Writing Tips

Tuesday’s Romance Pet Peeves

iStock_000011486725XSmallIn my romance reading, I encounter things that prompt a secret eye-rolling event, which I try to suppress because of karma. I know how hard writers work, pouring out their hearts in page-turning content, but these peeves weigh heavily on my mind. This is one editor’s opinion–and these peeves don’t stop me from buying books by multiple offenders.


1. Lately, I’ve been seeing many f-bombs in submissions. Why? Is the f-bomb so f-bombing romantic? You go along, eyes flowing over lovely prose, hero and heroine having a nice iced tea before embarking on their mission to quiet a coup d’état in a fictitious country. Suddenly, the hero says, “Oh, %&$*, who sweetened this iced tea?”  I curse like a sailor sometimes, but it has to be a special moment, like when I drop a stitch ten rows earlier and have to start over (f-bombing lace knitting is not fun). I either lead up to cursing with steam coming out of my ears–or I hit White Hot Rage. The romance f-bombs I’m seeing are coming out of nowhere, like in mundane speech. If you have to curse in your romance, make your swear meaningful…and rare.

2. A heroine who is described as having a “generous mouth.” I’ve seen this description since the 80s. I’m sure it’s even older. Is there another way to say this? Big, giant pillow lips? A charitable mouth (generous and charitable, practically the same thing). I wish I knew the answer… Again, if I see “a generous mouth” I won’t put down the book.

3. Saying your hero looks like Brad Pitt. I used to think it made perfect sense to compare your hero to an A-list actor. Who doesn’t think Brad Pitt is hot? Well, I don’t because I was born with a defective gene. I tend to crush on the actors who  A. look as if they’ve been beaten up several times B. have played Satan and C. do the voiceover for car/orange juice commercials (Daniel Craig, Clive Owen, Gabriel Byrne, Jeff Bridges, Donald Sutherland). As the years go by, your actor reference could date your book. Thirty years ago, if your hero resembled Michael Douglas, I would have known exactly what that meant. Now would be a different story. Your own description is more than enough to conjure that amazing hero for your readers.

And that is it for this Tuesday. Happy reading and writing!


10 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Romance Pet Peeves”

  1. LOL–all pet peeves of mine, too. I really dislike reading a book with dated references. Except The Princess Bride. That’s timeless.

  2. Characters cursing can throw me out of a scene if it’s not well done or in keeping with the tone. I’m especially jarred when the effe word is used in a love scene that’s soft and romantic.

    1. Agree! I can see it more in erotica, obviously, but in soft, flowy romantic prose, a sudden “effe” takes me out of the story.

  3. #3 especially! it makes the assumption that said star is universally appealing – or signifies what is attractive. and like you, no, it does not stop me from reading the book, though I will say it stops my momentum for a second or two.

    Similarly I dislike name dropping in the extreme, for example, Prada bags, Christian Laboutin sp? shoes, Gucci this. Lastly, when they make a reference to a person or program that is incorrect, example, I read a book that referred to a certain anchor person at a network where he had not been aligned with for more than a few years. Oy.

  4. I completely agree, Stephanie, on the fashion name-dropping. It’s a little pretentious, cliché, and unnecessary, unless for a specific purpose. And some of us (and by us, I mean me) love TJ Max! :).

  5. When dropping in on a series it is important to understand the relationships between characters established in an earlier book. However – I find it extremely annoying when two people (who know each other well e.g. brothers) hold an unnatural conversation about who everyone is and what happened before. It is an obvious and awkward method of bringing new readers up to speed. – Can’t we just have an index in the back?

  6. Ha! That would be nice, Julie. I know what you mean. Like, “Oh, did you talk to Carole, who is our stepmother?” Not cool!

  7. Hey . . . not nagging (much) but you made such a great come back and now . . . hullooooo (waving) – where are you? I miss your blog posts!! 🙂

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