I DNF’d (did not finish) a romance book last week, and I’m on the verge of doing the same to an erotic novel right now. All because I don’t give one flying doo-doo about any of the characters.
In the erotic novel, there are seven primary characters. One is an airhead, waterworks, push-over. One guy is that smarmy, guffawing boss that only hires busty women and finds ways to make them pick up dropped objects in front of him while making every conversation an innuendo. Others are creepers. The protagonist? I’d like to punch her in the face. Seriously. She’s supposedly “saving” everyone from Mr. Sexual Harassment Boss, but she’s just as bad. She’s the worst stereotype I’ve ever seen, and she gives all of us assertive, confident women a bad rap. I hate this women, and really don’t care if the others are saved/reformed/have rocking sex or not. I just don’t want to ever meet them or read about them again.
The romance was equally bad in a different way. The main character gets dumped halfway through the novel and discovers love in a newly introduced character. I have no idea whether she found her happily-ever-after or not because I dumped not only the heroine, but the entire book. I dumped it so much that I deleted it off my Kindle. I really disliked the protagonist. I didn’t hate her as much as Ms. Blackmail People Into Having Sex With Me, but I still wanted her to live in a universe far-far away.
What made this protagonist so unsympathetic? What I like to call Too Many Gritty and Realistic Human Traits. In an erotic novel or romance, it’s important for the leads to be an admirable ideal, someone we’d dream about, and someone we’d like to be. Heroes and heroines can have a few flaws, but they should be minor. Maybe the heroine thinks she’s too skinny or curvy, is clumsy when it comes to sports. Perhaps she has to put ketchup on everything, drinks soda with peanuts, or hates iceberg lettuce. These are fun quirky things, or understandable habits that make a character come to life. But real life is often filled with the not-cute. Biological factors, terribly embarrassing moments we wish would be wiped from everyone’s brains – these are the things that do NOT belong in a romantic novel. The dislikable protagonist from the romance novel was crude and clumsy. Several times she had food in her teeth, bad breath, something stuck on her shoe, etc. She lied to her best friend. She barfed a couple of times in the book. She was mean to inconsequential characters, and barely felt a twinge of regret later. She was wrapped up in a huge “me