She Broke The Rules

I had all kinds of ideas for this blog post, but instead of writing it I spent a chunk of today reading an urban fantasy novel  by an author who was new to me and who shall remain nameless because I’m about to reveal a big ol’ spoiler in the interest of making my point.

Me, after reading the book…

The book has a pretty typical set-up for an UF – Our Heroine has superpowers and weapons and various other forms of badassery, and she  gets involved in a case that might be impossible to solve, except for someone with her particular combination of skills. From the beginning, she’s shadowed by a Studly Authority Figure, who’s convinced she plays for the Bad Guys and wants  to put her behind bars.

Studly Authority Figure is a mundane, and doesn’t understand anything about the paranormal world Our Heroine inhabits. He is also a wee bit attracted to her, something the author hints in the sections told from his POV, though the attraction’s wrapped up in a whole lot of antagonism.

Similar hints are woven through Our Heroine’s POV, laced with even more antagonism. They both blow so much smoke, you know the fire has to be there somewhere. Things escalate about midway through the story, when he gets tagged by a spell that turns him into a lust monster. She figures things out and reverses the spell, but gets caught in the blowback and is suddenly ready jump on board his naughty train.

They manage to stay out of bed, but the sexual tension definitely increases from that point on. Unfortunately (or fortunately) they have to work together to solve the case. Real trust starts to grow between them, and the intensity of the attraction builds. In the end, the only way Our Heroine survives the Final Battle is by holding onto the emotional connection they feel for each other.

And then she gets sucked back into the badness and spit out the other side.

And when they’re reunited, he’s apparently hooked up with Our Heroine’s best friend, leaving OH all sad and lonely, except for her pet werewolf and a Harpy who’s come over to play.

Oops, did I just give things away?

There’s no final section from Studly Authority Figure’s POV, no explanation for how or why he lost interest in Our Heroine and hooked up with her best friend, and certainly no final kiss.

Or even a near-miss kiss.


It pissed me right off.

See, I know that not every book is  a romance (although really, why not?).  Some of the very best love stories are never consummated, like the one in the October Daye novels by Seanan McGuire. She’s worked the heck out of the non-relationship between Toby and Tybalt, the King of the Cait Sidhe. I’m a couple books behind, so maybe they’ve finally kissed, but through book four, it’s been all about brief meetings, intense glances, and unstated desires.

Oh, and when one of them is in trouble, the other turns up ready to fight. If they ever get together, it’ll melt my Kindle.

The book I read today, however, did nothing to my Kindle except expose it to the risk of being flung across the room. If you’re going to set up the expectations of a romance, and build those expectations through 90% of the book, you can’t then aim a Best Friend Torpedo at them and expect it to work. I feel like the author betrayed my trust in the character she created. The storytelling was strong enough that the first thing I did after finishing was to go to Amazon to have a look at Book 2. I didn’t buy it, because the major plot line had Our Heroine and the Studly Authority Figure working through their mutual antagonism to get to a place of trust so they can solve the case.

Um… already read that.

The rules of the romance genre don’t  necessarily apply to urban fantasy, but the rules of good writing do. I think the author of the book I read today had an ending in mind, and did what she needed to do to get to it, even if it meant a character behaved inconsistently. If you put off answering the will-they-or-won’t-they question, the payoff will be greater, and that’s fine, but don’t cut your reader off at the knees by making a promise you have no intention of keeping.

Wow! I feel so much better now for getting that off my chest. What do you think? Have you ever read a book with a twist at the end that just made you want to throw your Kindle across the room? Leave a note in the comments so I won’t accidentally download a copy.







14 thoughts on “She Broke The Rules

  1. That would have made me pretty mad as well… Not just romance, but anything that is built during the whole book, needs a proper conclusion. Fine if they don’t fall into each other’s arms or work out at all, but get to that point through good storytelling, so we accept that’s how it is!

    1. livrancourt says:

      I could have dealt with it if they’d just felt too awkward to go forward. It was the introduction of the best friend and the implied relationship between her and the hero that pissed me off.
      Thanks Michelle!

      1. livrancourt says:

        She did, but not a big one. And to the author’s credit, the best friend is boy crazy from the start, so from that standpoint it works. I just didn’t buy the hero’s response at the end.

    1. livrancourt says:

      I know, right? There are several books in the series, so for all I know she’s still torturing these two lovebirds.
      Thanks Ellen!

    1. livrancourt says:

      Well if this was part of a grand and sneaky scheme, I’ll never know about it, Mona, cuz I won’t be reading any more books in the series.

  2. Shauna Granger says:

    The general consensus has been “NO CLIFFHANGERS” – which I think can be difficult for some authors to understand. I think some authors are afraid to wrap up every detail for fear readers wont come back to see what’s next. But they don’t realize they’re walking a fine line of pissing off their readers. Like you said, even a near kiss, or an explanation about where the best friend came from would’ve sufficed. That’s a bummer. I can remember being angry at the end of books, but I haven’t had my coffee yet to remember their titles, lol!

    1. livrancourt says:

      I don’t mind a cliffhanger – especially if the series has been out awhile so I can just download the next book (ahem, Jeaniene Frost, ahem) – and I don’t even mind a little deferred gratification. But DON’T make your character do something that’s not in his (or her) character.
      And when you’ve had coffee, Shauna, come back and let me know which books I should avoid.

  3. Umm, yeah read the same book and then only got about 50 pgs in on the second only to give up. It had awesome potential but the romance arc hit some serious construction issues. Sometimes it’s a difficult balance to write multiple arcs and/or weave a romance through a series. Deanna’s October Daye series does it well, even Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin works even though (spoiler alert) the first relationships leaves you gnashing teeth.
    I think you’re right…she just released a new one and I don’t know if they ever hooked up.
    Lovely post!

    1. livrancourt says:

      Oops…I had a feeling someone would recognize the book, although since my goal was to avoid spoiling it and you’ve already read it, Jami, I guess that’s okay.
      And you at least started book 2, which gives you extra credit!

  4. I would have reacted the same way. Whether I’m reading or writing, I LOVE me some good sexual tension/relationship build-up, but it had better pay off, at least a little, even if things don’t end on a good note. I think that October Daye series would drive me nuts if nothing ever happens through a number of books, though if it’s done well I could live with it. I personally would rather see consummation followed by problems than an unending “will they or won’t they” storyline, but I guess it depends on the story.

    I don’t like to be teased beyond reason, is what I’m saying. 😉

    1. livrancourt says:

      I hear you, Kate, and you know, the older I get, the less patience I have with that kind of nonsense. Bring on the consummation!

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