Things to avoid when you are writing a romance

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Things Romance Readers Hate

Exotic names: Rafe, Hunter, Chase, Jason, Styx, Slade, Fury etc. Try a few old reliables like Sam, John or Robert.

He’s a man whore, she’s never been kissed. These days, readers get a bit queasy when they meet heroes with countless sexual partners – just reading about them makes you want to book an STD test. And heroines that are twenty-five and never been kissed make us very suspicious. Particularly if she’s got green eyes and a mouth made for sin.

Romances without a plot. Sure, we want the great characters and the hot sex, but we really need a good plot to hold it all together.

Villains that are immediately identifiable by their bad fashion sense, greasy hair and stinky breath.

Heroines who are immediately identifiable by their red, blonde or red/blonde hair, dainty frame, cute features and huge breasts. Especially if those heroines are called Cat and are terminally stupid. Readers are smart, we’d like to cheer for a smart heroine.

Stories where the romantic conflict is the hero and heroine bitching at each other for two hundred pages before admitting they were in love all along.

Bad research. If your novel is set in Regency London, at least do some basic research about London and the period. Read a bit of Jane Austin, if nothing else. Not every member of a noble family is Lady Cat.

Forgetting about personal hygiene. Yes, early morning sex is romantic, but just remember the bathroom and toothbrush issues.

Heroines with lots of cats, especially if she refers to them as her children and gives them names that end with her surname, for instance Prickly Paws Perkins. Even to someone who likes pets, it screams “Crazy Cat Lady”.

Using real actors to describe your characters. Sure, Al Pacino had his moments, but these days, he looks old and in need of a good wash.

Characters that ride horses or go shooting or fight with swords, and the author couldn’t be bothered learning how to do those things, or even to run it by someone who does know. Few things are more irritating to someone who rides than a “mighty white stallion waving its paws in the air after the rider reigns sharply.”

Heroines trained in sword fighting, guns, Latin, military tactics and a whole lot of other things that girls at the time were not trained in, unless you can give a really good reason for it. Don’t assume she can pass for a boy if she puts on a pair of trousers. If she really can pass for a boy, remember to make sure she’s got small breasts.

Heroines that march to the mirror to find out what they look like. Real women don’t stand gazing at themselves thinking “Long straight brown hair, kissable lips, perky breasts and a tiny waist.” They look to see if their lipstick is smudged or if their collar is twisted.

Sex scenes involving throbbing or pulsing appendages, and heroines who leak, gush or drip. Sex in the snow – can you say “shrinkage”? Sex in the sand – can you say “Ouch!”? Sex in the hay – can you say “Fleas”?

Champion athletes, bodybuilders, martial artists where the story never shows how much work goes into getting there. No-one gets that body/reflexes without hours of work in the gym every day. While we’re on the topic, muscles that result from lucky genetics are not superior to muscles acquired by hard work in the gym.

We are fine with romances that stop at the bedroom door, but if you go through that door, do it properly. “He thrust in and out and she had an orgasm” is not sexy.

Heroines, particularly kickass vampire slayers or demon hunters, who go all helpless and daft and need the hero to rescue them. Heroines who know there's a psycho seriel killer on the loose, and still go into the empty house unarmed and wearing a nightdress. Heroines who think they can take on bad guys who are armed with sub-machine guns, while she carries a can of mace.

Heroes that rape the heroine, and somehow it’s all right in the end because it proves she’s a virgin or because she forgives him, or because they really love each other. I’m all for a bit of rough sex, as long as both of them are enjoying themselves. Rape is never acceptable.

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