Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly feature of The Broke and the Bookish. A full list of instructions and future themes can be found here. This week’s topic is Top Ten Things I Like/Dislike When It Comes To Romances In Books. I’m taking the suggestion to do a half and half list.
1. Instalove. Enough said!
2. A headless bare chest on the cover, or any other type of overused, derivative cover. I obviously expect a typical romance to have the couple on the cover, but I like at least some originality, like an interesting backdrop or detailed clothes. Not the same few poses over and over again with different models.
3. Incest presented as romantic and star-crossed. No, just no! Why do some writers and readers even think this is anything but disturbing? I’m not talking about distant cousin relationships, but things like siblings, aunts and nephews, mothers and sons. Some people like incest-themed erotic stories, and while that’s not my particular kink at all, I can at least understand how what appeals to us in fantasy may be abhorrent to us in real life. You can’t say the same for a full-length novel where the incestuous couple are depicted as such beautiful, romantic, star-crossed lovers.
4. Rape and domestic violence (NOT to be confused with consensual BDSM!) presented as romantic or excusable. Sometimes there really is a one-time aberration committed because of extreme extenuating circumstances, the guilty party is absolutely horrorstruck when he realises what he’s done, and he makes a gargantuan effort to earn back his loved one’s trust and affection. I’m not cool when such behaviour is presented as a regular, “normal” pattern. And I actually enjoy erotic stories in the non-consent/reluctance category when they’re done well, and it’s clear throughout that this is just a fantasy, where the victim has more power and control than in a real-life scenario. But again, not when it’s depicted as romantic, excusable, or supposed realism.
5. The barely-legal woman with the much-older man trope. May–December romances can be done well, but I’m more likely to be interested if it’s along the lines of “Older man who thinks he’ll never love again gets a new lease on life with the unlikely love of a younger woman” than “Hot 18-year-old virgin hooks up with 50-year-old, with no exploration of the dynamic this vast age difference presents.”
1. Friendship turning into romance. I love when a couple has already been friends for a long time, and they either fall in love, or one of them secretly loved the other all along and now the other person feels the same way.
2. Childhood sweethearts. I love seeing longtime best friends’ puppy love turning into a real relationship and more mature love as they grow up.
3. Couples who were already together before Page 1. This way, the focus isn’t on them getting together, but on staying together through Sturm und Drang, or coming back together after something splits them up.
4. Older couples. Why let teenagers and twentysomethings have all the fun? People over the age of 30 still feel sexual desire and have romantic relationships! It could be a second-chance relationship after divorce or being widowed, a never-married spinster who finally finds her soulmate, or a couple who had previous relationships but just never found someone worth marrying.
5. Storylines involving children. It brings a whole new dynamic to a romance when one of the characters is a single parent, the couple has a child during the course of the story, or the couple are left guardians of a young orphan.
6. Realistic first-time sex! I really feel humbled when people compliment me on my first-time sex scenes, saying how believable they are, a nice mix of sexy and sweet. Totally unrealistic when first-time sex is totally mind-blowing instead of awkward, fumbled, not resulting in female orgasm, sometimes a little painful. It takes time to feel comfortable with and get good at sex.