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What vampires and kittens have in common…

November 12, 2010

About a page and half into a sample of an erotic romance I was considering purchasing,  the hero lit up a cigarette. I stopped reading immediately, closed out the sample and deleted it from my Kindle.

Cigarette smoking for me is a big turn-off. I don’t mind an occasional scene where the men get together and smoke cigars over brandy (I’ve even written a few of those), but a cigarette smoking hero? Ugh! Deal breaker. Non negotiable.

I’m an author, but also a reader, and like other readers I have personal preferences. Long hair, tied-into-a-pony-tail, on men? Don’t like it. But when I run across it in a romance, I mentally give the guy a haircut and continue with the story. When hero and heroine wake up in the morning, roll over and kiss each other without even considering morning breath, if I even think about it, I shrug it off as a necessary omission of fiction and read on.

I don’t generally like tattoos. I know that darn near everyone between the ages of 18 and 35 has at least one, but I’ve seen very few that I think enhance the human body. But not too long ago, I read an erotic romance in which the heroine celebrated a new job by getting another tattoo. It so fit with the heroine’s quirky character, it was perfect. (By the way, the book was Training the Receptionist by Juniper Bell and I thought it was one of the best novels I’ve read all year).

Just because I dislike a trait or an action, doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t read the book. But on rare occasion, it does.

As for many readers it does.

I bring this up because I ran across a posting on of things that romance readers dislike. The list is so varied that it would be impossible to write something and NOT turn somebody off.

Here’s a partial list of things romance readers said they disliked:

  • Historical romances (because women didn’t shave back then)
  • Pets, especially kittens, in stories
  • Making out in the morning (the morning breath thing)
  • Having sex before getting up to pee
  • Male facial hair of any kind
  • Anything painful during sex (no spankings)
  • Businessman heroes (blue-collar reader prefers blue-collar heroes)
  • Characters who happen to have the same name as the reader’s relatives, particularly her brother
  • Vampires (Quote: “Nothing sexy about pale men with sharp teeth”)
  • Tall heroines
  • Short heroines
  • Widows/widowers
  • Large age gaps between hero and heroine
  • Large height difference between hero and heroine
  • Anal sex
  • Ménage
  • BDSM
  • “Provocative” language from the heroine during sex (but okay from the hero)

Yikes! As an author, I’ve committed most of these offenses Hell, I committed ten offenses from this list in a single novella!

Am I going to change what I write? No. Because, I know I can’t make everybody happy and readers, judging from the list, want characters who mirror their personal situation. As readers are different, so they want different, often conflicting things. A tall reader wants tall heroines. A short reader wants short heroines. A reader who wakes up with a full bladder wants characters to urinate before having sex.

My next challenge will be to write a historical BDSM paranormal romance involving a very tall international businessman vampire who falls in love with a short heroine who owns a cat and is wont to cry out, “I prithee, spank me, milord!” while having sex. I’m going to name her after somebody’s brother.

But I’ll make sure they brush and use the chamber pot first.

So, what about you? Do you have any turn-offs? And when you read them, do you toss the book aside or continue reading?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2010 3:43 pm

    This was wonderful! I love that bizarre, impossible list of what readers don’t like. So, basically, they want to stare at a blank page.

    Like you, I’ve broken most of those “don’t dos.” Do I care? Not so much. I don’t aim to turn anyone away from my stories, but I know I can’t please everyone. I’m okay with that. We all have different likes and dislikes in life and in what we enjoy reading.
    And I love your next writing challenge!

  2. November 12, 2010 4:34 pm

    Very true…you cannot make everyone happy! I’ve broken MANY of those myself!! You can only write what you want and hope there are at least a few people out there who want to read it! (well, hopefully more than a few!) I’m like you…if the description of the hero is not what I like…I change him and go on. I don’t think there’s much that stops me in my tracks… word will do it though: the C U Next Tuesday word (I can’t even type the damn thing! LOL!)

  3. November 12, 2010 4:41 pm

    Thanks for the comments, Starla & Stephanie! The list cracks me up. I mean, who doesn’t like kittens?

  4. Lezli Horn permalink
    November 13, 2010 12:36 am

    Cara, I have to admit your posting cracked me up. I hadn’t even thought of the siblings name part but now that I think of it….ewwwwww. I dont really care about character height, weight (I wish they were more real actually), and yes I guess I ‘overread’ kinda like overwriting, when I come to a character look that I am not particularly attracted to. If a story is well written I can forgive a lot but if it is poorly written, I must admit, I chuck it in the trash.

  5. November 13, 2010 12:58 am

    Lezli – reading about one’s brother would tend to spoil the mood!

  6. November 13, 2010 7:35 am

    Yeah, poorly written does it for me, more than anything else… except when women in romance novels are degraded by the author, instead of celebrated, which I’ve seen. And, gee, how is it that a cock is so much more important in status than the woman’s sexuality and her sexual desires?

    • November 13, 2010 1:38 pm

      That’s something I hadn’t considered, Savanna, but you’re right. I have read some “romances” in which the focus seems to be on pleasing the man. Since a romance is women’s fiction, it ought to be about her!

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