The Pitfalls of Series Romance
June 29, 2011
The ongoing Urban Fantasy series can be a mixed blessing. While it’s often great to revisit familiar settings year after year, each new entry runs the risk of steering a series in a direction I won’t enjoy. A series needs to stay fresh, but changes to character, situation, or style may disappoint me. I like each book to have its own contained story, but sometimes those get swamped by larger story arcs. Something interesting that I’ve learned about my own preferences is that romance plots are the thing most likely to sour me on a series.
Here’s the list of romance elements that bug me.
- The Eternal Love Triangle
Nothing makes me want to smack a heroine faster than when she spends six books trying to decide between suitors. No, honey, you can’t have them both, and if you try to then it kind of makes me think you’re a bad person. A love triangle needs to be resolved in a reasonable amount of time.
- Sudden Asshole Syndrome
Don’t you hate it when an established love interest suddenly turns into a total jerk just to provoke a breakup or inject some drama? I hate it. I hate it a lot. Don’t spend a couple of books getting the main character to fall for someone only to have that person go from hero to jerk without warning.
- Speed Dating
Heroines who establish a pattern of changing their boyfriend more often than I clean out my fridge bother me. At some point it starts to feel like the author values the sexual tension more than the characters. The need to explode existing relationships also tends to lead to Sudden Asshole Syndrome.
- Unnecessary Couple Fights
Once a hero and heroine have settled into a relationship, they don’t need to constantly snipe at each other to keep things exciting. They can work towards different goals or argue over strategy, but conflict for conflict’s sake makes them both seem petty.
- Supernaturally-Mandated Sex
If the characters need to get their power-up from getting it on or develop some kind of mating urge, that tends to mean there’s some target number of bangs per book. Predictable, mechanical love scenes aren’t hot, and neither are the disturbing consent issues that often accompany sex magic. Stop making me worry that the protagonist is a rapist.
My final issue with romance in a UF series is trickier than all of those put together: it’s not uncommon that I just don’t like the turns a protagonist’s love life has taken. Maybe he ended a relationship that I wish he’d have continued, or she took back someone who did her wrong far too easily. Maybe the author wrote my favorite suitor out of the plot, or even worse, killed him off. Maybe I think someone involved in a love triangle picked the wrong person to be with.
As a reader, I love surprises. New obstacles, new antagonists, and new challenges are all great things. But there’s something to be said for not throwing a wrench into every romance. My favorite series novels, the ones that keep me eager for every new entry, are the ones that, in addition to exciting plots and compelling characters, also manage a sense of balance among the lives of their protagonists. If a heroine or a hero’s love life is constantly as chaotic as the danger they’re often in, it eventually makes them stressful to hear about, and that makes me less enthusiastic about spending my limited reading time with them.