Lather, Rinse, Repeat!

Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance Tropes

I will apologize in advance readers. For this is yet another Wench rant. I can't seem to get through a lot of books without ranting lately. *sigh*

Last time, it was a rant on all the horrible, out-dated cliches in erotica. This time, I want to talk about some of the tropes in UF/PNR that I have come across too many times to count (and sometimes in other genres too). I really do love most things about the genre, honestly I do. But sometimes, I start a new series and think "oh.. this again.... BORING!" or worse. There have been times when I have just put the book away refusing to put myself through the same old story again.

For real.

I love the endless possibilities presented in the UF/PNR genre. There are no rules. The writers can pretty much shock, surprise and delight us in millions of imaginative ways. Despite that, it is honestly baffling why there are so many tropes used ad nauseum. Some of our readers will be very familiar with these, reading the genre in question way longer than I have (and way more of it.) But in my relatively short stay in this wonderful world of fantasy I have come across these things way too many times to ignore.

Read after the jump if you want to see a list of some of the most commonly used ones!




Let's take it one at a time shall we? And I will try to keep it short!

(Once again, as in my Erotica rant, I will not mention book or author names that have made me want to find the nearest cliff and throw the book off it after setting said book on fire with a flame thrower.)




Predestined Mates:


Ok seriously authors, what is up with this? Why do so many authors use this? It is SUCH a cop out to a convincing love story. I mean, believe me, I'm sure it would make things easier, but when I'm reading, I want to read about two people falling in love and the journey they take to be together even if it seems it isn't meant to be. I like it when two characters I love make it against all odds. NOT "she saw him across the room and her DNA/soul told her she was meant to be with him." Call me crazy but the only things my body tells me to do are the same things all other animals do thanks to that crazy thing called instinct. Love shouldn't be biologically programmed. What's the fun in reading that? The whole taking one look and knowing you are meant to be with someone sounds great I guess, and so convenient and easy. But why on earth would I want to read an entire relationship about it? (I am barely resisting the urge to quote a line from one of these series I read recently where her DNA telling her to do stuff when it came to the guy was a legitimate excuse!)




It's basically "Here you go main character, this is your designated mate, please just go with it regardless of everything else and whether or not your destined relationship even makes sense."

Vampires who see color after eons because they finally found their mate, werewolves who can tell by the SMELL of a woman that she is HIS, mate bonds, double mate bonds, EXTREME (creepy) possessiveness and giving off scent when you are around your destined mate. I mean... umm... okay. I get that these stories aren't about humans. But really? Is it that hard to just write a love story without destiny having something to do with it? I can buy instant chemistry, what the characters might mistake for love at first sight, INTENSE attraction, but this whole predestined bullshit drives me nuts.



As sexy as it sounds when someone says "I can't live without you!" it is SO dull reading about two people who actually become physically sick without each other in some of these books... ugh. I think most normal people need space even from their most loved ones. It's healthy. This whole "you must be within a hundred foot radius of me at all times" is nauseating to say the least.

As far as I'm concerned, these stories are no fun to read. If the relationship isn't the important thing in the series, I can deal with it. But otherwise, I just won't be invested. At all. NEXT!

(I have read some books that I didn't mind despite these kinda relationships, but usually because other stuff happening was way more interesting. I prefer my books minus all the predestined crap; Fever, Chicagoland Vampires, Downside Ghosts, to name a few faves.)

Mating Rituals:


Mating ceremonies and the females ALWAYS getting "marked" by their Alpha mate. This one bothers me on so many levels. Why does the woman have to be branded like cattle? If it isn't some ridiculous werewolf/vampire bite, it's some stupid thing that other males of the species can sense and recognize. Sexy.


Really... 

Maybe if the woman "marked" the guy as well, I wouldn't mind as much. But the archaic and misogynistic idea of a woman needing to be marked like a possession really gets to me. Especially when I read it over and over and over again. Mating bond, mark of a mate, bonding scent, call it what you will. It's stupid and trying too hard to be all sexy, beastly, possessive. Nothing feels like ice down my pants during a sex scene like one of those werewolf marking scenes. Seriously. If I wanted to know more about canines and their mating habits, I'll watch Nat Geo or Animal Planet. At least that's educational and doesn't leave me wanting to puke a little.

Is there anything LESS erotic than a (usually very large) caveman being proud of marking you off limits to other men? And no, he didn't put a ring on it, that doesn't really matter to him. He just rubbed his scent (aka marked his territory) all over you. Catch me, I'm swooning.


What most normal women
would say to all that.

Love Triangle:


This is one of the worst things for me. I really hate contrived love triangles (or squares, or hexagons, whatever) because the heroine is just so damn irresistible to every thing she comes across. If I wanted to read about yet another love triangle, I'd pick up a romance that promises just that. But love triangles in UF/PNR, especially the very obviously forced ones (which I have come across a lot), are just annoying to read.

Once again, I feel like it's an easy way out to create drama in a potential relationship. It's like you couldn't put any meaningful obstacles in the way of true love so you figured you'd distract the heroine (and the reader) with unnecessary complications. Complications which often ring hollow and rarely make ANY impact on the story or characters.




It often irritates me with the otherwise likable heroine. She's usually so out of character only when it comes to deciding who she loves more. It makes me grind my teeth when there is that much stupidity forced on an otherwise great character. Things like "well, he is an ass, and did x, y and z to me, but I think I might still love him... for no actual reason."

She can be attracted to as many hot guys as she likes, lord knows if I was surrounded by half as many attractive beings as these heroines are I'd spend half my time daydreaming and arranging imaginary orgies in my head where I was the main star. But the fact of the matter is, it's never just physical attraction, the author forces a love triangle (or a shape with more corners...) on us with little or no evidence actually given to the reader. You can beat me over the head with a love triangle baton all you like, if I can't actually SEE the love in the stuff I'm reading, you're making shit up because you have nothing else to actually tell in your "story." And I'm sorry, we deserve better, the heroine deserves better.


A Weird Version of the Bachelorette:


Maybe worse than the love triangle are the books that have EVERY single (obviously hot) guy the heroine runs into a potential love interest. If anyone is wondering whether most of these authors think men and women can ever just be friends, the answer is pretty obviously a loud and resounding NO.

She is attracted to them all, and they are all obviously half in love with her after just meeting her because... well, there is no actual reason. Just because. I'm honestly surprised that there isn't a whole rose ceremony at the end of each story.



I get that the heroine is probably something special. I am not going to sit there and sweat over an entire series about a heroine who annoys the crap out of me, or worse yet, disappoints me in the end by being a shallow, boring, twit who I put too much faith in (once burned, twice shy...) but seriously, EVERY single available guy she comes across wants her. I get the checking her out, the light flirtation, the random late night proposition. But when each and every attractive man that passes her by is suddenly a "suitor" so to speak, you have to wonder what giant holes in the story the author is rushing to distract you from and filling with beefcakes.

Exceptions to this annoying cliche (and the love triangle one), in my experience, are the Downside Ghosts series (Gotta love Stacia Kane when it comes to being unique!), the Sabina Kane series (while there may be distractions, you don't really question where her affections lie), and the Chicagoland Vampires series (you can NEVER doubt Merit's love for Ethan... even if she checks out shirtless shifters, who wouldn't?!), just to name a few.

The Alpha male:


See. I like my Alpha males just as much as the next Wench. I really do. But some of these books border on barbaric Alphas and it makes me sick. And what I hate more than that, is the heroine who just lies down and takes it. The kickass heroine who is supposed to be smart and awesome and independent and knows she's the shit yet lets the guy walk all over her without so much as a whimper.

The excuse being "OH, he couldn't help it, he was just being a good vampire/werewolf/*insert other supernatural creature here* king/alpha/leader!" I mean, really? The woman we are reading about and admiring would NOT tolerate that behavior, she would kick his ass! Not roll over and accept it without any complaints.

What we all wish the heroines
 would do to the asshole alphas.
And yet, she just takes it! Or worse, rewards him for his shitty behavior with sex and declarations of love! What the ever loving fuck!?! More often than not, it's because she's so blinded by the whole predestined mate thing (See overused theme number one). Like her mind just accepts everything he does because they are meant to be. And I LOATHE that.

I mean, he gets away with every and any thing because, don't you know, he's THE ONE and she is biologically programmed to understand him (even at his shittiest) and just let it go. I know, I know... toe curling-ly romantic right? What girl doesn't want to be in a relationship where she justifies all the horrid shit the love of her life does to her? Oh.. wait... all of us!





Kidnapping, tricking/manipulating into marriage/mating, isolating her from male friends (and sometimes other friends and family), guilt tripping her into doing stuff, threatening her, keeping important information about her FROM her, controlling aspects of her life that have nothing to do with him; nothing is off limits to this "alpha." *cough* Douchebag! *cough*

Listen to Uncle Takei,
 Alpha Douchebag.

Dystopia's Next Top Model (Must be 18-28 to apply):


Part I

Insanely attractive heroines who tend to be in their twenties. This isn't such a big deal and hasn't really pissed me off much. It just occurred to me, why are there none who are older? Most of the women writing these books are older, from personal experience I can tell you most readers are older. But the heroines range from the painfully young (in my opinion) 20 to the slightly better 27/28. I can't think of a single one who is older. Hmmm... why is that? I'm okay with the all the awesome leather outfits (hell, if I could kick ass, and did so on a daily basis, you could bet your bottom dollar I'd be decked out in the most expensive and bad ass leather outfits I could find!)



I'm okay with the attractive heroines for the most part (preferably the ones who know it; Mac from Fever, she knew when men around her wanted her, and I'm okay with a woman who owns it rather than gorgeous women who constantly wonder why every hot guy on earth is tripping over his feet to date her... come on.) but the age thing has bothered me a few times. When was the last time our heroine celebrated the big three-oh? Or better yet, four-oh? Just something I thought about. Like Wench Beta said to me,"I'd love to read about a heroine who is kicking ass in her 30's or 40's. Someone who's lived and learned from life. Who's maybe divorced and knows exactly what she'd want in the next relationship after having learned from past mistakes and experiences."(Exceptions to the age thing are the Valkyries from Immortals After Dark, and Sabina Kane.)


Good question Stan,

More importantly, it occurred to me a few times, can't regular looking people be heroes? A lot of fantasy stories have heroes that aren't the best looking, why not a less than attractive heroine? Maybe the first people who should start this trend and get society to stop placing so much value on looks when it comes to women are the women who write these books. Just a thought.

Part II

99.9% of the characters are good looking. I kinda get that when it comes to turned vampires. But even then, I find it hard to believe that ancient, smart, supernatural creatures turn exclusively pretty people over eons.



Other than the attractive main character, any character who is important or mentioned more than once is usually gorgeous, or attractive in a way you just can't pinpoint. Basically, regular looking folk just don't exist. And you have to wonder, why? This doesn't bother me as much as other stuff, since most of our gorgeous side characters are GREAT characters that you either love or hate. But I'd like to see less emphasis on the attractiveness of EVERY single character and more on their story.

(Exceptions include Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts series, I LOVE those books on so many levels. Ms. Kane doesn't do cliches.)

The Chosen One:


I liked it in The Matrix (duh), it was awesome in Harry Potter, and totally dug it in The Wheel Of Time. But I prefer it when my heroines just randomly have greatness thrust upon them minus the whole prophecy thing. Regular people, with no great destiny who MAKE their futures awesome and full of adventure because of the things they choose to do or not do. THAT is something I will relish reading. Think Merit from Chicagoland Vampires who becomes a kick ass Sentinel. Chess from Downside Ghosts who is amazing in the face of so much. Destiny kinda gives us spoilers about how things are going to end for the characters we're backing.

And, they can get cocky.

(Not that I haven't enjoyed a lot of Chosen One's stories. I am currently relishing Jaye Well's Sabina Kane series!)

You Got To Have a J-O-B If You Want To Be With Me:


Really rich side characters who don't actually seem to have a job, or any form of income the reader comes across. You know, the ones who spend all their page time lounging on thrones or stalking the heroine. What is up with that?

I get it. They're ancient beings, blah blah, they've amassed treasures and trinkets worth millions over the centuries they've been alive, etc. But one look at their lifestyles, wardrobes, traveling expenses and cars and you have GOT to have some sort of steady income (or a regular habit of stealing from the rich and giving to yourself) to maintain that lifestyle! Mommy and daddy aren't exactly around to spend cash on your playboy millionaire lifestyle.


I like that Barrons has a bookstore, and a penchant for collecting priceless antiques, that Ethan has his House and all the income from the House's ventures, that Terrible has an honest(ish?) job, it adds a certain sense of realness to the stories for me.

I like that some heroines have had trouble with cash (Chess from Downside Ghosts, Sabina Kane not wanting her credit card maxed out by a demon) and making ends meet.




At the end of the day, I guess, I don't want to read a book that reads like a children's fairy tale and everyone is beautiful, and rich, and everything just ends well because they are the heroes of the story. I never wanted it to be easy. Which is what attracted me to this genre to start with.

I know this sounds like I'm just bitching about it to be difficult. But I have been enjoying the hell out of this genre, I love so much amazing stuff I've read. And this is in no way me writing it off. I still adore so many series that even if any new ones were disappointments, I would still enjoy rereading my favorites a hundred times over. This was just a way to share my frustrations with other readers. And wonder if anyone else feels the same. About ANY of the things mentioned.



What about it, readers. Are you tired of the same old tropes in UF/PNR? Or do you take comfort in the familiar? Do you have book suggestions that buck the trend and don't rely on the tired cliches we've seen over and over?


Comments

  1. Oh YES Zee! Wonderful post. You've touched topics I was contemplating about. I'll touch only one thing, the age issue. I even googled "books with older heroines" in different versions and found very few stories, most of them romances, more than half with the heroine older then the hero. So far the only exception I found is the outstanding Outlander series.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Merit!! :)

      And yeah they really need to write more UF/PNR with older heroines! Seriously!

      Delete
  2. This is perfect Zee. This is everything that bugs me about UF/PNR as well. As far as the age thing goes, it never occurred to me until recently that all of the heroines are in their 20s. But, I guess since this is my last month in my 20s, I've been noticing it more and more. I will say though, that Kira from Night Huntress is 31. But, she's the only one I can come up with that's older.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh! Anne, in Kelley Armstrong's "Women of the Otherworld" series, Elena starts in her early 30s, and is (currently) in her either late 30s or early 40s, Paige starts in her early 20s, and is in her 30's, and Jaime starts the books in her mid-40s, and keeps right along. Granted, Jaime is the heroine who hasn't any good power of her own, so she's got to figure it out as she goes, but hey.

      Generally, I don't find too much of these annoying, largely because I find I read everything on its own, and don't often compare. Does that make sense?

      Delete
    2. Oh yeah Anne! Kira was 31! Forgot about that.

      Care! I want to check out the Women of the Otherworld series now!

      And it's not a deliberate comparison really, when you read a lot of these series you really can't help but notice that authors keep using the same old themes. It can get old fast, to me at least! :)

      Delete
  3. Predestined mates is the main reason why PNR never works for me.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Fantastic post Zee. I hate predestined mates as well. It really explains one of the things I hate about the BDB series. I try to mix things up now if I can as it does get a bit repetitive if you read the same thing over and over again. One of the reasons I loved The Hollows is it doesn't follow these "rules".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True Ange. One of the reasons for sure!

      I really need to get back to the Hollows one of these days.

      Delete
  5. I'm a little late, but as I was reading this, I was wondering if we see these tropes more in PNR and less in UF? I'm not as wide read as some of you ladies, so perhaps that's just my experience so far.

    It seems to me that there is a clear distinction between UF and PNR, even though the book industry seems to want to combine the genre into one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree Veronica, about the industry trying to combine the two. This post ticks a lot of the boxes for Black Brotherhood which I consider PNR.

      Zee, the only other older UF heroine I can think of is Mercy Thompson. In book 2 she is 29, so I presume as the series goes on she gets into her 30s? I don't know if this is true, but I can't see all the books covering the space of a year??

      Delete
    2. Yup Veronica, the industry is definitely trying to combine the two.. if it's a modern day city setting and reeks of PNR they still tag it as UF. Which is why I figured I'd add both genres to the post, in case that's how others read the books too. But I agree, I have mostly seen these in PNR, but definitely in a lot of UF too.

      Ange I haven't gotten around to Mercy Thompson yet! But good to know she's pushing 30 lol. Merit from CLV was 28 when the books started... but on account of turning.. does her age matter anymore? I don't know.

      Delete
    3. Zee, I was wrong on Mercy's age. She is 31.

      Delete

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