Feb 28 2012 9:23am

Forsaking Your Reading Vows: What Would it Take?

Ring on Books

The topic of cheating in romance novels is one of the hottest-button issues there is—some say infidelity, no matter how justified—is a dealbreaker, while others are okay with it (in fiction, at least).

What are your thoughts on the subject? Have you read any romance novels where the cheating is explained well enough to accept? (For some specific examples, check out the When Going Strange...Isn’t: Adultery In Romance. Both those examples are historicals, however, where having an heir is essential.)

The ring on book image courtesy of Gnist’d via Flickr

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1. CdnMrs
I haven't read a whole lot of novels with adultery in them so I can't say I'm an expert on the subject, but I do know that, based on my personal feelings about adultery, I would have a very hard time accepting it. Two exceptions to this rule our Diana Giabaldon's (sp?) Outlander and Sarah Jio's The Bungalow. In both of these novels the heroine's are unhappy in their relationships, are in a strange place, miles and/or centuries away from their partners and are in times of terrible fear and brutality. I'm not saying these are excuses, they just made it more understandable for me. Also, I realize what I'm reading is fiction. In the same way that I understand that vampires and werewolves are fictional I understand that the people I'm reading about aren't real, their actions don't hurt any real people and they certainly don't have any effect on the way I behave in my own marriage. There's my 2 cents. :)
Mandi Schreiner
2. smexybooks
For me, the author must tread very carefully. I guess I would say in most cases I don't like it at all.

One of my favorite books however is Broken by Megan Hart and while the hero and heroine don't have a physical relationship, there is definitely some sort of emotional infidelity going on. However - there are MANY factors that lead to it and I think Megan Hart does an absolutely amazing job making it work.
3. Isabel C.
In theory, I don't mind in any way.

In practice, I'm used to books involving adultery being less romance novels and more college-lit-class angstfests, so I think I'd be wary going in, lest one or both of the protagonists end up getting hit by a train, which seems to happen a lot.
4. Annabel
For me, it can work unless it's done expressly to hurt the heroine. Even then, if it's part of a bad-boy-who-later-finds-his-honor type of plot I can sometimes deal with that too.

Mary Balogh's The Secret Pearl involves cheating but it's loved by so many, including me.

So I guess my short answer is that it depends on what the extenuating circumstances are, just like in life. I've never been one of those black-and-white type people.
5. raelas
I adore Lauren Willig's books, but her book, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, involved cheating on the part of the heroine. I've always been very much against cheating from the hero or the heroine. I didn't love it in this book, but she handled it the best I think it can be handled. And she managed to get me to still like the heroine as much as all her others. I was willing to make an exception for Lauren since her books are always fabulous, but I still had a lingering feeling of having to hold back on cheering for the heroine's relationships. So, I'd still have to say it would make turn away from a book except in VERY rare cases. I wouldn't do it for many others than Lauren!
6. Lege Artis
I had a discussion with some of my female friends about this. It all started with a book, of course... I read Never a Gentleman by Eileen Dreyer and really loved it, she's an excellent writer. And then I noticed in reviews that this book seems to affect people in only two way-either they love it like me, or they hate it with passion. All the bad reviews were based on hero's adultery, and how Eileen Dreyer broke the golden rule of romance which is,apparently: Hero does not sleep with other women once he has met heroine.
One of my friends said that this is dealbreaker for her because she doesn't want to read about cheaters, that hero should be all hero material, someone she can get lost in, dreaming about and such...
For me, it's all about the story. I can't form an opinion on character description only, I want the whole story behind it. Cheaters and partners who forgive them for cheating isn't popular romance plot, but if any writer made me love characters that aren't easy to love I call it a good writing. One of my all time favorite heroine is Chess from Downside Ghosts series and she is so not easy to cheer for...but I adore her.
7. Lege Artis
@smexybooks Broken made me cry so much. It's one of most emotional books I ever read. I bought 5 more Megan Hart's books because of Broken.
8. Bsrb in Maryland
I fall into the "it all depends" category. I generally don't like it,but every now and then a story comes along and it works.
One of my favorite authors, Joan Wolf, did at least three books that featured adultery : A Kind of Honor (she cheats with the hero-her husband is the baddie), Margarita (he cheats on wife, she leaves him, he comes to his senses, HEA), The Rebel and the Rose (he cheats, has child with mistress(!!!), she eventually forgives him). I quite enjoyed the first two , which are both traditional Regencies. The third made me so mad at the end that I threw it across the room. I've never bothered re-reading it, but it lurks in my memory--ugh.
Marian DeVol
9. ladyengineer
For me, it depends.

In a lot of traditional historical romances, including a number of them by Georgette Heyer, the rake (our hero) has had mistresses galore, not all of whom were widows or courtesans - at least a few were cheating wives.

Usually with GH, however, the hero breaks off with his mistress de la semaine either before the tale begins or shortly thereafter - usually because he is bored and feels it is time to move on. It is not always because he has met and already fallen for the heroine.

When the hero cheats, or continues to cheat, on the heroine, a lot depends on the reason(s) he is cheating, how the author handles the plot and its resolution, and whether I can believe the HEA which ends up coming about. Since I read romance for the HEA, I want it believable and I want to like the H/h which is difficult with an unrepentant adulterer. He needs to be sorry for any hurt he has caused.

I feel very much the same if the heroine cheats on her husband.

Mary Balogh's debut novel, A Masked Deception (1985), has a hero who cheats on his wife (the heroine) with his wife (he is unaware of her identity). Is this truly adultery? I would say so because the hero doesn't know he is having an affair with his own wife. I loved the book and reread it periodically, but not all do or would.
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