Friday, May 05, 2006

Unwritten rules

I started thinking about this topic today because I am trying to read the new Jennifer Crusie/Bob Mayer book, Don't Look Down. I would pick it up, read a page, put it down, pick it up, read a couple more pages, put it down. Repeat. I started the book on Monday and here it is Friday and I'm on page 98. Normally I would have two books finished in that time. But I will persist because it's getting good now.

Anyway, I digress. My point is the hero has just done something that breaks one of the unwritten rules of romance: he has cheated on the heroine with another woman. Now don't get too excited because the H/H just met that morning and have never even kissed or made love at this point. But the reader can tell from their internal thoughts that they are very attracted to each other although with a touch of hostility. So technically he hasn't cheated, right?

The reason I bring this up is because I have read countless message boards with people ranting about this kind of thing because most women prefer that the instant the H/H meet they don't 'cheat' on each other even if stuff keeps them apart for most of the book. It's like an unwritten rule. And if the H/H marry other people the loves scenes are only vaguely alluded to or implied (and of course, it was very bad sex) or not mentioned at all.

In DLD, the hero finds a naked actress in his bed and he gets an eyefull of her breasts. And she wants to touch his gun :) So what's a guy to do? Of course, you guessed it. He turns out the light and we use our imaginations.

I can think of a several books where the hero cheats during the course of the book, but they were all historicals. But I can't think of any contemporaries. And I mean romance not women's fiction.

One of my first thoughts when I read this scene was that the male co-author probably influenced this aspect of the story because I can't think of any book where Crusie has the hero 'cheating' on the heroine. I've never read Mayer. Am I being sexist here? I just can't think of a single male with no attachments or commitments who wouldn't take advantage of this situation.

While this 'cheating' scene made me a bit uncomfortable, it's not a book-killer. I want to finish it especially since it's just getting good. So someone tell me, is this book not considered a romance? Maybe it's crossing over into women's fiction. I suppose the lines between women's fiction and romance are starting to blur, but if it doesn't have an HEA, it's going back to the library. So I may need to 'cheat' and read the last chapter.


Nicole said...

It technically has a HEA, but it's NOT a romance and wasn't ever supposed to be. it's romantic adventure. Meaning more an adventure type romp with romantic elements.

Giselle said...

I saw this book at Sams and almost picked it up but it sounded too much like womens fiction and not straight romance. Anyway as far as the cheating, I'm weird I guess cuz I hate cheating dogs but I wouldn't consider it cheating if there isn't an actual relationship at the time.

Karen Scott said...

I can forgive cheating before a relationship, but not during. That's just wrong.

I think you're probably correct in your assumtion that it was Mayer's idea.

Tara Marie said...

I'm somewhat of an oddity when it comes to cheating. For me it's not a deal breaker until the h/h are committed--that doesn't mean married, but rather they've had the realization "this one is the one."

Does that make sense?

Heather Waters said...

Romance authors are beat over the head with instructions to keep the H/H heroic. Cheating is not heroic (even if he's/she's not yet part of an official pair). The list of "rules" in romance are endless. A few brave souls can break them (Nora, Jenny) but the rest of us must choose between breaking the vital rules and staying unpublished, or finally getting that contract :(
Sad, but true.

ReneeW said...

Nicole: I finished it and I thought the romance was an important part of the story. Just not as important as the action. Sort of like a Suzanne Brockmann.

Giselle: After my initial discomfort about the cheating I think I agree with you. It stopped bothering me and provided some good conflict between the H/H.

KarenS: Exactly!

Tara: Yes you make sense. :)

Heather: I think romance authors are starting to test the waters about breaking the 'rules' and in this case I think it was successful. I ended up liking the book and the cheating (as I said above) provided some very good conflict between the H/H. Could be that the influence of women's fiction has more authors trying to break the rules in romance. I hope so because I'm willing to try something different but it must have a HEA. Unfortunately there are lots of romance readers that still get bent out of shape about some things.

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