Lady GaGa said it best when she said “Ga ga ooh la la”… or maybe not.  Today’s question, oh Lovers of Love is why so many romances have to be bad?  Not why guys are jerks, or why no one loves me, but rather why so many romance novels are so… so… well… bad.  (This is a book blog after all).

I had the opportunity to read a smattering of romances this summer for a contest I was judging and feel that I can now tell you what makes a romance go sour.  (Of course since I am not a novelist, this is a bit like a couch potato telling a marathoner how to run, but I hope you will indulge me.)  So here, without further ado are the top 5 elements that make a romance novel a groaner (and not in good way).

  1. Single Available Woman Rejects Mr. Totally Hot and Perfect for No Good Reason.
    I understand that in order for there to be a story, our perfectly gorgeous main characters need to have a reason to not be together initially so they can overcome that reason and get together in the end.  But could we make it a good reason, please?  I have never, ever, ever known a woman who did not want the super hot guy she was attracted to just because she wanted to be independent or for any other lame bullshit of a reason.  We’re women.  We want men for god’s sake.  Especially hot ones.  Give our heroine a reason to hestiate:  Hot Guy has a pregnant girlfriend or maybe our heroine is kinda ugly so he doesn’t notice her, or maybe give her a fiancee: something that might actually make her hesitate.
  1. Gorgeous 20-Something Lovebirds Talk Like They Qualify for the AARP Discount or Early Bird Special.
    I realize that some of our most beloved romance authors are not in their twenties anymore.  This happens to the best of us.  Alas, you can’t stay young forever.  But please — modern 20 somethings do not call each other Darling.  Ever.  Unless they are being ironic.
  1. Weird Analogies and Euphemisms for Body Parts and Sex Acts.
    The words tunnel and canal are disturbing when relating to sex.  As are piston, pole, and rod.  If you can’t write a good sex scene, just make do with some hot kissing and clothing removal, maybe mention some silky skin and a tingling sensation and then fade to black or let the curtain close.  Sometimes less is more.  Especially if it means you can avoid talking about the smells of the ocean.  (Ewwwww).
  1. Marriage Proposal As Happy Ending.
    I realize the idea of many a romance novel is escapism to a world better than our own.  But I think a world where men are overjoyed at the idea of commitment and tossing diamond rings and proposals around instead of footballs is just too far out there to be believable.  I find it easier to believe there’s actually a Platform 93/4 at King’s Cross Station and a game of Quidditch going on at the local high school.  Just sayin’.  End your romance novel with a second date – or maybe a trip home to meet the family.  I suggest this as a favor to all men out there.  This will help us lower our expectations.
  1. Heroine Has No Depth. 
    For once I’d like a heroine I can relate to.  I don’t buy “female-who-is-gorgeous-but-doesn’t-know-it”.  I don’t buy “skinny-girl-that-can-eat-like-a-man” (although I know there are a few of you out there – and PS you and me are not friends).  I don’t buy a woman who only cares about her love life anymore than I buy one who doesn’t care about her love life.  Most of us are multi-faceted and most of us have a flaw… or three.  Give me someone I’d be friends with, not someone I’d like to punch in the face.

Got some of your own complaints about romance?  Feel free to share.  Or over-share if you must.  We’re all friends here.

— Dana Barrett, Managing Editor