Top 10 over-used Romance Novel Devices


This will be a first for me – as I’m not a ‘list’ person.

Sure, I was exposed to David Letterman’s Top 10 – when I wandered past the TV a decade ago and someone was watching – so I know lists can be quirky, funny and  sarcastic (all admirable qualities, I might add).  I’ve noticed these qualities have carried over into the blog-world (for example) but lists are traditionally   – just not…me.

But what the hell…I’ll give it a go – what do I have to lose except my self-respect?

Go ahead…say it.  I know you wanna…

I have a Kindle.

insert fanfare here?

I also have an Amazon Prime account – one of the perks of which is the Kindle First program.  Each month or so, I get an email from Amazon with 4 books to choose from which are soon to be released to the general public, and Amazon lets me read one of these books for free.  I’m always up for free literature.

Normally, I pick something science-fiction, fantasy, paranormal or thriller – as those are the genres I enjoy the most.

This month – Amazon allowed us to pick 2 of the 4, instead of just a single…but the only thing close to my favorite genres was a ghost-story.  So, on a whim, I also selected a contemporary romance.

This shall henceforth be known as Mistake #1

I haven’t read a contemporary bodice-ripper for decades – not since I got bored with the never-changing flowery phrasing and formulaic plots spun out over and over again.  I did indulge in paranormal romances when they first hit the shelves, as they were a fresh take on an old style – but even they quickly fell into rote patterning.  After all, how often do wolves, vampires or psychics find themselves in a meet&f*ck situation?

Anyone can write a contemporary romance – all you need is the right combination of words to inflict on your reading audience.  To find these phrases…all you need to do is read one.


It doesn’t matter how you pick your template – close your eyes and grab a spine, consult the psychic down the street, ask your Facebook friends for a good title, etc… – I guarantee that within the pages of your selected reading material the ‘romance combination’ will be displayed.

You’d think, given the 20 or so odd years it’s been since I picked up a trashy novel, that someone would have come up with at least a few phrases that haven’t been done to death.

Here are the worst offenders:

10-Velvet Shaft/Pillar of Manhood/Pulsing Length

OK – so my first pick is three phrases…and I could have added a shit-ton more, mostly references to swords, pikes, daggers, or other weapons of warmongering.   You know what I NEVER see this dangly bit of male flesh called?  A Penis.

I have to ask the romance authors of the world:  what is wrong with calling the ‘Throbbing Python of Love’ a Penis?  It’s not some mystical talisman or magical weapon – it’s a body part.  Granted, it’s a body part that’s not often shown in public, but every male has one of these tucked into their boxers, so they’re pretty damn common.

9-‘Smoldering’ things

smoking_matchI’m surprised every romance book doesn’t come with a complementary pair of oven mitts to safely handle the pages, as everything in this genre has the potential to burst into metaphysical flame.  I have to lay the blame for this one squarely on the heads of the Catholic Church – everything in a romance novel is

>Hot<     >Steamy<     >Smoldering<      >Blistering<      >Incendiary<      

It’s painfully obvious these are references to the fire and brimstone landscape of Hell – which is where these novel heroines are destined to go, as they participate -WILLINGLY- in premarital sex.

8-‘Chiseled’ body parts

Image from the Movie 300

Image from the Movie 300

I’ve noticed that every romance hero has the body of a Greek God – hard, solid, precise, and carved from cold marble.  From descriptors of ‘His chiseled jawline,’ down to ‘His chiseled, rock-hard abs,’ to the ‘buns of sculpted steel,’ everything on this perfect specimen of manhood is the result of a quick trip down to the statuary.  It HAS to be the balance for all that smoldering – cold stone is the only thing that keeps your novel from spontaneous combustion.

6-The Wonder-Wardrobe Ensemble

this closet is larger than my bedroom...

this closet is larger than my bedroom…

WAAAAAAAAAAAY too much care is paid to our leading character’s wardrobes.   Multiple pages of text are dedicated to what they are wearing – everything from Accessories to types of Zippers.  Sometimes they dedicate an entire chapter solely to underthings.

(I’ll bet THEY never have my brassiere problems…)

I understand wanting to set the scene in the eyes and mind of the reader, but I couldn’t tell you how an Armani suit differs from one you can buy at the average Men’s Warehouse (aside from the price tag), or what makes a Jimmy Choo shoe a Jimmy Choo shoe.

And why does your average romance starlet (who is usually struggling to make ends meet until her Prince Charming comes along with his rock hard wallet of cold cash to sweep her into the fairytale ending) always have a friend who has this wonder-wardrobe available in her (let’s make Barbie jealous) size?


SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt’s every romance character’s goal – getting to the gates of paradise with their beloved.  Paradise is over-rated. A place where everything’s perfect?  Nothing goes wrong?  Everyone is exquisitely dressed, groomed, and smoldering happily-ever-after?


Take a look at the number of drug rehab centers and celebrity photos of notables in compromising positions, and tell me that having everything you ever wanted at your beck and call equals happiness?

4-Shattering orgasms

I’ve heard it over and over again (usually when the neighbor-lady has her boyfriend spend the night) – the heroine screams her man’s name as her body shatters into a million pieces of blissful release.

Ummm…breaking into little tiny pieces is really BAD for the human body…


She'd better start lifting weights...

She’d better start lifting weights…

It’s at the end of every novel.  Our heroine is reminiscing with her best friend (the owner of the Wonder-Wardrobe), missing the good times and great sex, but planning to doggedly get on with this thing called life.  Our hero, in the meantime, has had an Epiphany.  He appears without any prior notice – his apology a ring with a rock so large it has its own gravity well, presented in a dramatic/down on one Armani-clad knee/sober and heartfelt request for the hand of the woman he now realizes he loves.   Naturally, our heroine bursts into tears while heaving out a ‘yes, yes, yes!’ between sobs of gratitude.  A cluster of friends will be on standby to cheer, and at least 2 should have a handkerchief which will be pressed delicately to catch the tears of joy.

A more realistic approach would be to knee him in the Pillar of Manhood, and tell him to go f*ck up someone else’s life.

2-Oh…and while we’re on the ‘Heaving’ subject…

When I was growing up…heaving was a bad thing.  Visions of being far too close to the business end of a toilet are dancing through my head right now (you’re welcome…) but in your typical romance novel, the heroine’s chest must heave at LEAST once per chapter…more if they’re coming up to the big sex scene.

1-And speaking of the big sex scene…

Have these writers ever HAD sex?

Maybe I’m just doing it wrong, but I’ve NEVER had an encounter half as spectacular as those depicted – blow by blow, every lick, suck, bite, caress, stroke, and orgasm dutifully recorded – in today’s  romances.

Anyone wanna prove me wrong 😉

Flash! Fiction Friday! Jeanne d’Arc

Rose lineup Flash Fiction

It’s Friday again – which means it’s time for the weekly dose of Flash on one of my favorite Flash Fiction sites.  I had 2 ideas buzzing around in my head over the photo prompt – a painting of Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc, to us Westerners over on this side of the pond) created in the 17th century – so rather than beat myself up over choosing one or the other idea to pursue…I did ’em both.


Heavenly Desire

156 words

“You know what I ask,” Michael whispers seductively in my ear, his hot breath tickling its way down the back of my neck. “You know you want to.”

His velvety, angelic voice sends a frisson down my spine.  His soft-spoken request is the brush of downy wings tickling every hair on my body to stand erect, rigid, eager to give in to the raging desire pulsing through my soul. I can feel the desire…the want…slide down the length of my body to pool in my chest.

The sibilant hiss of my pulse pounding in my ears chants “Yess, yesssss, yessssss,” in time with my wildly beating heart as this ache of desire threatens to consume me in the heat of its crescendo.

The Archangel requests I give my life for King, for God, for the greater good as the wailing trumpets herald in a new day of flame and retribution.

Today, I die for my country.

Museum of the Damned

159 words

“This late 19th century painting by Eugene Thirion is a classic example of French Political Art…” the tour guide’s bright, vibrant voice dropped away as Sylvia gaped, mesmerized, at the sweeping whorls and splashes of pigment, carefully arranged to suggest human forms, within the gilt frame.

She stared harder as the design shifted, slowly spiraling, distorting the figures into a maelstrom of swiftly-spinning color which sucked at her sanity, tugged at her soul.

“I burn,” hissed a sculptural voice, echoing from the whirlpool to Sylvia’s ears.  “I saved them all, and they burned me for my efforts.”

Completely ensnared, Sylvia reached for the roiling vortex even as it stretched toward her, knowing, but not caring, that the touch meant madness, fire, death, damnation.

An icy hand clamped on her shoulder, painfully forcing her knees to impact the cool mosaic floors of the museum.

“Don’t stare at them, my dear,” chirped the tour guide, “You wake the damned that way.”