Avid romance readers will note that mainstream facets of the genre adhere to certain rules, rules that rarely if ever deviated from in all but a few sub-genres. Generally speaking, most "romance" happens between a young, exquisitely attractive Alpha male of consenting age and his sympathetic, attractive heroine. There is the initial attraction between boy and girl, followed by struggle and emotional tension as they push and pull to and from the eventual. Happy endings tend to be a must. After all, who wants to invest in a couple only to find hopelessness at the end? These are the basics of the romance novel. Many readers and publishers reject novels which don't include all of the above, as a minimum. And I don't necessarily have a problem with those. I am curious about certain 'faux pas' or sticky subjects that, when found in romance, have been known to incense, offend, or be rejected by readers altogether. Here are just a few that I've stumbled upon:
Eek. I didn't even want to type the word. But O.K. I'll be real here for a moment. In a world that has desensitized us to random acts of violence through constant depiction in everything from cartoons to the silver screen, this remains one of the few things that hasn't rendered us indifferent. So, simply put, regardless of political beliefs, people bristle when they think of it and actually don't want to think of it. I can come up with a single way that it can help a hero or heroine in terms of making them sympathetic or attractive or any of the things we writers strive to accomplish. In fact, I can't think of a single thing that would make this less of a liability. There's just no upside to it.
This is also a pretty understandable one. Even under the most amicable of circumstances, a reader might still be left to wonder about the spouse on the outside of said romance and about the likelihood of reconciliation. At the very least, a marriage is an unforgivable distraction to the story paints the offending adulterer in a potentially unforgiving light.
Popularity of Fifty Shades aside, domination and submission are an aside from and not the natural course of a romantic relationship for the vast majority of readers. In fact, some would find the domination and submission of a woman offensive and a step back from the progress the genre has made, considering the former prevalence of bodice rippers and heroes-turned-rapists. Given that, I think it's safe to say that for the vast majority of "vanillas," the industry is still a long way off from garden variety romance with little more than the occasional slap on the ass.
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More on the unspoken rules of romance.