Nicole Austin – Scandalous

{February 6, 2007}   Things That Drive Readers Up A Wall

Let’s stir things up a bit. <g>  

What annoying quirks make you want to slap a character in a book? Is there a particular type of story which makes you want to throw the book against the wall repeatedly or rip out the pages? Do certain types of scenes push boundaries too far? 

The members of my Yahoo group love to discuss book. Especially if they contain matter we find to be controversial or irritating. Recently we discussed things in romance stories which made us raving mad. 

Not too long ago I read a book that pissed me off to no end. Several times during the story I had vivid images running through my mind of taking my precious e-book reader and setting it in the middle of a busy street. Then I would pull up a lawn chair and calmly sip a margarita while cars smashed it to smithereens. Of course, I did not do this, but the only thing saving that particular book was how much I love my e-book reader. LOL!

I’ve digressed. <sigh> I bought the book because so many people raved about it. Big mistake! The hero and heroine were morons. If they’d only take a moment to verify the information being fed to them about each other or had the least bit of faith in their love, none of their problems would have occurred. They spent the entire book leaping to ridiculous conclusions and listening to lies. Grrrr! 

Something I really hate is when a main character is driven to take certain actions at the threat of being disowned or disinherited. Ugh! I hate spineless characters who are motivated by money. In a romance you are supposed to fall in love with the hero, not hate him. Hello! Sure, he can mess up, even act like a jerk once or twice, but not continually. And he has to make amends for his pervious actions for the reader to forgive him. 

Some of my group members have commented on the recent trend of heroines who easily accept anything the hero dishes out. They just don’t put up much of a fight any more. When any normal woman would be kicking some ass, they say okay and accept being ripped from their lives or pushed into a reality much different from what they are used to. 

Here’s a scenario for you: Heroine is knocked out, taken from her own planet by space travelers whose female population has been rendered infertile. Bound, drugged and forced to have sex with two strangers, men of a different species. Does she fight, scream, kick, try to escape? Nope, not this heroine. She prays to her religious gods. In answer she gets a feeling form the gods that she should accept these two kidnappers who want her for her baby making capabilities, so she does. <shaking head in shock> What the hell? 

I would be okay with it if the heroine comes to accept some strange new reality or revelation over time, but to just be okay with it right away. Nuh-uh. For me, it all depends on how the author handles it. If there is some basis in her past for the heroine to accept it, or if she does so overtime, it’s more believable she’d be okay with the new reality. 

Here’s another interesting trend some readers have brought up. Are e-books getting shorter? It seems like more and more of the new releases are shorts, novellas and category length with fewer and fewer novels and plus length books. Sure, it’s easier to get them out there quicker when the story is shorter, but all too many shorter books leave the reader with the feeling like they only got part of the story. 

What themes push the boundaries or romance too far? Rape scenarios tend to be very controversial, whether it’s fantasy/fetish play or coming very close to the real thing. How far can an author push it before the book is no longer romance?  

I read one extreme BDSM book where the heroine was forced into anal sex as part of her “training” to be a slave. When she objected, she was bound and gagged so she couldn’t refuse. The only thing keeping it from being rape was the hero asking her to take it with grace, to do it for him, and she nodded. The story was still categorized as erotic romance, but there really wasn’t much romantic about it. Don’t get me wrong. I love extremes and pushing boundaries, but I think some push a bit too far.

Those are some of my random thoughts and discussions on books recently. What’s your take? Are you satisfied with what you’ve been reading? Annoyed? Here’s your chance to sound off about it. What drives you up a wall in romance stories?


Annmarie McKenna says:

LMAO! Leave it to you 🙂 All right here’s one of my biggest pet peeves. Every month I go to the store and buy this particular set of category romances. Every month. Why? Who knows. I can’t stand them, they make me cry, make me want to punch the next man who walks into my line of vision in the face, make me want to tear the books into little shreds and feed it into the fireplace. Good kindling. They are all the same. Hidden children, secret babies, virgins, grandfathers who want their billionaire grandsons to marry for the co. etc. And w/o fail there is always something about the heroine that the hero doesn’t know until the very last part of the book. The entire time I’m reading, I’m screaming at them to just get it the hell over with and tell each other. Why are we skating around the issue? They dance around it for 230 pages and then duh duh duh…on page 231, wham! The hero discovers the problem. Come on. You could have dispensed with the situation on page 2 and gotten on with your lives. Every month I go through this. It’s like PMS. Something I can’t get away from. Why, I ask. Why? Why do I put myself through the torture month after month. It’s not like February’s are going to be any different from January’s. Yet you bet your sweet ass, mine will be at Walmart on the last Tuesday of the month picking up March’s line up so I can go through it again. It’s a vicious cycle. I’m totally addicted. Why?

Sandra Skidmore says:

I get bored with books that have to much background dialogue/detail. Or if it takes half of the book for the hero and heroine to meet. I want them to interact as soon as possible because I want to see their chemistry. I also want to see at least one love scene, it isn’t romance otherwise. Preferably before the end of the book, but I will accept a buildup to the final act (i.e. making out, heavy petting and then sex).

I do want the books to be longer though. Makes them last a little bit longer.

But the biggest turn off for me when I am reading a romance book, whether regular or romantica, is the background chatter. If it is too long winded, I get bored and I start skimming ahead to when the main characters start interacting. Then once I start skimming, chances are I’m not stopping until I finish the book and get the gist of the story.

If I get bored with a story for whatever reason (background, the chemistry is off, etc.), I won’t be keeping it. I want to feel as if these characters are real people and as I’m reading, I’m really experiencing their lives.

So now that I have been long winded and probably bored the heck out of everyone, my final sayings. If a book can’t keep my attention all the way though, that is my biggest peeve.

I have a real quick pet peeve.

20-something contemp heroines who listen to 80’s music. I’m serious. It is not realistic and irritates the crap out of me.

I wonder if we read the same story. Did the heroine get her head shaved? Prison camp style? If we are talking about the same thing the head shaving is actually what did it for me.

I read a book once where the hero was downright nasty to the heroine. To the point of me wanting to kick him where it hurts if you know what I mean. He was so mean, because he didn’t “understand” his feelings of tenderness toward her that he felt threatened by it.

When I say nasty, I mean he called her “ugly”, “conniving”, “manipulative”, all this stuff that she obviously wasn’t, just to push her away because he was scared of her caring for him. She’d been in love with him for half her life (why, I have no clue), but his eventual “apology” to her was a ring and an engagement. There was never even a make up scene. She got into an accident, and the hero realized what an ass he’d been, but he “apologized” by popping the question. I wanted the heroine to slap him silly, chuck his ring, stomp on his foot, and steal his car to get the hell away from him.

And this book was from a highly popular author! After reading similar reviews of this book on Amazon, saying most of her heroes were bitter and “abusive”, I’ve decided never to read this author’s books again.

I’ve also read the “forced anal” scenario, but not that same book. I don’t like reading anal anyway, and “forcing” the heroine to go through with it. I hated it. And of course it’s described as extremely painful, she even had tears in her eyes, but yet, she ends up loving it just the same. WTF? Musta missed something in translation…


As an aside, a hero calling his heroine “ugly” is a deal-breaker for me. Unless the rest of the book is him groveling before her (unlikely), he will never be redeemed in my eyes.


Jennah says:

I pretty much agree with everything everyone’s said. I’d like to add that if the hero doesn’t have a sexy name, I can’t picture him as sexy no matter how much description there is. I don’t have an example off the top of my head but if your heroes name is Herbert, I won’t enjoy the book. Trust me, there’s been a few.

Annmarie McKenna says:

You’ve read a book where the hero’s name is Herbert??? LOL, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. It would have been way too much of a distraction for me. I also have a hang up with beards and mustaches. *shrugs* do NOT ask me why. It’s just one of those things that makes me shiver. I don’t put too much stock on looks because for some reason, the characters kind of become my own when I read and I picture them based on their who they are, not on how the author says they look. I know, I’m weird. But I always get stuck when the word beard or mustache gets thrown in there, LOL.

I’m kind of the same way with regards to the beard/mustache on heroes in books. I love them in real life (mostly goatees–hubby has one), but I get turned off by a hero with one. I don’t know why.


I hate books where the characters just accept things. Like for instance, I’m reading a book now about vampires and the main female character is suddenly thrown into this dark world. At first, she’s confused, scared, angry etc. Then suddenly it’s like “Hey, it’s not so bad, I can get used to this…” It’s very unbelievable.

I also don’t like books where the main female and the main male meet on page ten and are doing it by page twenty. I mean, I understand physical attraction but COME ON! It’s ridiculous. I put this one particular book down because of that very reason, and it was from a very popular best selling author.

Also, about mean heroes: The hero in my upcoming Samhain release is a jerk. He’s mean, but he’s not mean towards his mate. He never calls her “ugly” or any nasty names, but he’s a tough character, due to the fact he never really had a family growing up and had to fend for himself. I’d be bitter too.

In some instances, a really nasty hero can be explained or can even be believable…depends on how the author does it.

Oh man, Annmarie. Why do you keep reading them? LOLOL!

That does suck, Sandra. I have a rule. If I’m still bored after 100 pages, I give up on the book.

That’s funny about the 80’s music, Lila. That wouldn’t bother me because my 19 year old listens to it from my playing it. LOL! Um…I think we’re talking about the same book. That bothered me too.

I sure don’t blame you for giving up on that author, Becka. I would have ripped out the pages reading about a hero acting like that.

I agree on the names. Something like Herbert would make me laugh if the heroine call out his name during sex.

Beards and mustaches don’t bother me. In fact, I think mustaches can be fun.

Sex right away doesn’t bother me depending on how its handled. Sometimes sex is what brings people together. Now if they stay together if sex is put first is another thing.

I agree with you Rose Marie. There is a big difference between the hero having a tortured sould and a jerk to some people, and his being an abusive ass to the heroine.

Thanks for commenting everyone! I’m making notes of what never to do in any of my books!

Annmarie McKenna says:

I was gonna say. My STEAM book that comes out this summer has them having sex on page three 🙂 Of course this is a fantasy resort and that’s what they are there for 🙂

Mmm…STEAM is a good word for Fantasmagorical! And the sex early on in the book fits the story an characters. Oh, and its really, really H O T !

If the characters have early sex, it doesn’t bother me, as long as something keeps them apart for a time, to build up more tension. But the early sex has to fit the book, like explaining a one-night stand or a prologue to years before the book starts, things like that.

I’m not a big fan of early sex and then keep the sex ongoing with no tension. The sexual tension makes me happy when they are kept apart for whatever reason and finally *do it*, because you get a more satisfying payoff than a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am.

I actually struggled with this in my second B*E*A*S*T* book, because the hero and heroine are husband and wife. He’d been “dead” for two years (or so the heroine thought) and he barely remembers her (because his memory was erased–but he can remember the way she tastes *grin*). Anyway, it was hard to keep them apart, because he desperately wanted to remember ALL of her, and she’d missed him terribly.

Thankfully, I was able to come up with a little tension between them after their early sex scene, which makes more drama for the rest of the book. That, coupled with being on the run from the Big Bad Villain, left for a good read. Or so *I* think. LOL


Ramona says:

I detest books with wimpy heros and heroines. Then there are those that are just too stupid to live – I want to take a 2×4 and pound them like a nail.

Then there are books that are going along fine and then all of a sudden it’s rolling down hill. The pacing is increased cause the author suddenly either realises that they are going to break their word limit or they just got too fedup and wanted to end it already.

And the reader is left feeling cheated or searching for the missing chapters.

Not to mention books written using a formula – where a+b=c and that it for almost every book. Change the name, country and fair color and it’s the same plot.

Then my final peeve is typos – now I can actually live with about 3 in the whole book, but not 3 in every chapter!

Pound them like a nail…LOL! I love it, Ramona! There really are only a handful of book themes, its what the author does with it that makes it original and fresh.

Typos…ugh! I always find them in book and have learned how difficult it is to rid your own writing of the dreaded things. For some reason, I tend to read what’s supposed to be there in my stories versus what really is. Its weird, but finding my own typos is incredibly difficult.

NJ Walters says:

LOL It’s interesting how we all have pet peeves when it comes to the books we read.

My biggest one is the same as Rebecca’s. I’ve read books where the hero was so mean to the heroine that no amount of apologizing is going to make up for it. I’ve actually wanted the heroine to get a backbone, stomp on the hero and walk away.

I don’t mind a man who’s all alpha–I love it in fact, but what I don’t like is a man who’s verbally or physically abusive over and over and then expects it to be okay if he just shrugs and says he’s sorry. Sometimes people fight and say things they don’t mean. If that happens once and he’s genuinely sorry and the motivation is there for the reader to understand, then that’s okay. At least when he admits to his feelings we can see the character growth. But in my world, an alpha hero wants to protect his woman, not demean or harm her.

For the reason above, I’m not really fond of a lot of heavy BDSM stuff. The light stuff that’s obviously just for play between a committed couple is fine, but the heavy duty master/slave stuff is just too much for me. I feel that a lot of it crosses a line I don’t want to. I understand that for many it’s a lifestyle choice and that’s okay and some authors are able to pull off the story beautifully. It’s just not for me and I don’t want to read about it. Too much of it borders on abuse for my comfort zone.

Other than that, I’m pretty open in my reading. But, like Nic, I’ll give a book 100 pages and if I still don’t care about the characters, then the book is toast!

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