You call this a decent plot device? PAH! I SPIT ON THAT PLOT DEVICE!

Yesterday was all about the wonderfulness of lovin’ the virgin heroes and friends who eventually boink, so today I’m back to bitching and moaning. Here are the plot devices that, in my opinion, suck muchos cojones de los burros.

Secret Babies
E.D’Trix brought this up in the Comments, and oh my, I am reminded of how very, very much I hate this plot device. Hatehatehatehate. Beth hatin’ on Gaelen Foley kind of hate. I can sort of understand it in a historical, because having a baby out of wedlock was something most people tried to keep quiet and hidden, but the majority of secret baby books are contemporaries. Most of these books make me go “What the FUCK are you thinking, you stupid cow?” much more often than is conducive to a pleasant reading experience. Because first of all: Raising a child is hard. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it. FUCK that pride, there’s a new life to take care of. And most of the heroines raising these secret babies aren’t exactly Paris Hilton (financially, at least; there is definitely more than a passing resemblance to Paris in the IQ department), so add financial hardship to everything. Bottom line: if the heroine is not all that well-off, alone and pregnant and she doesn’t make an effort to track the babydaddy down and at least inform him that he’s about to be a dad, much less get him to help her on child support, she’s not heroine material, she’s a dumb whore who needs to learn that Planned Parenthood offers free condoms and Ortho Tricyclen at only $17.00/pack.

There may be the occasional secret baby book that’s worth reading, but most have made me actively wish the heroine had an abortion instead. The worst is when the heroine acts all pissy because the hero finds out he’s been a father lo these many years and wants to be an active part of the child’s life and she uses that as an excuse to act like a psycho hosebeast while humping him without birth control YET FUCKING AGAIN. That just makes me wish the heroine’s mom had had an abortion.

Big Misunderstandings
Much has been said about this. Let’s just say I’m not fond of books in which the conflict could’ve been resolved with a simple query, like: “Hey, is that your long-lost half-brother I saw you hugging in that garden the other night? Oh, cool. Whew. For a moment there I had the crazy idea that you were cheating on me.”

That said, I’m pretty sure quite a few of my favorite books feature Big Misunderstandings in one form or another. The Windflower, for example. I mean, Merry has a pretty good reason to perpetuate it, but still, at one point I did fervently wish she’d confide in Devon, except he WAS an asshole to her on more than one occasion….

Older Couples
This isn’t any fault of the books or the plot device, it’s strictly a personal prejudice. If the couple is older than 45 years old or so, I picture my parents making out and kissing. I can’t help it. Buzz. Kill. I’m sure as I grow older I’ll stop being such a stupid bitch about this type of story, but until then, I generally like my protagonists to be between 18 to 40 years old.

Enemies Into Lovers
I’m talking blood enemies, not merely pointed sparring like, say, Jessica and and Sebastian engage in in Lord of Scoundrels. I’m talking “He killed my father and I’m a sassy Scottish lass who will hate his piggish Sassenach self forever and ever, nyah!” kind of stories. These stories usually feature some truly appalling behavior on both the hero and heroine’s parts. But again, some of my favorite books and authors feature this sort of story. Shana Abe does them quite well, for example, but that’s because she doesn’t have the hero or heroine acting like assheads all the time.

The Sudden Realization of Lurve­®
This well-worn plot device was utilized in older historicals and is still somewhat frequently used in certain types of category romances. This plot device is frequently used in conjunction with Enemies into Lovers. Hero and heroine fight, fight, fight, fight and hate, hate, hate, hate right up until page 398 of a 400-page novel. Then all of a sudden, one of them realizes: they’re fighting because they LOVE each other. This revelation typically comes out of nowhere and makes me wonder what kind of crack the character was smoking. Everything is then resolved at warp speed. I close the book fully expecting more insane fights in the couple’s future and a host of poor little crack-babies being born to the heroine.


Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. E.D'Trix says:

    I must say that I really, truly hate the “strong, kick-ass woman beaten into submission by the power of luuuurve” story. You know the type, the heroine is a cop, military pro, warrior, strong ballsy business woman, etc. and because of the hero’s mighty whang, she suddenly must compromise her very being and submit to his author-i-tah. I. Hate. That.

    I think that is why I really, really liked Ruth Wind’s new Bombshell, Countdown. The heroine is a kickass uber-spy who literally gets into bloody, knockdown-dragout fights with the bad guys, and though the hero sympathizes with her injuries, he never once (NOT ONCE!) suggests she stay home, leave the fightin’ to him, or rest her sweet head on his manly breast-a-sis. He is following her lead quite often, and I found it so very refreshing, that I am still amped about it several weeks later.

  2. Candy says:

    Oh my GOD yes, I totally agree. I also really, really hate it when the woman is allegedly hell on wheels when it comes to her job but becomes this complete blithering, incompetent idiot once she meets the hero (ref. The Real Deal, several Linda Howard novels, almost any novel in which the heroine and hero are business adversaries), and then the hero saunters onto the scene, twitches his left pec muscle and All Is Right Again. Bah and humbug.

    I just bought the Ruth Wind bombshell. So glad to hear it’s good, and that the heroine kicks ass. Barbara Samuel/Ruth Wind.

  3. Sarah says:

    I hate it when the back cover makes it sound like the heroine is indeed a master at her task, especially if it’s cool like a wartime spy or a master of some craft or skill – but then the book itself has her pegged as some amateur who wishes she were a master, but of course she can’t be complete in her own right without the hero, so why should she be a master of anything? Her mastery is present only through and in him.


  4. Wendy Duren says:

    Secret Babies?  Hate them.  And, really, really wants to know who reads them and begs for more?  Those books clearly have an audience.  Speak up ladies and explain yourselves.

    Big Misunderstanding?  Grrr.  Please do not fill up 400 pages of heroes and heroines fighting over something that could be cleared up in a conversation.

    Older Couples?  Don’t hate them as much as they just make me feel icky.  If there are any out there where the author doesn’t make a big deal about how “worn in” in the heroine is, I *might* be willing to try them.

    Hey Sarah, what about back covers that detail action that takes place in the first five pages of the book, so that you’re left wondering: what about the next 245 pages of this book?

  5. Sarah says:

    UGH I hate cover copy that details the first few pages. Or worse- the absolute WORST kind of cover copy: a letter from the hero to the reader.


  6. AngieW says:

    Well, you don’t like older couples, I don’t like the older woman, much younger man plot device. It’s the whole Ashton Kutcher/Demi Moore thing and it’s sad because I don’t mind it in the reverse. Again, therapy might help me figure these issues out!

    Another plot device that I always pass on is the significant other who dies and comes back as an angel to lead the other person to love. That’s kind of wierd for me. Who would want their dead spouse to act as their dating service and watch them get their groove on. Ew. Ew. Ew.

  7. HelenKay says:

    A cover blurb that’s a letter from the hero?  That’s a stupid of epic proportions.  Please tell me whatever publishing genuis did that has now been fired.  It’s possible that’s worse than secret babies.  Actually, no it isn’t. Nothing is worse than the secret baby everyone in town somehow knows about except the clueless father who lives on the other end of town and just never happens to see his ex-girlfriend until the kid is 3 and cute as a bunny.  Yuck….

  8. Beth says:

    I love that I am now a standard for hate.

    LOVE. IT.

  9. Sarah says:

    The letter from the hero – I’ve seen that on a couple of books. It’s insipid. I first saw it on the last of the Catherine Coulter historicals, before she switched to writing befuddling contemporaries with frustratingly inept heroines. I saw one recently on a paranormal with a shapeshifter, something about “I have a secret. I cannot let her find out what it is.”

    Oh it is so freaking stupid. Someone took the idea of reader identification with the hero a liiiiittle too far.

  10. Candy says:

    Beth: you have upped the standards of funny vitriol to near-unreachable heights, standards previously held by Mrs. Giggles when she encountered yet another virgin heroine.

  11. Candy says:

    Oh, and that letter-to-the-reader cover blurb idea? I think there’s a very, very special circle in Hell for the person(s) who thought up of that, and I think part of it involves watching a crying Tammy Faye Bakker karaoke to Petunia Clark songs over and over and over again.

  12. Wendy Duren says:

    Currently wearing my dunce hat with pride, but would anyone like to edit secrete to secret for me?

  13. Bron says:

    Can you imagine my horror when I realized that the book I’d plotted and written two chapters of could be said to have BOTH a bad-boy-returned-to-small-town and a secret baby? And here was me thinking I was breaking new ground and being original.

    Oh well, at least the ‘secret baby’ isn’t a cutesy kid, and it’s not the heroine’s, either, and the whole thing is a lot darker and more complex than the average bad-boy-secret-baby category romance. Maybe no-one will ever notice…

  14. KarenS says:

    I absolutely hate weak heroines!  A lot of romance readers have been very vocal in their dislike of the wet blanket heroine, so I’m always flabbergasted when a writer, endeavours to make her heroine as stupid and weak as possible, what’s up with that?
    I also hate romance couples who spend the majority of the book fighting and insulting one another, then somehow get caught up in their torrid feelings for one another, and then proceed to live happily ever after.  I wouldn’t treat a cockroach as bad as some of these couples treat each other. I just don’t buy it.

  15. Jorie says:

    Bron, I can like secret babies.  I already posted about it here.  I don’t really want to overstate how much I like secret babies.  There have been a number of books that didn’t fly because the explanation for the secret was too weak or overwrought, but, still, I can have fun with them.  And I may write one some day.

  16. Kate R says:

    I’m not worried, Bron. If your babies are secret, I’m sure the reasons won’t be:
    fear of child being taken by father’s rich family.
    feud with father.
    avoidance of another nearly-finished book.

    K, waiting…..

  17. white raven says:

    I don’t necessarily hate secret-baby plots.  I just think they’re worn out.  Plus, the plot device usually has a very weak setup, especially in a contemporary. 

    One secret-baby book that I liked was by Katherine Sutcliffe.  My Only Love?  I think that was the title.  It had more of a realistic setup because it was a historical, and there was fallout for the heroine for having a child out of wedlock.

    Now, I’ll have to disagree with you on the older couples or older woman/younger man.  I really like the idea of the latter.  I’m 37 and have become more enthusiastic about reading of an older heroine than one in her very early twenties.  An age thing, I suppose.

  18. HelenKay says:

    ACK! White Raven, you are forbidden from using the words “older heroine” in the same sentence with the age 37 ever again.  It’s not my blog but still, you’re killing me. I had just convinced myself turning 37 did not require me buying a wheelchair.  Now I’m sad again.

  19. Candy says:

    White Raven: just to clarify, I like older women/younger men romances; I wasn’t sure from the context of the message whether you liked or disliked the idea.

    And I fully acknowledge that the case of the squicks I get when I read about people over 50 gettin’ it on is purely a personal thing, one that I’ll almost definitely outgrow, and is not at all the fault of the plot or the author using it.

  20. Shannon says:

    So, Candy…does that throbbing heart count as an animated GIF?  You know, kind of like the Spider-Man one.  😉

  21. Candy says:

    Yes, yes it does. :down: My only comfort is that I only use it in the comments, and never in the actual blog itself.

  22. Candy says:

    Bron: There are secret baby plots, and there are SeKrIt BaYbEe plots. I’m able to stomach ‘em as long as there’s a good explanation for why the mom had to keep the baby a secret from the dad, especially if the heroine is the mom and the hero is the dad, but too often the explanations are so silly they make me want to (as my mom would say) vomit blood. I’m confident that a person of your intelligence and discrimination would be able to avoid those pitfalls. 🙂

    Oh, and Wendy: I JUST noticed that I can edit comments to this site. So yeah, got rid of that extraneous “e” for ya.

    Now to hunt down all those old comments I made with jaw-dropping typos….

  23. Maili says:

    “there’s a good explanation for why the mom had to keep the baby a secret from the dad”

    Wait. There is a good explanation? *thinking* The dad is a mad killer? A fancy criminal? A pimpzilla? A necrophile?

  24. Bron says:

    Been arrested and sent to prison for the death of another girl, and they were only 18 and it was a stupid one night stand and her parents are really oppressive and make her adopt the baby out and she’s not the heroine, anyway???

    Hope that works for you, Maili 😉

    Oh, and the ‘baby’ is now almost 17, and pregnant herself. It’s not really a scret baby plot in that the heroine is not involved with the ‘baby’ other than having befriended her recently. So maybe I’ll get away with it.

    And yes, Kate, I’m FTDB. I’ve scarcely touched this one for months. I just think about it when I’m driving to and from work. But the other will be finished in a week or so. Really. Probably.

  25. white raven says:

    Candy:  Oh, there’s no need to clarify.  I probably just didn’t express myself adequately in that post.  Sorry about that.  :blank:

    The older couple romance used to squick me as well.  It was only recently that I got over it by reading some beautifully written fiction by one author didn’t dwell on the age thing too much.  Because of that, I wasn’t always reminded that the protagonists were not too much younger than my own parents.  🙂

    The older woman/younger man scenario also has much more appeal for me these days.  I think there’s still a societal taboo about it so that gets my attention on its own. 

    Helenkay:  LOL.  You’re right.  I’ve been dwelling too much lately on my continually increasing number of gray hairs and the fact that portions of my anatomy aren’t defying gravity the way they used to.  I really should push that wheelchair back in the closet where it belongs. 🙂

  26. Kate says:

    Speaking of older women/younger men, did you see that Colin Ferrell fulfilled old ladies’ fantasies everywhere by begging 70-yr-old Dame Eileen Atkins to sleep with him? (She refused. For some reason the 42 year difference bugged her)

  27. white raven says:

    Kate:  For real?  LOL.  I’d love to read about that. 

    A friend of mine, who is a huge Keanu Reeves fan, sent a couple of us an article that talked about a budding relationship between him and Diane Keaton.  All I can say is “Go, Diane!”

  28. Sarah says:

    Older couples don’t squick me out, if both parties are older. I haven’t read many May-December romances with the older heroine, but the older hero, that might give me the squidgies. But if both parties are getting it on and they are older, I don’t know that it bothers me that much.

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