What are your exceptions to the rule? Books that you love even when the trope is one you usually hate? The books that are all wrong for you but still wow you?
We all have tropes or romance conventions that we can’t stand. However every once in a while either because you love an author or because you didn’t read the blurb closely enough you ended up reading a book that you usually wouldn’t and somehow you end up loving it anyway.
I am a heroinecentric reader. When I read romance I am most focused on the women, most invested in their HEAs, their triumphs, the relationships they craft and communities they build. Because I love heroines so much, I very rarely pick up book that is exclusively in the Hero POV. But I also love Perv by Dakota Gray (m/f, contemporary/erotic romance, AOC, Black Woman / White Man). Robyn the heroine has two POV chapters in the whole filthy book yet she shines. I loved their romance. Dakota Gray (who also writes as Mel/Melissa Blue), tells a super hot enemies to lovers romance that never loses sight of its heroine. (CW:Grief, Past trauma)
Mia Hopkins’s Thirsty (m/f, contemporary/erotic romance, AOC, Latinx MCs) is another exception to my rule. Thirsty is the story of Sal, an ex-con trying to stay away from gang life and rebuild his life after five years in prison. His story is so compelling both for his determination and his certainty about not being good enough for Vanessa. I couldn’t help but root for him, to want him to succeed and most all to see how much Vanessa cares for him. Although I was initially quite hesitant to read anything featuring Latinx gang-members (who needs that stereotype?), this is a such remarkable story that I can’t do anything other wish more readers make an exception and read it! I am excited to read Thrashed, which features Sal’s ex-con brother Eddie and chef at the restaurant he is working at. Fingers-crossed that their story is just as compelling, especially since as a workplace romance, a trope I often avoid! (CW: Guns, Gangs, Crime)
I really struggle to enjoy workplace romances, especially if there is a boss/employee dynamic. The exception to that rule are romances that acknowledge the dangerous power differentials and address it openly. In Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Rafe (m/f, contemporary romance, AOC, Black Woman / White Man), both Rafe and Sloan are very careful about how they acknowledge their mutual attraction and set firm boundaries about when and where they can express and act on that attraction. Instead of feeling tense and stressed like I do when I read most boss/employee romance, I felt comforted by their interactions, able to sink into their gentle comforting romance. (CW: Controlling ex, violent outburst).
KJ Charles’s A Gentleman’s Position (m/m, historical romance, White MCs) is anything but comforting, instead is a tense but fabulous read. The central conflict is the power imbalance between David a valet in service to an aristocrat, Richard. In it Charles acknowledges all the things that can make boss/employee romances so difficult for me to read, because they are the very things that make Richard so resist the relationship and the characters systematically address the issues. The book is full of suspense, danger and has supremely satisfying resolution. (CW: Homophobia). And if you didn't know it, Charles has her first f/f romance, Proper English out next week, it is fabulous in every way, no exceptions!
Had I not read and adored Peter Darling by Austin Chant I might have never read Caroline’s Heart (Trans m/f, historical/fantasy romance, White MCs) because although I enjoy historical/fantasy mash-ups I tend to avoid reading westerns. I’m very glad I made the exception because this surprising book, a romance between a grief-stricken prickly witch, Cecily obsessed with resurrecting her lost love, Caroline and Roy a simple, lonely cowboy, whose life is upended by how drawn he is drawn to her despite her dangerous power. (CW: Guns, gun violence, mentions of past trauma: transphobia, family estrangement, grief.)
I am not a fan of Millionaires, my first instinct is to turn the opposite direction whenever a blurb or title makes that central as I prefer to read stories of working class and middle class folks. However I have a couple of exceptions. In the first, the hero is a dragon. Come on now, hoarding is their primary occupation and dragons are awesome. In Meredith Katz’s, Smoke Signals, (m/m, PNR, White MCs) the dragon in question, actually likes to collect games and when he first learns about downloadable computer games his world is turned upside down and he uses his considerable wealth to convince a major game developer to send him a tech to help him download all their games. Through the book Mike and Zali'thurg get to know each other, and find a way to bridge the differences of expectations between their species and figure out how to have healthy boundaries and lovingly relationship despite their differences.
Another exception is Adriana Herrera’s upcoming, American Fairytale (m/m, contemporary, AOC, Latinx/White and Latinx/Afro-Caribbean MCs), because Tom’s wealth, and how it both facilitates and complicates his relationship with Milo is central to the romance. Herrera’s is gifted at addressing privilege and the intersecting aspects of their identities and how it plays into how people respond and react. I loved how Milo had to struggle to feel comfortable around Tom’s wealth and his struggle to get Tom to understand the lines he draws. (CW: Past trauma (Domestic Violence)),
But my biggest exception to my no-millionaires rule, is a female billionaire. Alisha Rai’s Akira in Gentleman in the Street (m/f bi, contemporary erotic romance, AOC, Asian Woman/White Man) is one of my favorite heroines. In a world full of alpha-hole billionaires, Akira stands out. She is driven, demanding, angry and more than simply prickly. She knows what she wants and Jacob has to do some serious catching up if he wants a shot at her. I love her to pieces and I also love Rhi, the heroine of Rai’s upcoming The Right Swipe, (m/f, contemporary, AOC, Black Woman / Samoan man). Rhi’s is a black woman in the tech field, who has had painful experiences with workplace harassment and racism. Every dollar she has made, and every corporate success is big F-U to all those who have sought to tear her down. (CW: Workplace Harassment, Past experiences with racism and sexism).
Sometimes it isn’t just a single book or character that I make exceptions for. Sometimes an author just establishes a level of trust where I can assume that I will love pretty much everything they write even when the tropes are all wrong for me. Ms. Beverly Jenkins is that kind of author for me. So many of her books break my rules. I shouldn’t love her books the way I do. Most of her historicals are westerns, they feature tropes like prisoner/lawman (NightHawk), secret baby (Destiny’s Surrender), cowboys (Breathless), marriage of convenience (Tempest), and there are even books with evil exes (Forbidden) that are typically in my no-go list and yet every single one I read I love more than the last!
Which books or authors have earned your exceptions? Which books do you love even when they break all your rules?
How to participate?
Readers: Respond to the prompts! Share your favorite books, characters, scenes, or thoughts on tropes. Make sure to include the #RomBkLove hashtag with your tweet! If you have read and loved a book by LGBTQIA+, Disabled, and/or Authors of Color that fits the prompt please, please mention it. You might think everyone has heard of the book but I can guarantee you there are lots of people who still need to hear about it.
Authors: You are welcome to participate too, as fellow readers. The tag is not meant for self-promotion. Boost fellow authors, celebrate the community but do so in a way that respect reader spaces. Respect the conversation. Join in to rec the books you love that fit the theme/trope/prompt. Yes, you can say “I wrote a book with this trope” but please don’t spam the hashtag with generic promo.
For a list of all of these month's prompts and archives go to: https://www.anacoqui.com/2019/04/rombklove-may-2019-celebrating-inclusive-romance.html