Mandi wants her Heroes and Heroines to be Single!

I want my heroes and heroines to be single – that’s not asking a lot in a romance book, right? And I’m not talking about romance books that feature the hero and heroine already married and they have to work through issues, or the quick marriage of convience which is one of my favorite tropes. I’m talking about a hero or heroine who is engaged or dating someone who is not going to end up being their happy ever after (HEA).

Yesterday I read Pretty Reckless by Jodi Linton. The book opens with the heroine engaged to a guy named Nathan. Now you know he isn’t going to be the hero because he is all around kind of boring and blah, and when they have sex he is done in about ten seconds. Definitely not hero matieral – and I kind of felt bad for the guy. Our heroine is named Laney and she is a deputy sheriff. Her old boyfriend, Gunner comes back to town (he is a Texas Ranger) to further a drug investigation he is part of and he gets caught up in some murders that Laney is dealing with. She is also being threatened by an unknown person.

Through most of this book, Laney is engaged to Nathan but since this is a romance book and we are working towards a HEA, she starts having feelings again for Gunner. There are constant references to Laney checking out Gunners butt but then reminding herself she is engaged. She hates Gunner because he cheated on her when they were together, but now that he is back and so sexy and hot, she can’t stop drooling when he is around. Except she is engaged!! I can’t sit back and enjoy a romance when there is emotional cheating going on. I just can’t. Why did Laney have to be engaged to this guy all through the book? She hates (but really loves) Gunner, so there is already conflict and drama to work with. Why the extra drama of being engaged?

I had similar problems with Plain Jayne by Laura Drewery. From my previous review:

What really annoyed me and frustrated me was Nick’s girlfriend Lisa, who he is dating when the book starts. Lisa herself I liked, but the problem is – Nick doesn’t break up with Lisa until the 78% mark in this book. Let me repeat – the hero is dating someone who is not the heroine, until the 78% mark of this book. …..

I don’t want to read a romance where the hero and heroine fall in love while the entire time the hero is committed to someone else. And to make things more frustrating when Nick finally breaks it off with Lisa (who of course isn’t’ even angry – she encourages Nick to follow his heart *ugh*) Nick and Jayne don’t realize they love each other.


I can’t think of any books off the top of my head where a character was committed to someone else for the majority of the book and I ended up liking it.  Have you read something with a similar set-up and found that it worked?



  1. Selena Mc says

    Ugh! I hate those types of set ups in a book too. No matter how much I like the new (and often better) love interest, I can’t get past the cheating. Emotional cheating is just as bad a physical cheating in my opinion. Giving your heart to someone else while you’re committed to another, is just as bad as giving your body. Neither should be shared…unless it’s a Lorelei James book and that’s ok! ;)

    • Mandi says

      Well – Lorelei James makes it all ok ;)

      Megan Hart can also walk that line for me – I can’t think of specifics right now but I know she shows some of her characters in other relationships in flashbacks and stuff..and that doesn’t seem to bother me.

  2. Heather says

    I totally agree. Cheating is cheating, be it physical or emotional. I always feel unwanted sympathy for the nice guy who gets booted to the curb, or feel bad for the hero/heroine, because the author has to give some made up excuse for them to break up.

    One of the other (similar tropes) is the husband/wife back from the dead. I really struggled with “A Hint of Wicked,” by Jennifer Haymore. There isn’t just cheating…the husband comes back from the dead, and now she loves not one (but two) men, and which one is she going to pick?

    • Mandi says

      Oh yes – I can’t do that trope. It’s too stressful for me. I like to feel angst but if I get a headache due to stress, it’s not fun.

  3. Angela says

    I do not like cheating of any kind in my romance. Period.

    The only book I can think of with anything remotely like this type set up that ended working for me is The Way Home by Cindy Gerard. I worried before I started it because the blurb alludes to the fact that the heroine’s missing in action husband comes back from the war after she has fallen in love with some one else. I in no way wanted to read about a love triangle situation between a woman, her soldier husband and her new lover. Because who in the world do you root for? But I ended up loving this book so much. Every single part of this romance was handled very well.

    • Mandi says

      I haven’t read this one for that reason – but I like Gerard a lot so I should try it. Plus you know going in to prepare yourself for that choice she has to make. I feel stressed already though!

  4. Tori says

    Well, you know how I feel about t all. What is the use of having the h/H engaged to other people when directing them to another person? Its cheating. Plain & simple. Plus, when the intendeds do get together, 9 out of 10 times no real effort was made to address the problems from the past. It’s a few words, a sorry, all’s forgiven, the end.

    The only time it ever works for me is when the h/h is being abused in some way (emotionally, physically, ect…) by the person they are with. I think it’s perfectly okay for the h/H to look, dream, and act towards being with a new or past love.

    • Mandi says

      Yes, if they are in a marriage they are trying to get out of, that’s different. If they can dream of a better life with this new H/H. But get your butt out of the marriage already!

  5. Amanda says

    Those books just make me just make me think less of the heroine and feel bad for the dull but likable guy that gets emotionally cheated on and then loses the girl . They are not even real love triangles because we all know he does not have a chance.
    Stories like this remind me of a movie from the 90’s staring Ben Stiller. He is the great guy involved with a girl who was clearly going to end up with her jerky best friend. The movie was aggravating.

    • Mandi says

      Love triangles can drive me nuts but at least they can be presented without a cheating aspect. And yes – I feel your aggravation for those 90s movies!

  6. Sharlene Wegner says

    How about Tangled, by Emma Chase? The heroine was engaged to someone else. He was kind of immature & it seemed like more of a friendship-based engagement, but they were engaged.

    • Mandi says

      I DNF’d that one… more because I couldn’t stand the hero. (I think I’m in the minority with that) I don’t remember the heroine being engaged..but it’s been awhile since I read it.

          • Jennifer s says

            I finished tangled but I won’t be reading any further in the series. Kate was engaged to a guy she had dated since high school. She was engaged over half the book. I just never was invested with the couple.

  7. says

    I’m glad it’s not just me. I can’t stand that kind of emotional angst, either! I always feel more bad for the dumped character than I do good for the h/H.

  8. Sandy says

    I have been finding there are more books with married heroines who are falling for the sexy, alpha billionaire. As the story develops we learn that she hasn’t been happy for awhile and her husband is a bit of a problem or pathological-but on the grand scheme of romance-she is still married when the ‘relationship’ with the other man begins.

    I am having some problem with this particular trope-infidelity -although we know the current hubby is a d*ck. The billionaire alpha male knows the heroine is married and continues to pursue said female.

    • Mandi says

      Yes. I don’t like this. I don’t care if the current hubs is an ass. Don’t pursue until you end things with the current spouse. I don’t care if the new hero is a Gazillionaire!

  9. Lege says

    A hundred timed yes.

    Only book I can think of where this kind of worked for me was Broken by Megan Hart. That book has a pretty peculiar setting all around though, but there is a chapter about how heroine met and proposed her husband and it was really heartbreaking. They had genuine chemistry. Of course, you want to see her ending up with Joe, but never on expanse of her husband. And MH managed to do it just right.

    • Mandi says

      Yes…She walks a finnnnne line with this and she is the only one I can think of that I trust to do it well.

  10. Jane says

    I know this seems generally for contemporaries…but…
    I think this can work with Historicals in some cases. Usually Where the Heroine is engaged, usually to someone nasty or someone just wrong for her that her parents approve of/arranged before she meets the Hero.
    A good example I can think of is Sarah MacLean’s Every Good Earl Deserves a Lover.

    • Mandi says

      You are right – I was thinking more of contemporaries but in historicals if the heroine is married due to an arranged marriage, there is more leeway there to want out of the relationship – and for the reader to understand her predicament.

      I enjoy Sarah MacLean :)

  11. bungluna says

    A person who will cheat once will do it again. It’s for this reason that I never buy the HEA of a book where the H/h cheat on their current partner and then go off with their ‘real’ love. Hey, this one could be a mistake too and something better is bound to show up!

    That said, if the H/h struggle with their feelings and breaks thing off BEFORE going off to explore the new relationship, that’s another mater.

    Example: “Welcome to Paradise” by Rosalind James. Heroine and boyfriend enter a reality tv contest. Heroine starts falling for another contestant and realizes what an ass boyfriend is. Heroine breaks up with boyfriend before exploring feelings for new guy.

    • Mandi says

      Ahh – breaking up before exploring a new relationship. Yes.

      I’ll have to look into Welcome to Paradise. Thanks!

  12. bev says

    Two that I can think of that I actually liked were Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover and Heart of the West by Penelope Williamson. I actually wished Maybe Someday had been longer so I could see more of a real relationship between h/h develop. It might be time for a reread of Heart of the West it has been on my mind.
    I have the Thoughtless and Love me with lies series downloaded but can’t bring myself to read them yet. Another popular series from around same time(name escapes me) was a dnf.
    And I wish KA would write a story for Rosalie. I want her to get a hea with someone great.

  13. Jennifer F. says

    One I can think of is Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas. The heroine is with another man at the beginning of the book before they take a hiatus while she moves away to care for her sisters baby. She then ends up falling for the hero. I LOVED this’s one of my favorites (love the whole Travis series actually). In this book it didn’t bother me. I think it very much depends on the situation/book. In the first book in the same Travis series, Sugar Daddy, there is a similar situation.

    • Mandi says

      Ah!! I forgot about this book! I loved it too. Kleypas def makes it work in this series. Thanks for posting about this.

    • Mandi says

      Ah Covet – I liked it up until the end. I needed more. I forgot about that book….definitely cheating going on there. *conflicted*

  14. pamelia says

    Wasn’t Nina engaged at the start of Kristen Ashley’s THE GAMBLE? I think she was and yet the book totally worked for me as did SMOOTH TALKING STRANGER mentioned above. In both those books though there was a definite severing of the prior arrangement well before the books truly got under way. I would hate a book with a drawn out scenario like you mentioned.
    I agree with others that historicals can get around this what with arranged and loveless matches being more common. It hardly feels like cheating when the hero/heroine barely know their intended. Its a much tougher sell in a contemporary book.

    • Mandi says

      Yes, I think you are right – but yes things are severed early on.

      Very tough to sell in a contemporary…Like you mentioned – if set-up early in the book and resolved, I can deal with that. But dragging them through the entire book engaged does not work

  15. says

    Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie comes to mind, as well as Smooth-Talking Stranger, which has already been mentioned several times.

    I agree, though, it’s a story line that’s really difficult to do well, and more often than not, it just feels a bit uncomfortable.

    • Mandi says

      I remember really liking Welcome to Temptation but I don’t remember one of the characters being committed to someone else..I need a reread :)

  16. Judy W. says

    I need to add Sophie Kinsella and “Can You Keep a Secret?” to my acceptable list. She had a boyfriend for a good portion of the book. Also her book “I’ve Got your Number” had the heroine engaged till the very end. I liked it also but not as much for that very reason

  17. Kareni says

    An oldie but goodie with that scenario is The Fulfillment by Lavyrle Spencer. I read it when it first came out (in the 80s, I believe); it was, at that time, a very unusual storyline for a romance.

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