Dear Romance Writers,
I have been an avid reader of romance for almost 20 years. I have been with you from the early days of Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers of the virgin heroines and rapetastic heros. I celebrated with you as the genre moved towards women who embark on their own meaningful and emotional journeys and the men who discover similar pathways in their own roguish hearts. I am grateful for the evolution towards strong, independent women who claim their sexuality and heroes who learn to share their emotions and evolve along with their female counterparts.
However, I have noticed a disturbing trend. While rape of the heroine has thankfully gone the way of the Do Do, there seems to be a recent spate of heroes and heroines with pasts filled with sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape and sexual slavery. While I do not deny that these heinous crimes happened in historic times and, sadly, happen today, let me state, for the record, it is NOT sexy.
No matter how Mighty the Hero’s Wang, or how Magical the Heroine’s Hoo Hoo (to borrow from the brilliant Smart Bitches), the trauma of these incidents are not going to be solved with a lusty bonk or even many lusty bonks. Writing this type of past for a character is not romantic and leaves me, as a reader, questioning the validity of the Happily Ever After. (I’m looking at YOU: Married By Morning, Scoundrel’s Kiss and Tempt the Devil.)
I would like to ask, respectfully, that this particular characterization and plot point be put on a high shelf where it can collect dust next to rapey heroes and dumb virgins. There’s a lot that gets solved in romance novel plots, but this is one of the least believable and most likely to really steam me up.
Bad things happen to good people, but I’m tired of books that trot out this backstory to set up narrative tension. There’s plenty already going on in a romance novel to give tension. Let’s let this one go, shall we?