Everyone Else Loved It, But You Didn’t Like it at All

Catriona wrote in the Heyer/Grand Sophy thread:

Sarah, can we do a thread on romances that we want to love, we should have loved, everybody else loves them…but that we can’t stand because something just left a bad taste in our mouths?

I like this idea for two reasons. No, three. First, we’ve done it before. But let’s do a new one. It’s been years.

Second: not enjoying a book that it seems like everyone loved or enjoyed can be an isolating experience, but as I’ve learned on the internet, you’re never alone in your likes and dislikes, no matter how outlandish they might seem. 0_o

And third: everyone’s buttons are different (woo, kinky!). What ticks me off may not bother you in the slightest, and vice versa. For example, and I’ve used this example before: there are many who are intensely bothered by historical inaccuracies in romances. I am not one of these people. The Duke can in fact drive a Porsche to Almack’s, and I’m fine with it. Whatever.


As You Desire has a Boring Ass Cover.My hot button is stilted, unrealistic and awkward dialogue. If characters, like, for example, the Duke of Porsche, say things that real human beings wouldn’t say, and use cliches to the point that they don’t sound like actual people, I get really annoyed. Yanks me right out of the story and into Land of Crankypants. But the Porsche? Meh. Whatever.

I am not alone in that preference, but I do think that among romance readers, especially historical romance fans, I’m in the minority. And this is not to insult any author who busts her ass doing the research. Go on with your bad self – and your Porsche.

Catriona’s example is a bit more specific:

My example is As You Desire by Connie Brockway.  Everybody is in love with this book and it always appears on people’s top romances list.  I should love it – I enjoyed Brockway’s other books, I’m crazy about Egypt and archaeology and I love romances that are supposed to be funny and witty.  It had everything going for it. 

But I’m telling you, this book is like my own personal berserk button.  To this day, I still can’t think about it or hear somebody sing its praises without my blood pressure spiking.  My issue is with the way the author set up an “older” woman (I think she was in her early 30’s)  to be the younger heroine’s foil.  Basically, the older woman was rejected by the hero and pretty much every male in the book because she wasn’t as “perfect” as the seemingly smarter, blonder, younger heroine.  I would expect this kind of ageism/blondeism in a book from the 1970’s, but this book was from 1997!  This passage in particular, in which Marta, the other woman, sees the heroine at a restaurant, encompasses everything that bothers me about this book:

“I say,” Lord Ravenscroft suddenly breathed, “Now, there is a treasure worth coveting. Have you ever seen such a piece of tiny, golden perfection?”

…Marta followed the direction of everyone’s gaze to where Miss Carlisle’s progress through the room was marked by a wave of men scurrying to their feet as she passed.

To blatantly steal a phrase from you, Sarah: OH COME ON NOW AND I MEAN IT!  Is this supposed to be a parody?  Because it fails if it is.  I ended up feeling whole lot more sympathy for Marta, while I wanted to bury Desdemona Carlisle headfirst in the sand.  Normally the perfect, blonde, child prodigy, men-literally-fall-at-her-feet woman is the RIVAL, not the heroine.

Maybe I’m letting this bother me way too much…. But somewhere deep down, it grates on me that the heroine has to be this drop-dead gorgeous, “oh save me” frail young creature.  I often wonder why people loved this book so much when I, who was much closer to Desdemona’s age when I read it, was so bothered by the discrimination against the older, more experienced, more capable other woman.

I got to wondering, is this just a case of me finding it difficult to relate to the heroine, and seeing myself as a rival to her to the hero?  Nah, I thought Harry was an idiot too.  His famous “you are my Egypt” speech just made me cringe.  I would’ve heaved if anyone said anything so ridiculous to me, but apparently a lot of readers disagree judging by the links out there:

 I fully expect the pitchforks and torches to come after me on this one, but bring it!  Catriona “Encyclopedia Hittanica” is ready!

Ok, I’m about to come off even more objectionably: I have never read this book, but now I’m so very curious.

So, what’s your book that everyone adored, but you couldn’t enjoy it? You certainly don’t have to limit your example or response to this one. No shame and no shaming, please! Bring on your least liked books that made you feel the most isolated in your lack of enjoyment.



Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    I agree that it can be totally isolating! It doesn’t count as a romance REALLY but The Help was totally on my list for this one.

  2. 2
    Tonya says:

    I’m going to be drawn and quartered for this, but Gabaldon’s “Outlander” was a biggie for me. After hearing everyone rave about this book, I tried to like it. Hell, I tried to actually READ the book, but with only minimal success. I gave up after the scene where he beats her and *enjoys it*. Don’t care about his back story, don’t care that this scene has more context to it, don’t care that that was how it was done back then. An ass is an ass. Plus the book was boring. Ass + boring = no Tonya.

  3. 3
    Tina C. says:

    Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, is the big one for me.  Everyone loves it and it was a DNF for me.  It bored me to tears and I didn’t like Jamie at all.  Also, the Kim Harrison books.  I couldn’t get through Dead Witch Walking (again with the bored), but everyone sings the praises so much on this, I’m actually considering trying it again.

  4. 4
    mia says:

    I would have to say Something Wonderful by Judith McNaught for 3 reasons 1)why would a rich and powerful duke like Jason be forced to marry a penniless nobody?  2)Jason is kidnapped and presumed dead for most of the book and it’s just skipped over, nobody is curious to find out what happened to him in all that time? 3)Alexandra was just too….twee?  She didn’t mind the tin locket from her lousy dad, took over running the household because her mom was too distraught, saved a duke, sprouted boobs and became the toast of the ton and I think took a bullet meant for her husband… I prefer a bratty heroine to a perfect one.  I just wish I didn’t remember so much of it!

  5. 5
    Rebeca says:

    It’s not one particular book per se, but I haven’t managed to get through a single Norah Roberts novel. She’s a romance genre goddess, I know, but her overly flowery descriptions predictably derail any interest that may have been built up by her characters or plot lines. I’m never going to be her biggest fan.

    About As You Desire: I completely understand the criticism. You are absolutely right. And it didn’t bug me much. For whatever reason there are just some things that get under my skin and some that don’t. I think what those things are has more to do with my personality than the faults of a particular book. Books are generally imperfect (some more so than others) so I just enjoy what I can and pass on the rest.

  6. 6
    Ellie says:

    The Psy books.  I have repeatedly tried to get into Nalina Singh (sp) books, because I can see that she writes well, but I just cannot picture her world.  I’ve read the first Archangel one and liked it, but then that series lost me too.  It’s frustrating because I am fairly intelligent, but I just don’t GET it.  I get confused about the world she’s talking about and then I put the book down and start cleaning.  And that’s just wrong.

  7. 7
    SusiB says:

    I agree with you, Tonya. I did read the whole book, but the scene with Jamie beating Claire and getting turned on by it was when I realized that I would never read another of Gabaldon’s books. Also, Claire is, quite simply, an adulteress. She doesn’t even have any kind of reason for cheating on her first husband: after all, they’re on a kind of second honeymoon trip when the time travel happens!

  8. 8
    Erin says:

    Hated As You Desire… Love this post! Some other books I never got why everyone loved: Dream Man by Linda Howard (too graphic for me so I stopped reading. Which is weird because usually violence in books doesn’t bother me that much) and One Perfect Rose by Mary Jo Putney (too perfect… He’s not actually going to die and how fantastic, she can get pregnant. The characters annoyed me so much. This was my first Putney book and I’m afraid it’s turned me off her books forever. I do own a few of her other books so I will have to give one a try).

  9. 9
    VA Blondie says:

    Thank goodness I am not the only one who does not like the Outlander series.  I have never read the books, but the synopses never really appealed to me enough to actually take it off the shelf and read.  I think it is the idea of a generational saga.  Just makes me tired thinking about reading it.

    I also hate time travel in romance novels.  I just cannot suspend that much reality.  Maybe it just seems too obvious for me.  I do not know.  I just cannot read any book with time travel as a device.

  10. 10
    AgTigress says:

    There’s quite a little group developing here of people who are underwhelmed by Gabaldon!  I read to about half-way through Cross Stitch (which is what Outlander is called in the UK edition.  I think the first pages of the UK edition were also changed to correct historical errors in the original US edition relating to the UK in 1946, but I may have misremembered that). 

    I didn’t give up because of a specific scene.  I chucked the book out chiefly because I was bored out of my mind and the damn thing seemed set to go on forever, but also because I heartily disliked the heroine, the hero and the prose style.

    To be fair, I normally avoid time-travel stories, and I am less than enthusiastic about historicals of any period set in Scotland(*), but if the book is good enough (like Linda Howard’s Son of the Morning) I can still cope with those elements.

    (*) This is not because I dislike Scotland but because I like the country: its reality, not the woolly romantic fantasy.

  11. 11
    Megs says:

    I have to confess that Lord of Scoundrels is one of my least favorite Loretta Chase books because I spent the whole book disliking the hero and wishing that Jessica would just give up on his bullshit.

    I also never made it through Laura Kinsale’s Midsummer Moon because the heroine was too sheltered and childish, and the hero too controlling, for me to be anything but creeped out by their romance.

  12. 12
    Sophie says:

    (Wow, I think this is my first comment here! But if I save anyone else from the same unpleasant surprise…)

    I think the worst for me was “ShadowHeart” by Laura Kinsale.
    The reviews I’ve seen have made a big deal about how ~weird~ the consensual BDSM sex is, often without even mentioning the fact that the hero rapes the heroine. On the whole he was so unforgivingly horrible to her to start with, and her reasons for deciding to like him so weak, that I couldn’t buy the romance at all. Admittedly, I only got halfway through before giving up.

  13. 13
    theladyferris says:

    Outlander/Cross Stitch for me too. Needed a jolly good edit!

  14. 14
    Sycorax says:

    After persevering for several books, I gave up Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series because, while enjoyed the plots, I found the historical inaccuracies too blatant to ignore. They refer several times to rescuing people from the Bastille (which was destroyed early in the Revolution and was a symbol of the old regime besides) and at one point the hero strikes a match. I don’t always have a problem with historical inaccuracy, but moments like those kept jerking me out of the scene. Also, the heroine in the frame tale starts investing in an imaginary relationship and naming future children after meeting the hero about four times. Such an appalling stereotype of the way women think.

    I also couldn’t stand Lisa Kleypas’ Only With Your Love, which I’ve seen praised here. Too rapey, and I didn’t like either of the protagonists.

  15. 15
    Miranda says:

    I would like the Roberts’ In Death series if they killed off Roarke. I like the REST of it…Eve, her constable, the crimes, the setting. But I kept hoping Roarke died. I quit on the series after one point where the angry sex (I think Eve had been flirted with by another man or something) crossed (for me, at least) became non-consensual.

    Similarly, The Iron Duke (DNF) would have been a lot better if Rhys hadn’t been an ass. I flipped ahead, and he got better later, but by the time I quit, it was too late.

  16. 16

    Love Loretta Chase’s Carsington Brothers books.

    Loathe previous releases, including Lord of Scoundrel.

    (ducting to avoid any objects being thrown my way).

  17. 17
    Kim says:

    I will definitely chime in with Outlander.  The book was so boring and repetitive.  It took me 4 weeks to finish and I had to read other books in between to break-up the monotony.  If Claire almost got raped one more time, I was going to scream.  Also, the plot was too loose and seemed to go on and on with no apparent direction.  Out of curiosity, I tried to read the second book, and put it down after 100 pages.

    I also hated the whole beating her and liking it, but even more when she is not allowed to say no to sex.  It says something to the effect of, he would be gentle, but would not take no for an answer.  Even for the time period, I think if a man really loved and respected his wife, sex would be consensual.

    The writing is just bad. 

    Also, I read Mischief of the Mistletoe and loved it.  It was so sweet and tender and I fell in love with Turnip.  So, I tried to read the other Pink Carnation books and found myself bored.  I especially disliked the contemporary interludes.

  18. 18
    Lisa says:

    I was working in a bookstore when “Bridges of Madison County” was so wildly popular.  I will give the book its just props – it made it’s way by word-of-mouth (rather than the more usual pre-release sales quantities…)  to #1 on the New York Times list BEFORE Oprah gushed over it.

    I finally tried to read it.  DNF.  could barely start.  I remember wanting to toss the book (couldn’t, was at work, not mine…).  It was like trying to read a novel-length greeting card.  Sappy, treacle-y, ick, ick, ick.

    I also DESPISE that the book is about adultery.  As a theory, I’m OK with fully-informed, fully-consenting playing around, but that was lying and sneaking.

    I was told by an older woman (was 23 at time) “Oh, you’ll understand when you’re older”  which pretty much guaranteed that I would not.  I felt condescended to, and me? contrary much?  Heck Yes!

  19. 19
    Other Lisa says:

    I have to confess that Lord of Scoundrels is one of my least favorite Loretta Chase books because I spent the whole book disliking the hero and wishing that Jessica would just give up on his bullshit.

    Megs – I also didn’t like LoS but for the flip reason: I thought Jessica was a stone cold bitch. Any time before the invention of penicillin, you do NOT shoot somebody unless you are prepared for them them to die from the infection. Period. Everybody is always like, “Oh, she shot him, GIRL POWER!” whereas I keep thinking “I hope they get all the fragments of shirt fabric out of the wound before it turns gangrenous.” 

    Even if you ignore the risk of infection, remember that you can’t really AIM a pistol that well in those days. She could just as easily have gut-shot him. How romantic would it have been to see Jessica nursing Dain not through an adorable Poor Widdle Arm Wound but palliatively, until he died from a septic perforated colon?

    Guns are not toys. Guns are deadly and dangerous and I refuse to cheer for somebody who shot another person because it was the feisty thing to do. I’m a little hazy on the chronology, but when she pulled the trigger, she had to have decided the icon thing, or the brother thing, or the compromising thing was a death penalty offense, and that makes Jessica a terrifyingly narcissistic sociopath.

  20. 20
    Nadia says:

    LIsa, I felt the same way about “Bridges.”  Was not sympathetic to the main characters at all. 

    I cannot get into Kristan Higgins.  Everyone raves, but I DNFd “Catch of the Day” out of a combination of boredom and wanting to smack the heroine upside the head.

  21. 21
    BethSmash says:

    There are SO MANY that I don’t like that other people seem to love.  Just off the top of my head…Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel, Debbie Macomber, most of them are contemporary authors, and I prefer historicals… but Nora Roberts has 6 freakin’ shelves at the library in the romance section (she’s got more in the regular fiction… and I think 3 or 5 in the mystery section under J.D. Robb) and I just don’t get it.  I’ve tried reading (or have read) many of her books – and just don’t understand the appeal.  Although kudos to the book cover designer for her Vows series.  Those books were PRETTY.

    Also… like the original OP historical inaccuracies don’t bug me.  What I dislike, in historicals anyway, is when the girl is SO spunky it’s jarring.  Can’t think of any specific examples at the moment.  And, it’s not like I don’t like spunky heroines… but there is DEFINITELY a line.

  22. 22
    Isabel C. says:

    Julie Garwood, for me.

    She’s really good, and I get why other people like her, but…the Naive Frightened Virgin Heroine thing just makes me throw books across the room. It’s sex, Sparky; people have it every day and survive; the inevitable OMG AN ERECTION I SHALL DIE freakout just makes me want to shake the girl until she gets a grip. (Or visualize the hero as John Holmes, which is…not a good mental image. At all. Ew.)  I know they’re historicals, I know sex ed sucked back then, but the NFVH…I can’t identify, and I can’t really sympathize. Garwood is far from the only historical writer who does that trope, but she’s the one that stands out most in my mind—maybe because I’d find it so easy to like her otherwise.

  23. 23

    Well, most of you know me by now and how I can’t stand historical inaccuracies. Not because they are, but because every time I read them, I stop reading with a “They wouldn’t say that” or “They can’t do that.” So it breaks in to my reading experience. I’m sad to say that the vast majority of historical romances seem to be the inaccurate kind.

    So leave that alone. I can’t read Nora Roberts, mainly because of the head-hopping. Or to be more accurate pov shift, because you do know whose head you’re in. But I can’t do it. It’s like watching a tennis match. And I’ve tried, lots of times.

    I originally came to the US for my romance fix because I can’t like the saga, the historical novel that is, or was until recently, big in the UK. It’s misery right up to the end, where the happy ending kicks in. So popular they edged out all over books for years.

    Not many romantic comedies work for me, especially when they’re of the slapstick variety. I can appreciate that Laurel and Hardy are very clever comedians, but they don’t make me laugh.

    Put me down as another Outlander disliker. That book was too damned long and it was deeply boring. To me.

    Secret baby books. I know they’re popular, but I can’t be doing with them, even from my favorite authors. But I keep reading them, just in case the author pulls it off this time. Two things – the father has a right to know, and maintenance needs to be claimed, if only for the child’s sake (in the UK you have no choice. If you claim benefit, then they will insist on knowing the baby’s father and dinging him for maintenance).

    The Iron Duke, although I suspect that the hype was so huge by the time I actually settled down to read it, that I expected too much.

    Does anyone find the other thing? When you love a book that you’re supposed to like, one that has received universal hatred? Or one you know you’re not supposed to like, because it has a theme that’s distinctly non pc? Me? Oh yeah. But I’m not telling. It’s my guilty secret…

  24. 24

    Sorry about the generalisation in the first para of the last. I didn’t mean it to sound like that, honestly. I’m sure the authors try very hard, and please, give them British editors! I have US editors for my US character books, and without them, I’d be just as bad, although I try very hard to get it right.

  25. 25
    Kerry Allen says:

    I could not DNF Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound and Gail Carriger’s Soulless fast enough. Such abysmal writing, I’ve lost all respect for anyone who recommended them.

    The Iron Duke might have made an excellent girl-detective adventure. Hated the romance. Particularly hated the rape-her-til-she-likes-it oral scene that nobody else seems to have a problem with.

  26. 26
    Wendy says:

    Not romance, but I’m not in with The Hunger Games. It drove me bats. Sure, it was fast-paced and tightly written, but I didn’t buy the world building and Katniss was not relatable. She MIGHT have been when I was 15, but I know plenty of women in their 30s (and beyond) who enjoyed this book. Not this woman.
    I’m really over coldness/fightiness=strength. I deployed it in a long story I wrote at 17. It just strikes me as juvenile, appropriate for the story or not.
    But really…my big sticking point remains the world building, and maybe it gets more apparent in the later books that the gov’t and the wealthy districts really are as dark and decadent as we’re told they are, but that was not the impression I got. Thus, the whole “make your kids fight to the death” thing never seemed plausible.

    I’m also going to wave at the Outlander crowd. :) I remember blogging while I was reading it something to the tune of: “This book in a nutshell—Oh, Scotland is beautiful. No. YOU are. No YOU. Let’s bone.” Gabaldon clearly loves her characters, but writes about them in a very self-indulgent way. I just never cared.

  27. 27
    Sandra says:


    I also never made it through Laura Kinsale’s Midsummer Moon because the heroine was too sheltered and childish, and the hero too controlling, for me to be anything but creeped out by their romance.

    Yes!!! This is the one book that irritates the crap out of me, because I went into it expecting great things and it didn’t happen. Everyone raves about Kinsale, and I had never read her, so I picked this one up for starters. It’s not that the story wasn’t well written, because it was, it was just STUPID.

    You have Love Potion #9; a hero who rapes the heroine under the influence, but then tries to do the right thing and marry her. (She wasn’t even fazed. She was designing a flying machine in her mind while it was happening!!! Great start to a relationship. This usually happens after you’ve been in one for a while and are going through the motions.)

    You have a TSTL heroine, who lives in a fantasy world, and manages to get herself kidnapped, not once but twice. You have a hedgehog (who seems to have started a fad for hedgehogs as plot bunnies) who only shows up to advance the story. You have a hero who tricks an amnesiac heroine into marriage. You have an entire house full of the hero’s family and employees (who depend on him for their upkeep) going out of their way to deceive him (and demolish his ballroom) after being told not to help Merlin build her flying machine.

    I especially did not like the way Merlin walked around with blinders on, single-mindedly focused on her one goal, and did not change or grow at all by the end of the book, while everyone else, including the hero, eventually bent over backwards to accommodate her. (And that seems to be one of things people love so much about this book—how much he was willing to change for her. What about her changing for him?) Her response, when he says she can build all the flying machines she wants—“Oh, I’m done with that. Now I’m going to build a space ship.” She doesn’t need a husband, she needs a keeper. I never got the feeling that she loved him. He was just deep pockets and a means to an end.

    Not the least bit BITTER, am I? I probably would have been less so, if I’d had a book to pitch across the room. But I read it as an e-book on my computer. Deleting it’s not quite the same thing.

  28. 28
    Chelsea says:

    Unlike most paranormal romance fans, I was not totally WOWed by Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound. It was…ok. Readable, nothing special.

    Also Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling books (love the Guild Hunter ones). I just couldn’t get immersed in the Psy-changeling world.

    I kind of hate Lora Leigh’s writing. I’ve tried two separate series by her now, and I’ve realized I just don’t care for hers style—but I know to some people she’s like CRACK.

    Oh there is more…J.D Robb’s In Death books—loved the first three, then I abruptly stopped caring. I am not a fan of murder mysteries in general.

    Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake books. And God knows I tried. But the early ones bored me and the later ones were all sex (which you’d think would be a good thing), I just found them gross and pointless.

    OH! This one’s kind of obvious—Twilight. I love vampires, I love angst, I love YA, so wouldn’t you think I’d be a Twilight fan? Nope. I find the heroine TSTL, the love triangle contrived and annoying, and the plot generally uninspired.

    Wow, I didn’t know I had that much book hate inside me…

  29. 29
    Catriona says:

    Wow, I never expected Outlander to receive so many votes, but I’m kind of relieved because I wasn’t a big fan either.  The whole beating thing, the ridiculous barehanded wolf-killing and the tedious ending.  Pass! 

    Also, I’ve never been able to read Bet Me.  I read an excerpt of the first chapter, and the whole idea of the bet made me uncomfortable.  I didn’t know if I could root for a hero who would take a dare like that, even if he does get his ass handed to him at the end.

  30. 30
    Jennifer says:

    Pink Carnation was a DNF – it wasn’t the historical inaccuracies – I don’t necessarily expect historical romances to be accurate – I think it was the time travelling.  I did read a number of the Outlander series – I wasn’t prepared to spend money on them, but borrowed from the library.

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