Saturday, October 25, 2008


Longtime readers of this blog know that the number one romance theme I cannot stand is that of soul mates. Oh, how I hate me the soul mates theme. We're talking loathe. Nothing you can say will make me change my mind (believe me, KristieJ has tried - and if she can't convince me no one can). Well guess what? I'm adding another theme to the list.

Authors, we need to talk. Please, for the love of all that is holy, think long and hard before writing adversarial couples. You know what I'm talking about. Hero and heroine despise each other. They fight, they kiss, they fight some more, they grope each other, they bicker, they make mad passionate monkey love, they argue, they fight again, they declare their love!

Seriously. Stop. It. Now.

I know why you do it. You do it because it's the quickest way to illustrate tension. The problem is, it's very hard to pull it off. For every one book where it works, there's literally hundreds where the hero and heroine come off looking like ill-tempered three-year-olds. This is a problem for me, since I like to read books about grown-ups. Grown-ups who talk and act like grown-ups. What can I say? I'm just wacky like that.

Which brings us to Snowfall by Sharon Sala.

Caitlin Bennett is a poor little rich girl whose Daddy is dead. Boo-frickin-hoo. Anywho, now she writes mystery novels, and she's been getting deranged letters from some whack-a-do. Said crazy stalker guy has also sent letters to her publisher. When an attempt is made on Caitlin's life, her editor calls his step-brother, Connor "Mac" McKee, an ex-cop turned security specialist to play bodyguard.

Caitlin and Mac have met before and don't like each other. So even though her life is in danger, instead of welcoming the guy with open arms, they pick up where their squabbling left off.

Wendy's eyes start bleeding.

In the meantime, there's an interesting suspense thread. It's obvious as hell (motive and identity), but it's still interesting. Our frustrated evil-doer is so pissed off he's taking to roaming the streets of New York raping women who look like Caitlin and slashing their faces.

I know, what a guy!

The suspense, along with the cops on the case, were the only things that kept me flipping the pages because honestly, the romance made my head hurt. When they weren't bickering, Mac was constantly calling Caitlin "Caitie," "honey," or "baby."

Gag, puke, barf. Endearments, while charming in real life, have a way of turning cloying pretty darn fast when on the printed page. While we're at it - authors, you need to stop doing that too. Just add it to the list.

Caitlin cries, dries her tears, fights with Mac, has sex with Mac, fights with him some more and then does something really colossally stupid towards the end that not only puts her safety at risk, but those of innocent people! Way to go moron! Woo Hoo! Seriously, could someone just shoot this chick and put me out of my misery?

Which leaves me wondering how the heck to grade this book. I mean, normally my utter dislike for the romantic couple would land this one somewhere in my D range. But, this just isn't "bad" enough for a D. I've read worse. Way worse. It's decently written, the suspense was nice albeit obvious, and I liked the cop characters - so let's split the difference. Final Grade = C-

Oh the joys and the dangers of unearthing long neglected books out of the TBR.


Michelle Willingham said...

Gotta say, I do think Susan Elizabeth Phillips did a great job with her book NOBODY'S BABY BUT MINE. The h/h were awfully combative, but in a hilarious way. Breakfast cereal sabotaging and so forth. :)

Wendy said...

And it works extremely well in Breathless by Laura Lee Guhrke - mostly because the heroine has a legitimate reason for despising the hero. He represented her scumbag ex-husband in their divorce (very scandalous back in 1905 Georgia!).

But these books are the exceptions to the rule....well, at least in my experience. Extremely hard to write combative characters and still make the reader care about them.

Sayuri said...

Caitlin Bennett is a poor little rich girl whose Daddy is dead. Boo-frickin-hoo.

Omg, so harsh but so funny.

I have to admit to being a sucker for pet names. In particular, baby. But only on the written page. IRL, I usually get all prickly and go, 'Who are you calling, baby? Dick!'

Go figure.

Jessica said...

I agree with Michelle that SEP can do this. I thought MATCH ME IF YOU CAN was another good example.

But I agree with Wendy that it can be a very lame shortcut to dramatic tension.

My personal experience is that I have never been attracted to someone I didn't like at least a little, and I think that's pretty common. People's bodies and minds are not as split as in romance novels. So it has to be really well done to overcome my skepticism.

azteclady said...


"Oh the joys and the dangers of unearthing long neglected books out of the TBR."

Oh yes, indeedy!

joykenn said...

Right on, Wendy! When will authors drop this theme. Some of the categories do it all the time and it is stupifying or just plain STUPID. Heroine dislikes hero cause he's bought the local mansion/estate/business/whatever and she's afraid he'll screw it up somehow so she proceeds to act like a sulky 3 year old instead of giving him a chance. Gimme a break. That plot is so old and dead it stinks.

Wendy said...

Joy: Amen sister!

A variation on that theme: Instead of letting heroine run the family business, Daddy hires the hero instead. Heroine acts like petulant toddler because Daddy's a sexist pig. So instead of leaving home, forging her own identity and getting a life outside of Daddy's sphere, she proceeds to fight, bicker and argue with the hero because gosh darn it - she can run the business so much better than any man!

Then of course they have sex, and his penis causes her to lose any common sense she may have had to begin with.

After years of collecting category romance, I recently purged all of the books that even had a whiff of this plot. My blood pressure thanks me for it every day ;-)

sybil said...

now, now, now wendy just cuz you no likey doesn't mean there aren't 10000 who lurve it ;)

Not me but uh I am sure there are many, although I do love soulmates and still giggle over KristieJ trying to learn you something *g*

hmmm I do like SEP which is filed in the odd list cuz I generally do NOT like romantic comedies.