have romantic subplots would have been much more enjoyable (and less frustrating/annoying) without them. Take The Hunger Games and the Divergent series, for example. In The Hunger Games, Katniss’s tryst with Peeta, real or fake, was necessary for her survival both during and after the games. What wasn’t necessary for survival (or the plot of the book, really) was making that romance into a triangle with Gale. Divergent could have done entirely without the whole romantic subplot, especially once Allegiant came along and Tris got jealous every time Tobias talked to another girl. It was intriguing in the beginning, but once they were together they just needed to be together and focus on saving the world instead of being jealous because oh noes bae talked to another girl/guy my life is over.
  1. When the main love interest dies. Something I’ve never understood is some authors’ compulsion to create a character that their protagonist loves and then kill them off. What? No! If there’s gonna be a romance, it better be a happily ever after, thank you very much. Or at least just don’t kill them?
  1. Predictable romances. When the protagonist falls in love with the very first guy/girl he/she sees, and it’s “love at first sight,” ugh, gag me. Let’s see some real relationship development. Maybe they could know each other in a non-romantic context for more than half a day. Or, maybe, the incredibly handsome/beautiful love interest doesn’t automatically fall for the protagonist. Or just…I don’t know, make it seem like a little bit of work, for once.
  1. When the main love interest (or the protagonist) has a big scary SECRET and only the protagonist (or love interest) can save him/her. Looking at you, Nicholas Sparks. Hasn’t he written basically the same book about fifteen times? I don’t understand how he’s so popular. Bleh.
  1. Overwrought internal monologues about how wonderful/perfect/sexy/etc. the main love interest is. Like, maybe a paragraph at most is acceptable. Maybe. But why can’t we keep it simple like in Wuthering Heights? “Whatever souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” BAM. One sentence, perfect imagery, done.

What qualities are deal-breakers (or deal-makers) for you when it comes to romances in books?

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12 thoughts on “Top Ten Things I Like/Dislike When it Comes to Romances in Books

    • Thanks! Evangelical Christianity is not exactly my cup of tea, but I agree with the same ones you do. One I definitely disagree with is the “adorably jealous” thing—to me, jealousy is usually unhealthy in a relationship, and I find it really annoying in fiction, especially when it’s unnecessary. (And especially because it can teach young people that jealousy is good and even necessary in relationships, which it most certainly isn’t.)

  1. I agree with everything you said, especially points 4, 2 (I wrote something kind of similar), and 6. I have often thought that the Divergent series would be so much better without all those romantic relationships thrown in.

    • Yeah, Divergent was a bit much for me after a while. Their romance in the first book was exciting, but after that it was just annoying.

  2. I agree with all of this! A few things on my list are similar to yours.

    Out of all of them though, I agree with #9 the most. Mostly because you mentioned Nicholas Sparks. Can’t stand his books and their identical plotlines! Bleh.

    • Uggggghhhh Nicholas Sparks, wtf. I just don’t understand what people like about his books. (Romance novels in general, really, but especially super formulaic ones like his.)

  3. Your point on drama-free made me think of that horrible trope where one character (usually the guy) feels like he has to push the other away so he’s intentionally a jerk to her, leaving her stunned and heartbroken. They do that often in Asian soap operas, and I can’t stand it! UGH whatever happened to just being honest about your feelings?

    • Haha, unfortunately guys tend to be pretty guilty of this in real life too! I know my husband at least has been guilty of it in the past (trying to get girlfriends to break up with him instead of just breaking up with them himself). Of course, they do it just to be macho too and not be mushy or sappy or whatever, even if they’re not trying to get the girl to break up with them, and it’s equally annoying then, too.

  4. I cannot tell you how many times my husband and I have fought about whether to have a real or fake tree. I don’t know if reading about a similar argument in a book would make me feel better or worse.

    Anyway, these are good! Especially the love at first sight, which I HATE, and forgot to include on my own list. I think my biggest dislike is when couples have misunderstandings based on poor communication, which many romances rely too heavily on.

    • I think my biggest dislike is when couples have misunderstandings based on poor communication, which many romances rely too heavily on.

      THIS. This is so freaking annoying. So many romances would have so much less conflict if they people involved would just TALK TO EACH OTHER. I have no idea why they don’t, either—isn’t that the point of being in a relationship with someone? That you’re comfortable talking to them about stuff??

  5. I can relate to Point 5. My husband and I fight about stupid little things too, but a novel based on our fights would end up as a comedy rather than a romance…

    • Hah! That’s funny. I just can’t relate to things like “OMG, he’s friends with/talked to/looked at another girl! Obviously he must be cheating on me!” Maybe I’m just a generally secure person or maybe I’ve just been lucky with trustworthy partners, but jealousy like that always rubs me the wrong way.

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