Last week I wrote about fated mate storylines as a cliche that worked for me and why so I thought it would be fun to talk about contemporaries and cliches that worked (and didn’t) for me and why.
One of the reasons I love to write contemporaries is because the world is already shaped. The novelty for me lies in the characters and the situations they can endure/survive/create. Like paranormals, contemporaries are rife with cliches.
The power exchange – I’m going to write about this one next week!
Some character cliches that drive me out of my freaking mind – the shrill heroine who cries a lot but we’re told she’s spunky. The doormat heroine. The asshole alpha. The 35 year old virgin or the 35 year old who has always hated sex until the hero appears. The abusive hero and the heroine who eats it up with a spoon.
What walks the edge but works for me as a reader is the arrogant alpha. What I mean is not a man who’ll call the heroine a whore when he knocks her up because he was told at 17 he couldn’t have kids but then comes back and the baby has the family birthmark and all is forgiven HEA – whee, bleah.
What I mean is the man who is confident, dominant, totally sure of himself and protective. BUT, he *cherishes* the heroine. And a man like this needs a strong heroine. A really strong herione, not just someone we’re told is strong. Linda Howard writes this hero and sometimes she walks on that knife edge but she never falls to the wrong side of the line. Elizabeth Lowell – okay, my admission is that if anyone else wrote some of Lowell’s heroes I’d hate them. Granite Man? Seriously, I love that book but I don’t know what it is about her. She’s magic. She’ll write this man within a hair’s breadth of being an ass but whatever she does, holds him back that last bit and you love him instead.
He is not a momma’s boy (although he respects her if she’s in his life). He’s often either very moneyed or working hard to be so and might have a bit of a chip on his shoulder about it. There’s a lot of appeal in that millionaire businessman or the mechanic who wants to own his own shop. He’s mysterious, he’s aggressive and ambitious and usually wounded in some sense.
Which plays into heroine cliches – I *wish* there were more strong woman cliches I loved but mainly, there are more heroine cliches I hate. The biggest for me is the “saucy” heroine who is actually a whiner. urp. Seriously? I cannot deal with it. Don’t tell me she’s saucy and sassy and then have her weep every three pages. Don’t have her take the hero’s abuse and think it’s love. Don’t have her go in the damned basement with a serial killer on the loose when she’s not a warrior but a whiny college student with “a heart of gold” so she can get kidnapped and endanger everyone in the hero’s squadron or whatever. Just leave her with the serial killer! Then we can have a better heroine and one less stupid one.
I myself love a saucy heroine. A real saucy heroine. She doesn’t have to be mean or so independent she doesn’t need a partner but she’s got to be strong enough to handle herself and push back when the hero finally pushes one step too far. Do you know who writes great heroines? Nora Roberts. They’re real, they’ve got flaws and wounds and they will usually mess up, but they don’t just give up and let things *happen* to them. Take the sisters in her Born In books (my personal favorite Nora series) – each one is a totally different woman with her own insecurities and problems and each one has this man stumble into her life who presents all kinds of trouble, but none of them just throws her hands up and gives in.
I want to see a heroine who will help herself. I want to see redemption she earns on her own, not through the hero. By that I mean, yes, the hero can change her, help her, be her bridge to redemption but I want her to earn it herself. I think the antithesis of this is the plus sized heroine who only finds herself beautiful or worthy because the man sees her as such OR if she loses the weight. Show me a big girl who learns to love herself with the help of the hero not because of him, or even better, show me the heroine who already loves herself! (Min in Bet Me for instance – oh god do I love Jenny Crusie’s heroines!) Women can be self conscious, they can compare themselves to past lovers, etc, that’s natural, but a self loathing heroine who is totally well adjusted by “the end” because some dude wants to bone her? Um, no thanks.
Some of my favorite contemporary romance authors are: Alison Kent, Jo Leigh, Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie (writes the most deliciously twisted heroines ever), Susan Elizabeth Phillips – okay, the list can go on and on! Tell me your favorites and also your favorite and most hated contemporary romance cliches!