Updated: Apr 29
Romance is one of the boldest genres out there. It is the one that claims over and over, with a variety of tropes, that love conquers all, without being tiresome.
A genre that holds that much power needs to be executed the right way, or else a lot hearts will be broken in the booktok community.
To prevent that, we'll learn how to deliver a unique novel with the help of 2 books by Colleen Hoover: Ugly Love and Reminders of Him. The first one was a generous 2-star rating and the second was an easy 4.50 from me.
- DON'T: Create Bland Main Characters
Ugly Love follows Tate and Miles who decided to maintain a friends-with-benefits relationship at first, then things get messy when real feelings start blooming. The main sin of the novel is sacrificing so many words to emphasize attractive physical traits instead of showing more of the main characters' personalities. For instance, we only know three main facts about Tate: she is a nurse, she has an overprotective brother, and she likes orange juice. That's it! It is fatal if the audience can't connect to the characters in the romance genre because readers usually fantasize about the relationship.
On the other hand, Reminders of Him, which is about a mother's journey to reunite with her daughter after serving five years in jail, hooked the readers from the first apparition of the characters through subtle details that showcase their personalities. For example, Ledger, the love interest, is first seen wearing nail polish after playing pretend with a five-year-old. From this flimsy detail, we can already guess that he is a pleasing person.
Kenna, the heroine, has an intense childhood that explains a lot of her actions and she has goals, motivations, and relationships that has nothing to do with the central romance in the novel.
Dear romance writers, we care more about the hero's motivation than his V line.
- DON'T: Create a Spineless Heroine.
Most romance readers are women and they tend to relate to the female lead and fantasize about the man when it comes to heterosexual relationships. Therefore, it is a turnoff to have a spineless character like Tate from Ugly Love who is infuriating at times because of her doormat attitude. The following quote from Tate can speak for itself: "I’m terrified to lose him for good, so I sell myself short and take what I can from him, even though I know I deserve better.” Seriously?!!
On the other hand, we have Kenna from Reminders of Him who has an explicit motive, which is to be part of her daughter's life. She even prioritizes this goal over her relationship with Ledger and doesn't hesitate to stand up for herself when the latter gets in the way. Throughout the whole book, she shows to be resilient despite her tough childhood and incarceration without losing her tenderness.
Dear romance writers, we want to cheer for the heroine.
- DO: Build the Relationship Gradually.
In Reminders of Him, Kenna and Ledger share an instant attraction. Then, they start spending more time with each other and show genuine interest in each other's life before finally expressing romantic feelings. If they follow this example, an author can fill the gaps with as much drama or corny scenes as they want because the story will have a strong foundation.
However, in Ugly Love, Miles' first thoughts after seeing Tate for the first time are the following: "But the second she opened her eyes and looked at me, I knew. She was either going to be the death of me . . . or she was going to be the one who finally brought me back to life.” Very poetic but very unrealistic.
Also, Tate seems to be so attached to Miles yet she doesn't know much about him and only do one thing with him over the course of the entire novel.
Dear romance writers, take your time.
- DO: Include a Lot of Romantic (nonsexual) Moments.
Swoon-worthy romance books are not built upon steamy scenes Although many readers enjoy them, these scenes only cannot display the beauty of a relationship. In Reminders of Him, Kenna and Ledger barely have X-rated scenes yet they have many nonsexual intimate moments such as her reading her personal letters to him or him spending Mother's day with her knowing that she can't be with her daughter and giving her a customized playlist of songs that have nothing to do with love.
Dear romance writers, give us romantic gestures to fantasize over.