Mar 17 2014 8:23am

What if You Dislike the Hero or Heroine?

“I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.”—Jane Austen on Emma.

A lively discussion broke out at H&H HQ recently about unlikeable heroes and/or heroines. If you encounter a hero or heroine whom you just don't like, what do you do? Do you keep reading, because you like the other characters in the book? Do you keep reading hoping the author has also recognized the unlikeability, and will make the hero or heroine undergo a change of character? Or do you DNF the book because you don't want to read about heroes or heroines you don't like?

What do you do if you dislike the hero or heroine?

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2. scarlettleigh
I had to stop and think what I do. Usually if I don't like the heroine, I don't like the book. To some readers the hero is more important than the heroine but to me it is the heroine.

If I dislike the heroine, I typically start skimming, and if she still is unlikeable than I quit the book

Some authors start out the story with a unlikeable heroine to show character development and I am okay with that to a certain extent. I have to see some vulnerability, so I know that is what she is doing. What I can't stand is the poor me attitude or a whole book of low self-esteem, that is resolved because the hero DOES love her.
Jennifer Proffitt
3. JenniferProffitt
When we were talking about this, we mentioned that not liking a hero or having an unlikeable hero is much more forgivable (or we're more forgiving). I think that's largely because female readers will identify with the heroine more than the hero and if you don't like her, then it's harder to transport yourself into her shoes.

If I don't like the characters--regardless of hero or heroine--I will DNF the book. However, I've been much more forgiving recently and have relied more heavily on the skill of the writer. I hope at the end that they have redeemed the character somehow. If an author doesn't manage to do that, then I not only DNF the book...I blacklist the author.
4. shenita
There have been times where I've diliked both (not in the same story) but I was so into the writing that I kept going. I rarely dnf a book, I have to be extremely bored with it to do so.

A couple that come to mind for me are Dirty Red by Tarryn Fisher. Absolutely hated Leah but thought the book was really good. Also Consequences by Aletha Romig. Finished the series and still didn't like Tony.
5. lauralee1912
I also rarely DNF a book, but there was one recently which I picked up for free from Amazon which I could not finish because the hero was such an alpha brat. Can't even remember the name ... it was delete, delete, delete, why did I waste my time reading 60 pages? When reading Love, Chocolate, and Beer by Violet Duke, I found the heroine a bit self-involved and she got the good guy, a chocolatier, to boot. She supposedly redeemed herself when a secret was revealed, but I thought she had few redeeming qualities. I finished the book because the other characters engaged me, which speaks to the author's skills.
Becky Herrera
6. BECKY047
This recently happened to me when I read Hush Hush, I absolutely HATED the heroine! I could never find anything to like about her and because of this I also could not love the Hero, simply because he loved this unbearable Heroine! I have to like my heroine and hero to finish a novel or at the very least to continue the series.
7. Scarlettleigh
One author whose books I book really enjoyed - I am angst phobic but she had just enough angst to make her books heartfelt, changed publishers, and I had to quit reading her books. I read an interview with her and she stated she was really enjoying working with unlikeable characters -- that it was such a challenge. But honestly her characters had so much wrong that they needed therapy for life.

I know each of us have a believeablity threshold -- so many others readers didn't have a problem with the heroine's and heroes transformation but I just couldn't buy in to it. Plus I didn't enjoy reading 3/4 of a book where I didn't really like the character(s).
8. wsl0612
Emma is such a great example of this, she was such a brat, but because it was Jane Austen you had to keep reading it for the excellent writing and because you really believed Jane could redeem her! It amuses me greatly now to watch the internet version "Emma Approved" and read the comments by viewers who've never read Austen.

Yeah, it is usually the heroine I find that I don't like, and I do think it's because I have higher standards for women, I want them to be better. As long as the rest of the story is engaging and the heroine isn't a total horror I will finish the book, but probably skim lots of it.

I was having a discussion with my bff about our attitudes towards women and whether or not she was more forgiving of women's errors vs. men's. She works at a university, in mechanical design engineering, so she frequently has to work with men. She says she more quickly gets fed up with men's mistakes than women's whereas I tend to expect more from women. We speculate that perhaps my expectations are a result of having 3 bros/no sis and she only had the one sis, but that was the extent of our analysis :-)
9. Helena J
Emma is a perfect example; although I love Jane Austen, and read and re-read her other books for years, I could not read Emma because I found her so infuriating. Eventually I forced myself to do so, but it's still my least favourite and most rarely read Austen.

For any other author - if I don't like the hero or the heroine, I don't finish the book unless I really like the other main character and there are hints that the disliked one is actually OK or about to reform, etc.. But it has to be pretty quick, as I don't persist otherwise. I don't mean that I have to always love both MCs from the start, but I must not strongly dislike one of them.
10. Dee Lancaster
I almost always finish a book. Because I am stubborn. And because I hope the characters redeem themselves in the end. I don't have to like a character, but I must respect her or him. I may be tougher on Heroinines than heroes, I'm not sure.
11. bonnierz
I will usually hang in there, hoping that somehow the heroine will redeem herself, or there will be a big reveal as to why she has acted the way she did. There are three books that come to mind, and I still hate them and will never read them again. I know that I won't love every heroine, but when I despise one, and want the hero to end up with someone else, you know she's got to be horrible.
12. AshleyE
I recently read Beautiful Disaster. I didn't like the hero or the heroine, but I did finish the book. When I start a book I have to finish it. I will not read the next one in the series. BTW I hated that book. I felt like I wasted my time reading it.
13. LibrarianJessi
I don't think that the characters need to be redeemed or to become less annoying in the end for me to appreicate a wonderful romance. Most of the time, if a character is bugging me, it's because of a clash with my own character and not because they need to change their whole personality. I am much more concerned with the chemistry between the hero and the heroine than either one individually. If one or the other annoys me, I don't mind as long as they make sense together - and have excellent chemistry. Best example I can think of at the moment - Isabel and Cole in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater. Oh also Meg and Ted from Call Me Irrisistiable by SEP.
Carmen Pinzon
14. bungluna
For me it depends on why I dislike the character. If a hero or heroine are just types that I don't warm up to but the writing is good and the story engaging, I finish the book. I may not remember much about it, but I can enjoy it. However, if the dislike extends a bit beyond, as in their actions being abhorent to me in some way, I just DNF.

An example of the latter is the hero from Emma Chase's Tangled. I found him obnoxious and harrazing. The heroine put up with him and acted more like a creature in heat than a supposed professional. I just couldn't continue the book, even though there were some (mildly) amusing bits in it.
15. Mo
I've only ever had it happen once where I actively disliked a protagonist. I've not cared plenty before. Those are always DNFs. But I actively despised the heroine in a book I finished. I finished it for a couple reasons: one, I was reading it for a review; two, it was the middle book of a series and setting up the third book (the set up was fantastic). I doubt it would have been a DNF even if I hadn't been reviewing it, honestly.
rachel sternberg
16. rae70
I am into reading/listening to YA books lately.. For Heroines, Bella from Twilight series, her incessant whining and the creepiness of Edward. For the Hero side: Harry from the Harry Potter books... that boy got on my last nerve all the way to the end...
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