Jan 24 2013 9:12am

(Don’t) Start Me Up: Non-Starters in Romance Novels

Are you categorically against reading books of certain styles or elements? Say, for example, you've heard good things about an author or a book, and you click through to read the blurb to see if it keeps your interest.

You're reading along, and it all looks good, until—wham!—there's an element in there that you just loathe.*

What are your absolute non-starters?

*Full disclosure: Mine is anything with a touch of magic, or magic realism. Ugh.

Photo courtesy of jakeandlindsay

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1. Torifl
Military rom suspenses. I don't mind if they are in the military but if the storyline revolves ard special ops, I tend to shy away.
Michelle Palmer
2. ChelleP
I will read just about anything, but if it says "billionaire" or "domination" or if it's a serial, I'm DONE.

@Megan, when you say magic, what are some examples? I'm kinda there too with magic, although I have enjoyed the Karen Moning Fever series...
Myretta Robens
3. Myretta
Vampires or Werewolves or Shapeshifters (oh my!) I don't mind a touch of magic (Love the Lisa Kleypas Friday Harbor books) but I want the love interest to be human.
Megan Frampton
4. MFrampton
@ChelleP, I loved the Fever series--I think I'm thinking more when the magic is slight, or there are ghosts. Like someone with ESP or psychic abilities or something. Blech.
5. Torifl
@MFrampton-I admit, I like those features. But usually only if in rom susp. When it's a humorous rom's iffy.
6. JBeck
"Love" at first sight. Not a fan of that (lust at first sight is ok). Also not a fan of a heroine with a big chip on her shoulder/ax to grind.
Allison Hickman
7. AllisonHickman
Anything to do with babies, I'm not reading these books to hear about how badly someone wants a baby. Especially if it's a secret baby or someone has to have a baby or something, blecht.
I have started reading books that have already present kids in them & found that okay as long as they aren't the constant & main focus
Jena Briars
9. CutMyTeethOnKleypas
Usually it's any scenario where the hero & heroine are "exes". As soon as I see that - R.I.P. my interest.
10. JacquiC
Zombies. Yuck.

I also wholeheartedly agree about billionaires and serials.

I will read some BDSM (really only Cherise Sinclair).

Princes and royalty from some weird made-up kingdom in the Middle East or Europe (or anywhere really) are beyond my ability to suspend disbelief.

I will read some menage books (usually by authors I know and trust), but not if there are more than three people involved.

I am OK with magical realism, ghosts, etc. but only if done well.
Mary Beth Bass
11. marybeth
For me it all comes down to voice and then story. If one or either of those elements don't appeal to me I won't read it. That being said, I'm easily haunted and shy away from anything hopeless (not much of a problem in romance).
12. EmilyD
Anything that indicates a love triangle or cheating is an instant no-go for me. And I'm not fond of exes either (although I won't rule it out but I won't purchase without reading reviews).
Aly O'Hare
13. wingZER0angel
I think I probably have too many of those...

I agree with a lot of ones previously mentioned. I won't read pregnancy/secret baby stories. Cheating, I can't abide by, but I'm okay with the H&H being exes. That can work out if it's done well. I will absolutely not read books were the hero is in the military. If he WAS in the military, that's fine, but he cannot be in the military during the story. I read one short story about a soldier home on leave for on Christmas, and it ends with him in the airport going back to Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever. So not a HEA!!!
14. Kareni
I have to admit that books set in Scotland and books told in the first person both make me pause. I might continue on, but the storyline has to outweigh those issues.
15. Miss_D
I'm meh on stories with single mothers when it's not the hero's child.
16. Tina@Bookcrack
1. InstaLOVE!
2. Special ops/military fly boys/navy seal type romances--esp. when they are romantic suspenses, so I guess I'm with Tori. They don't do much for me. Recent exception: 'Her Forbidden Hero' and 'One Night with a Hero' by Laura Kaye so damn I guess I can be kinda swayed. LOL
17. keen23
Shapeshifters- where the person changes into an animal. That's just wrong. I'm ok as long as the shapeshifters aren't one of the romantic leads, I just don't want to think about someone having sex with something that spends part of it's time as a dog or a panther or something.

Westerns- especially where one of the leads is Native American, but stories set in the "Old West" in general do nothing for me.

Religion- if the copywrite page has something about quotes taken from the Bible, I know it's not a book for me. Christian Chick Lit, anything Amish, etc. (these books are really popular at my library, which is annoying).
Lege Artis
18. LegeArtis
1.Time travel romance. Only one I read was Outlander; I tried KMM Highlanders series, but that's just not my thing....
2. Menage- I read few menage stories that weren't bad, but I would take m/f or m/m story over menage every day.
3. Amnesia plot
4. Secret baby plot
5. When everything is happening in dreams...
6.Lately, if cover says: For fans of 50SOG...
19. Alissa H.
I avoid boss/employee or professor/student relationships-- anything that would be a sexual harassment case in real life. "Heroes" who assume the worst and are really mean about it annoy me, and I also loathe controlling men, especially when they use their greater physical strength against a woman. Men like that are not heroes to me.
20. Germaine_818
I loathe anything written in the first person present tense.

I'm sick and tired of BDSM.

I avoid werewolves, vampires, steampunk, paranormal, horror, and "sci-fi romance".

And about those heroines who go out, get drunk, and wind up in bed with someone...
21. CdnMrs
The mention of a character having a "crisis of faith" and I'm out of there. If I wanted to read Inspirationals I would.
22. jaodko30
I not fond of repeated phases constantly being repeated, as in 'I must marry the prince', or when in the same series the univererse and common history is being constantly rewritten. I admit, I usually try to finish the book anyway just to hope it gets better, but then I tend to shy from the authors' other books
23. HJ
Paranormal, fantasy, sci fi, magic - whatever it's called, I don't want it if it isn't in the real world.

Religion - don't care which, none of them please.

Present tense.

Overwhelming theme constantly repeated.

Abuse of any type against anyone. That includes any coercion or torture.

Extreme violence - maximum I'll take is armed forces stuff a la Suzanne Brockmann IF it's relevant and key to the story and not too detailed and drawn out.

Secret baby; millionaire boss; sheik; all those standards.

Scotland just for the sake of it.

Dialect of any type written out as unintelligible nonsense, repeatedly.

It's a wonder I find anything to read!!
Lynne Connolly
24. Lynne Connolly
Anything that mentions a Highlander - just not my thing. They're never accurate.
These days, historical novels featuring women in prom dresses on the cover, unless it's an author I know. I prefer some history in my historical romance.
Present tense. It's just too distracting.
I love an author who can take a trope and inject fresh life into it by making about particular characters. But there are some tropes I find it hard to buy into. Secret babies is top of my list.
Preaching, or proselytising. Unless the character does it, but when the author does it through the character, it turns me off.
It occurs to me that we need a new phrase for "wallbanger" since so many of us read on electronic devices!
Jennifer Westerman
25. JennyLynn59
No present tense, I don't want to have a conversation with my books.
No intense violence, I get the paper for that.
No babies, children maybe..
Stupid heroines, that struggle with everything.
No religious romance please.
Tired of vampires, shapeshifters and fairies.
No creepy boss, secretary plot lines.
Glad there are a lot of books out there to explore.
26. ThaliaHelikon
Drinking or drugs as a pivotal plot device. For example, heroine takes a pain pill and ends up in the hero's bed. I think it's sloppy writing and lazy plotting.
Lege Artis
27. LegeArtis
Oh, yeah... I remebered one major stupid peeve of mine: I just avoid novels with this guy on cover:

It's completely shallow, I know, but this guy really creeps me out... It has nothing to do with plot or quality of writing. He is on the cover of much recommended Reaper's Property, so I guess I'll have to get over it....
28. Isabel C.
I like the paranormal myself, although I'm pretty meh on vampires and werewolves. Total dealbreakers: no babies, no controlling heroes, no ridiculously naive virgins (the "but it will never fit" BS is an insta-close), and I generally find that exes getting back together wrecks my suspension of disbelief more than any sparkly vampire ever could.
Allison Hickman
29. AllisonHickman
I have to agree on the religion aspect, surprised I didn't think of that one myself!
30. Talia Quinn Daniels
Interesting sets of peeves. Some match mine like whoa (Scotland, billionaires who act like regular Joes with a bit of extra cash), but others include some of my favorite tropes, like exes getting back together -- and I like present tense in YA.

My peeves include serial killers anywhere in the plot. And preordained soul mates, particularly in paranormal. And random suspense from some stalker ex randomly thrown into the plot in order to create a thrilling climax where the hero or heroine gets kidnapped and rescued.

Honestly, though, if you write incredibly well, I'll buy anything you're selling.
31. M.M. Justus
Villains who don't have a backstory and/or are evil because they enjoy being evil. Religion (except for historicals where "going to church" is just part of life). Vampires. Please, no more vampires, although almost any other kind of paranormal is fine with me. Not overly fond of babies, but they're not a wallbanger. Ditto for f/f.

And, unlike the rest of the known romance-reading universe, I am so tired of historicals set in the UK, regencies, Victorians, whatever. Can't we go somewhere else, please?
32. SueR
Babies. Scotland. Scottish babies.
33. Ekaterini
Hmm, no paranormal. I like my h/h to be human! I don't like time travel. I want my h/h to stay in one time, don't mind shifts in place though. I also have some capricious pet peeves: I don't like my heroines to be tall, or my heroes blonde. I don't like heroes who engage in commerce, or stories w/ lawyers, unless they're written by Julie James.
34. Maddie Grove
(1) It's a contemporary. The characters never quite act like modern people, plus I just like historicals more.

(2) It's paranormal or it has time-traveling. I'm not uninterested on principle, though; I just never seem to like the ones I pick up. Actually, I am definitely uninterested in romances where one or both protagonists aren't human.

(3) There's a prologue in which neither protagonist appears, but you get to hear all about a secret society or aristocratic family three hundred years before the story begins.

(4) The hero/heroine is an Italian/French/Spanish/American person visiting England and won't stop talking about how free-spirited and sensual and perfect Italian/French/Spanish/American people are compared to the stuffy English.

(5) The hero and heroine were sweethearts as teenagers but got separated by external forces. Somehow, I find that this plot always turns out to be really, really boring. I'm cautious about couples that meet again after a bad break-up, but that has better chances of being interesting, at least.

(6) The hero and the heroine have been friends forever, but nothing happens until one suddenly notices the other in a romantic way. Again, it usually ends up being boring, unless there's some other source of conflict in their relationship.

(Confession: I kind of love secret babies, as long as the hero isn't a total jag about it.)
Carmen Pinzon
35. bungluna
I hate meddlesome seniors/kids in my stories. Every time I start a book and there's a senior who knows best or a kid who manipulates the main couple, I just quit.

I also hate rapey, abusive heroes. There's not enough groveling in the world to make up for this.

Historical whose characters don't even try to act like historical figures. I'm not an expert on this subject, but a heroine named Tiffany, or the ever popular spinster who doesn't want to get married but does want to get laid just drive me batty.

Finally, I've given up on the uber-intelligent, dastardly serial killer villain plot. And having this character's pov rammed down my throat is a big NO NO for me.
36. Clau
Only two are a big no for me:
2.-Billonarie protagonist
I can stand all the others things, but if the plot is about these I am out.
Akinna E
37. Akinna
Oh gosh, I 've got loads: buttoned up/repressed heroines, female virgins (unless they're young..say 23 and under..then I might go for it..maybe), hero visiting the heroine in her dreams/heroine visiting hero in his dreams, older heroines (not over 35 years old please..and even that's a stretch for me), historical romance (unless it's also paranormal), religious romance and then the biggest one of all: if the hero or heroine are a prince, princess or any other kind of royalty I'm defintely out!
Patricia Wilkerson
38. Proofreaderpat
Stories where the heroine is a "good"witch.Married heroes who cheat in the story and the heroine forgives him.Any billionaire BDSM stories.
39. Vassie
Someone already mentioned this but my #1 "turn off" plotline (in any sub-genre) is amnesia. It's wayyy overdone and at this point it's difficult to use it stylishly. I can go past it if the book has been recommended to me, but only if it's not at the center of the plot.

Another plotline that turns me off is: they 'never really saw each other's face" but fell in love anyway (and sometimes into bed). When they meet again they don't recognize each other (really?). If I am falling for somebody I'll make sure to light a candle and at least see their face. These are sometimes used in historical but the only book it really works in is Judith Ivory's "Beast" where the plotline mocks itself and the entire reading is delightfully hilarious. Once you take such fantastical plots too seriously, it's usually a fail.
Robbie Thornton
40. Button
Zombies in a romance. Sorry, nothing romantic here.

Any historical after 1900, particularly world war 2 romances. I don't know why but I suspect it's because I'm old enough that I picture this generation as my grandparents. I keep thinking "and now they're elderly people shuffling around a nursing home somewhere. That sort of puts me off.

I like paranormal, but not so much witches. However, I've read a few good ones, like Stacia Kane's Chess Putnam series, so I'm more inclined now to give them a chance than I was back in my "pre-Chess&Terrible" days.

I also don't like "reincarnation" books, where either the hero or the heroine or both are reincarnations of a previous life finding their love again.
41. Skittix
I'm pretty openminded about my romances, but I admit that I will put aside a story that features May/December romances, heavier women where the author goes on and on about her "curviness" (etc.), interracial stories where race plays a prominent role, single mothers, and religious books.
42. DA4Pups
Religious romance fiction; contrived plot devices; traveling all over the place to create action; h-TSTL; when the H does not grovel enough; throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the story to create the story - sometimes the development of the relationship and life drama are enough to create a really great book. And did I mention when the H does not grovel enough? Other than this, I will read any genre or trope.
43. Lisa Marie
Secret babies, "oops!" pregnancies and single moms/dads are strictly verboten on my reading list. The books where the heroine/hero have baby rabies and meet just to mate have to be the worst. If this isn't included in the blurb and I hap across it while reading? Book, meet Wall. I can only suspend my disbelief so far, and these situations *never* work out IRL.

Also the "Billionare CEO/Boss/Anything" *usually* triggers my "Ew", especially when the heroine relies on him for money or a paycheck. I'm no feminist, but this sends the wrong message to women, namely that love and money are intimately linked.
44. MrsMindy
Things I don't want in a book.
Time travel
Heroines that were mistresses.
Too religiousy (I'm sure that's not a word though.)
Anything between 1870 or so to 1999. ( I'd rather have "Regency Time" or Modern "2000s")
No Futuristic.

(I'm really picky about my books)
45. Jacqueline Marie
For me, it's one thing, and one thing only, and that's narrative style; if a book is written in first person, I won't touch it. The only exception to that rule is in regards to autobiographies, but within the realms of fiction, I can't tolerate such. First person is just a limiting, constraining style of writing that I grow either irritated or bored with a book in that format, very quickly.
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