How You Know You’re Reading a Cliche Romance

I’ve started noticing rather mundane patterns in  romances.  Overall, I like the quality of historical romance stories because they actually have decent plots, but after reading a couple I’ve noticed some things.  They follow the same plot line.

1) The cover is always way more salacious than the actual content of the story based on sexual content.

2) The heroine is usually some kind of redhead (auburn, strawberry blonde, orange flames).  The hero is tall, dark and handsome.

3) Her Prince Charming is an off-kilter high-ranking nobleman (frequently a duke, earl or viscount) who doesn’t like being a duke/earl/viscount and resents “society.”

4) Heroine is tomboyish, constantly getting into mischief and resents the role of being a lady.  Yet somehow she is fine with the role when she accepts to marry the hero.  She is also often an orphan or orphan-esque and acts childish for someone often over the age of twenty.

5) The heroine and her hero meet when he catches her at some type of criminal act or mischief.

6) Somehow hero and heroine don’t know each other, but they’re all over each other before exchanging names.

7) Hero and heroine get caught in a compromising situation due to trying to cover for heroine’s criminal activities, and to preserve her reputation the hero ends up telling people that they’re engaged.

8) Heroine gets into more mischief with something to do with political intrigue or property rights.

9) Hero moons over heroine and ways he will keep her safe and bed her, the conflicting notions make him crazy.  This results in several steamy make-out sessions and/or they just screw each other’s brains out.

10) Heroine tries to prove that she doesn’t need hero and does something stupid.

11) Hero steps in and saves the day, but we pretend the heroine did most of it on her own.

12) Epilogue explaining happily ever after.

Dancing at Midnight

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge sucker for fairytale/myth retellings.  Someone online mentioned wanting to read a good version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses a couple of months ago, and to my surprise I stumbled across one.

Jessica Day George’s novel Princess of the Midnight Ball has to be the best retelling of this story I’ve ever encountered.  Of course, it is from Bloomsbury so there’s little surprise about the quality of their fantasy books.  I am usually not easily impressed by books, and I hadn’t planned on reading it until I accidentally glanced at the first page and was hooked in.

The story follows Galen, a young man who returns from war to work at the palace gardens where the princesses mysteriously have their shoes worn away night after night.  The plot thickens when Galen finds himself enchanted by the eldest sister Rose and he becomes determined to discover their secret.  George uses all of the stereotypical fairytale cliches like the invisible cloak, the evil magician, damsels in distress and the like, but she also creates a very realistic and fantastic world for them to play in.  The novel does jump the borders between mundane and epic at different points.  I would have preferred a little more emotion from the characters and for them to be a little more fleshy, but otherwise, it was a definitely worthwhile read.

The pacing was well done.  So often I’ve read novels with the reveals being dragged out, but this story opens itself up.  Rose and Galen are sharp and tragically woven characters though bland at times.  The great problem of The Twelve Dancing Princesses is that there is a large balancing act with so many characters.  I know because as a teen I’d write far too many characters and a simple scene can get complicated when you have to count if you’ve left someone out of too many conversations.  Overall, I have to say I enjoyed the ride.