Now before I go any further, I am aware that this whole rant is going to say a lot more about me than about any of the fiction I might appear to be criticizing. I am prepared to accept that I am twisted WASP saddo with no emotional maturity, and that all you other romance fans are right and I'm wrong. But what the hell. It's my blog and I'll froth if I want to.
And what I can't bloody bear is the sort of romance where the hero and heroine have met and then he spends several chapters demonstrating what an awesome man he is, and how great a potential life-partner, by dint of cheerfully winning the approval of her family, which usually is huge and includes several creepily possessive, macho brothers and a bunch of giggly sisters. I CAN'T STAND IT. It makes my skin crawl.
Oh, I do get that in real life it is practical and agreeable for your husband to socialise happily with your Mom and Pop and your stupid irritating brother and sister. But we're talking fiction here, and in romance I want it to be Hero and Heroine vs the Rest of the World, and to hell what anyone else thinks. I want my hero to be blind to anything but how much he wants his lover. I want my heroine to need no one else but the man who completes her. They should be sticking two fingers up to convention, not kissing its ass!
And she should grow a pair too, frankly. A heroine who can't cut the apron strings and leave her overbearing mother, or who has a pathological need to tell her sister every intimate detail of her love-life like she's still bloody twelve years old, makes me spit.
In one nameless story I read recently, the hero is sitting in the kitchen, and he gets so turned on by thinking about the heroine that he gets this huge hard-on in front of his his mother and brother. And instead of going off and KILLING HIMSELF like any decent human being would do, he has this sort of, "Ho ho, they've seen it all before" attitude and I wanted to TEAR MY EYEBALLS OUT OF MY HEAD AND WASH THE SOCKETS OUT WITH VINEGAR. How is that erotic? HOW???
Family is not sexy. NOTHING emasculates a hero more effectively than having his blasted mother hove into the text. NOTHING. And you Americans - why does every male protagonist in any long running series eventually have his father (who is inevitably a high-ranking soldier/policeman/hero) stroll into town for a bit of belated bonding with his hitherto estranged offspring? You did it in House and Star Trek:TNG and Lost and B5 and well, just about everything. Well, stop it now! Independence is attractive. Sobbing "Dad, I only ever wanted your approval!" is completely nauseating.
And you know you agree with me. Who is sexier, Luke Skywalker or Han Solo? One has a family who have to die before he finds the balls to leave home, while the other is a free-wheeling independent spirit and totally cool. With a big hairy gay buddy.
So here I put my demands on the table. This is what I want from my romance characters:
Hero: Ideally, his family past is a mysterious blank, almost as if he's been spawned, fully adult, from the Hero Vats. If not, his mother is dead. End of. It all happened many years ago, and he should never think about her and definitely not be looking for a mother-substitute in his lover. He can have a father, but must never have personal contact with the man. It's pretty acceptable if his father was some jerk who impregnated his mother and ran off, never to be seen again, his mother died and he was brought up by his Gran. Or in an orphanage. No female relatives of any other kind. He may have one (1) brother, provided that the brother is Evil.
There you go. Perfectly reasonable, I'm sure you'll agree.