Sunday, January 30, 2011

Romance vs. Straight-Up Cheese

There's a fine line between a great romantic story and a cheesy romance novel, and boy do I hate when the line gets crossed.

I read a book recently that was so cheesy it made me want to grab one of the icicles hanging off my house and poke my eyes out with it.
Sounds like fun, right?  Anyhow, I won't say the title or author of this particular book because I'm unpublished and therefore probably unqualified to throw stones, but the logline on the cover goes like this:

He's New York's most eligible bachelor.  She's just not interested!

Gee... wonder how that's going to work out?  Is she really going to shoot him down for an entire novel?  I think not.  Sure enough, "he" and "she" meet on page 36 and by page 43, the narrative goes a little something like this:

And he'd called her beautiful.  Heat rose to her cheeks at the memory.  Then there'd been his touch.  His hands weren't roughened from hard work, nor were they soft and manicured.  In fact, his fingers felt just right as they'd wrapped around her hand and the jolt of awareness sizzled straight through to her toes, and other body parts she'd be better off not concentrating on too closely right now.

Um, want some crackers with that cheese?  What happened to not interested? 

And let's not leave out his thoughts on her:

She presented a puzzle he wanted to take apart and put back together with a deeper understanding.

What?  So if she's a puzzle and she's already put together, why would you need to take her apart to understand her?  Can't you just look at the pieces?  Or am I missing some sort of sexual innuendo, or a reference to the borderline gross makeout scene that's coming up in the next fifty pages?

But the worst - the absolute worst - are the sex scenes.  Now don't get me wrong, I love a sexy magnetism between two characters.  But there is a difference between hot and hard core.  And when physical attraction seems to be the only thing driving them together, I just feel dirty reading passages like this:

Coop had died and gone to Heaven.  Or at least he was on his way there, as Lexie's damp hot body glided down over his, cocooning him in the most exquisite sheath.

Exquisite sheath?!  EWW!  You've got to be kidding me!  I would love for a group of women to try that line on their partner.  "Hey baby, how'd you like to be cocooned in my exquisite sheath?"  He'll die alright.  Of laughter.  Oh yeah, and "Coop" is the male mc, who goes by something that belongs with "chicken" in front of it, despite having a nice, normal name like Sam Cooper.  That should have raised the Red Flag of Formaggio right there.

It wasn't long after this point that I stopped reading and merely skimmed through the rest just to see how it ended, which of course, was as you'd expect with some extra cheese thrown in.  Spoiler alert (yawn): they argue after more sex in a coat closet at a party and she's held at knifepoint by a deranged member of the waitstaff.  At which point "Coop" realizes Oh God, I could have lost her! and they put aside their differences and live happily ever after.  Gag.  Me.

This book had no business calling itself a romance novel.  Sex is not romance.  Overused plot devices are not romance.  Go read the scene in Shiver where Sam and Grace kiss for the first time, or the scene in Before I Fall when Samantha and Kent have their first real kiss.  That's romance.  There's more of it in those four or five pages than there was in this entire novel.

I think this is why I veer toward the YA genre.  When the characters fall in love, it's new and innocent and exciting and exploratory.  There's still the element of surprise, and it's not all about the physicality of it.  But start stepping up the ladder to chick lit or romance, and you're testing questionable waters.  Things get too heavy, too predictable, too graphic, and TOO FREAKING CHEESY. 

Now that's not to say all YA romance is perfect or that all adult romance should be written off.  But this particular book is going right into the donation pile.  I chose it in the first place because a) the back cover synopsis was intriguing (better than the actual novel, as it turns out) and b) the cover was cute, and not something I'd be embarrassed to be seen reading like most romance novels.  Lesson learned.  You really can't judge a book by its cover - front or back. 

Now, please excuse me while I hit up my YA-To-Be-Read pile for something to clear my brain of the cheddar residue!


  1. yikes! SOunds like one cliché after another. It's sad but they do exist out there and when I find them I can't help cringing too!

  2. HAHAHA. o-m-g. this post. cracked. me. UP! being a former lots-of-adult-fiction-reader, im going to have to agree with you on this. there ARE some books where there is nothing that connects two people besides the sexual tension between them. the girl hates the dude, and then his touch gives her shivers, and...yeah, you get the point. but theres some really good adult fic out there too--so you shouldnt give up on it--esp chick lit. i really recommend marian keyes for a satisfying, fun, and mostly-non-cliched read.
    btw, you've won an award on my blog, so check it out! :)

  3. Thanks Aleeza! I do love Jane Green's chick lit, I just couldn't get over this book and had to post about it. I stopped by your blog but I didn't see an award. I can miss an object the size of my head right in front of my face though, so whatever it was... thanks!

    Katie- seriously! And why aren't we published?!

  4. I couldn't stop laughing at those cheese-y, cliched lines. I've read a few adult romance in which the guys start saying some pretty unbelievable lines for a guy. If my husband started talking like that, I would wonder what strange life force had possessed him.

    You're right. YA novels are much better than that. Even when they're steamy, they aren't cheese-y.

  5. Hahaha - this is amazing.

  6. LOL, love your review. I read a romance novel recently that WAS romance, and for the most part the writing was pretty decent - but the sex scenes were definitely cheesy, and not original. Plus, I thought the hero was just way too flamboyant and over the top in terms of romance. A guy doing those things for me would have made me nauseous. ;)

    And...exquisite sheathe? Yeah...ew LOL