Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Pet Peeves + 5 Fab Fixes for Romance in Books

TopTenTuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a list created by the book loving crew at The Broke and the Bookish. Every Tuesday is a different topic and everyone is invited to join in the fun. So let’s do this!

Everyone loves romance, even if you don’t specifically read romance novels. No matter what genre you prefer, there is often a romantic subplot skipping through the story. Especially in YA. Teens are preoccupied with finding love. How could they not be with all those new hormones coursing through their bodies? Since YA encompasses every genre imaginable, it should be the best place to find a wide range of romantic scenarios, but too often YA lit falls victim to the tried and true cliche. Here’s a list of the worst offenders and what I would rather see instead…

LoveTriangle-Twilight1. The Love Triangle

What bugs me about love triangles is not their shape, but their composition. The vast majority of these trios are two hot boys vying for the love of one girl, and frankly it’s boring. Why not mix it up and make the heroine choose between a hot boy and a hot girl. Or make the other girl or boy the heroine’s competition for the third person’s love. Or make the fight not about romantic love, but about friend love. Or have the objects of lust not notice the heroine so she has to pursue them without knowing if either even likes her! See? I just gave you way more than one fix for this overused trope, so please stop writing heroine + hot boy + another hot boy.

2. The Heroine with No Girlfriends

Maybe it’s something about writers who were loners as teenagers, but I’m so sick of the shy, nerd girl who isn’t popular and doesn’t have any friends except maybe one (who is always more popular than the heroine), and then this hot guy comes along and shows interest in her and wow! Her whole life changes! Please, this isn’t a low-budget TV show without the funds to give the lead actor more than one friend. This is a book! It doesn’t cost you anything to make the heroine a sociable musician or popular athlete or smart-girl-who’s-not-a-loner. Give her some pals! Give her a life! It’s not only the lonely who are looking for love.

3. The Perfect Boy

Often the heroine’s love interest is good-looking, smart and rich. And oh so mysterious. Plus his eyes are probably blue. Bonus points if he has an accent. I know that romance is supposed to be a fantasy, but I want some realism! Give me characters with a range of looks and talents and economic backgrounds. Make the protagonist fall for someone who is not seemingly perfect, who has faults and makes mistakes and isn’t impossibly tuned into the heroine’s feelings. No one needs to be perfect to be loveable. Trust me.

4. The Innocent Virgin

Things have changed since I was a teenager. The Internet wasn’t good for much in the ‘90s. It took many minutes simply to load a photo. Needless to say, I learned about sex by talking to my friends, listening to rumours, watching movies, and going out with guys. But in the 21st century, information about sex is everywhere! Most pre-teens know more about it than I did in my mid-twenties! That’s not to say they have experience yet, but for better or for worse they have information regarding the act the previous generation did not. So when I read about teen characters who are all innocent and clueless, I can’t help but roll my eyes. It’s just not believable, unless they’ve been held captive in a backwoods cabin with no computer their whole lives. This doesn’t mean your characters can’t be virgins. They can be, just make sure they’re not completely naive regarding the subject.

5. Love Taking Precedence Over Possible Death

I admit that most of the entries in my teen diaries were all about boys, but I was not living in a dystopian wasteland or trying to survive a war or hiding from hungry zombies. Yet I read books with these life-and-death stakes where the romantic leads spend way too much time making moony eyes at each other. Come on! You’re about to get your brains eaten! You would not be thinking about kissing him, you’d be thinking RUN! To fix this, moony eyes and romantic thoughts should only occur when the characters are momentarily safe.

And there’s my list! I’m sure you noticed I didn’t mention Instalove. That’s a pet peeve so big I’ve already written an entire blog post on it – complete with fixes as well. Check it out here.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I would love to read some romances that subvert these overused cliches. If you have any recommendations, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!


Author: Heather Jackson

Heather is a freelance screenwriter, game writer, and novelist based in Toronto. For more, visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @HeatherJacksonW

18 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Pet Peeves + 5 Fab Fixes for Romance in Books”

  1. I think you would like the plot of my book…though for the life of me I can’t think of how to explain it without giving the plot away. Just very happy I haven’t fallen into any of these pitfalls ?

  2. I loved this list! This is the reason I stopped reading the NA genre. It’s filled with all of those issues and I’m tired of it. Then again, I do like a bit of realism to my books, even if I’m reading for escapism.

    1. Thanks, Samantha! I’ve done the same with YA – if a book even hints there’s a love triangle, I back away. I find I’d rather read a non-romance book and just make up a love subplot myself. 🙂

  3. I see your point, Heather. But I would also add that sometimes I just want the predictability of happily ever after and secret identity and cats and poor unnoticed girl gets greatest guy ever. I am 50 something years old and I have lived through plenty of realism. It’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. So I’ll take the unrealistic escapism that I depend on in my romances!

    1. That is true, and a reason that many people enjoy romance novels. Luckily there’s no shortage of books featuring unnoticed heroines and dream guys! For those who want something different, alas, that is harder to find.

    1. It is funny that love triangles have become a go-to for romance, because really, a situation like that rarely happens. But I guess that’s a popular fantasy for many – oh wow, TWO people are into me!

  4. I completely agree with you about the innocent virgin thing. I don’t mind characters being innocent, but being incredibly, unbelievably naive is a completely different story!

  5. Those were some great 5 points, I agree with ALL of them!!
    However the first two are the best in my opinion. First of all, I would totally do a friendship triangle or a triangle were the heroine has to choose between a guy and a girl, that would be INCREDIBLE!!
    And also, seriously. A friend or two for the heroine, what’s wrong with that? It’s not believable that they’re so antisocial and ugly and so on and then they just find and conquer the hottest guy on earth. PLEASE!

  6. I’m not a huge fan of love triangles or insta-love myself. The latter’s just not believable to me, and the former… apart from the stories that add a twist to the triangle, I guess I’m just tired of how frequently they occur in the books I read. I might go read your insta-love article for kicks… Interested to see what you have to say about it.

    Have you read any of Kristin Cashore’s books? She’s a YA fantasy writer, and her novel “Fire” bucks a couple of the pet peeves you listed above. It’s also my favorite book of hers so far, so I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys that genre.

    1. Thanks so much for the suggestion, Sara! I’ve put “Fire” on my Goodreads list. I enjoyed Cashore’s first novel “Graceling” a lot, “Bitterblue” not so much, but if this is the best book yet than yippee!

  7. Boy do I love this post–especially your comments about the love triangle!! All of them are great though. Those very things are what often turn me off to romance fiction. I know the genre requires a happy ending, but I could use a little nuance in the happy as well.

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