Hello, and welcome to I swoon over fictional men‘s brand new feature, Troublesome Tropes. In each instalment of this feature, I will be discussing annoying tropes that pop up again and again across a variety of different genres. I’m by no means an expert on all genres, so I may well recruit fellow bloggers to write guest posts on genres such as fantasy and science fiction. If you’d be interested in this, feel free to drop me a message via the social media links provided at the bottom of this post.
Anyway, as some of you know, I swoon over fictional men started off life as a paranormal romance blog. Like, I literally read nothing else. Even though my taste in literature has become somewhat more varied over the past few years, paranormal romance is still a genre I find myself going back to every few books that I read. My relationship with the genre is the definition of complicated. I was actually listening to the Romance at a Glance podcast yesterday and one of the presenters put into words exactly why I love this genre despite its many problems…the vanilla side of me is morally opposed to everything, but the kink side of me is like “Hell yes.” A massive power imbalance between the romantic leads? Yes, that genuinely makes me really uncomfortable. But at the same time…a domineering six and a half foot tall vampire whose ab game is so strong that it looks like he’s smuggling paint rollers under his skin? Yes. Also, that description belongs to Black Dagger Brotherhood author J.R Ward.
So, yeah, I have something of a love-hate relationship with paranormal romance. Without much further ado, let’s get into its troublesome tropes.
I don’t read much conventional romance, but I’m going to assume that this is a trope unique to paranormal romance. Very often, the male romantic lead isn’t human, he’s something that far surpasses human in every way, from strength to physique. I don’t know, maybe authors think that with great strength and physique comes…big dicks? There, I said. I’m sick of big dicks. Every paranormal romance fan will have read the phrase “She didn’t know if it would fit inside her” and had the following expression wash over their face…
I just…don’t find this sexy or appealing? If a guy whacked out his dick for me and it was genuinely so monstrous that I didn’t think it would fit inside me, I would don the following expression…
I’d say 80% of the paranormal romance novels that I read involve a mortal woman hooking up with a physically more powerful immortal dude, who usually plays an influential part in some elite organisation. That in itself isn’t necessarily problematic, but it becomes problematic when said immortal dude uses said power and influence to assert control over his mortal lover. It sounds weirdly specific, but it seems to be a recurrent theme in some authors’ works. For example, in a book that I read way back in 2016, the immortal lead uses his telepathic powers of suggestion to plant a, ahem, naughty idea in a mortal woman’s head. It later transpires that she’s immune to this power, but that’s beside the point. He gave it a try anyway. What if she hadn’t been immune and later relations came about as a result of this idea being planted in her head, not because she actually wanted it? And don’t even get me started on books like Kresley Cole’s A Hunger Like No Other, where protagonist Emma’s first kiss comes about at the hands of Lykae king Lachlain, who delivers the line “Kiss me like you want to live.” Physically outpowered, Emma has no choice but to comply. These are but two examples and it’s honestly a trope that makes me shudder with horror.
Ah, the beast within, a creature who appears in books such as Gena Showalter’s The Darkest Night and J.R Ward’s Lover Eternal. Basically, the beast within is a demon/monster that lives inside some immortal guy’s body. Naturally, this beast is very dangerous and is very often uncontrollable, which ultimately puts the life of their host’s love interest at risk. Granted, it’s not as common a trope as the two mentioned previously, but it’s appeared enough times for it to be dubbed a troublesome trope. One, I get tired of mortal women having to put their literal lives on the line to be with someone and two, the moment when the beast inevitably decides that he likes the mortal woman is always creepy. The beast usually ends up telling their host something along the lines of “She’s ours”, which leads us nicely onto number four…
Sigh. It seems immortal men are very…possessive. There’s a lot of “You’re mine” and “You belong to me” filling the pages of paranormal romance novels and while I get that a lot of these men come from societies built upon the idea of having a ‘fated one’, this possessiveness still makes for uncomfortable reading at times. The idea of a ‘fated one’ isn’t what makes me uncomfortable, though. It’s how very often these men decide that their love interest is ‘theirs’ without any input from the other party. Sometimes they take it a step further. Sometimes they mark their love interest in some way – usually without their knowledge – as a deterrent to other prospective romantic partners. These women are essentially nothing more than objects in the eyes of their lovers.
The immortal stars of paranormal romance novels have some incredible powers. Superhuman speed, superhuman strength, a keen sense of smell that allows them to sniff out someone’s arousal, the abili-….wait, what?
Yep, you read that right. This happens so often in paranormal romance and it’s so icky and cringey. For me, this is such an invasion of privacy, even if the cause of that arousal is the person with that damned nosy nose. Plus, it’s always written as something super erotic and sensual. Like, “The smell of her arousal perfumed the air”. Perfumed? What exactly are they smelling? I mean, I don’t want to go into too much detail, but if they’re referring to things happening down there, a place that usually gets very little air, then that’s not gonna smell of anything that can be paired with the word ‘perfumed’. Let’s just leave this one here, shall we?
And there we have it. A list of troublesome tropes pervading the world of paranormal romance. Got some tropes to add to the list? Leave them in the comment section down below.
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