Plot Conflict: I Hate ‘em All

If some guy said to you, “A Jewish guy cut me off while driving on the highway, so I hate Jews,” you’d think he was a complete bigot and a tool. We certainly wouldn’t think he was romance hero material.

So how is it a justifiable plot point that a guy is unwilling to commit because one woman, ONE. JUST ONE WOMAN broke his heart, dumped him, slept with his best friend, or committed some other act of douchebaggery?

I realize asking these questions may undermine the emotional tension of 65% of romance plots, particularly those in the category category, but COME ON NOW AND I MEAN IT. Unless the woman in question is his mother, and mommy issues are a whole lot of mess that we can discuss ad nauseum, how in the world can one bad experience with one person paint that person’s entire gender with such negative possibilities that a man becomes convinced that every woman walking is out to get him?

Seriously, can’t that one person just have been a douchebag?

Or is it too much to ask that actual issues be present for emotional conflict? Must we grab the Giant Broom of Judgment and push all potential mates, of the same or opposite sex depending on the romance, into the Trashbin of Plot Conflict?

I find this oddity exists in so many different subgenres, and holy pu pu platters, am I tired of it. And it happens to the heroine, too: one guy betrayed her, humiliated her in the worst way possible and caused her to doubt herself for years. It’s awful. Engagement broken, marriage shattered, presents returned, cold reality dunked into. Let there be sweeping judgments, and eternal penalties for his early withdrawal! Either she will be convinced it was entirely her own shortcomings that caused him to leave her, or she’ll suspect every man with the same color hair, or the same career, or the same history of having dated more than, say, four women in his adulthood of being just as feckless and shitful as Mr. Assmonkey. With heroines, it’s either all her fault, all men’s fault, or both. With heroes, The wimmins iz evilz. Heroes can’t be doubting themselves or their manly manful manhoods, obviously.

I understand having someone’s behavior cause you to question your own ability to gauge people for trustworthiness. I think everyone’s been there at least once in their lives. I know I’ve had to confront the fact that someone close to me wasn’t who I thought s/he was. But I don’t automatically ascribe the same behavior to all people who bear even the slightest similarity to the toolius originalis. That would make me a mighty, mighty asstool.

But in a romance, heads up: if one person acts like a tool and fractures the heart and confidence of a hero or heroine, four out of five dentists agree that a romance protagonist may therefore ascribe that behavior to the entire opposite sex for plot tension. Because that totally makes sense. Right.

I’m not even sure what to call this sweeping prejudice as plot point – nonheroism? Douchbaggery Judgmentalitis? Lame? I’m about ready to stop reading the minute Sweeping Judgment as Plot Tension rears its silly, overused head. Does this drive you bonkers, too?

Categorized:

Ranty McRant

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  1. 1
    Quizzabella says:

    “Heroes can’t be doubting themselves or their manly manful manhoods, obviously.”
    I don’t know, I’ve read quite a few novels, mostly in the paranormal genre, where the hero doesn’t go after the girl because of self loathing or fear that he’s not good enough for the heroine.
    As far as the whole all men/women are evil because one person was an asshat to me does make me want to strangle the hero/heroine though.  Especially when the “arrgh sluts, evil sluts, everyone of you with a vagina!!ii!” Goes on for so long that I find myself wanting the heroine to smack him over the head with something heavy rather than get jiggy with him.

  2. 2
    HelenB says:

    It’s right up there with, the father/brother/great-uncle once removed did me wrong so I will make this innocent woman pay, pay I tell you. It’s not sane let alone remotely adult behaviour.

  3. 3
    SheaLuna says:

    Quizzabella has a point.  Paranormal romances especially use the Plot Tool of the hero avoiding the heroine because he’s “not good enough” for her.  Generally do to some form of monster-hood such as going a little fuzzy and growing fangs once a month.  As if every female on the planet didn’t grow fangs once a month.  I know I do.

    I can kind of understand the low self-esteem of the heroine due to the extreme asshatery of a single male personage.  Especially if said self-esteem was already shaky.  After all, it happens quite a lot in real life.  I don’t mind it as long as the novel clearly shows the growth in self-confidence of the heroine (without having to be pampered nigh unto death by the hero), as long as they don’t bang on about it ad nauseum.

    But I’m with SBSarah 100% on the whole all men/women are evil because one former BF/GF slept with bestfrind/brother/twin sister/gym teacher.  Honestly, it’s so beyond stupid I can barely contain myself.  Granted, I HAVE met people like this in real life, but they are neither sane nor stable.  Certainly not hero/ine material.

  4. 4
    Trix says:

    It also drives me nuts in real life. I hear all these queer women saying “OH NOES, ONE bisexual chick dumped me for a guy, so they’re ALL skanky h0rz”. Or monogamous people who were cheated on and so decide that all polyamorous people are deluding themselves. GAH.

  5. 5
    SKapusniak says:

    Yes I agree that something written like that has ingested a heady dose of the St00pids, but…

    …I similarly wouldn’t find it credible that someone who is supposed to have had a prior horrible experience of some kind wouldn’t find themselves getting bitten by the scars of it when they find themselves in situations that are really only superficially similar.  And maybe even go out of their way to avoid such situations to an extent that’s not necessarily healthy.  Real people have real triggers.

    Also related to this sort of thing, the ‘Now they know the source of their emotional problems, they’re magically cured of them!’ trope, gets similarly annoying.

  6. 6
    Tabithaz says:

    I agree that blaming an entire sex because one member of that sex slept around is nuts.  But to add another element to the discussion: women who have been abused by men, sexually or otherwise, sometimes find it difficult to trust other men (I don’t know of any instances of this happening to men, though I’m sure they exist).  So different?  Discuss.

  7. 7

    Just when you think a trope is dying out, it comes back. This particular one I hate, because it isn’t credible unless the guy is a douchebag or he’s been locked up/in a hermit’s cell or something equally drastic ever since. Now that would make an interesting story!
    I’ve read two or three books this month that had the ‘that bitch ruined me for all women’ trope as its theme. I’m willing to go so far with an author and stretch credibility a bit because I’ve bought the ticket and I want my ride, dammit, but sometimes it’s too much.
    When the hero is supposed to be a successful businessman, it’s even more stupid, IMO. If he’s a successful anything, his judgement should have passed beyond the juvenile, but sometimes it doesn’t seem to have done.
    The author really has to sell this one to me, show me why and so far I can’t say I’m convinced.

  8. 8
    Tiffany says:

    I read this entry with a bit of acid on my tongue, because this does happen in real life, and it happened to me. My ex, the father of my child, emotionally abused me to the point where I had to pack up my son when he was 3 months old and leave in the middle of the night. That was almost a year ago and I have yet to have the desire to even try approaching another potential mate. So anyway, my point is that I do “hate” all men until they prove to me that they aren’t all douchebags. Also, the ones who make themselves available to me (even after I tell them I’m not interested in dating or casual sex) never have jobs, live with their moms, and have severe emotional issues. It’s like talking to my ex all over again.

  9. 9
    Niveau says:

    I totally agree about the “vagina = evil” plot. God, am I ever sick of that. But the insecure heroine… well, I can buy it more easily.

    As you mentioned, these plots are a lot more prevalent in category books than single-titles. Not that they don’t show up in single-title books, because they totally do. It’s just that they seem to show up in EVERY category book, as opposed to every other single-title book. But the stereotypical characters of category romance – and, okay, I’m talking mainly Presents and some of the newer Desires here – are what make me believe in the scarred heroine and reject the woman-hating hero.

    Think about your average category heroine – and yes, I do know that there are many, many exceptions to the rule, but I’m going to stereotype here. If she’s not actually a virgin, she’s usually a virgin in spirit: she’s either had sex, like, once before, or she was sexually assaulted, or she’s never enjoyed sex before. Virginity/lack of experience tends to be indicative of character in this type of book, so she’s totally “innocent” and naive. She’s also young and probably a bit of a martyr. A genuine, honest-to-goodness martyr.

    It makes total sense that if the first man she gets romantically involved with ends up being a douchebag and dumping her, she’s going to think it’s her fault. After all, she’s sweetness and goodness incarnate, so she wouldn’t think of blaming it on the man. Besides, he’d had sex before, so when he called her cold, he knew what he was talking about. Her youth and naiveté work combine with her martyr complex to make her believe whatever lies the evil ex tells her. So in this case, I don’t have a problem believing that she thinks everything was her fault.

    Now think about your average category hero. He’s either a CEO, a prince, or a prince who’s a CEO in his spare time. He’s suuuuuuper smart, because he’s built up this huge company from nothing and made amazing reforms in his nation. Yet this intelligent alpha male with a huge ego who is fully aware of his charms is convinced after one bad experience that every woman, apart from his dear mother, is an agent of Satan. Oh, sure, he blames himself (at little) for being taken in by the evil ex’s façade, but she was a mercenary bitch and every other woman must be too. Uh-huh, the super-intelligent man blames an entire gender for one woman’s whorish acts? I don’t think so. This, I have a problem with.

  10. 10
    St Margarets says:

    Sorry, I can’t get on board with this rant. I can understand the frustration if you’ve seen this emotional conflict poorly executed or if you’ve seen it too many times in too many romances recently. But I don’t think this sort of emotional conflict is untrue in any way – either in the real world or in romanceland. 

    One person can wound another person and color his/her perception of the world. It happens everyday.  I guess my question would be how many people or experiences would have to wound a character before it’s okay for him/her to be wary of the other gender or relationships?

    Instead of the analogy of being cut off in traffic, consider the analogy of a child being bitten/frightened by a big dog. Isn’t it natural for that child to be afraid of dogs – all dogs – until a sweet, kind dog comes along?

    The power of one person to make a happy ending for the protagonist is a huge part of romance.  In a novel – esp. a category – there is limited page space for backstory. Having one bad character in the past to explain why this new person is the key to the happy ending just makes sense from a story-telling point of view.

  11. 11
    shaunee says:

    I definitely think the Hate’em All contrivance has been badly overused as a big blinking neon sign pointing to The Conflict.  The minute I get a whiff of it, the book goes flying and I’m left feeling pissed and oddly insulted, i.e. “do you really think I’m that ridiculous?  Really?” and “would it have killed you to try a touch harder?”

    Having said that, DONE CORRECTLY, I think that it’s a pretty decent way to generate conflict and show character growth.  A certain amount of wariness is certainly understandable and instead of dumping the whole bottle of insta-conflict in the story (which leads to a souffle deflated by pointless Misunderstandings and Stage 5 Stupidity) how about a conversation that indicates a bit of trepidation over getting involved so quickly, so soon?  Or how about a smart hero/heroine who recognizes the wounds of their potential mate and calls them on it?

    I don’t know.  Maybe in order to fulfill the fantasy of being “taken” a certain amount of absurdly illogical behavior is necessary???  I mean, how can a proper romance heroine be overwhelmed by desire if she can see through the bullshit to what’s really coming at her?

    “Wait, wait,” Mary Sue said, pulling away from Raphael’s punishing kisses to part the veil of bullshit that had separated them from the beginning.  “Dude,” she stared at the image of his true self—unshaven, potbellied and reeking of cheap bear and cigarettes—in horror.  “You’re an asshole.”

    Not very romantic at all.

  12. 12
    Deb Kinnard says:

    This is more of a think-while-type thing, so if it’s incoherent, that’s what I expect.

    I’m wondering if there is a cultural thing going on here, and I’m talking about entire-human-race culture, not which slice of the planet your family hails from. The “evil woman” paradigm has been around for a very long time. Reading medieval history will tell you there was a love/hate relationship going on for the female gender. She was Eve who led the entire (male) race into evil…She was Mary, who bore the Savior of the entire race (both). What’s going on here? You can’t have it both ways. We’re either Virgin Mamma or Original Evil Slut.

    And men? Don’t even start me.

    They call these archetypes I believe. And the “s/he done me wrong so I can’t trust another of that gender” might simply be a culturally-mediated throwback to the “them/us” mindset I see when I read older stuff.

    Does this make any sense or is it simply another DK brain fart? My only point is: it seems contrived as a plot device, but because of these subconscious expectations about the opposite gender, the plot device might resonate more deeply than it should.

  13. 13
    Krista says:

    A year ago I would have agreed with this totally. This type of plot tends to get over-used IMO and most of the time it’s some stupid reason that’s turned the Hero against women 4eva or vice versa. I actually thought these were improbable stories. I mean seriously who paints an entire gender with one brush just because your last GF/BF kicked your dog or slept around?

    But after spending the last year “seeing” a guy off and on because his commitment button is broken because his last GF keyed his car and was totally bat-shit crazy, I now hate these books with a fiery passion and at the same time have come to appreciate them as stemming from real life issues. But I can’t read them, the guy I was seeing is not and was not Hero material and even if he had miraculously gotten over his issues because we had sex (guess this shows I do not possess a magic vajayjay) I seriously doubt he would have made me happy in the long run.

    How hard is it to go to a therapist? Hey I had daddy issues and I talked them out with a professional and moved on with my life but this dude won’t even discuss the fact that he has a problem and needs to get over it (it’s been over three years for the love all that’s holy!)

    So yeah these books are instant wall bangers for me.

    (And this is just in reference to the stupid reasons some authors give for turning a Hero/Heroine against the opposite gender, abuse whether physical or verbal is a serious issue and I can understand trust issues will arise from being a survivor.)

  14. 14
    SB Sarah says:

    Real people have real triggers.

    Totally true, and those of you who have pointed this out are absolutely right. I concede that point.

    What I absolutely despise is the minimalist approach to the trigger/scar/fear issue – which is real – wherein the hero, for example, based on one similarity between evil ex and current interest (i.e. possession of hoo-hoo) paints interest and all other women as evil based on ex’s behavior. And says nothing else. No more information or backstory other than, “She sucked. Ergo, women suck.”

    What also peeves me is that, as you pointed out, it’s a real issue, and I resent being responsible as the reader for questioning or adding in the backstory to make the conflict more real and believable so that this unilateral dismissal of the entire female gender is supportable as a plot element.

    And Tiffany: good for you for protecting yourself, and your son. You rock hard and I’m totally rooting for you. If my rant in some way insulted you or made you feel as if I were criticizing you personally, I apologize.  Not my intention at all. You get mad, mad props from me.

  15. 15
    cursingmama says:

    If it wasn’t happening in real life I would have a harder time with it’s use as a major plot point or conflict, typically I can accept it.  However, I will agree that it is overused and for some authors I think it has become a crutch, because I see it pop up in almost every book they publish.  Its too easy and, for me, has become a snooze fest of a conflict.

  16. 16
    Brooks*belle says:

    Well it only takes a few keystrokes to explain the Wow-I-got-screwed-over-by-this-one-chick/guy-and-now-I’ll-never-love-again plot point; but it takes REAL thought and creativity and TIME to explain a nuanced, real person and the things that happened to bring them to where they are now.

    Just another reason I love Laura Kinsale and her flawed heroes and heroines who touch our heart AND make sense.

    Jane Austen is, IMHO, the master of subtle layering of a character’s history, personality, and perspective to give us real tension and sweet resolution in her romances.

  17. 17
    Lynn M says:

    For me, it’s all a matter of the details. If the author presents an otherwise perfectly normal person – decent family, fairly normal happy childhood, average to romance-novel gorgeous looking – than I have a hard time believing that this person is going to be forever traumatized by the bad behaviour of just one man or one woman. This is even more the truth for me if the hero/heroine has been in relationships before.

    However, if other factors are present that give me a reason to believe he or she has trust issues or low self-esteem, or if this is the first very significant relationship, I can see how it might effect the way they handle men/women in the future. It’s like St. Margarets said about the dog – a little kid who gets bitten is going to be terrified of dogs, and that’s believable. But a full grown adult who gets bit, not so much. This situation has to be carefully set.

    To me, the mark of a good writer/story is the ability to sell this tired and farfetched premise in a way that I can believe it.

  18. 18
    Barbara says:

    @St. Margarets

    How is Holly Kirke these days?

    Barbara the W
    *hee*

  19. 19
    R-Tam says:

    Yeah, I call that the Mysoginy/Misandry plot – or just plain ol’ Sexism Plot. I can forgive it in historicals – I mean, obviously, that “evil women” aka “whoreswhoreswhores” mindset was the cultural narrative of the time, so it would be unrealistic for it to not have affected the hero. Also, apart from using them as sex objects and light and vapid conversations in ball rooms the hero would rarely interact with women. I tolerate it, but only if the hero starts examining his prejudices and in the end recognizes women’s humanity. Otherwise, the books get thrown with great force…

    I don’t read that many contemporaries, but is sounds like it’s common in them, too? Ugh, post-1970 there really is no excuse for this douchebaggery.

    “Instead of the analogy of being cut off in traffic, consider the analogy of a child being bitten/frightened by a big dog. Isn’t it natural for that child to be afraid of dogs – all dogs – until a sweet, kind dog comes along?”

    No. Just… no. This doesn’t work at all. First of all, the hero is not a child, he’s supposed to be an adult! Adults who’ve been bitten by a dog shouldn’t swear revenge against all dogs everywhere and then go out of their way to kick them. And second of all – if you don’t own a dog, you can go years without interacting with one. What with women being 50% of the population, the hero’s mother and female relations, his friend’s female relations, women he comes into contact with at work among them, there’s just no way he doesn’t interact with them. All. The. Time. To rationally think an entire gender evil all those women would have to treat him like shit and the heroine – that sweet dog – would be the exception to the rule, thus reinforcing his prejudices. OR the hero would have to actively delude himself to maintain that hatred, interpreting every action of any woman as evil, which would make him a giant hateful douchebag, projecting his issues on everyone else. It also makes him a throwback to the 1950s, so I say unto thee “Nay, foul beast”.

    Please don’t think I’m attacking you personally, Margaret, that was more like a rant sparked by your comment but directed at noone in particular.

    Tiffany

    I am very sorry to hear this has happened to you. *hug* You don’t seem like a man-hater at all, more like someone who’s been through a terrible ordeal and now takes the default position of “Don’t trust until proven trustworty”, which doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.
    Ever heard of Shakesville? Your post reminded me of sentiment expressed in this post. You might find some comfort in it.

  20. 20
    Heidi says:

    What I absolutely despise is the minimalist approach to the trigger/scar/fear issue – which is real – wherein the hero, for example, based on one similarity between evil ex and current interest (i.e. possession of hoo-hoo) paints interest and all other women as evil based on ex’s behavior. And says nothing else. No more information or backstory other than, “She sucked. Ergo, women suck.”

    I have to agree with this.  The minimalist approach is what bothers me about plots like this.

    I experienced emotional abuse and manipulation from my ex-husband.  For two years after our divorce, I couldn’t look at a red-headed man without despising them.  Of course, it wasn’t really them I despised, but the memories of my ex.  I still had friends and was able to make new friends with red hair, but that initial knee-jerk reaction was still there.  And now, four years later, I still get a twinge, it’s just not quite so venomous.

  21. 21
    shaunee says:

    With all the respect in the world to those who’ve had wretched romantic experiences and have survived and triumphed, whether or not something has happened in real life should not be a primary consideration when you’re writing a book/story.

    A certain amount of verisimiltude is appropriate, but finally it must be the hearts, minds and environment of the characters you’ve created that drive your story, not an adherence to detailing something that happens in real life.

    Deb Kinnard, you definitely hit the nail on the head. This plot contrivance is a throwback to the whole virgin/vamp (slut not vampire) argument.  Virgin=good, vamp=sex=bad therefore you cannot be a good girl and like sex, unless of course you can’t help yourself.  Falling victim to a rake or a vampire—someone/thing practiced in the sexual arts who can metaphorically steal the virgin’s will absolves her of culpability while allowing her to enjoy what is forbidden to her.

    I think the idea of adding conflict by creating a character who’s been wounded and thus despises EVERYTHING that caused that wound is an extension of the virgin/vamp concept in that it creates that monster who overwhelms the virgin.

    My frustration is not that monsters don’t exist in real life, but that the Hate’em All option persists in romance fiction despite the sexual (and intellectual and social) freedom modernity enjoys.

  22. 22

    @Lynn M

    I totally agree with you about the plausibility of the plot device depending on the broader backstory.  F’rex, in Lord of Scoundrels, a lot of Dain’s assumptions about Jess’s behaviour come from thinking she’s acting just like the one and only respectable woman he’s ever become involved with previously, but it doesn’t seem like an OTT reaction on his part because of the previous betrayals of his trust by people he loved since he was a child.

  23. 23

    Got to revisit.
    First, Tiffany, you go girl. Yes, I know what an abusive spouse can be like and you’ve done the right thing all the way.
    The other thing – because the hero thinks that All Women Are Evol that gives him the right to think the worst of the heroine, even when she’s done nothing to earn that. She’s nice to him, he’s a pig to her and assumes she’s after his money, his name, whatever.
    Mrs. Giggles repeated her awesome post on the Bad Boy recently, something all category writers should take note of and in that, she points out that they shouldn’t treat the heroine badly because of their own hangups. Totally agree with that.

  24. 24

    I agree that, when done really badly, this is a supremely annoying trope.  But I think especially when it comes to matters of attraction, we all have some highly irrational responses, and there is not a whole lot we can do about them.

    For instance: when I was in high school, there was a boy I had a crush on, on and off.  He also had a crush on me, on and off.  I think we were both aware of this, but our on and off times didn’t coincide, and plus, we were both socially awkward dorks, and we never got past the oh-my-god-I’m-too-scared-to-flirt stage.

    Fastforward about six years.  We’d both finished college, were both going to be heading off to grad school within a few hours of each other.  I had also gotten divorced a few months back.  We discovered we were in the same place, exchanged a huge number of e-mails, and trust me, the elements were all in place.

    Then we met.  And I discovered that he looked like my ex-husband—and I would never have thought about it before, because I was remembering his skinny, clean-shaven high school self, and now he had an extra thirty pounds (not in bad places, mind) and a little scruff.

    And that was it.  It was completely irrational and unfair on my part.  I should have given him a chance.  I *know* I should have given him a chance.  But it was like the attraction spigot just shut off, and the “get away! get away!” spigot just turned on.  Was he anything like my husband in personality?  No, not at all.  I knew I was being supremely unfair, and I just flat out told him, “this isn’t fair, it’s not rational, but right now, I am in a place where you squick me out, and I don’t feel as if I’m up to trying.”

    Our brain makes weird connections.  I don’t think we can help all of them.  This is especially true with regards to our perception of pain.  As people, we are wired to avoid pain, and I think that instinctively, things that have brought us pain in the past will make us flinch in the present.  This is true even if we know, rationally, that the thing we are flinching from isn’t what caused the pain.

    Now I didn’t think all men were bad.  I didn’t think that rationally, this particular man was anything like my ex, and I agonized about whether I needed to just ignore my reaction.  But it came down to the fact that even though the stars should have been aligned, I just didn’t feel any attraction.  Whether right or wrong, the mating dance is only partly about rational thought.

    I do think people can, despite their best intentions, be unfair to someone.

    That being said, I also despise the romance novel trope when the person (a) rationalizes that gut instinct, thinking “because this person makes me feel squicky for personal reasons, s/he must be a bad person,” and (b) has a trigger for this that is something so vague as the person’s sex.  At that point, if the person isn’t doing a double-take, I just can’t relate, and don’t want to.

  25. 25
    St Margarets says:

    Barbara so much for my super sekrit identity!

    R-Tam Hee. Analogies never work smoothly, do they? I see your point. No, a man isn’t a child and the kind of behavior you describe in your post certainly sounds over the top for any character.  But I stand by my point – as a *motivation*, one person impacting another’s life in a negative way *is* true to life. But like Lynn M says, the situation has to be carefully set.

  26. 26
    Keira says:

    I still like this plot even though you do make a valid point. How about two women/men screwing over the hero/heroine? Does that make the conflict redeemable? Wouldn’t a trail of dastardly woman/men make it less instead of more believable?

  27. 27
    Alpha Lyra says:

    Well, I’ll take the other side, because I’m that person (the female version). I married a sweet, gentle Catholic boy whom I always believed would be trustworthy. We were dirt poor when we married, but we both did well in the computer industry and became wealthy later on. Had two kids. And what did my sweet, gentle Catholic boy do? He dumped the kids on me and ran off with a younger, prettier woman. Our divorce was finalized a little over a year ago.

    I have no intention of ever marrying again. Dating, sure, but I’m keeping the relationships casual. If my ex, whom I thought was the most trustworthy man I knew, could betray me like that, is there a man in the world I can trust not to betray me? No. There are probably men out there who ARE trustworthy—but how can I identify them? I can’t.

    If I actually NEEDED a husband (for financial support, or to sire kids), I might try harder. But I don’t. All I need from a man now is sex and companionship, but if I can’t trust him, those things aren’t worth a damn. I have a vibrator which meets the first need, and some wonderful (and trustworthy!) female friends who meet the second.

  28. 28
    Rae says:

    Sadly, this idea almost ruined a Elizabeth Lowell book for me. A Woman Without Lies is almost an extreme version of this. The hero just repeatedly beats the heroine down (emotionally) and she was already a fragile thing in some ways. I think I actually threw the book across the room at one point. (oh, and she did it again in Eden Burning but at least had the hero realize he was a cad faster.)

    When an author abuses this trite mode too often, it’s enough to make you swear off all their books, which means you might miss a good one or two.

  29. 29

    I married the hero of this story.  Right before I forced him to be my boyfriend, I told him, “Look, one girl broke your heart, so now you’re done forever?  That’s like saying, ‘I tried german chocolate cake, and I didn’t like it, so I’m never eating cake again.’  You’re an idiot, and I’m not going to hang out with you anymore.”  He sent me an email a few days later with a picture of cake, and we’ve been together for almost eight years now.

    Yes, the trope doesn’t make sense, if you think about it logically, but people very rarely are thinking about things logically when they’re talking about their emotions.  I don’t find the, “fool me once, shame on you,” plot conflict all that terrible, so long as it is done realistically, and it isn’t dragged out.

    Because honestly, this does happen in real life.  Not even just to Mr. Jen and I.  How many women can honestly say they’ve never had a bad breakup and then were more reluctant to open up to the next guy they got involved with because of their past bad experience?

  30. 30
    Suzanne Rossi says:

    As a plot device, this situation is sadly overused. A hero/heroine can have issues with letting a past bummer of a relationship cloud their judgment about future committment, but to write off the entire sex isn’t realistic. It makes them sound cardboard, one dimensional, and worse yet, preditable.
    The minute I read about the surly hero who insults, belittles, and is just plain nasty to the heronie who takes it because she’s been in love with the jerk since grade school, I toss the book into the trash and vow never to read that author again. To have a hero that repulsive and a heroine that agreeable makes me want to hurl. Lord above, give them some intelligence and self-respect.

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