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Old 02-18-2013, 04:17 AM   #1
linkonrad
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avoiding problematic stories

I've been slowly getting through a stack of romance novels I borrowed, in order to understand the genre a bit better.

The latest one I picked up left me feeling ill.

This was a book where the hero stalked the heroine, kidnapped her, forced himself on her, threatened violence, destroyed her possessions, and manipulated and belittled her.

I sat there thinking "Are you kidding me? Am I expected to find this romantic?" I was actually shaking with rage, and a few chapters in, I threw the book across the room. Then I had to go and watch some adorable cat videos to calm down.

I'm OK with abusive scenarios in fiction. But if it's being presented as romantic and desirable... NOPE. Can't deal with it.

In my experience, that type of behaviour IRL is the farthest thing from sexy. I read fiction to escape.

How do I avoid these types of stories? Because in this case, the front cover, blurb, prologue, and first chapter all seemed innocuous when I picked it up. The vast majority of online reviews were praising it.
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Old 02-18-2013, 04:29 AM   #2
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It can be difficult, honestly - not just in romance, but in any sort of fiction. There are certain behaviors I never want to see glamorized or glossed over, and since they don't bother everyone else, there isn't always a warning label attached.

That being said, I think your best bet is to avoid pre-90's work, since the "rapemance" was much more popular before then. And maybe avoid historicals, since those themes tend to pop up more, which makes sense since it's a reflection of the reality of those times.
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Old 02-18-2013, 04:35 AM   #3
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It was published in the 2000s. But thanks for letting me know some specifics to avoid.

I was hoping there might be some kind of a romance novel "code" or flag for a book's themes, similar to how there's certain categories of sensuality. Because I'm not familiar with the genre, there might be something I'm missing.
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Old 02-18-2013, 04:40 AM   #4
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I have this problem when reading romance novels too - "alphahole" love interests who range from just unappealing and irritating to "ought to be killed". They seem to crop up most often in historicals and urban fantasy IME, though they sometimes show up in science fiction and fantasy too. This is why I wish published novels were keyworded like fanfiction - with fanfiction it's pretty much always marked for this kind of objectionable content.
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Old 02-18-2013, 04:52 AM   #5
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If the hero is a billionaire or a tycoon, odds are not in your favor. In fact if there is a huge difference in the economic standing between the hero and heroine, tread with care. You could read the last chapter first. If the hero has to do serious groveling, you, probably aren't going to like him.

I gave up the alpha heroes because I always hoped the heroine would stick a knife in them, but she never did, so I disliked her too.

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Old 02-18-2013, 05:00 AM   #6
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I can't speak to other publishers, but my publisher (Siren) puts info with the story blurb on their website for all books they publish as to whether there is any objectionable content (forced seduction, BDSM, excessive violence, etc.). Their website is here: http://www.sirenpublishing.com/

They have an online store (www.bookstrand.com), but they also sell books not published by Siren and those books may not carry the information you're seeking.
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Old 02-18-2013, 05:17 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunandshadow View Post
They seem to crop up most often in historicals and urban fantasy IME, though they sometimes show up in science fiction and fantasy too. This is why I wish published novels were keyworded like fanfiction - with fanfiction it's pretty much always marked for this kind of objectionable content.
Yep, I was reading urban fantasy. Which is a shame, because that's the genre I want to write in.

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If the hero is a billionaire or a tycoon, odds are not in your favor. In fact if there is a huge difference in the economic standing between the hero and heroine, tread with care. You could read the last chapter first. If the hero has to do serious groveling, you, probably aren't going to like him.
Thanks a lot for the tips!

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my publisher (Siren) puts info with the story blurb on their website for all books they publish as to whether there is any objectionable content
I wish this particular story had had such a warning. I don't demand to be wrapped in cotton wool and never exposed to that kind of content. But this threw me because from the blurb I was expecting "romance", and what I got was "Stockholm Syndrome."
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Old 02-18-2013, 05:31 AM   #8
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I feel the reviews at http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/ are pretty trusthworty in that regard.
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Old 02-18-2013, 05:47 AM   #9
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A second for SBTB and glancing at reviews on Goodreads. Ignore the 5 star reviews on the latter; track down the 1-3 star reviews and see what people hated about it.
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Old 02-18-2013, 09:43 AM   #10
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As Beachgirl mentioned, Publisher websites tend to be much better at labeling books, so it's worth checking. They usually specify heat level, gender of couple, and whether there is "dubious consent" (sometimes shortened to dubcon), which seems like what you want to look out for.

There is a market for dubcon, especially in paranormal and urban fantasy. The whole vampire bride/lifemate/changeling mate concept lends itself to said plot structure (though plenty of authors do an awesome job NOT going down that path...Nalini Singh comes to mind). Christine Feehan and Kresley Cole are 2 NYT best selling authors who occasionally toe the line of dubcon using the 'mate' plot device (They are 2 of my favorite authors...so this isn't a criticism, just an observation.)

Code words in blurbs/titles/series - captured, forced, reluctant. The blurb for Kresley Cole's A Hunger Like No Other is a good example of how two of these flag words are strategically included.
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Old 02-18-2013, 11:10 AM   #11
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Quote:
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Code words in blurbs/titles/series - captured, forced, reluctant.
This drives me crazy, because I love captor/captive scenarios where the captives are treated decently and characters who are reluctant to attempt a romance due to their own fears, but it's quite difficult to find those gems among all the power exchange and abuse stuff.
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Old 02-18-2013, 02:27 PM   #12
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I've written all your advice down as Things To Remember!

Will also see if I can find some Nalini Singh novels, thanks for the rec, MsLaylaCakes.

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This drives me crazy, because I love captor/captive scenarios where the captives are treated decently and characters who are reluctant to attempt a romance due to their own fears, but it's quite difficult to find those gems among all the power exchange and abuse stuff.
That must be frustrating! I've heard there's a similar problem with those who like BDSM themed fiction, having to wade through all the dominant male/female submissive stuff.
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Old 02-18-2013, 04:18 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by linkonrad View Post
Yep, I was reading urban fantasy. Which is a shame, because that's the genre I want to write in.



I wish this particular story had had such a warning. I don't demand to be wrapped in cotton wool and never exposed to that kind of content. But this threw me because from the blurb I was expecting "romance", and what I got was "Stockholm Syndrome."

Lots of UF doesn't have that sort of thing, though; I don't think any I know of do.

But with UF you shouldn't expect "romance." You should expect UF.


I too really dislike the "alphahole," and find them unappealing. Personally I think true alphas aren't like that at all; a guy who has to abuse someone to get them to be with them isn't really a Man In Charge.
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Old 02-18-2013, 05:23 PM   #14
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Quote:
Lots of UF doesn't have that sort of thing, though; I don't think any I know of do.
I guess it was paranormal romance, then.


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I too really dislike the "alphahole," and find them unappealing. Personally I think true alphas aren't like that at all; a guy who has to abuse someone to get them to be with them isn't really a Man In Charge.
Exactly!
I don't know about you, but for me, arrogance is a massive turn-off. There's a big difference between a guy who's comfortable with who he is, and a guy who thinks the world should cater to his every whim. And I think sometimes people tend to get the two confused.
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Old 02-18-2013, 05:56 PM   #15
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Like the previous posters said, most publisher's will give you a heads up. For example Ellora's Cave almost always gives a bit of a hint/flag when there is stuff that may push someone's hot(or would it be turn them off cold?) buttons. I've had warnings for everything from their being some F/F contact, to warnings about BDSM stuff.


Now, I'm going to be the odd duck out because I love a good alpha male hunting down his mate and making her see they were fated to be together story.

If...if it is done in a way that makes me not want to kill the hero or leading lady for being abusive, too stupid too live, or just plain dumb.

For me forced seduction stories just happen to tickle my pickle, just like for some women super sweet closed door romance is what makes their bread rise. My point being is that people can have many different reactions to the same story based upon how their own unique and beautiful snowflake mind works.

In UF(or paranormal romancy UF) I've seen plenty of women buck the whole 'we are meant to be' type stuff in rather spectacular ways. The Bones/Cat dynamic comes to mind, though they weren't really 'fated' he(being a centuries old vamp) fell in love with her and she(being a modernish female) wasn't about to just swoon into his arms.

Anyways, I hope you find what you're looking for. If you need any reading recs I'm a member of a number of UF/PR groups and could ask the ladies/gents what they would recommend for you. If you're looking for some good forced seduction, let me know.
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Old 02-18-2013, 06:45 PM   #16
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*coughs*...Ahem...Ann, if you don't mind - I haven't read a good forced seduction in a good long while. Preferably of the alpha male hunting down his mate variety (vampire or shifter works for me)

Ever since Ms. Feehan's Dark series, and Ms. Cole's IAD series, well...err...slightly fizzled...(I still love them, I really do), I've been left with Nalini Singh and her next book isn't due for ages
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Old 02-18-2013, 06:54 PM   #17
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I'm going to second (or third) looking at mediocre and bad reviews. Read the blurbs carefully for hints that there may be some dangerous behaviors being glamorized.

I'm also a fan of forced seduction, but like Ann said, there is a line there. Doing it wrong isn't sexy, it's rape.

There is a NY author I've completely stopped reading because too many of the books I picked up were rapey. She's very popular, but I couldn't stand her 'romance' story lines. She did paranormal/UF type stories, fated mate scenerios, so I'm cautious about that general setup and carefully check reviews and feedback on any book in that general profile before I buy it.
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Old 02-18-2013, 07:01 PM   #18
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That seemed to be the formula for the bodice-ripper romances I would steal from my mom's bookshelf when I was a teenager.

Boy meets girl. Boy rapes girl. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy rejects girl. Girl changes everything about herself so boy will accept her back. Boy finally relents and marries girl. They live happily ever after.

It's the reason I learned to hate romances. I was much happier when I discovered Julie Garwood and Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick.
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Old 02-18-2013, 08:17 PM   #19
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Those definitely sound like the romances I read as a kid, mainly written pre-1990s, which I think someone up thread mentioned. Any more, I won't even read stuff written that long ago for that reason. Stalking and rape do not turn me on, and that's what a lot of books published then was. Even if he didn't actually rape her, the "hero" explaining to the heroine that they had to be together because, well, just because he wanted it that way and he has the penis and therefore the say-so, followed by her meekly going along with it drives me nuts. I don't need a full-on "ass-kicking" heroine in every romance I read, but a little backbone goes a long way!
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Old 02-18-2013, 08:22 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by linkonrad View Post
This was a book where the hero stalked the heroine, kidnapped her, forced himself on her, threatened violence, destroyed her possessions, and manipulated and belittled her.

How do I avoid these types of stories? Because in this case, the front cover, blurb, prologue, and first chapter all seemed innocuous when I picked it up. The vast majority of online reviews were praising it.
I haven't actually read a romance book with that sort of story line. I know they definitely exist, though. But I find them easy enough to avoid.

I always read the reviews before picking up a book, at Dear Author if there is one, and at Goodreads. But by reading the reviews at Goodreads, I mean the 2- and 3-star reviews. I find these most helpful.

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That being said, I think your best bet is to avoid pre-90's work, since the "rapemance" was much more popular before then. And maybe avoid historicals, since those themes tend to pop up more, which makes sense since it's a reflection of the reality of those times.
I haven't read any early romance novels for that reason. And a lot of those were historicals. But I read a lot of recently-published historicals (past 10 years or so) and don't have that problem.
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Old 02-18-2013, 08:24 PM   #21
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Susan Sizemore's Prime series is one of my 'fated mates' guilty pleasures. http://www.susansizemore.com/vamps.html

Yeah, her website kinda sucks, but start at the bottom and that's the first book in her 'Prime' series. It won't keep you up late at night trying to figure out plot twists, but it is still a fun series to read.

If you want something darker, PM me.

Oh- and the books kinda go downhill for me after it switches over to werewolves, but that's just me.

--PS- Angela Knight does a fun 'Mageverse' series where the hero and lady have a symbiotic relationship through blood exchange. He need her blood to live, she needs to be regularly drained in order not to have a stroke from too high of blood pressure. Seriously. Sounds weird when I break it down like that, but it's a good, lighthearted paranormal romance series with lots of 'oh I shouldn't want to jump his bones, but oh how I want that man' combined with lots of seduction on the guys part. http://www.angelasknights.com/books.html#mageverse
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Old 02-18-2013, 08:33 PM   #22
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The vast majority of online reviews were praising it.
Learn to read the subtext of reviews. Pick a reviewer who's always consistent (to the plus or minus) and stick with them.

When I'm in the mood for a Romance novel, I utterly trust www.mrsgiggles.com. I've learned that the worse she trashes a book, the more likely that I'm going to adore it. She hates the kinds of heroes I adore. She detests the kinds of story lines that just amuse me to no end. I can completely trust her reviews to show me what books I'm going to enjoy and what ones aren't worth my time. She's been helping me out like this for a long, long time.
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Old 02-18-2013, 10:45 PM   #23
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I actually see this story line more in NA/YA stories than regular adult romances these days. Personally, I hate, hate, hate these story lines so hard, I DNF a book the first time the heroine says "No" and the hero ignores it.

I have switched to mostly reading M/M. There is still occasionally a non-con or dubcon plot, but it's much, much more rare, and it's usually specified in the blurbs or content warnings. I did come across one, a may/december thing, which came across as very rape-y and predatory, and I DNFed it immediately.

Unfortunately, in a lot of M/F romance, nonconsensual or dubious consent is not always recognized for what it is because it is a normalized trope in M/F romance, and perfectly accepted as such.

If the heroine is drunk or asleep, she is unable to consent. Period. Yet how many romances have the heroine waking up to discover herself being penetrated? In any court of law, this would be rape. But it's sold as sexy in romance.

Drives me absolutely insane.
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Old 02-18-2013, 11:03 PM   #24
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If the heroine is drunk or asleep, she is unable to consent.
Yeah, that's just wrong.

But....

In cases where we are in the heroine's POV, for example, as she is saying 'no, you beast, stop, you're from our rival clan/my bestfriend's brother/etc' but her mind is saying 'OMG I can't wait to do him, but I can't let him know that', while she is jumping his bones...well I find that hot.
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Old 02-19-2013, 12:21 AM   #25
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I typically don't enjoy fated to be mated but for some reason Eve Langlais's Freakn' Shifter's series is unputdownable crack. It helps that they are written with a more lighthearted style and not as angsty as most PNR.

I really enjoy Nalini Singh but both books I've read in her Psy-Changeling series have the hero constantly touching the heroine even though it makes her uncomfortable or she says no or she's afraid of him. It really turned me off from the series even though I eat up her Guild Hunter books like candy.

For contemp BDSM I like Cherise Sinclair. I think she writes good a good aggressive Dom while still respecting the lifestyle. I've also heard Joey Hill to the lady to beat for femdom. I have three of her books on my TBR list.

You might like Sci-Fi romances. I've only read two in that subgenre so can't really recommend anything. The futuristic setting might allow authors to play with typical romance tropes without the problems.

I second looking at 1-3 star reviews. Often those will tell me more about a book that the gushing five stars. There's several blogs running around that look at social justice issues in books. Dear Author and SBTB are reliable places for reviews. They cover the entire genre so you get a good sampling of what's out there.
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