Dec 9 2014 10:45am

Getting Off on the Wrong Foot: Meet-Not-Cutes in Romance Novels from Yates, Neville, and More!

Roulette by Megan Mulry Today we're joined by author Megan Mulry, whose Roulette was released last week. Roulette has a heroine who is struggling to live a normal life, given that she is descended from two very famous parents. And then she meets the hero, a famous man in his own right, and they don't exactly click right away. Megan is here to talk about meet-not-cutes where the hero and heroine have an awkward—or worse—first meeting. Thanks, Megan! 

Some of my favorite love stories have the most horrible beginnings. In fact, the more the characters dislike each other at the start, the more I love it at the finish. My perverse desire to see protagonists who rattle each other’s cages probably goes back to Pride and Prejudice: who could forget the enchanting remarks of Mr. Darcy upon being asked to consider a dance with Eliza Bennet, “I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.” What a charmer!

There are a few things to look for in I-Hate-You Classics, like Sweet Savage Love and Whitney, My Love. First off, despite their titles, there’s not a lot of love until pretty far into the story. In fact, sometimes the declaration doesn’t happen until the very last chapter. In several of my books, I aspire to these levels of protracted frustration, but I usually stumble because, let’s face it, I really really really want my characters to get it together, baby! On the other hand, I always keep in mind one of the tried-and-true elements of the hate classics: hostility does not prevent characters from being wildly and recklessly attracted to each other. In fact, in the I-Hate-You pantheon, the hero and heroine (or hero and hero, or heroine and heroine) usually go right on insulting each other even after they’ve burned the bed a couple of times. As I began my search for some current examples, it turns out I didn’t have to look far!

First off, Maisey Yates did me a hate solid when she opened To Defy a Sheikh with the heroine attempting to murder the hero, in a retribution plot the sheikha had been cooking up for the past ten years or so to avenge her father’s death (and basically the hero destroyed her entire country.) I imagine Yates in her writing shed spinning in her chair like Mega-Mind, thinking diabolical thoughts like, “Yes! He killed her father! He destroyed her country! He murdered all the puppies! Oh. Well. Fine. Maybe not the puppies.” And of course, the sheikh kisses like the worst bastards always do: perfectly. And in the rain. At the oasis.

Maisey had this to say about her favorite hate-mances:

“The fab Jackie Ashenden’s new release Mine to Take and Julie Anne Long’s What I Did For a Duke; in both cases, the heroes are out for revenge. In Mine to Take, Gabriel associates Honor with everything he despises and they’re at odds from the first moment they meet…except for the inconvenient bit where they also want to bang. In What I Did for a Duke, he’s trying to seduce her and ruin her in order to get revenge, but she finds out and they end up teaming up to help harass her brother a little bit, and then comes the lust. Both are superb!”

Next up, Miranda Neville’s The Duke of Dark Desires does the trick! This one isn’t out for a few more weeks, but trust me, the hero is a very bad man. He’s done questionable things in France when people like the heroine were starving and desperate and vulnerable; he’s also tried to seduce his former best friend’s wife, as one does. He’s been bad in all three of the books leading up to this one, and I love how Neville doesn’t pretend it was all a big mis. It’s not only his desires that are dark—though those are deliciously shadowy—but he really does have to contend with his past moral ambiguity.

Miranda also recollected one of my all-time favorites, Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me:

“Anthony, Viscount Bridgerton is arrogant, domineering, and the worst possible husband for Kate’s sister. Anthony thinks he’s found the perfect wife if only he can get past the bossy elder sister. Then they meet under a desk during a thunderstorm. Then they are forced to marry. And it turns out they kind of like each other. Also Kate has a corgi called Newton who may be the best dog in the whole of literature.”

Winning Ruby Heart by Jennifer LohmannSpeaking of moral ambiguity, Jennifer Lohmann’s Winning Ruby Heart offered a veritable hate-a-thon. Hero: I know I was the journalist who exposed your doping downfall, but can I do a big story about you again? Heroine: I was wrong, but I want to change; you’re still a manipulative, selfish, ambitious man who cares more about his career than anything else in life. *Megan rubs hands delightedly* This was such a great read because no one was anywhere near perfect—far from it. I love morally besmirched romantics who still get an HEA, because aren’t we all besmirched in one way or another?

A Girl Named Rose by Betty Neels should probably be in the Hate Rom Hall of Fame. The strapping Dutch surgeon, Sybren Van Der Confusenheimer und Something, repeatedly tells the heroine to her face how plain and boring and of little interest to him she is (I summarize). Yes, he’s another charmer. Of course he’s falling in love with her! Likewise, Rose has no interest in an arrogant, tight-lipped man who finds her so bland. No interest whatsoever. None, I tell you! Here, she tells him, go out with all my friends! I have no interest in you at all! Ah, yes, there’s a sly humor to Neels that brings me such joy! Instead of having any self-awareness whatsoever, the hero and heroine storm around for nearly the entire story being “irritated” and “annoyed” and hoping to never see each other again. Meanwhile, everyone in the known universe is nodding and winking and widening their eyes, all, “Yeah, they’re in love with each other but they don’t know it yet, poor dears.” And then Dr. Perfect-van-Dyck-der-Groot just shows up and (gently, but persuasively) shoves Rose into his Rolls Royce and tells her he loves her and they will be happy. And she melts, and yes, of course, yes!

Honorable Mentions, including a Megan One-Liner Synopsis:

Cathy Pegau’s Rulebreaker: Yes, I have been sent to steal your corporate secrets and betray you and destroy your life’s work, but I think we are meant to be together.

Alexis Hall’s Sand and Ruin and Gold: I know we are not even the same species, and when we embrace your merman claws tear at my flesh, but I think we are meant to be together.

Charlotte Stein’s Intrusion: Your house across the street from mine looks like a serial killer lives there, and I accused you of stealing my dog, and you are possibly even more fucked up than I am, but I think we are meant to be together.

So, gentle readers, please tell me your favorite romances that start with the main characters getting off on the wrong foot. I’m always looking to add to my extensive TBR of rocky beginnings!


Learn more about or order a copy of Roulette by Megan Mulry, available now:

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Megan Mulry writes sexy, stylish, romantic fiction. Her first book, A Royal Pain, was an NPR Book of 2012 and a USA Today bestseller. Before discovering her passion for romance novels, she worked in magazine publishing and finance. After many years in New York, Boston, London, and Chicago, she now lives with her family in Florida.  

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Kareni
What a fun post! Now I'm trying to think of some books that start this way ....
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
I love books that start out with meet-not-cutes! I also loved "The strapping Dutch surgeon, Sybren Van Der Confusenheimer und Something." HA!
3. PhoebeChase
Couples who don't like each other at the beginning of the story are so much fun! I'm also a fan of sex tinged with a little hate/anger.
Jennifer Proffitt
4. JenniferProffitt
I love the hate to love trope! It's always a situation of "methinks the character doth protest too much!" Great post, and I'll definitely be picking up these books--and yours!
5. larchwood
The Cut & Run series (M/M) by Madeline Urban and Abigail Roux. FBI agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett do NOT want to partnered together. It's never smooth sailing with these two - it started off rocky and they've had some bumps in the road, but they are my favorites.
6. Connie Reynolds
My all time favorite is Maid for the Billionaire by Ruth Cardello
7. LauraR
The latest bad start I've read was Susan Elizabeth Phillips Heroes Are My Weakness. I really didn't like the hero for the first 75% of the book. It was the first time I almost didn't finish one of her books.
8. Tabby Moray
I absolutely love the 'I hate you!' style of romance. They provide a lot of amusing fiction between the hero and heroine and when done well, it leaves the reader with a pleasant tingle when the main characters finally realize they want each other.
9. Alisha P
One of the best novels I read where the couple hates each other before falling in love is 'Then Came You' by Lisa Kleypas.
10. Hermione
You should definitely check out After the Night by Linda Howard.
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