Smexy’s Rule of Romance

As I’ve read romance over the years, I’ve collected little rules I live by when reading a book. I’m all about stretching my boundaries as I read, for example BDSM books have a way of making me reach outside my box. Broken and Dirty by Megan Hart have pushed on my emotional boundaries (in a wonderful way.)

But I do have a few rules I read by:

Rule #1. If there is going to be a rape scene, the author better tread very, very carefully.

Example of a rape scene (and aftermath) handled well: Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs.

Example of a poorly handled rape scene (or non-consensual scene)

Rule #2. No blatant cheating. I don’t do cheaters.

I would say the heroine in Megan Hart’s Broken had emotional cheating, but I was on board with it. It was a VERY complicated situation.

I felt squirmy in Her Husband’s Harlot by Grace Calloway, when the hero cheated a second time (although in a historical you can argue the hero has more leeway? I don’t know). I can’t remember ever reading a full-out cheating hero (or heroine) though. Have you?

Rule #3. Brothers don’t see or touch each other’s peens. I’m all about a M/F/M book, but no brothers. Please. Best friends? Sure! Bring on the peen parade. If you have the same dna, no thank you. (This rule was installed after I read this book back in 2009)

Rule #4. No racist language. First time I encountered it was in this book and I don’t want to read another book with those words in it. Along the same line, if the author uses derogatory language toward gays, they better have  a damn good reason for it.

Rule #5. Hero is not allowed to grow a second cock at the full moon every month. One cock per hero at all times, please and thank you. I’m talking to you Nicholas.


I know we all have different rules we read by…what are yours?


  1. says

    I’d like to add no whiney, poor-me, won’t-someone-come-rescue-me heroines. Also not a fan of kids in romance novels, but that could just be because I have three of my own and they’re always trying to break into the bathroom while I’m in there trying to read a romance novel in the tub. :)

    • Mandi says

      One author that writes kids really well is Ilona Andrews in their Edge series. But otherwise, I agree often with that.

    • Olivia says

      I thought I was the only one!!! I never wanted to voice it because I didn’t want to be labeled as evil!!! Don’t get me wrong, I love kids, but just not in my romances. Although Sugar Daddy, and Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas, had a child in them, and those stories worked for me.

      • Mandi says are not the only one. My biggest pet peeve is when there is a kid who comes across as much older than the age they are written. I can’t stand it when a 6 year old starts spouting off wisdom to the h/h

        • says

          I stopped reading a novella because one kid was too old (the youngest) and the oldest was too immature. It completely threw me out. I like kid in romance, but I want some kind of fairly average kid. I don’t need a wonder child. I need one that acts age and isn’t perfect. Those are rare.

          On that peeve is this appeal where parent’s dating partner suddenly steps in like there is a right. Um no. It’s just frustrating to find a good story where the parent is allowed to grow on own without the intervention of a suddenly special partner in crime.

  2. Paula says

    Whoah. Two weiners – lmao. I have to agree with you, Mandi.

    I don’t like TSTL heroines. Eugenie from the Dark Swan series is a good example.

  3. says

    I had missed the rapebook and I had to go back and read about it and WTF!? Yes that is just stupid and I do not want that in my book. Just scream girl and that guy…

    But the few things I do not want, there is rape. I still remember the piratebook I read where the heroine is raped by the hero and then they fall in love. No no. He raped her! He beat her. I know this happens in a lot of old school romances but it is the biggest no no. That is not romance.

    And yes no cheating!

  4. says

    When I write romance, I make sure the hero is NICE to the heroine. There might be awkward or snarky moments, but he never does anything that might be detrimental to her self esteem. Because romance should be “romantic” to me.

    In erotica, I reserve the right to write asshats :P (but indeed, to pair them with women who can asshat them right back until NOBODY KNOWS WHO IS WEARING THE HAT OF ASS).

  5. Dani says

    I agree with your list Mandi.
    I also hate when the hero jumps from one sister to another, I’m not saying it’s always awfull, but 90% of the times I don’t like it. Dead ex wives or husbands are ok as long as I never saw that relationship, if I saw them happy, the new one will make me unconfortable (Broken was well done, I’m not sold on Lover Reborn , we’ll see)…

    • Mandi says

      I was just going to say – uh oh..Lover Reborn. A lot are very wary of seeing Tohr in love with someone else. I think part of it is that we all met Wellsie. She was alive as the series started.

      Should be an interesting read….

  6. says

    Okay, here’s a question… (for you) is it cheating if the hero/heroine are not in a committed relationship (or possibly not in a relationship at all yet)? I know some romance readers have issues with the h/h (especially the heroine) having sex with anyone other than the hero within the confines of the story.

    • Mandi says

      No…if they are not in a committed relationship, that doesn’t bother me (at least I don’t think it does). I mean – I guess it depends on the circumstances, but I think I would be okay with that. I’m trying to think of one I’ve read similar to that. I’ll come back if I think of one.

  7. says

    Aw no brother on brother peen action? Your no fun! :P

    I have another one! No plant life should get all touchy feely with the heroine’s hoo haa while she waits for the hero to play with her hoo haa. Tree or plant sex is so not sexy in anyway shape or form unless you’re in a tree having sex with another human.

  8. Tabs says

    I hate when a woman rapes or otherwise forces a man to have non-consexual sex with her and no one acknowledges that wrong-doing or assault happened. This usually involves jealous exes and/or desperate heroines sneaking into beds univited and then instigating sleep sex with non-consenting men.

    Drives me bonkers. Makes me throw books.

    • Mandi says

      yesss…very good point. Actually, in the book mentioned in rule #5, I do believe a woman in the book forces the hero to have sex (I could be mistaken, it’s been awhile).

      But I don’t like that either.

  9. Jen says

    #2. Blatant cheating- I haven’t read it but wasn’t there a big stink about Dianne Sylvan’s Queen of Shadows series? Supposed mates and he sleeps with his old boyfriend in book two? On top of the fact that she can feel his emotions so she knew he was doing someone else.

  10. Jen says

    Oh and #1, Mac’s rape was pretty brutal, for me. I was NOT expecting it and couldnt believe neither Barrons nor V’lane showed up to rescue her.

    • Mandi says

      It was brutal. But I felt like it fit with the world. And I think she took care with how it played out in the next book as well.

      It was rough to read though. AND to wait for the next book.

  11. helyce says

    I have mixed feeling about rule #2. I get the not liking the “blatant” cheating and tend to agree, but some books it’s part of the angst and drama of the story. I only read one book of the #5 variety and it was one too many. Although the whole hermaphrodite story was,er, educational? Could she do herself, I can’t remember now. Completely on board with #3-just yuck! I don’t like rape and at this writing I can’t remember a book with that in it, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been one.

    And WTF kind of books does Ms. Grant read?

      • helyce says

        I’m sure I have-OMG, have you read Megan Hart’s Stranger yet? Oooops, maybe you don’t wanna read that one. I’m gonna email you. Don’t wanna spoiler anyone. I didn’t know there was rape in the Fever books.

  12. cayenne says

    Most of these are turn-offs for me, but another one that drives me batshit crazy is when a man calls a woman a slut as a term of endearment or to encourage her during sex. I guess I’m old-fashioned & prefer respect from sexual partners, be they mine or imaginary ones :)

    • Mandi says

      Ah…this could go either way for me. I’ve read books that have derogatory language toward the heroine – some I’ve liked (more set up to be played in the bedroom with that tone..the heroine expects it) and some that were done poorly.

  13. Lege Artis says

    Broken…. That book crawled into my heart… It’s one of the most emotional books I ever read.
    I’m with you on rape thing-It’s disturbing for every human. You can’t just shrug it of your shoulder like it doesn’t matter and ride into sunset with your rapist. That bad example book::shudder at the thought::
    Cheating- I’m partial with that. If writer can convince me that couple can have relationship after that, I’ll read it. And I don’t mean that writer should write happy end, but story and characters should be developed enough to make it believable how it ‘ll progress. For example : In Downside Ghosts series Ches made some bad choices and in the process she hurt Terrible a lot. All the angst, hurt, regret they felt after was believable to me. In the end of book #3 they decided to give a try, but we know it’s challenging for those two,’cause it’s not all so shiny and perfect, forgotten. So, I hate cheating when cheating is made like something heroine forgets after half of page groveling from hero and present us with romance happy end.
    That satyr was too freaky for me also…
    I have a trouble with same book as you did because of all racist talk. It wasn’t one or two remarks… it was just too much. Couldn’t got over it.
    And, I know it’s classic, but I couldn’t finish Nabokov’s Lolita after Humbert referred to underage girl’s thighs as sweet peaches. Just…not.

    • Mandi says

      Broken. I’m still not over that book. Just amazing.

      Ack. See – I forgot about Chess. I enjoy those books, so I might need to reword my no cheating rule. She does slide the line there….and yet Terrible’s reaction (and her behavior later) made sense to me. What a complicated. Love.

  14. says

    Hate cheating! I read one where the hero cheated on the heroine and then came back to her, I DNF’d it when I realize that the cheater was the hero (kept waiting for the real hero to show), can’t remember the title, though. How do you feel about former cheaters? Because I would say no to those also, but I read a very good book where the hero cheated on his ex and I liked it very much (he never cheats on the heroine).

    I agree with the brothers rule, in fact, I also think it’s icky when the hero used to be married to one sister and then for whatever reason ends up with the other sister, same applies with heroine being with one brother and then with the other, it’s creepy and very difficult to pull off, although it is a somewhat common trope.

    One dude, two cocks can be weird, but I don’t mind enhanced peens…………….. I did read that novella with the barbed penis and I liked it, the guy was a demon, though, so maybe he gets a free pass. ;)

    • Mandi says

      Hmm..former cheaters. I’m okay with that I think…But I HAVE to be convinced he is reformed.

      I’ve heard many say things about the exchanging of sisters. It was brought up when I read Rainshadow Road. That doesn’t bother me as much…

      And I enjoy the enhanced cock. LOL. Rehv and his barb – hey I’m good with that. Latch onto me baby. ;)

      • says

        My great uncle did the exchanging sisters thing. He married A, and when she died, he married B. Always kind of freaked me out, but this was in the 1920’s or 30’s. Fewer options back then maybe.

  15. says

    Love the rules! I agree that my hero/heroines have to have some sort of moral character, or I just can’t find a way to get behind them.

    And yes, sibling sharing is just a no no. I like some of Selena Kitt’s stuff, but she had one with dad/daughter/friend…that ewwed me out. If you are related I don’t want to read about any peen or bachina sharing.

    As for Elizabeth’s books…yeah….two peens, you are really kind of goats (not sexy) and the shimmerskins kind of creeped me out.

  16. says

    I’m with you, I don’t like cock specialties. No fancy cock please, no multi-cock, and no cockzilla. Just keep it plain and simple. I couldn’t type that with a straight face.

  17. says

    Hmm. I’m not sure I have any total deal breakers off the top if my head. I can deal with cheating as long as there is suitable groveling and making it up after. DNA is not an issue for me. Double peen maybe. LOL

    I suppose rape, of the hero by the other. It would have to be handled very carefully. I can’t think of any I’ve read either way.

    I don’t mind the use of slurs if they aren’t overdone and are suitable to the time period. If a book is set in the early 1900’s US South, the n-word is probably going to crop up, but it can be used judiciously just to let you know that people at the time faced that, constant usage for shock value is just annoying. Even with contemporary, sure, maybe a slur is thrown out on the street to make a point that prejudice is faced, but I don’t want the hero’s best friend to be a racist/bigot. I’d probably stop if that came up.

    • Mandi says

      I think in some books slurs might make more sense – like you said in certain time settings. And obviously I understand that people still use them today. That book above just set me on edge. It was too extreme.

      Double peens are too much for you? LOL

      • says

        Well, I did read a frilled peen. They had a frill that spiraled up the peen that snapped open when the big moment arrived, ostensibly to hold the semen in to make sure the female was impregnated. Mind you, they also turned into mermen, so who the hell knows. I kept thinking it would tear you internally. Not so sexy but maybe my imagining was off.

        • Mandi says

          I read a Cheryl Brooks book once and the hero had a frill I think…and he could point his penis in any direction.

          I love romance books. That is all.

  18. KKJ says

    Oooh, my first Smexy post, I’m so excited!

    Just posted this on another blog, but it fits perfectly here… I HATE, LOATHE and ABOMINATE the Magical Orgasm Cure for mental illness or abuse recovery of any kind.

    No matter how mind-blowing the orgasm or how swoon-worthy the alpha hero, sex and romance do NOT cure any form of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or PTSD.

    BDSM is NOT an alternative to therapy for abuse victims, and doms with advanced degrees and careers in psychology, psychiatry or counseling are few and far between.

    Yes, yes, I know it’s disappointing. But fortunately, unlike mental illness, you’ll snap out of it eventually.

  19. Allison says

    I loved your list as you’ve hit just about all of my own rules. Thanks for giving links to books that inspired the list. I laughed so much!

    1. Rape–HATE it. Even though I LOVE LOVE LOVE Mercy, I still had a very hard time getting past it. Ms. Briggs has done a great job in handling it, but I really don’t like to read about the rape and/or recovery.
    2. Cheaters never win! Hate it. No Pass.
    3. Sibling exchange makes me squirmy. If you’ve gotten busy with someone, I really get icked out if you then get busy with a closely related family member. So, yeah, the sibling sharing you mentioned is beyond my comfort zone.
    4. Racist slurs–you said it all. amen.
    5. Anatomy–it’s really crazy this even needs to be mentioned.

    The only things I would add is
    6. The Magic Wand Effect–when all the problems are fixed by some random act of magic. Worst offender in my book is Robin McKinley. Still, I love some of her books.
    7. When the story is a mystery even to the author–when the author is hell bent on keeping the story mysterious and suspenseful that they leave out critical information and the story never progresses.

    • Mandi says

      Ah…the magic wand. OR for me – the declaration of love cures all. Hero or heroine has major problems in life but once they find love it is all rainbows and sunshine.

      And yes – if there is a build up of suspense, it better pay off! (and not be lame)

      • Allison says

        yes, the declaration of love cures all falls under the magic wand umbrella. It goes along with the sex cures all, too. Ugh.

  20. says

    Yeah, the brothers and sharing one woman thing grosses me out. I’m a firm believer that brothers peens should never come into contact, even if there is a thin layer of skin keeping them apart. ICK ICK ICK ICK ICK

    I also can’t stand the cheating. I’ve had to deal with it in real life, so the last place I want to have to be confronted by it is in my books. I’ll DNF a book the moment someone cheats: emotionally, physically, even if they are just dancing around the idea of a relationship and move onto someone else… It turns me off completely.

    • Mandi says

      We’ve had this chat. :) I think my no cheating rule applies much more to you than to me now that I’ve had this discussion. Thinking about Megan Hart, Chess from Stacia Kane – I’m more lenient that I originally thought.

  21. yosne says

    I hate cheaters too, but rhage in lover eternal cheated and i love him! First time i love a cheater!

    I feel bad for asking but….. can u name the 2 peens book? just curious lol

  22. says

    I typically avoid reading books if I hear there’s a rape scene in it because I’ve found, more often than not, they aren’t handled very well. I’m glad to hear that you think Briggs handled one well. I’ve been avoiding the Mercy books because I knew there was a rape scene in one (I can’t remember which).

    Cheating is another one I don’t enjoy in romances either. I typically put it down if the hero or heroine cheats. My one exception to this was Lover Eternal. That book has a scene where the hero goes out and has sex with several women while the heroine is waiting at home for him in his bed. I finished that book and enjoyed it, but I couldn’t quite get over the fact that hero slept with a multitude of women while with the heroine. Yes most of it was from the situation he was in and he was repentant afterward but I still couldn’t really get past it.

    LOL to your number 5. I have never come across this problem and I’m rather glad of that.

    One of my rules is no pregnancy storylines. I really dislike romances where the hero and heroine sleep together once, she gets pregnant, and then her pregnancy is used to push them into a romance.

    • Mandi says

      The Mercy books – there is a rape – but Mercy’s reaction and Adam’s reaction to it – are all handled so well. And while it is definitely addressed and she recovers, she does move on. Which I like.

  23. Jody says

    Great post as always Mandi!

    My peeves are:
    The single mom. I hate the single mom, but raising siblings or nieces and nephews works ok for me. Don’t know why.
    The female protagonist as a victim.
    Cheating, if there is a committed relationship established.
    And, I can’t have sex with you because it might hurt.

    • Mandi says

      I think I struggle with single moms too…and along the same lines, I just read Oracle’s Moon by Thea Harrison – heroine is raising her niece and nephew and it is really well done :)

  24. says

    Umm. Wow. Everyone’s said it all before me. I’m on board with many of these additions
    – no frills or decorative anythings on the Ps or Vs please. Like orgasms aren’t precious and fun and challenging with our plain ol’regular equipment…
    – the rape rule, including as someone added, instances where the heroine forces the man.
    – And Allison and KKJ’s additions Magical Orgasm and Magical Wand rule. Brillant.

    Don’t know if this rises to the level of a rule, but I know I am turned off by books that make body image a major aspect of the heroine’s inner monologue or point of discussion among/about characters. It doesn’t heat me up to be told over and over how hot or gorgeous or breathtaking one of the main characters is. There are so many ways to convey a character’s sex appeal without these bald statements. And, on the other side of the coin, there are the female leads who obsess about their weight or looks.

    There are many great non-barbie or dainty-doll heroine’s out there. They have their issues (which may even include that they wish they got to the gym more often–Diana Rowland’s Kara Gillian comes to mind. Love her.) but they aren’t obsessing about their bodies.

    • Mandi says

      Yes. I love a heroine who isn’t a perfect size 4 – but I also love it when they are bigger but they don’t obsess about it. They just are. Own yourself!

      I think the heroine in Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl is “curvy” but she owns it. I loved her.

      Kenyon wrote a good heroine like this too…was it Vane’s mate? I have to go back.

  25. Redzsm says

    I’m a little late to the party, but I love this discussion!

    I pretty much agree with what everyone else has said with one addition. I read a book a while ago where the hero was having sexual feelings about the heroine when she was a young girl, like 14 and he was like 30. Yuck! They ended up together years later when she was grown, but it skeeved me out when noticed her “small newly blossoming breasts” and then went & “took care of himself”. Eww…just ewww! I can’t get past pedofilia.

    • Mandi says

      umm..yeah. No. No. No.

      I just read a book last night where the heroine (who has 21 year old son) started doing stuff with son’s college roommate. Kinda skeeved me out.

    • KKJ says

      Without the pervy part, that’s Jane Austen’s “Emma.” But I think she can claim historical accuracy :-)

      • Mandi says

        ahaha…yes. (I LOVE Emma)

        But in this book, the mom goes into friend’s room and makes his peen come out of his boxers as he sleeps!

        HELLO PERVY!

  26. Lidy says

    LOL Mandi! Well, I read Nicholas once and then I decided I’d had it with Elizabeth Amber’s books – though I liked Lyon enough, but not enough to give him a try. Pity, I think if I had read him first… No, not really.

    I hate rapist heroes. Come on, I can stand a wicked hero like Lucien de Montforte and Lord Dain. But when they rape the heroine – of course, usually I won’t consider the heroine that wants it but feels she must say she doesn’t. That’s TSTL heroine too, which I can’t stand.

    I hate heroes who’ve been rumored to be bad guys and just get their book to become a misunderstood hero. That’s why I like Lucien so much – he starts wicked, sarcastic and witty and keeps like this till the end.

    I don’t exactly hate, but books in which the hero notices the heroine only after she loses weight, buys new clothes and has some makeup done. I feel he thinks she’s worthy of love only after she changes.

    I hate Mary-Sues, adults that act like rebellious teens and plots in which the heroine had an affair and several children with a relative of the hero’s – his brother, his cousin, his grandfather, his dog.

    Also, there’s that heroine that keeps saying something like “I love you but I don’t want to be with you because you’ll break my heart” or “I love you but I fear I’m not good, pretty (but they never say intelligent) enough to be with you and I don’t want to doom you because I killed an ant by stepping over it and can still hear its screams” or “I love you but I can’t be with you because I fear you’ll realize one day in twenty years that you don’t love me and I can’t cope with suffering in twenty years” or “I love you but I can’t be with you because I don’t want to be happy.”

    But I really can’t stand the plot that has the hero declaring his love in the last page by saying “You know all those times I mistreated, hurt, offended, lowered your self-esteem, humiliated, called you a s*** and downward? Well, I did that because I loved you and I felt threatened by the intensity of this new, wonderful feeling.”

    Wow. Thank you for posting it, Mandi. I’m better now that I spoke this all. ;)

    • Mandi says feels to get it off your chest, yes? :)

      The “I love you but” – No, no “but” in my I love you!

      And if a hero declares love on last page with those conditions…hell no. That would be a book that would be thrown right there. o_O.

    • says

      Lidy, I’m delighted that you enjoyed Lucien and his story so much! The de Montforte Brothers are now out in e-book format for Kindle, Nook, Apple, Sony, and etc., and Lucien and Eva will join the rest of the family within the next two weeks … complete with brand new and very pretty covers! :) Thank you for the kind words!

      — Danelle

  27. says

    So I’m reading through your rules, thinking ‘Yup, maakes sense’ and ‘Yes’ and then…

    Hero is not allowed to grow a second cock at the full moon every month.


    WOW! I’m almost too scared to look at the book that came from :)

    Like Lidy, I hate Mary Sue characters. I especially hate fiesty Mary Sue characters. And I loathe characters that have an issue that is fixed by the magic penis!

    I feel so much better ;)

  28. says

    I completely agree with you Mandi!

    And not only should the author tread carefully when including rape in their book, but I want a forewarning as well!

    Actually one of the very first ménage stories I read was m/m/m/f with 3 brothers, but thankfully there was no touching between the siblings. Otherwise: ugh.

    And I don’t get cheating. How could the hero/heroine of a romance novel be a cheater? That is such an oxymoron for me. No cheaters please!

    There is alpha male and there is overbearing, patronizing mysogenist man. Also TSTL heroines exasperate me!

  29. says

    THANK YOU for #3!!! Two brothers and the same woman is just… blech!

    I have A Thing with m/m/f when the men are friends but never touch each other. I get it, I do, but If it’s getting that hot and steamy in the bedroom, or wherever, throw me a heat-of-the-moment kiss that turns into some exploratory groping between the guys or something.

    And #5 made me giggle too. Thanks.

    • Mandi says

      throw me a heat-of-the-moment kiss that turns into some exploratory groping between the guys or something.

      I wish every book had this. Kidding. (not really)

      No – if the book is labeled M/M/F – then I expect some type of groping between the men. I prefer M/M/F to M/F/M – where I know the men will be nakey together but no touching. Where is the fun in that? :)

      By the Book by Scarlett Parrish starts as a M/F/M and ends as a M/M. They kicked the girl out. I approved. LOL

  30. Tori says

    I have to agree with all your rules except the added peen. That doesn’t bother me so much. :P

    One trigger for me is torture scenes, especially if the torturer & torture-ee end up falling in love. I don’t buy the, “oh I didn’t know…” You could look like David Gandy, but if you torture me, I’m offing your arse first chance I get.

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