Why I’m Taking a Breather From Contemporary Romance

January 28, 2016 6:00 am Published by 199 Comments

Hey, you.

Yeah, you.

Contemporary Romance.

I’m sick of your shit.

And make no mistake—you dished out heaping helpings of shit in 2015, so much so that mid-November brought the worst book reading slump I can recall.

In an effort to combat said shittiness, I’ve headed back to my roots—historical romance. Since I’ve been real fucking happy there, I’ve decided to sit and stay a spell. However, as I recognize your right to face your accuser, I’ve compiled a list of grievances. If you get your shit together, I may consider coming back.

Why I’m Taking a Breather from Contemporary Romance

  1. Fuck you and your fucking step-brother.

While you’d never know it by the Amazon Bestsellers list, it’s safe to say that the romance world at large is tired of step-brother romance. I think it’s more than that, though. It’s bandwagon romance in general, and the fact that one successful book can spawn an entire legion of copycats. I’m not talking about the creation of new subgenres, as was the case with the New Adult Genre post-Beautiful Disaster and Slammed. I’m talking about 2012, The Year of the Billionaire Dom, and how the already-shaky storyline in Fifty Shades of Grey was bastardized and regurgitated by eleventy-seven contemporary romance authors and their sisters. Then there was 2013, which brought with it the rise of MC Romance and all of the violence, chauvinism and misogyny it entails. I’m referring to the deluge of serial romance novels circa 2014, with their overpriced novellas and gnarly cliffhangers. Add to that the Step-Brother Situation in 2015 and what we have, folks, is a pattern, one which is generally rooted in a well-written, solidly performing book that is used and abused by the good, the bad and the really freaking awful.

Be original, people. Yes, I do realize there’s only so many premises out there and that some overlap is bound to happen, but overlap and inundating the market with pseudo-incest clearly aren’t the same. Build a box—then do your thinking OUTSIDE of it. The most memorable books truly are the ones that are the most unique.

And FYI—A motorcycle club prez who moonlights as a dom trying to climb in his step-sister’s britches is so far inside the box, it ain’t even funny.

  1. Hide your heroines, hide her friends, cause these bitches are raping everybody.

When your readers start taking bets on whether your newest heroine will be a victim of sexual assault, you’ve clearly overused that as a plot point. We won’t even address how extremely fucked up it is that I’m being forced to consider sexual assault a PLOT POINT. Outside of the death of a child, there’s no situation that elicits a more compassionate, empathetic reaction towards another member of the sisterhood than sexual assault. Think about it—how hard is it to feel disdain or even apathy towards a heroine who’s been raped? There are authors who’ve penned perfectly beautiful, moving and meaningful tales of women who aren’t just survivors of rape, but overcomers. On the other and altogether-more-frequently used side of that see-saw are the authors who couldn’t paint a likeable, multifaceted heroine with color-by-numbers.

Rape is ugly and vicious and carries with it all of these feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and FEAR. It’s a crime, not a crutch or a TROPE, and it shouldn’t be treated that way. It’s weak, it’s cheap and it’s lazy, and FYI—coming from the standpoint of a survivor–most of you DO NOT get that shit right. If you can craft an uber alpha, asshole hero that melts the hearts of your audience without giving him a backstory that involves sexual assault, you should be able to do the same for your heroine.

While I personally prefer to read about average, well-adjusted women with normal, everyday problems, I don’t mind a heroine who’s hauling around a cargo trailer full of issues, as long as those issues aren’t related to sexual assault. Crack open the DSM-5 and pick an issue. There are a whole slew of them that are seriously underrepresented in romance.

  1. Cover it with something else, or I ain’t going in.

Jed Hill’s pecs and Gary Taylor’s biceps and Colin Wayne’s abs. And don’t even get me started on the perfection that is Chase Ketron.

I get it, folks. Believe me—totally get it.

But I’ve been just about done getting it for a while. I’m not sure when it happened, but I suspect it was somewhere right around the time I realized I’ve seen Jase Dean sans shirt more often than my husband, and the extracurriculars in La Casa de Nikki are very, very healthy. While the Shirtless Wonders haven’t been replaced altogether, bearded, broody and borderline baleful seems to be the flavor of the current crop of Cover Boys. Yeah, Franggy’s gorgeous and ole Levi is allllmmmmost hot enough to make me wanna sign up for some lumberjack-style lovin’, but I’ve almost had my fill of them, too. I love Bequet’s Celtic Salt Caramels, but I’d puke my guts out if I had to eat them every day. Get me?

While we’re on the subject, I’d also like to point out that it is what’s between the covers that counts, folks. Slapping an overpriced photo of a pretty boy on a poorly written, poorly edited, poorly executed book ain’t gonna make it better. It doesn’t matter what color you spray paint shit, it still stinks.

Though the cover of Kristen Ashley’s Sebring could easily double as the backdrop for a Come See Tennessee! brochure, it made perfectly beautiful sense after reading the book. Each of the covers for Bethany-Kris’ Chicago Wars series, while a little more abstract and artsy than I’d generally prefer, are meaningful within the context of the book. See that word again, ladies?

You wanna slap a pretty boy on your cover? Go to the local CrossFit and find you a model. Go to your local college and find you a photographer. Make it original, make it different and make it meaningful.

  1. I don’t care what Jason Derulo wants, please don’t talk dirty to me.

Tessa Bailey and Rhyannon Byrd are the Queen and Duchess of Dirty Talk, respectively, and are masters of their craft. Both of these women have caused uncomfortable wiggling in many a reader and led to many a husband getting better than lucky. Dirty talk creates steam and builds momentum and makes the impossibility of instalust suddenly completely plausible—when it’s done correctly.

And a whole slew of y’all ain’t doing it right.

If your come is ropey, your cock is leaking or your cunt is burning, you need to see a professional posthaste. I’ve heard better dirty talk from Jenna Jameson, and I think we all know her acting ability wasn’t the asset that kept ole girl gainfully employed. Readers rave about a couple authors’ skill with the down and dirty and we’re suddenly swimming in ride that fat dick’s and bounce on my thick cock’s and I’m gonna slide my salami in your snatchs. Ok, so I haven’t actually read that last one, but I don’t think it’d be a stretch given the downward spiral of the dirty talk situation.

Here’s what I don’t think many authors grasp. It’s not about the words—it’s about who says them, and when and how they’re said. If your hero is a gross creeper or an immature asshole or a nutless beta, he’ll continue to be exactly that after he tells us alllllll about his monster pecker and how he’s gonna ruin us with it. If you toss the dirty talk out there too early, you’re gonna funk the flow and kill the momentum. And even if I love your dude, if his game is weak or cliché or seedy—you’re gonna kill my quiver.

Bottom line? An alpha I wouldn’t mind taking home with me growling what he’s gonna do to me when we get there is hot. Your nutless wonder talking about the quality and quantity of his seminal emission is not.

  1. Sex Scenes Do NOT Erotica Make.

There’s literally nothing more difficult to edit than a sex scene, so I can appreciate that they’re difficult to write. There’s a fine line between painting a scene with words and writing an instruction manual. You’ve gotta make sure all the clothes come off or are pushed up or aside. Then you have to let us know about the landscape—how big are the hills? What color are the caps? Is the fjord covered in greenery or barren? Is the peninsula more like Florida or Italy? Then you have the mechanics of it. What part went where—‘cause that’s kinda critical. Whether said part was sleeved or unsleeved. Screwed or nailed? Suitable lubrication, or was some WD-40 required? Then there’s the grand finale, and making sure it worked for all parts and parties involved. Why anyone wants to attempt this twenty-seven times inside 250 pages is a fucking mystery to me.

Lemme be clear—

The quantity of sex scenes in a book does not make it erotic.

The setting of said sex scenes does not make it erotic.

Throwing in some butt sex doesn’t make it erotic.

Tossing in a couple extra partners doesn’t make it erotic. Really, it just makes it messy. . .

Erotica is not about sex scenes, period. It’s about the way those sex scenes make your reader feel. Erotic does not mean descriptive or explicit. It’s about the quality of the sex scenes you produce. It’s not about the dirty talk or how big his dick is or even how skilled he is with it. It’s about using words to make sexy tangible.

A woman’s most important sex organ lies between her ears, not her legs. Stimulate the former and the latter will follow.

  1. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

I’ve met many an insurance agent in my life. Lots of bankers. Realtors. Contractors. IT guys.

Know who I’ve never met?

A commando.

Or a mercenary.

Or a billionaire.

Or a 1%er.

That series you’re planning about the former military dudes forming a security company? I’ve read that.

Or how about the brothers-in-arms turned mercenaries? You know, the one with the PTSD-ridden leader plagued by survivor’s guilt? Yeah. Read that, too.

Or how about the billionaire and his billionaire pals? The ones with kinks that’d give Howard Stern a full-body blush? Yup, you guessed it.

I realize that it’s decidedly more difficult to pen an alpha traveling salesman than an alpha police officer. And I ain’t saying I’m a gold digger, but no one wants to mess with a broke motherfucker. I’m just SICK to DEATH of opening up a book and reading the same hero with the same ridiculous backstory and the same implausible job and financial situation. Surprise me, people. I’d rather read about a septic tank pumper than one more fucking commando.

At least he’ll already be familiar with the pipes.

  1. Have some jizz, sweetheart, with a side of self-esteem.

Earlier this week, I saw a teaser on Facebook by an author I love who shall remain unnamed. The gist of the quote provided was that the hero made the heroine feel worthy.

Dude. For real?

Heads up, ladies.

Are you listening?

Self-worth cannot be found at the end of a penis.

The only thing you can get from jizz that you ain’t already got is knocked up . . . or something Clorox won’t wash off.

The author who shall remain unnamed isn’t the first or even the worst offender. The notion of the little lost woman who finds herself when the big strong hero starts slipping her the D is altogether too common. Self-worth should be intrinsic. It should be something you bring with you to a relationship, and something you’ll leave with if it doesn’t work. It shouldn’t be tied to a man or how he makes you feel. Is that really the kind of message we want to send to young girls? That another human being is responsible for the way she feels about herself?

I think not.

  1. He’s pretty fly. . . for a white guy.

I post these let’s get to know each other, icebreaker type questions in the Scandalicious Secret Vault once a week or so. For shits and giggles, I asked our group about the last diverse romance they’d read. Now, I consider our crew to be very well-versed in the world of romance. We’ve got women in our ranks who love everything from Georgette Heyer to Pepper Winters, and that’s some serious range, people. Despite said range and the disparities in geography, ethnicity and nationality, there were a lot of “I haven’t read one” answers.

I was frankly a bit surprised. None of these women are close-minded. They’d be voted off the island if they were. They’re all open to recommendations. There are Vault members who one-click pretty much anything lauded by a Nerd, whether the hero is a Scottish laird or a blue alien. So . . . . what’s up with that?

Well, when 99% of the heroes in romance are some variation of white, diversity in reading is a bit tough to manage. I’ll be the first to tell you that hood love stories DO NOT appeal to me. I prefer stories that are relatable and heroes I’d swoon over, and I ain’t swooning over Lil T and his gold teeth any more than I’d swoon over Adolf the neo-Nazi. Those books have a place within the genre, but it’s not on my Kindle. I also have no interest in reading African-American heroines so bogged down in racial stereotypes my eye rolling can be heard from two states away. Write me an educated, soft-spoken sister who doesn’t oooohhh, girl once per chapter. Or an Asian dude who isn’t a damn martial artist. Or a Hispanic hero who isn’t a cop or a contractor.

There’s too many shades in the rainbow to paint everything white.

  1. Uh, shit ain’t funny.

I was listening to the comedy channel on Sirius a few weeks ago when an old Amy Schumer stand-up routine came on. She was essentially joking about sitting in church and wondering whether the people around her knew she’d taken a morning-after pill and was “having an abortion in the Lord’s house.”

Uh—that ain’t funny.

I’m much more of a Tina Fey kinda girl. You know, smart humor?

Basically, crass isn’t funny.

While fart noises and burps that come from deeeep within may appeal to the twelve-year-old boy living inside my head, I have no desire to read about poop or itchy, smelly vag or any of the other gross bodily functions and disgusting humor that seem to be popping up like chlamydia in a frat house in contemporary romance. Snark is funny. Sarcasm is funny. Shit is not funny.

In the words of the Dowager Countess of Grantham, vulgarity is no substitute for wit.

I could probably go on with this line of bitching, but then it would become less constructive and more like . . . well, bitching. The moral to this story, folks, is that I’m disillusioned, bored and fed up. I’m tired of being spoon-fed shit. I’m tired of the petty, backdoor Facebook bulllshit. I’m tired of reading the same exact review with some variation of the same exact words on fifty different blogs. I’m tired of chasing the next big release. I’m tired of the “mystery authors” who seem to think that sporting wood instead of wool is gonna make me run out and buy their book. I’m just freaking tired.

I probably read ten really good contemporary romances last year. Ten books may be the extent of the average person’s reading, but it was less than 5% of mine. I recognize that I’m an atypical reader, and I appreciate that there are folks out there that are more than happy with the status quo—but I ain’t one of them. I’m also not naming names or pointing fingers, so if you feel called out, it might be time to look within.

Rather than let this get the better of me and fuck my reading mojo all to hell, I took a step back. There will always be a place on my shelves for the handful of contemporary authors who’ve yet to disappoint me, but I’m henceforth sticking to what makes me happy. I’m rereading classic historical romances. I’m tra la la-ing with Julie Garwood. I’m getting all teary eyed over Judith McNaught. I’m letting Lisa Kleypas remind me that sex scenes can be sexy without any of the C words—cunt, clit, cock or come. I’m proactively seeking my happy place, and that happy place is no longer in contemporary romance. Something’s gotta give—and I decided it ain’t gonna be me.

 

Kisses,

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199 Comments

  • Maria says:

    I love this!!!! And I agree. Same shit different book for the most part!! I think we all have our go to authors and thank goodness for that. But, on my list I would add cliffhangers. Too many damn cliffhangers!!

  • Carmela says:

    Preach it, sister. Your articles are chuckle-full of goodness (sorry for being cheesy, can’t help it 😜😉😘). I do the same, i step back to the goodness of historical romance when contemporary ones make me ragey. There’s something soothing about historicals even the most angsty ones. Why is that? As you’ve said above, there’s none of the crass, toilet humour and eye rolling yucky dirty talk. I find the banter and dialogue in historicals are the witty and mostly snarky ones. Even when the alpha hero is bitch slap worthy, somehow there’s very good grovel in there and if it fails, we can just blame the time period and setting of the story. Generally, I’m more impressed with authors who can write good historical romances. More impressive are those like Lisa Kleypas who can write well in both sub genres. Anyway, enjoyed your article so much, Nikki.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Carmela!

      Historicals are a lot like paranormals in that there’s almost always some measure of world building. There’s an ambience, and you feel IMMERSED when the author does it right. It’s my happy place.

  • Hope says:

    👏🏻Standing ovation!👏🏻

  • Britton says:

    I loved that !! Some of my book friends and I were just discussing how mediocre is not ok even though .. They are five starred because of who wrote them or what street team you have pimping it out. Some of the best sex scenes I have ever read were written by Diana Galbadon and not once did she describe the size of Jamie Frasers Penis !! I laughed so much in your post and am so thankful their are others that feel the same way we do!! Be outside the BOX!!! Thanks for making my morning!

    • Just Nikki says:

      That’s a huge issue for me–the fact that one blog or one street team can make or break a release. It just goes to show you that there’s a lot of Wal-Mart readers out there, totally willing to accept mediocrity because that’s what’s cheap, available and being shoved down their throats. If that’s your thing, have at it–But it ain’t mine.

  • Maria Rose says:

    Great post Nikki – I agree with everything you’ve said. I’m pretty much only reading contemp romances from authors I really enjoy right now, and trying out some other new to me genres to keep things fresh. And I can proudly say I’ve never read a step-brother romance.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Maria!

      You’re one of the few and the proud, ma’am. I can honestly admit I was hoodwinked more than once. And ditto on the authors you love. I’ve not abandoned the likes of Tessa Bailey and Emma Chase and Kindle Alexander. There ARE authors who’ve never disappointed me, and I’ll continue to sprinkle their books over my historical romance sundae.

      • Maria Rose says:

        I had an interesting conversation over on FB when I reposted your post (that sounds funny). Some current contemporary romance authors and I dug into the subject and one of them said (paraphrased here) that the type of romance you’re talking about above is almost a new genre on it’s own – like ‘new romance’ – it’s the romances that newcomers to romance (often in their early twenties), as a results of 50 shades, are gobbling up It’s unfortunately the results of self publishing exploding and people seeing what makes the top 100 on amazon and then copying that. There are still some really good contemporary romance authors (Emma Barry, Zoe York, Laura Florand, Virginia Kantra, Shannon Stacey, Lauren Layne, Myra Lyn Kelly to name a few) that don’t follow those trends in publishing that are becoming so, well, obnoxious to many of us. The problem is that they’re not getting the attention because of the ‘look a squirrel!’ rabid attention that the step brother dom billionaire mma fighter books get on sites like Goodreads. Those authors that still write really good, classic traditional contemporary romance (that you and I love) are being sucked under the ‘new romance’ bus – and, truth be told, their books aren’t getting seen or blogged about, so no one knows they are there.

  • Tina S. (Weena) says:

    I’ll think it, and you can say it sooooo much more eloquently than me! Ugh. So much truthiness there. I was experiencing some major book fatigue myself in 2015, and I LOVE reading. It got to be so bad that I lost my lady-boner for writing reviews for my friends. And then I was rating every book on Goodreads (for the most part) with a 2. Too much meh going on, and I think you pegged all the reasons for it.

    No to serials. No to “dark erotica” which deals with kidnapped women falling in love with their captors. And if I read another blurb saying that this is the “next ’50 Shades’ book,” someone is going to get a major atomic wedgie.

    Well said, Nikki!

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Tina!

      Yes, yes and yes. I’ve felt almost completely unmoved to write reviews because there was so little that I found review-worthy. I’m not gonna waste my breath unless I’ve got something original to say, and I’ve been left feeling largely
      uninspired.

  • Donna Fasano says:

    This is exactly why I write sweet contemporary romance (and in some cases “sweeter” would also be an apt description of my work). When I read romance, I like for the story to focus on the development of the romance rather than the sex. Who are these people? What’s keeping them apart even though they want to be together? How do they work out or work through the conflict to find their happily ever after? That’s what I want to spend my time reading.

    Wonderful post, Nikki.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Donna, and welcome!

      I love sweet romance, and small-town romance and historicals and Harlequins and paranormal…. They’re all comfort reads for me, and there’s definitely a reason for that–straight-forward, uncomplicated and centered on the couple and their emotions.

  • Amy Schmid says:

    Well said! I already switched over to historicals for 2015, so I missed most of the crap…Except for the latest in the “she got raped, then went home to have sex with her boyfriend of 3 days” series….I was guilty of taking advantage of the obvious, and winning some cash.

    (You probably get sick of us saying it, but we would like you to write more, Nikki)

  • MBR says:

    Oh. My. God. I so love what you’ve penned down. Manages to echo all my sentiments. Reading romance has become a challenge now instead of it being the genre that I loved to immerse myself in. Bravo! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

  • ALS says:

    Love your article. In 2013 when I purchased my first Kindle, I read an author who had two books out. One, the first book in a paranormal romance series and the other a romance featuring a 20-something BBW. Both books were amazing and I ended up buying the next 5 or 6 books this author wrote. For the past 2 1/2 years, the author has mentioned publishing subsequent books in the PNR and BBW series, and it has yet to happen. Instead, the author has published not very good, not romance worthy, band wagon genre books (man-whore millionaires, athletes, strippers, etc and weak, pathetic heroines). Like you said, I’m getting tired of the same old. I feel like I might just stop reading indie and self-published authors and go back to my good old Harlequin days.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Welcome, ALS, and thanks!

      I used to have Harlequin Sundays, no joke. They’re trope-y and angsty, but you always got a good, quality read and you knew there aren’t any bogeymen waiting to kidnap, torture and rape your heroine.

      Weak women don’t do it for me. Like, at all. I’m the heroine cheerleader of the group, but you’ve gotta give me something to work with. Dented and damaged I can do…. Spineless is a no.

  • My heat level (but not sexual tension level) is falling with every contemporary I write. In my latest, I believe our intrepid h/h got as far as first base. Why? Because I’m tired of it too. As a reader, and as a writer. I stopped reading contemporary for the most part probably three years ago, and I don’t see myself going back anytime soon. Thanks for your honesty – us writers need it.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks and welcome, Cassandra!

      I’m an imaginative, emotionally intelligent woman. I don’t need every sex scene diagrammed out for me. I’d just watch Redtube if I wanted porn, so I can appreciate a romance that’s more sweet than… Well, salty, to be crass.

  • Meg Weglarz says:

    You are absolutely right.
    This is genius.
    I want to take you out for a drink on behalf of romance readers everywhere, we owe you some very fine champagne.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Meg, though now would be a good time to advise you not to call me a genius. If my head gets any bigger, they won’t be able to stand me around here.

      Kidding–mostly.

      I’m always happy to say what most people have been thinking.

      • Meg Weglarz says:

        Well, the article is certainly genius and being discussed in several readers’ groups online in rather lively discourse.

        But truly, the champers is on me, should our paths cross IRL

  • JennEllen says:

    Thank you, Nikki! I’ve been in a reading slump off and on for a while now. Not reading near as much as I normally do. I thought it was me, and it is to an extent. After reading this, though, I realized it’s also what I’m trying to read. I’ve been mainly reading contemporary romances for the last year. Your list is so much of what I have problems with in so many books I’m choosing to read. I use to read a ton of PNR and historicals and I think it’s time I go back and revisit those genres.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Jenn, I didn’t read ANYTHING for two weeks in December. That hasn’t happened in YEARS. I spent a couple of weeks after that rereading historicals and not-so-contemporary contemporaries, like Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Kiss an Angel. You know, 20 year old contemporaries. I got back in my groove that way and decided to stick there. It’s keeping me marginally saner.

  • THIS! So much this. I recently posted something along these lines without going into this detail but….. Everything you just said! I’m happy I’m not alone!

  • YES!!! And a few more on my list are cliffhangers, cheating and death of a hero/herione after their HEA. I’m going back to reading a lot of my tried and true older contemporary series and authors. I usual only read romance but yesterday caught myself putting a psychological thriller on my TBR.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Welcome, DiDi!

      Oh, the dead lead post-HEA. I only did one of those last year, but it made me want to go straight country bitch and start busting windows out of cars and shit. I agree with returning to your roots, whatever those roots might be. It reminds you why you started reading.

  • Holley Trent says:

    “Oooohhh, girl.” X-(

    There’s a wealth of diverse romance out there. Like with any other category, some of it is broadly relatable, some of it isn’t. Most of it doesn’t present shallow, stereotypical characterizations. But, I know how to find it when I’m looking for it. I have very talented author friends who always steer me right.

    A good place to score recs is Rebekah Weatherspoon’s WOCinRomance Twitter feed. Maybe check it out when your contemporary hiatus is over. Actually, it wouldn’t hurt to scan now–there are some historical recs there, too.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Welcome, Holley!

      Beverly Jenkins is a fabulous author of historical romance, and her heroes and heroines run the gamut of the color scale. I agree that there’s some fabulous stuff out there, but there’s not near enough of it.

    • Lola says:

      Totally agree with your posting, Holley!. Thanks for mentioning the Twitter page as well. I’m going to follow it.

  • Monica Burns says:

    I’ve got an awesome historical time travel and a recent historical sheikh story that might interest you. The time travel is the best though. 😈

  • Michelle Hill-Randall says:

    Thank You!!! I thought I was the only one. I read between 100 and 150 books a year (I dispatch for a small police dept) and lately I have gone back to rereading my old favorites. I just felt there was nothing left to the imagination.

    • Just NIkki says:

      Thanks, Michelle!

      I didn’t stop reading, which is probably most of my problem. I read upwards of 350 romances last year, the bulk of which were contemporary. I was MOVED by about 10 of them. Maybe my expectations are too high–but I seriously doubt anyone has said DAMN, I WISH I’D SETTLED FOR LESS at the end of their lives.

  • Rebekah says:

    YES to all of this & then some.
    Just because One style of book sold well does not mean that is now the only type to publish , sell, or push .

    I’ve given up on contemporary romantic fiction for two years now.

    Another tangent ;

    I sincerely want writers of contemps set in cozy small towns to stop using names for the roads, businesses, and towns that sound like something out of God Damned Strawberry Shortcake cartoons.

    How in the holy hell am I supposed to take anything seriously when the entire story is set in a town with a name along the lines of Puddingville or Rainbow River or Tea Party Town or Cupcake Valley or Cuddly Puppy Alley. Nobody really believes that characters are going to have a romantic picnic on the shores of lake Snuggly-Bear.

    Knock. That. Shit. Right. Off.

    Before you name that fictional burg, ask yourself ” Have I stolen an idea from children’s programming or a Crayola marker color for this place ? ” If so – Pick Something Else. Go google earth some. Get a few ideas.

    I am a 40 year old adult woman, and that is too old to read about a contemp small town love story which takes place in Huggy Buggy Villa, okay ?

    * also, this kind of shit is why I refuse to ever lay a finger, much less an eyeball, upon another word written by Macomber .

    • Just Nikki says:

      And Rebekah just made my water come out my nose with Huggy Buggy Villa. A picnic on the shore of Lake Sunshine Rainbow does kill the quiver, doesn’t it?

      We ARE grown ass women, and we want intelligent, emotionally stimulating books. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

  • Angela says:

    Totally spot on Nikki. Without even realizing it I have started limiting my contemporary reading and have totally been focusing on paranormal. I am loving the world building, and it can be less believable. Contemporary’s have been boring me as of late, except for a very few.
    Part of what all my contemporary favorite books of 2015 had was that they were all real, relatable people. I could know anyone of them and it wouldn’t be weird. I love confident women that don’t second guess every action and make decisions and stick with them. None of this wishy washy stuff that drives me crazy. I seem to read more books with heroines that annoy me as of late and there have been more DNF’s this past year than my Goodreads really says.
    I feel like I’m a completely non discerning reader when it comes to race. If I like the characters and their actions I will read it. I just don’t care what colour or race they are. If it’s well written I will read it. That said I am probably not going to search for a non-white character, but it would be nice to have some diversity there for sure.
    As for covers usually a nice one will get me to read the blurb. A nice one doesn’t have to mean nice abs or body, but it doesn’t hurt. But I need an ORIGINAL cover that catches my eye in some way, and it doesn’t have to have guy on it. In all honesty a recommendation from someone I trust is the number one way I will read a book. But I agree at some point all the covers of men’s abs start to look the same. I also really appreciate it if it ties to the story in some way.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Angela!

      I don’t think we should HAVE to consciously seek out diverse books. It should happen organically. Just think about how often you read a book where the heroine has a group of friends, and every damn one of them is some flavor of vanilla. Is that really a reflection of society at large? My core group of friends is like the United Nations.

      Bored. Yes, so bored. I think that’s why I was so drawn to the werebears early last year and the aliens towards the end of 2015–cause they were different.

  • Suzyd says:

    I hope authors read this post! You are doing them a big favour Nikki. I agree with everything you said.
    I was for the most part bitterly disappointed with most of the contemporaries I started this year. Many were a waste of my one click.
    Violated and beaten heroines who escape abusive husband cannot enjoy amazingly athletic sex with hero while their wounds and bruises are fresh.Trust me, I have worked in an emergency department! I was so turned off by this and the cliff hanger I doubt if I will ever read this author again which is a shame because I loved the first book of hers I read.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Suzy! Thanks!

      I don’t feel like having sex when I’ve got a fucking cold. I’m not gonna feel like bed gymnastics–cause that’s what sex in some of those books amounts to–after I’ve had the pure, unadulterated shit out of me. No. Not gonna happen.

      Yeah, I get there’s some room for artistic license, but there’s a difference in fiction and science fiction, folks.

  • Sasha White says:

    Thank you for this. Seriously, I write contemporary, and I can’t even read it anymore. Which actually makes writing it very hard because I feel like things that are true to my characters have become too cliche- mostly because I’ve been writing BDSM since before it became popular. I will say none of my Dom’s are millionairs, and while I do have security guys, ex-military and mercenaries, they’re actually based on guys I have met. The IT guys, mechanics, cooks, and artists are guys I wanna meet. 🙂
    If I wasn’t so in love with my series, I’d drop it simply to not be in the genre, and I’d try something new, but well. I do love them. And I can still play in other genres when I read. 🙂

    Thanks for posting this though. I enjoyed it. 🙂

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Sasha, and welcome.

      Yes, the little idiosyncrasies that make military men REAL and truly representative of the kind of guys they are have been done and overdone so much under the guise of alpha maleness that it feels cliche, and that’s a shame.

      Glad you enjoyed it. I’ll take a look at your series.

  • Shelly says:

    You are absolutely right, I would have to agree with you as well. Lately reading them, I don’t get that tingle any more like I use to when I first start reading

    • Just Nikki says:

      Shelley, the tingle has vacated the premises, so I’m just gonna stimulate my mind until the bottom half follows along….

      Thanks!

  • All the yesses. And now how do I get you to review my books? Dying to hear how you rip it, good or bad! 😉

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Kalan! I’ll take a look at your books. I don’t really review anymore, but we do have a weekly podcast where we share what we’ve read and give our feedback.

  • Single Title says:

    I’m a traditionally published author. I write contemporary romance. The sub-genre I write (NOT stepbrothers, billionaires or small towns) is so hot right now that multiple publishers are actively seeking it. I’m shocked I didn’t see it on the above list.

    Here’s the thing. The indie published are able to write what they’d like to. The trad published authors you may be reading? Their agent and editor are suggesting what they’d like to see. In other words, “Wow! FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is so hot right now. Could you write a billionaire book with BDSM and an innocent heroine? The publisher really wants it. We’d like the manuscript in three months.” Or, “Stepbrother romance seems to be a really hot trend. Would you write some?” We are told over and over to “write your best book”, but that “best book” needs to be marketable. And the market changes on a daily basis.

    I am not making excuses for bad or poorly edited books. I hate billionaires and stepbrother romance, too, but this doesn’t happen because some author woke up in the middle of the night and said to herself, “I can’t wait to write an alphole.” One other thing to bear in mind: Traditionally published contemporary authors are asked to write from two to four books a year. This is not an excuse, it’s a fact. We do our best to write a book our readers will love. And everyone’s different — the book you detest will be someone else’s catnip.

    Thank you for the constructive criticism above. Most of all, I hope my readers love what I’ve come up with. And I will keep working at it.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Welcome, Single Title….

      I totally get that you’re a woman trying to be original in an altogether unoriginal marketplace. I can’t imagine having my creative process dictated by anyone–but then, I don’t do well with dictation, anyway.

      I’m a tadpole in a virtual ocean of readers. As there are a couple hood love books, a stepbrother romance and some not-so-funny comedies sitting on the Amazon top 100 in romance as of the time of this post, it’s clear that not everyone agrees with me–and that’s ok. I’m speaking only about my reading experience, such as it is.

    • The pressure to write what’s ‘hot’ is coming from the publishers for the most part. They want extended series, they want BDSM, they want cutesy-pie settings, they won’t look at anything out of the box until somebody else takes the risk first. Then if it goes big, they all jump all over it. Sometimes the new risk-takers are the indies who *can’t* get a traditional publisher to look at a new idea. Or if they do, the publisher wants to turn it into something much more standard. I suggest that if somebody loves contemporary, they seek out new voices and avoid the derivative.

      • Just NIkki says:

        And that’s the best advise I’ve seen all day–avoid the derivative. I’m going to stockpile that one, ma’am.

        I understand the pressure to give the AVERAGE reader what they want.

    • Emma says:

      “Indie authors are able to write what they want to.” I sucked my lemonade through my nose. Any indie author grinding to make a living knows this is the absolute untruth. I would love to be writing gargoyle space opera right now. But my readers want steamy bear shifter romance and email me regularly demanding the next same-same installment. If I came out with a gargoyle space opera? My kids would have a few less meals that month.

      We write step-bros and MMA because that is what the market DEMANDS. When the demand shifts, authors will shift with it.

      Oh, and most of my characters are POC. They are there, but if you are looking for ‘hood’ romance as a representation of diversity, you likely won’t find the books that really ARE diverse.

      This is a great series. A blind guy and a POC. One of my fav authors. http://ameliafaulkner.com/books/tooth-claw-series/

  • Maddy says:

    YES!!! predictable is so boring! That’s why I love Authors like Colleen Hoover and Kristen Ashley.
    FUNNIEST LINE EVER—> 2. Hide your heroines, hide her friends, cause these bitches are raping everybody.

    • Just Nikki says:

      The sexual assault TROPE really chaps my ass something serious. I want it to die a painful death with a quickness.

  • You’ve got an Amen from me, sister!

  • I’ve recently started to drift from CR but hadn’t analyzed why. Thought maybe I was just getting overloaded but then when I think of some of my auto buy authors, I felt enthusiasm. While reading your post, some of the reasons for my fatigue started to materialize, especially that bandwagon syndrome. Covers, too!

    Thank you for your frank, honest and dead on statements. Enjoyed it thoroughly.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Joneeta.

      I’ve been feeling the drag for a while–probably close to a year. There’s authors who I love that can still bring it and get me passionate about reading for a while, but the contemporary stuff out there is just…. meh. I’d rather read a meh book than watch good TV, but there’s only so much mediocrity one can take.

  • Christa says:

    After reading this I’m feeling like a slut in a rock concert! I want lift my shirt, show you my tits and scream, “Marry me, Nikki!”

    Thank you for this so freaking spot on.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Well….

      Thanks, Christa.

      That’s enthusiastic. I’m married and I don’t really like tits cause I have my own, but we can be buddies. How’s that? 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    Nikki – thank you so much – you have encapsulated what I have been feeling for months. The books I go back to (and remember fondly) have all been written well over two-three years ago. Though, there have been the odd book that has tears flowing and me gasping for air, they have my heart constricting as I await a resolution.

    I am feed up with 3-deal books (& even longer ones – no names but I think we could give a well-educated guess, a sequel is all I will put up with now, unless it is a well-written series.

    Can we also have heroes and heroines who, being in their twenties, have their parents still alive, because the amount of dead parents who would only be in their forties/early fifties in the romance genre is, well it would be an epidemic in the real world!

    End of the soapbox rant. Kind regards, Sarah

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Sarah. Glad you could relate.

      You know why all the parents are dead? Cause good parents wouldn’t let their kids carry on like most of these leads do. You know a good Momma would snatch her manwhore son down by the ear and have a come to Jesus meeting with him about keeping his pecker in his britches.

      I know which series you’re talking about… ha. That one’s actually one of my favorites. If you’re gonna do an alpha billionaire dom-esque character, you better do it FLAWLESSLY…. and I think that particular author is excellent. Head and shoulders above anything else I’ve read and definitely puts Mr. Grey to shame.

  • Mona Risk says:

    Thank you Nikki for a spot-on article that made smile, laugh and nod. I write sweet contemporary romance about career women, doctors, psychologists, reporters, engineers, fashion designers, and even a mother with five grownup daughters who can’t believe she can find love again. My heroines struggle with serious problems while working, dating and falling in love.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks for the input, Mona! Real people dealing with real life issues is always a treat, especially after all the kidnapping and blackmail and human trafficking…

  • Hayling Kent says:

    Read The Fish Tales by Suanne Laqueur. It’s what you’re looking for and what you want. Emotionally intelligent romance. End of story.

  • Well, the last contemporary romance I wrote had NONE of these things so I think you’re just reading the wrong books. Lol. I know plenty of other authors that don’t use these tropes either. (Though I agree that I’m over these as well, which is why I don’t write them).

    • Just Nikki says:

      Yes.

      I’m positively certain that’s it.

      • Maybe after you take a breather, you’ll come back to a whole new market of good romance to read. I write contemporary romance that takes place in Japan, with diverse characters, and quieter romances like mine really could use louder voices from reviewers. Then, perhaps, they would overtake these other books on the market.

  • Traci R says:

    Spot on….I used to be a voracious reader buying a few books a week. I’ve resorted to re-reading the authors I like until one of them puts out a new book. I am personally tired of the YA focused books with girls who manage to attract a mysterious, handsome gazillionaire (sometimes a vampire, sometimes a Dom…yawn) for no apparent reason. I’m tired of everyone being physically perfect. I’m tired of the gratuitous sex scenes that seem de rigeur anymore. I am also tired of poor writing, misspellings (especially homonyms) and amateurish hyperbole. I really like some of the self published authors I’ve discovered. Unfortunately, most of them could use a proof reader.

    • Just Nikki says:

      All excellent points, Traci. I can look over lazy editing if there’s a damn good story, but don’t give me shit on top of shit.

      The only new books I’ve read in 2016 are the new Emma Chase and the new Eloisa James, both of which were EXCELLENT. Other than those, I’ve been flipping my way through my collection of paperbacks–and I’m altogether happier because of it.

      • Traci R says:

        I can ignore lazy editing too but there is a point when it is just ignorant. Reign versus rein drives me crazy.

        I’ll add my agreement to another person’s comments about Kindle Unlimited messing up the search results on Amazon. They give crummy authors preferential treatment if they are enrolled in the KU Plan. It is very difficult to find my favorite self published authors if they aren’t enrolled in KU. I’ve even actually typed the author’s name in and have gotten a whole page of books from other authors! So wrong…

        • Sasha White says:

          The whole discoverability issue is a sore point with authors too, trust me on that.
          If you have favorites, or are even looking for a title from a specific author, I suggest going to their website first. Every author SHOULD (because not all do) have their own website with links to their titles on any platform it is avialable. Sometimes its easier to hit their website and click over to amazon, than to trust the search engines.

  • Sue Pignatiello says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed your well articulated rant!! Last year I read over 80 shorts, books and novels. I am totally feeling every bolded item you layed down. I do wish you would have mentioned my personal pet peeves, SPELLING and GRAMMAR. When I become bored with a book I’m reading that’s so full of your items 1-9 that I resort to amusing myself by hi-lighting errors, typos and there, their and they’res, completely forgetting to absorb the book. The worst however, I shit you not, a so-called ‘writer’ had re-used so much of a her own previous book, that she literally used the name of the character from the previous book for 6 pages!!!! And it was a weird name so I totally recognized it. Spell check, grammar check and for God’s sake, Originality people!! Aim high!!!

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Sue. Honestly, the grammar stuff I can overlook to an extent if the story is there. Unfortunately, you rarely find a sparkling gem full of editorial issues…. So, yeah, I absolutely get where you’re coming from.

  • I hate to see people give up on the genre I love to read and write just because of the trend of trash selling. There are Contemporary Romances that are romantic, as opposed to smutty. I wish I knew how readers could find them. When I search for my own books on Amazon by category, I can’t find them. So I suppose lazy readers will buy whatever pops up as the 20 best sellers, and the intelligent reader will stick with names she knows. It’s frustrating for authors, too,

    • Just NIkki says:

      Not giving up, Kristina, as much as taking a break to maintain my sanity. I stick to the authors who’ve never disappointed me, but I am an adventurous reader. I’ll try anything–except anal–once.

  • Lucy Lit says:

    I’m all over this like flies on, well, you know. Thank you for the commentary, the head nods, and the overload of chuckles. This is exactly why those who write realistic romances have difficulty breaking through. I am hopeful things will cycle around eventually and emotional, realistic romance will become popular – complete with older characters and their parents still alive and kicking (loved that!). LOL

    • Just NIkki says:

      Welcome, Lucy.

      REALISTIC is sorely undervalued in romance, and in CR, especially. I get that some people read as an escape, but I don’t, not really. There are times that I want mindless entertainment, for sure–but what I’m always looking for is that book that will stay with me, the one that makes me better than I was before. Books rooted in reality and everyday problems are the ones most likely to accomplish that end, because they’re the most relatable.

  • H.C. says:

    A lot of your points are very valid. As a CR and MM author (indie and trad), I’d like to add a few thoughts if you don’t mind.

    1. For my MM series (4 books) I was going to Indie pub before Dreamspinner contracted them, I had subtle, sexy covers where the men were wearing uniforms or sportswear. Then I googled Sports Romance and went to images. Do it. Real quick. How many covers have shirts on? Answer? NONE. That’s right, NONE. This is what readers want no matter how often they say they don’t.
    2. My CR rockstar series had artistic covers that represented something important in the book and they didn’t sell. Changed them to sexy men? Sold 100x more.
    3. I never, ever write an asshole alpha. I refuse to write that jerky, abusive, mysogynistic dickhead. Yet those seem to be the books that sell the most.
    4. Amazon’s KU system skews the bestseller lists and hides a lot of great books from reader searches if they aren’t enrolled in KU. What you end up with is a list of subpar books that Amazon pushes visibility on to make more money. That’s probably how you find more shitty books than shiny ones.
    5. I burned out reading CR a year ago. Now I only read MM. I’m sure I’ll burn out on that eventually and go back to CR. Trends come and go. Vampires, billionaires, doms, step siblings, etc… what’s next? I guess we’ll find out.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks for your input.

      I recognize that I’m an atypical reader. Most readers are Wal-Mart readers, content to read whatever is sparkly, cheap and readily available. I don’t want cheap–I want soul-moving. I want another Daniel’s Gift by Barbara Freethy or Always by Kindle Alexander or To the Ends of the Earth by Elizabeth Lowell. I want to be ripped up and put back together. Most people want mindless entertainment. That’s not where I’m coming from.

  • You just said so much of what I rant about privately! I write romance but I read it too, and I’ve been drifting away from so much of what’s out there for exactly the reasons you mentioned. The SAMENESS of everything drives me crazy. If I love a book, I’ll just read it again, I don’t need to shell out more money for the same plot with different character names. And a big YES (er, no?) to the horrifying prevalence of a history of sexual abuse for what feels like 90% of heroines. It’s a huge part of why I’ve struggled to get into New Adult. Thanks for putting this out there – it’s great to see so many other people seconding this opinion.

  • Lola says:

    I actually agreed with this whole letter until I got to the third paragraph in #8. There is a big difference in urban/street themed romance and AA romance and/or contemporary fiction. Lumping them together is unfair to the authors that do not write street/urban literature. I do not have trouble finding books about strong, educated AA women/heroines sans excessive “eye rolls and ooooh girls.”

    • Just Nikki says:

      I wouldn’t categorize hood romance as an African-American romance, mostly because I don’t use the phrase African-American romance any more than I’d use Hispanic Romance or Asian Romance. It’s all just romance, and I don’t want any of it relegated to a separate shelf. As long as we’re forced to make distinctions like that, we’re not where we need to be in terms of diversity.

      Yes, we have the Beverly Jenkins and the Brenda Jacksons of the world that have been doing it well and doing it for a while, but we also have the KM Jacksons, who are pounding the pavement every day, seeking diversity in romance.

  • Over the last year my contemporary reads slowly went down and my historicals went up exponentially due to a many of the issues you mentioned. I got so tired of the annoying new adult heroine that made me feel like a crotchety old lady because I could not stand her drama or serial running. These days I am only interested in contemporary along the lines of Kristen Ashley – who has real heroines over the age of 25. So that’s only like 10% of my yearly reading… with 50% historical and 40% paranormal and urban fantasy.

    I totally get you.

    • Just NIkki says:

      I was born 86 and kept getting older. My soul is old, my ideals are outdated–yeah, I’m with you there. New adult heroines in and of themselves don’t bother me, as long as we’re not talking about the doormat wafflers who couldn’t make a decision between her Lily scarf and her pashmina….

      Historical has always been my comfort zone and my safe place. I’ll be happy there until something pulls me out of this funk.

  • Susan says:

    Thank you so much for this! It’s like you could read my mind. I had been in a reading slump for months in the last part of 2015. It was awful. I also went back to my reading roots of Paranormal, UF, Dystopia etc. I am happy to say that my reading slump is over.

    Thank you!

    • Just Nikki says:

      Welcome, Susan!

      Paranormal is my second home, though YA paranormal was my reference point for many years. I should’ve known in early 2015 when I shifted towards the bear shifters (see what I did there?) and later when sci-fi romance started appealing to me so strongly that the big BOOM was imminent….

  • wkonsunshine says:

    Nikki, I’m writing this without reading any other comments, so I apologize if this is a repeat. DANG, girl! You have hit it right on the bulls eye. I love it so much that I shared it with with a work colleague over a two martini dinner. You insight is right on target and I appreciate your wit in articulating why I’m getting in a reading slump. Give me something original, folks! Also, on that diversity thing…not only the characters, but for once, I’d like an author to show me what it means to have a constructive discussion about diversity and race.

    Thanks for your editorial. I look forward to your next post!

    • Just Nikki says:

      Yes, it’s actually less for me an issue of having leads of color than it is an issue of the secondary characters and the world the author creates being so… Well, white. The cliques in romance world are very pale, no? And I’m not talking about the “token” character of color, like the one that mainstream contemporary author likes to add to make her feel better about all of her heroine’s friends being white…. I’m talking about the fact that I’m bi-racial and so is my best friend, and my hubs is Vietnamese and my kid is Cuban and my sister-in-law is Filipino and my step-dad is Native American, to say nothing of my peer group. This county and most of the western world are a melting pot–and I want my romance to look the same way.

  • I’ve thought a lot about how I want to respond to this. I want to agree some, and challenge some. Here I go.

    I write multicultural romance with brown heroes. I write funny. I don’t write about parts or emissions, but I write sexy, to the tune of 3-5 sex scenes per 350-page book, starting about halfway through. I don’t write alphaholes or Navy SEALs or motorcycle club guys. I’ve never written a serial or put a nekkid man or a brooding fella in need of some serious laxatives on the cover of one of my books. I’ve written exactly one super-rich dude. (But he was brown.)

    There are lots of authors like me. And we sell.

    We’re still out there. Come look for us! We’d love to see you! If you want more of what we do: TALK about us. BLOG about us, instead of about the latest NA motorcycle club serial. Put your mouth AND your money behind what you want to see more of.

    If you feel that your genre’s becoming lost to you–take it back. At least your corner of it. We’ll be right over here, writing our farmers and deputy sheriff single dads and doctors and tech geeks-turned-professors. Our hot, funny, good guys and our strong, feisty women.

    We’re waiting.

    • Rosalind,

      How ironic, I haven’t read you before but literally just 2 hours ago did a screen shot of Carry Me Home from Goodreads so I would remember to check it out in the morning. 😃

      • Well, that’s cool! I hope you do. 🙂

        It’s frustrating to authors to hear this, when we struggle ourselves with whether to go ahead & write more to trend instead of what we want. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to sell books while doing it “my way” from the beginning, but I’ve certainly wondered “what if . . .?” I finally did write a book “to trend” recently, in a slightly odd way–it was originally a book within a book, because my heroine was a writer, writing a, yes, serialized erotic billionaire romance. Then some readers wanted the book, so I wrote it. And I enjoyed it, darn it.

        The thing is–that darned book, which I didn’t have a clue how to do (true confessions: I’ve never read a billionaire book) is SELLING like crazy. I still don’t have a nekkid boy on the cover, but I’ve got a smexy cover for once, and, yep, he’s a super-rich guy and a CEO, and she’s a poor virgin. I think it’s a good book–she’s snarky and nobody’s victim, and they’re realistic, fully drawn characters, I believe–but it does make you wonder what you’re leaving on the table by not studying the trends and following them.

        I’m not disagreeing with the post or the commenters at all. I’m just trying to explain the difficulty from the standpoint of the authors out there, many of whom don’t have the luxury I do of choosing whether to bow to the trends. I mean, authors are writing for a living. If that’s what the market wants, you can’t blame them for writing it.

        • Just Nikki says:

          Your smart, witty commentary is appreciated. Seriously. I appreciate wit in all of its forms.

          First, you’re not going to find a review of the latest NA Motorcycle Club serial novella on this blog. What you will find are reviews of Bounce by KM Jackson and The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev and Her Secret Lover by Robin Covington and Sleeping With Her Enemy by Jenny Holiday, all of which feature leads that are less than lily white. You’ll also find this is not our first discussion regarding the need for diversity. The United Nations is represented in my nuclear family, and I want my romance to look the same way.

          I recognize that there are some excellent authors of color in addition to authors who write heroes and heroines of color–my contention is that we shouldn’t HAVE to look for them, and as long as we do, we are NOT where we need to be.

          • There’s another issue as well. When I started a few years ago, you’d be sharing that Amazon “Interracial/Multicultural” list with people like Minx Malone–what I’d call “regular” contemporary romance. Now, those lists look very different–lots of erom and paranormal. But Minx is still selling about as strongly as ever from what I can see, and my “regular romance” IR does fine, too. So it’s still there, it’s just harder to find, because you have to pick through all the dragon shifters, etc.

    • Suzyd says:

      I read Carry me Home and enjoyed it very much. I also loved Rosalind James rugby heroes . I read that series all through the World Cup

    • mica says:

      I agree with Rosalind and I think book bloggers have forgotten how much influence they have over what people are reading. I used to frequent two book blogs but now they are promoting the same books over and over again, one lists the best books to read after ‘fifty shades of grey’.
      If these book bloggers started recommending more contemporary romance without stalker billionaires, horny stepbrothers or shifter bear menages then the readers would start looking at the recommended books and hopefully i wouldn’t have to search on Amazon and be blinded by some of these ridiculous books.

      I cannot blame some of these authors who are trying to make a living in the crowded romance sub-genres but when I read something different like what Tarryn Fisher writes or ‘Transcendence’ by Shay Savage I am doing a happy dance that not everyone is using the same dirty cookie cutter.

      • Just Nikki says:

        Transcendence was a FUCKING WONDERFUL book, and I loved it. I also loved Once Upon a Caveman by Cassandra Gannon and Ruby Dixon’s Ice Planet Barbarians. Those were the books that appealed to me most strongly in 2015, outside of the CR books that cut me up and stitched me back together. Different is good.

        Every time I see one of those sponsored posts that say MILLIONS OF READERS CAN’T BE WRONG, I think of FSoG and laugh and laugh and laugh….

    • Rosalind –

      I <3 your books! Although many (all??) of your heroes are athletes, so fairly wealthy, I find your characters very relatable. And I love the NZ settings. Thanks for reminding me that, as an author, I should shout out more about the books I sincerely enjoy!

      K-

    • Maria Rose says:

      You are exactly spot on Rosalind. The voices of real traditional contemporary romance are being drowned out by what an author friend of mine described as ‘new romance’ – the type spawned by 50 Shades with step brother dom billionaire mma fighters. They should really have a different classification for those books.

    • Maggie&Teddy says:

      Ms James, YOU are definitely one of the exceptions. I agree with Nikki on a great majority of her blog….. However, I immediately thought of YOU as a BIG exception.
      I’ve read a boat load of your books & I loved them all.
      Nikki thank you for opening this up for discussion.
      Ms James, thanks for posting your response, I agree with you too.

  • Talia says:

    Love your post! As a reader, I’m having trouble finding books to read because I really don’t want to read about billionaire abusers or step-brothers or anything like that. I still like dark and sexy books, though, but with the girl being rich and saving the guy or getting revenge on her abuser. As a writer, I’m totally guilty of having shirtless guys on my covers, but I’m not sorry. 😛 I’m also guilty of having sexual assault in my books (the men are mostly the ones who get assaulted, though). Ah, well. At least the heroine’s parents aren’t dead. 😛

    • Just Nikki says:

      Talia, thank you, and I love that you can laugh at yourself.

      I don’t enjoy reading sexual assault for a variety of reasons, most notably because I have my own nightmares of it without adding anyone else’s. And sexually assaulted heroes does add quite the different angle, though I’d not be any less emotionally moved by it.

      • I agree. I have a more “real-world” suspense series w/ real-world issues, and the first book centers around campus rape. I made the decision early on in writing the book that nobody would be raped within the universe of the book. As a reader, I don’t want to read about rape happening, even if it’s not graphically described. It’s sickening. I think the book still hit hard without any actual rape happening. The second book is about domestic abuse, and again, I kept the actual “what happens” to a minimum. I don’t read to feel bad. I want the focus to be uplifting, getting over, rising above. I don’t “get” “Dark Romance,” with the rapist/sadistic “heroes.” I. Do. Not. Get. It. I know that’s hatey and all, but I don’t care. I find that trend disturbing. Actually, i find it disgusting. I wish they’d have a new category for those books so I wouldn’t even have to see them on Amazon. /end rant

  • Tesrin says:

    Finally. I love it. Because you probably just said what everyone was thinking. I’m new to the book world on Facebook and I’m finding it hard to read good stuff. I’m in a funk now cos it’s the same old crapper. Thanks for writing this amazing post it reiterates what we love and don’t. I read Julie, Judith and Lisa whenever I’m disillsioned by the current book world. Gimme a classy read without the c word or any word that demeans a woman. Xoxo.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Tesrin.

      I cringe every time a hero calls a heroine a cunt, mostly because I know I’d open up a can on any man who puled that shit with me. It’s not ok…. not at all. I like the word disillusioned, because I think it reiterates the fact that we know the world of romance IS capable of better.

  • Terri Osburn says:

    This is the funniest thing I’ve read all week. (So nice to find another woman who doesn’t find Amy Shumer funny. I feared it was just me.) I totally understand all of your rants. But, in defense of the genre that I write, I have to say not all of us fall into these categories. Which, to be fair, you didn’t say all, and I appreciate that. So while I love historical romance and have been reading it (and other genres) for thirty years, I hope you’ll also not toss contemps away completely. Maybe mix a few in during the year. There are some of us out here who don’t check off any of these boxes. I hope we can bring you back around to liking the genre again. 🙂

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Terri.

      No, I’m not quitting CR, just stepping back. I don’t think I could’ve maintained my sanity and continued to read CR in the volume that I’d been reading it. I read 7-10 books per week, and when over 75% of those are meeeeeeehhhhhhh, it funks with your psyche. My psyche needed a cleanse.

      I’m sure one of y’all is sitting behind a computer right now, writing the book that’s gonna render me a crying, sloppy mess so I can shout it from the rooftops.

  • Rock on, Nikki! While I write CR (well, I call it Adult CR because I do like erotic sex scenes–I just might not have one until the epilogue or whenever it’s appropriate). I just had to go through the 9 points and assess how I’m doing and posted it on my author page. I was saddened by the comment above about throwing out all indies because she’d found some really bad ones. Some of us don’t look for trends, but simply write the stories the characters are screaming in our ears. Not many Romance novels have unemployed heroes, for instance. I have two who have trouble keeping a job (always for good reasons). My guys came home from the military and started a BDSM club–and I think I’ve corrected a lot of misconceptions about the lifestyle to my readers who may have read more popular books in the genre by people who don’t do their homework or research. My next book breaks all kinds of “rules” in Romance and I think the hero stopped talking to me for months when he laid a twist on me that I didn’t want to deal with and didn’t think my readers would either. But I finally had to cave and tell it his way because he’s not going to let me finish the story unless I do. I see a lot of authors commenting and hope even more will take to heart your feelings because my readers complain to me a lot about how everybody’s writing the same book over and over. They may have to wait a year to get a new big book from me, but they haven’t been disappointed yet with me telling the same story as before. So, keep calling them like you see them!

    • Just Nikki says:

      I’m missing whatever some women have in them that makes them fan girl, but lemme tell you–if I had it, now would be one of the times I’d do it…. Kallypso Masters! Thank you! Teena (a fellow member of our Nerd Herd) and I like to tell folks that you and Cherise Sinclair were writing BDSM before Christian Grey’s balls dropped.

      There are authors who are guilty of none of the above, and I think it’s safe to say that you’re one of them. Your books are always new and fresh, and you lead the pack–not follow behind it.

      The most authentic stories are the ones that an author has the most difficulty writing. I’ll keep being opinionated as long as you keep letting your heroes boss you. Deal?

      • Okay, Nikki, you kinda blew me away. Cherise and I are now going to fight over the line “Kallypso Masters! I like to tell folks that you and Cherise Sinclair were writing BDSM before Christian Grey’s balls dropped.” Bwahaha.

        I’m glad you haven’t painted all of us with the “no more Contemporary Romance” brush. Wait till you read ROAR. My editor said maybe she’s seen one other Novel (not Romance) with this situation for a hero. It wasn’t supposed to be my next book but when I learned his conflict, I just had to help him find peace–and a second chance at love, of course.

        We will leave it to you and your crew to spotlight some good CR books to help your many followers find the gems. And there are gems still.

        Kally

    • Joanne 12 says:

      Ms. Masters, I found your series a peek into the world of BDSM, it was very educational and treated with knowledge and respect. I salute you. I have recommend your books to others.

      • Thank you, Joanne! I find the lifestyle so fascinating. Some don’t realize how deep it goes and much more than sex. The psychology of the power exchange is what fascinates me. Thanks also for spreading the word. It’s so hard to get the word out these days but reader recommendations are awesome!

        Kally

  • Becky Turner says:

    Standing ovation & very loud clapping— well said.
    I average reading 15 books a week, but over the last couple of months, I’ve been lucky if I read 2 a week. I pull up my Kindle library and see the same exact cover on 3 books by 3 different authors. I read the blurb and wonder if it’s the same book I read the week before just with different character names. I actually find a different cover & a “new” blurb that sounds good and get settled in to read a good book only to get 3 pages in and delete it because my daughter wrote better stories and had better grammatical use and knowledge of the English language when she was in 3rd grade! I was extremely upset when I realized I’d paid $4.99 for that literary masterpiece with all 5* reviews. I guess she had 42 friends. I never leave bad reviews and just won’t leave one at all, BUT I had to say something. I left a *** review and mentioned finding an editor. I may have also pointed out that a word she had used 3 times in the 3 pages I’d read was overused and used incorrectly, so she might want to invest in a good thesaurus and dictionary, but that a good editor would have caught that. She had the nerve to post it to her FB page & comment about being offended. The book didn’t deserve a *, but I was trying to be nice.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Becky.

      I honestly don’t pay a great deal of attention to book prices. I’ve paid $13.99 for a Beth Kery book and not felt an ounce of regret. Books are my one guilty pleasure, so I don’t really glare too hard at that $4.99 price tag. Folks have to make a living, and as long as they’re giving me a quality product, I’ll pay accordingly….

      Now–do not slap a $5 price tag on a book and give me crap. If I wanted crap, I’d go to McDonalds.

      • Becky Turner says:

        Exactly 🙂 I don’t mind paying for quality work, but even though reading is my guilty pleasure, I still have a monthly budget for books. It pisses me off to waste $5 of it on pure crap when I could have gotten a really good book for the same price.

  • I get this – was working on a post (in my head phase still) about stuff in romance that ticks me off, or how NOT to write a romance.
    The bandwagon – that dang bandwagon is running over romance. I actually did write a post about billionaires and how many there are in fic.
    I love erotic scenes in books, but the ridiculous quantity of it (8 times in one night = UTI and more than one guy in the room)., and that it is often the foundation of a relationship in a contemporary romance book is not healthy, realistic and does nothing for me. Great job!

  • Sara says:

    This. A thousand times this. Thank you for saying what I’ve been thinking and feeling and feeling bad for feeling. For a year I’ve felt like I’m that old lady shaking my cane at the world for wanting more and better. You’ve articulated it beautifully, made me laugh, and gained a new reader. So, thank you!

  • Tara Mills says:

    Contemporary romance is so saturated with examples like these, and yet, write something a bit different and try and get that reviewed? Crickets. It’s disappointing and frustrating when you purposely ignore the trends and write what you want and your stories sink under the popular themes anyway.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Much like the world of CR is dominated by a handful of authors, the world of blogging is controlled by a handful of bloggers. We enjoy being on the outside looking in, mostly because it keeps us away from the craziness.

      I cannot imagine trying to make a living in that shark tank. I commend you for bucking the trends.

    • Toria Lyons says:

      Hah! I’ve just written the same thing below. Glad it’s not just me.

  • I was just having this conversation with my editor. This said exactly what I’ve been thinking. Thank you!!

  • Caro LaFever says:

    Thanks for a great laugh and so many good points. As a CR writer myself it’s always wonderful to hear from a voracious reader on the current market.

    Since CR is so popular and writers know it, I wonder if there aren’t quite a few peeps jumping on the bandwagon and writing something for the money. Which is fine. But tropes can be exaggerated and damaged by writers who don’t love the genre and don’t read in it frequently.

    Tropes are there for a reason. Things like billionaires and virgins and secret babies resonate. They just do. But in the hands of a skilled writer, these tropes can come to life and sing. But in the hands of someone who doesn’t understand the underlying reasons for a trope, it can turn ugly. And yeah, I’ve read a lot of ugly lately too. Sigh.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Glad it made you laugh, Caro!

      I’m an old school Harlequin chick, so I agree that tropes have their place. Greek billionaires (cause no one’s informed Harlequin of the state of the Greek economy), secret babies….

      But breeding erotica and step-brothers and monster cocks and…. well… it just gets seedy at a point. And I mean seeeeedy in the most literal sense.

      • Caro LaFever says:

        Yeah, to me, that’s classic “not knowing what I’m doing with this trope” and messing it up. The way I look at it, these writers will either learn their craft and improve or eventually bomb out and go away. Romance is not easy to write and especially CR if you are trying to plant old time tropes into it.

        LOL on the Greek economy. But you know there still have to be a lot of 1%ers running around flashing diamonds and yachts and stuff.

  • Wow, I love this type of feedback, though as a contemporary author I had to cringe a bit and think about the genre in a new way. It also challenged me to go through every one of your points and really analyze my books. My first series revolved around billionaires because that’ what I wanted to write, and it just happened to be an explosive period in romance history where billionaires were selling high numbers. But then I didn’t want to do that anymore. I wrote a series about a matchmaking agency created by three best friends, because I missed finding books about the power of female friendships. My newest series will be about contractors because i’m obsessed with HGTV. But as a traditionally published author I was told, why don’t you write more billionaires they sell! As a writer, we need to write romances we believe in, and keep it fresh and hope we hit the sweet spot. I like to try different things not chase tropes. But I think you make some fabulous points and I held my breath as I went down the list, but I scored high points and avoided most stuff you talked about LOL! Bottom line: I try to make the best book I can for readers that make me happy too but it makes me sad that you’re giving up contemporary for a while. Some great remarks were made – time to find more authors you love and take back your genre!!

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      I understand the need to answer the call of the publisher–they’re writing the checks, after all. But yes–keeping it fresh and imaginative and original… those are the best romances. The ones that kick you in the ass and make you sit up and take notice.

  • Toria Lyons says:

    I don’t think I’ve offended with any of the above (well, perhaps one of my heroes is a bit wealthy, but these ARE the type I’ve personally met in the locations I describe). The main background is unique but accessible. There’s no iffy relations, history of abuse, unreal sexual descriptions (that I know of), and they’ve been edited professionally.

    My novels aren’t selling.

    Yet I read a ‘new’ novel this week by an author who’s been raved over, and I’m sure I’ve read it before. There’s nothing new, nothing creative, and the writing style isn’t particularly inviting.

    I’m confused. I struggle to even get mine reviewed.

    I’m not bitter, but I think I’m taking a breather from writing contemporaries. It’s totally discouraging when you see the shit out there with masses of 5* reviews. I keep on having to re-read old favourites to reassure myself that there are stories which don’t make me want to rip my hair out.

    I don’t know if what I’m currently writing will have a market, but I honestly have nothing to lose.

    P.S. can I add another to your list please? The books which never seem to end – instead of one standalone, you get a series with the storyline becoming increasingly stretched. I loathe them with a passion.

    P.P.S. Apologies for the above rant.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Rant away. Clearly, I’ve got no issue with a little bit of ranting….

      The inundation of the market is the bulk of the issue, really. There’s SO MUCH out there that it all sort of settles to the bottom of the barrel, and the only books that get attention are the ones that a) pander to the masses or b) are squeed over by the Wal-Mart blogs. And that sucks, absolutely. I wish Amazon had a shit filter, and automatically kicked the crap back…

      But as I’ve been told, one man’s crap is another man’s tuna salad.

  • Tanya Guthrie says:

    This is why we love you Nikki, you say it like it is. Like we have all been thinking! So many times I’ve been reading and had to look back to see if I was accidentally re-reading. Contemporary is one of my least read for many of these reasons. I don’t want to cringe while reading a sex scene, or think that someday I may find me a rich man to rescue me and make all the bad things that happened to me go away! I read more YA than contemporary last year because there weren’t any million/billionares in them, and I wasn’t reading cunt at least once a page.

  • Christie says:

    I like and agree with this post, but the tide of readers also has to shift. People find a comfort zone, and if they love one MC romance, that’s what they’ll stick with until they’re burned out. Same for Stepbrothers and so on. They don’t want to risk money on a story that sounds orginial unless it’s soaring up the charts.
    Sometimes authors adhere to the trends in an effort to draw in a larger fan base. That way, when they write their more original stories, they don’t sink into the pile of Amazon’s forgotten books. I try to keep a blend, and do my best to spin a new tale on an old trope, while also producing original works that the true fans will gamble on. You have to appeal to the masses to garner the smaller, more loyal fan base. Otherwise, no one ever sees the original works.
    And I’m also guilty of the sexy men on the covers. Don’t hate me. Lol. But the sales increased exponentially from when I was using more artistic, less obvious covers.

    I cannot and will not try to romanticize rape. I also don’t like the heaviness a sexually traumatized past puts on the story, especially since I write more comedy than anything. (No poop.)

    I make a living as an author, so keeping a fan base is a must. Giving the masses what they want in exchange for readers who will take the risk on something original is my medium. Maybe one day, I can stick to just the original stories. I hope your faith in contemporary romance is restored eventually.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks for commenting, Christie.

      Romanticization of rape is one of my biggest pet peeves. There’s nothing fantastical about sexual assault. Period. I appreciate that you have a firm stance on that one.

  • Lisa Cooke says:

    First, thank you for writing a hilarious post. I needed the laugh. I also agree mucho with what you said! I grew up reading romance, so when I started writing, that’s what I wrote, however, now I read sci-fi and non-fiction. What happened? Boredom happened! Same stories, same tropes ::shudders:: And of course now that I write, I recognize too much of what the authors are doing. I analyze way too much. There is truth in that the editors (and agents) encourage authors to write what’s popular. I’m so grateful to be a hybrid author now. Indie-publishing lets me take risks and try new ideas. So, this romance author is getting ready to release her first sci-fi series. (At least I’m not bored now)

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks for your input!

      Hybrid seems to be the best way to go. There’s something fabulous about seeing your book in a brick and mortar store–but something to be said for losing your creative freedom, as well.

  • Debra Mowatt says:

    Thank you for your essay. You have put into words what I have been feeling about romance novels.
    I started out as a SF/paranormal reader, and noted that romantic entanglements were being included more and more in the story lines. So, I made the switch over to the romance genre.
    The repetitive plots, character types and even dialogue are true buzzkills! I want to read good stories, Hopefully, the copycats will either improve or move on to something else. In the meanwhile, I’ll stick to a few good authors, and go back to SF.

  • I agree 100%! I write romance that is not in line with the normal. Mine are classified as clean romance. I love building the relationships between my characters instead of focusing on when/where/how they will have sex. A reader needs to connect to the characters not read their sex tape. My first book was about a cursed Confederate soldier who hasn’t aged in 150 years. I knew it wouldn’t be ‘the next 50 shades’ but I was okay with it. I wrote the story my characters wanted. I do hope you enjoy your time in the wonderful pages of Julie Garwood. She is my favorite historical author. My first book of hers was The Prize.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Laura!

      Julie is my happy place. She’s wonderful and crafts these perfect little worlds for us to escape for a couple hours.

  • Terri-Lynne says:

    First–great article. Everything you write–yes, yes, yes…and not in the porno way. Thank you.
    Second–I’m impressed that you interact with those who comment, I follow a lot of writer/reader blogs wherein the author does not. I have to thank my editor for pointing me here. (This is a topic we discuss fairly regularly.)
    Third–if this is how so many readers feel, why does this crap keep selling, selling, selling? Cheap. poorly written, copycat and sleazy seems to sell to the indiscerning masses, I guess, but there are so many romance readers crying out against this lack of quality, diversity and uniqueness that the scales have to balance at some point, right? Please say right.
    As an author of–gasp!–contemporary, it really pains me to see how earned the reputation of the genre is coming to be. And just for the record–one of my male heroes is Ecuadorian. He isn’t a contractor or a cop. He’s a college lecturer and an ecologist–and his love interest is a black woman who never once says, “oooh, girl!” 🙂

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks for the input, Terri-Lynne.

      I’m trying to keep up with the commentary, but I don’t people well AT ALL–betcha never would’ve guessed that!

  • Nikki-
    You’re a genius. I laughed. And may I please add ‘”stepfather” romance, (ugh!) and serials – (previously mentioned) – and young women who are doormats? I decided to start writing in the CR genre because I was tired of reading 22-30 year old heroines who act like idiots. Women are not idiots. We are not weak. We should not be the only one in a relationship who makes sacrifices. Our worth is not determined by who we fall in love with or who does or does not loves us in return.

    I also understand why authors jump on the speeding train. The same thing happened to vampire books after Twilight hit, and then 50 Shades. When those books stop selling, authors will stop writing them.

    My very first romance was Judith McNaught’s Whitney My Love. (It’s still on my keeper shelf). I devoured Julie Garwood (my fav’s are For The Roses and The Secret). And I do love them still, but I want to read about strong, modern women who can love, be loved, and not get lost in the shuffle. And guys with feelings, problems, and regrets. In other words, real people. Happy reading everyone.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Michelle.

      Yes–Whitney! The Nerd Herd is podcasting Whitney this year. I’m so damn certain of it that every one of us got the book for Christmas. My Julie jam is Ransom. I love Brodick.

      I’m the ultimate heroine cheerleader, but I can’t do weak. Dented and dinged up–ok. Wallowing and down-trodden? Nope. Ain’t doing it.

  • Michelle says:

    Well, I have to essentially agree with you on ALL of what you’ve said above. I’m a core Leslie Pearse fan, Susan Lewis, Sophie Kinsella, Elizabeth Walker, even Martina Cole, to name but a few non contemporary. But having read a gazillion books now in contemporary for the past couple of years, then yes, I agree totally on what you say about this genre.

    I was only talking to my writing partner this morning, saying, have you seen there’s now a step-brother priest book being released. I’ve only read three possibly four step-brother romances but most aren’t even taboo so what’s the friggin point of them! There really is just the odd one or two that ‘can get it right’. The others just churn them out for the sake of it.

    I wish authors would dig within and write what comes from the heart, not what they ‘think’ the reader wants to read. I agree massively about the ‘sex’ in books too. In my honest opinion the ‘story’ should be first and any ‘sexy time’ second, unless the story literally does revolve around a sexual relationship. I want pageturners, I want to not sit there and sigh when OMG I turn the page and it’s ANOTHER sex scene which is totally unnecessary. They are used as fillers, which annoys me greatly and they become so boring its unreal!

    I am foremost a reader, have been since I was knee high to a grasshopper, then a blogger and then turned writer. I know what I like and what I dislike and I want to bring that with my stories, I hope I do. One day I might hit it big, but at the end of the day I love bringing the stories from my head to a kindle or paper sheet. It is hard to get recognised out there with the mass that is on offer. I find I get exsaperated by some books that are raved about when in all truth they are below par. The power of a good street team and a big blog can work wonders.

    I have a pet hate now too about the mass onslaught of NYT and USA today authors, wearing their badges proudly that they earned shoved in a box set of 10 – 20 other authors an their section might never have been read! In other words in my opinion they didn’t ‘earn’ the title respecfully. Yet they are quick to rejig their previous book covers to flash their new fancy titles all over them when in all truth, they are NOT worthy title holders. Earn that fucking badge and then OWN it, but do it off your backs! Be like the Carly Phillips, Penelope Ward and the very talented Alessandra Torre who do think outside the box and gain their titles through hard work and fantastic twists. Be the trendsetter and bring it with something new and exciting and fresh. But there’s authors like Pam Godwin who is so damn clever with her writing and she’s not NYT yet, and then I silently fume when I see some of the authors that are, especially when being an avid reader, I’d never heard of them before! I read a book only this week and the author was a supposed NYT authors, my God, the story was boring! IT was drivel and I swear I’d read that same plotline before. Also if you going to write an alpha male, then write him like a MALE, make him independant and not a smidge of woman in him!

    But honestly I loved this post, I read a good 300 or so books a year, less now I write too, but seriously I understand your funk and your move to revisit text that ‘brings it’ to romance. Sometimes we need that change.

    Happy reading!

    PS I’ve also signed this as NOT my author name, not because I want to hide, but because it’s not about bringing attention to me, it’s about this post and that I agree with everything in it.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Thanks, Michelle. Again–I do appreciate this coming from a place of providing feedback and not self-promo-ing.

      You’ve hit the nail on the head with the whole list craze. Everyone wants to be on a list, even if they’re only on said list because it was 99 cents for eleventy seven stories with a couple of large-draw authors. That’s not an accomplishment. That’s riding on someone else’s coattails. He who has the most popular friends finishes first.

      And that whole priest thing–dude. The issue with taboo? It has to keep getting taboo-er. I’m not ready for taboo-er than fucking on the altar. I had to cross myself just writing that.

  • Is it okay for an author to comment? Because there are a lot of us who are writing contemporary romance who are not writing what you’re describing.

    Michele Callahan wrote: “I want to read about strong, modern women who can love, be loved, and not get lost in the shuffle. And guys with feelings, problems, and regrets. In other words, real people.”

    Yes! That’s it exactly. That’s the contemporary romance I know, write, and read.

    Contemporary romance is such a broad genre with so much diversity in it, especially if you look beyond what certain algos present front and center like digital stage parents on steroids. 😉

    • Just Nikki says:

      Authors can feel free to comment away. You’re readers, too, and a major part of our community.

      The world of romance is huge, and CR is a substantial portion of it. I’m not an under-the-rock-reader. I read upwards of of 375 books a year, so I feel like I’ve got some range under my belt. Is all of CR bad? Nope–absolutely not. But there was enough bad to warrant me taking a step away to maintain my sanity.

  • Anonymous says:

    In two months, I’m self-publishing my first novel in two years, and I found myself nodding as I read through your points. I will say this–I’m putting a half-naked man on my next book. I’ve never done it before. But I’m also working myself to the bone trying to write books that are meaningful and spending endless amounts of time marketing them just to get them in front of people. I haven’t published in over a year because I work a job that kills me little by little and so my choices are to keep working my job and end up quitting my dream (full time writing) OR to put a sexy dude (though not a model who is ubiquitous) on my cover and hope it sells enough to afford me more time to write.

    That being said, what’s inside of that book is, in my opinion, meaningful and romantic. No raping, stepbrothers, or billionaires to be found. My heroine is complicated and defiant and my hero is more soulful and quietly intense. This book could tank, but I’m willing to bet a sexy pack of man abs that it’ll do well enough to afford me more time to write.

    I’m posting this anonymously, as I don’t want to come across as advertising myself. But I’d like to say that I resent a comment I read above, that KU books are sub-par. Sure, there are a lot that are, but all my books are in KU and I don’t write pump-and-dump garbage. I think the insinuation that KU books aren’t “as good” simply because they’re KU is pretty ignorant. Just like I think it’s ignorant when people lump self-published books into a pile of sub-par simply because they aren’t backed by a sparkly publisher.

    I want to say this about diverse books–recently (this week), an author posted on Twitter that s/he was upset whenever a white person wrote a book with diverse characters because they felt it was not their right to write inclusively at the cost of POC authors. I get where they’re coming from, and I’m not sure if I could write a diverse book without unintentionally hurting the feelings of people who represent the lives I’m writing about.

    • Just Nikki says:

      Hello, anonymous. I appreciate you not self-promo-ing.

      You won’t find anyone ’round these parts popping shit about Kindle Unlimited. I love it. I work that shit like a dockside hooker on payday, and I’m ok with that. 90% of the new authors I found last year were via KU. I love paranormal and sci-fi romance, and I’ve discovered so many new authors this way.

      I also understand that it can be difficult to write from the perspective of a person of color–but that doesn’t mean that a book can’t be diverse. How about building a book world with a realistic representation the melting pot that is much of the Western World? Secondary characters. Supporting cast. All of those play into the notion of diversity.

  • Beth says:

    Thank you for number 5. Yes. Totally this. 10 years ago, erotic[a] meant a sexual journey–like women’s lit centered on discovery, but now it seems like it means a romance with lots of sex in very kinky situations.

    I almost never read outside my place of comfort… I pick up my roots–Roberts, Phillips, Dodd, Cussler, Brown, Holt, Joyce [read her Bragg series, if you’re looking for Historical this year, Lowell[her historicals, too!], Graham[again, her historicals!]. I re-read when that’s all I can get. Because I love the voices. The story comes in a very close second to voice. And that’s why these authors can be auto-buys. And then I write from those feelings I get, reading those books that remind me of why the HEA is so important. Why finding my voice is more important than the story, the cover, the blurb, the reviews.

    And I’m guilty of the bare-chested cover in 2015, but it’s actually the one that made me smile. This year, I’ll be guilty of a military romance series. My fan base is small, but I do hope that when people like my books it’s because they enjoy my voice, the tone of my stories. 🙂

    PS I’ll be on the lookout for a slew of Insurance Adjuster [there’s a sexual innuendo in there somewhere!] romances, coming in 2017!! 😀 <3

    • Just Nikki says:

      Welcome, Beth.

      Erotic romance isn’t altogether romantic anymore. There’s more instruction manual-type scenarios than I care to mention.

      I like that you’re actively seeking your voice. I can pick up a Johanna Lindsey or a Linda Howard or a Brenda Jackson book and know without ever looking at the by-line who wrote it because their voices are so strong and come across so clearly, and I love that.

  • Dannidee says:

    I went ahead and started working on my first novel after taking all of your advice!

    DUE DATE:

    When a surprise audit sends Special IRS Agent and biracial man Deshawn Parker into Asian-American Susie Chen’s crazy life, she doesn’t know what’s worse… Her looming tax bill, her eating disorder, or the secret attraction she harbors for the sexy and powerful government functionary… What she doesn’t know is that Deshawn holds the answer to all but one of her problems.
    A big tax break that only he can provide.
    He’s desperately wants to give her a dependent.
    And that’s when everything went so deliciously wrong…

    Here’s the cover:
    http://i.imgur.com/p6Gmuus.jpg

    You’re welcome! 😉

    • Just Nikki says:

      Well, Dannidee….

      If he’s an IRS agent, he’s got a dick and IS a dick… and he’s gonna fuck her and FUCK her over…

      I might try to make him a mystery hero. Make it a romantic suspense and keep that job a secret till the very last minute.

      Then let him lay his big, fat… audit on her.

  • Amanda says:

    You are awesome! You really need to write a book! I would buy it!

  • Trish Tess says:

    I absolutely loved this post and really agree. Great job

  • Joy says:

    For the love of everything holy in the romance genre, THIS.

  • Joanne 12 says:

    This is what happened to rock n roll and pop music. I live in a small city that had one of the top 10 FM Rock n Roll stations in the nation in the 70’s. One of the DJ wrote an article in the paper about how he could play what ever the fuck he wanted from this monster wall of albums and they could buy any album they please on the boss’ dime to add to that wall. The only thing the boss expected the DJ’s to do was to to pick something from this little box of albums under the desk and play once in awhile. Each DJ had their own thing, folk rock, acid rock, etc… We had a huge variety of music and were very early supporters of bands that became famous. Then the fucking corporations started buying up all these small radio stations. Now we have iHeart Radio where so much of the music is the same. The music being played today is that little box of albums that the DJ who lived and breathed good music was forced to play. Adele is huge because she is a breath of fresh air, great pipes, no dancing, and no tits and ass show! Adele is the historical romance for many.
    As a result today the music scene is quit homogenized. This is what you are all experiencing, big Corporations getting bigger. Kind of like our news too. Fuck I just typed myself into a depression. Shit, Soylent Green is PEOPLE!!!!!! lol

  • Just Nikki says:

    I sincerely appreciate everyone’s feedback, and we’ll continue to read and approve comments, but I’ll leave you with this:

    We have not achieved diversity in romance, and we will not until the worlds depicted in the books we read look like the world we live in–a melting pot of colors and religions and sexual preferences and differently-abled people. No group should be relegated to a separate shelf in the book store. This is the WORLD of romance. One world, one love–cause in the end, it’s all about the LOVE.

  • Tiffany says:

    as an author and reader/lover of romance I agreed with everything else right up until number 8. I’m a Black romance author and there are PLENTY of “diverse” romance novels featuring Black women in IR and AA. Authors like Christina C Jones, Beverly Jenkins, D. Camille, S.K. Lessley, Twyla Turner, Maureen Smith, Niobia Bryant, Angie Daniels and on and on write African-American men and women and/or IR romances that range in spectrum. So, I have no idea where this notion that ever romance featuring a black woman is a “hood love” story. Also I must saying stereotyping those hood love stories as featuring “lil T with his gold teeth” and using that in a comparison with Neo Nazis is quite ridiculous. So, I’m sorry and am calling complete bullshit on the notion that there aren’t diverse stories being told and readers just can’t find them. I’ve read hundreds of romance novels of women who are black professionals. I have no idea where this notion that “diverse” romance aren’t being written. They are there. WE are there.

  • You had me at “Fuck you and your fucking step-brother.” I always consider myself a reader first and author second, and 2015 had me rolling my eyes at all the bland to ridiculous littering the contemporary romance genre. I read this post while sitting at the MacCaren airport in Las Vegas. It was more entertaining than the drunk frat boy serenading the cross dressing bartender at the bar across from me. Thank you for that.

  • Jamie Wesley says:

    1. Did you really compare a black man with a nickname and gold teeth to a neo-Nazi? Really?

    2. You don’t want to read hood lit. Fine. Then don’t. But the insinuation that this is the only romance to feature black characters is patently false. So is the notion that all black heroines are stereotypical. Whatever that means. Just so you know, I’m an educated, soft-spoken black woman who says “ooh, girl” when she hears juicy gossip. What books exactly are you reading? You sound like you’ve never read a contemporary romance featuring black characters that wasn’t hood lit. Try some and then I’ll be more likely to give your opinion some weight.

    3. Did you really compare a black man with a nickname and gold teeth to a neo-Nazi? Really?

  • Kris Caldicott says:

    Yes! Thank God for this article i hope authors are reading it too. I was given a Kindle from one of my kids and i haven’t touched a book since i love my Kindle however my biggest peeve are the un edited books that read like someone who has English as a second language with appalling grammar repeated paragraphs and spelling errors OMFG the spelling errors totally destroy a good story i know most are written by Indi authors but peeps please turn on your Spellchecker and most computers have a grammar checker too but mostly for the love of God please read your finished book prior to printing or realease to Kindle to check for quality. I’m sick of paying top dollar for rubbish quality

  • Sara Bouda says:

    Dear Nikki, I loved your post. insightful, honest.. a little hard on those that write that kind of crap, but, damn… did it need to be said!!!
    Now having said that, you are leaving the rest of us feeling a little left out. why, you may ask.
    I write romance and I have always shied away from that stereo-type-ical drivvel that leaks from the pores of many aspiring Amazon authors to numb our minds and dull our senses with the same damn thing every week. I actually don’t read that anymore, and like you, I’m not a fan of Urban AA, or a lot of the IR/MC that’s floating around. plus, I’m not from the US, so I don’t get most of it, anyways.

    But, I think you have to look a little further for something that will really “step outside the box” for you, and not everything that’s published as AA or IR or Romance will be exactly that. Diamonds are found under the earth in coal, and need to be dug out, and a gem worth reading, will likewise need to be dug up.

  • Kate Pearce says:

    Yes. 🙂 thanks for saying all this so eloquently. 🙂
    I’ve never written to trends and write everything from cozy mysteries to erotica and always enjoy pushing those boundaries along the way. 🙂 I wish I could write more historicals, but they aren’t selling too well at the moment, and I refuse to write light, quirky dukes, not my thing. I am writing some contemporaries but I wanted to focus on the good things about old school romance, love, family, forgiveness that kind of thing, so I’m writing those and hoping that some readers will enjoy them. 🙂

  • P. J. Dean says:

    I might be the wrong person to comment because I really disliike CR. Have not read CR in years. And with thr advent of New Adult I won’t be going back any time soon. The premise for most CR is just too implausible for me. Most of what you touched on is rather crappy but Lord knows it’s getting published and reviewed. And the latter can’t happen unless a blogger picks it to read. Almost all the tropes you named are not my thing, and they seem not to be the thing of people on this thread BUT…these types of books keeps getting published, and read and picked for review. My suggestions: yes, do what your doing and when you come back to CR, stop picking these tropes. There are a plethora of books out there without them. Just like the X-Files:”The truth is out there.” Or at least variety. Oh, and not all IR or AA is hood lit.

  • Hildy says:

    Great post, Nikki!
    I’ve seen quite a few bloggers making similar statements lately and I’m so happy to know that I’m not alone. I am really perplexed that these books seem to sell so much but I’m certainly not buying. In fact, I get most of my books from the library these days. The problem with the squeeing bloggers is they perpetuate the problem. I’ve had to unfollow just about everyone and just take recommendations from non-blogging friends who don’t have the desire to impress authors. Whenever I find a new CR that breaks through the crap (and I have found some) it’s like a giant relief. In the meantime, I’ve been switching things up with a lot of historical fiction, women’s fiction, and even non-fiction. WHAT? Yeah, I know. I would never have thought. I’ll take good writing where I can get it.

    My friend Megan wrote this letter in October. You should read it. I think you are both on the same page. Both are well-written pieces. http://readingbookslikeaboss.com/dear-new-adult-an-almost-breakup-letter/

  • Wow. You just read my mind and typed it out (though you made me much funnier and smarter, so thanks for that). I am returning to regency romance and YA because I start samples of probably 5-10 of these NA contemps for every one I actually pursue, then (I do not exaggerate) return probably 75% of what I go ahead and one-click after it all goes to crap two chapters later.

    I adore Julie Anne Long for the opposite of all the reasons above. Do you have other recommendations of that ilk? Because I’ve been in a reading slump for months and my internal editor is ready to shoot herself.

  • Angie Malone says:

    Thanks for this. I thought it was just me! I have a few authors who never disappoint but I only found a couple of new books with great story lines in the last year. I’m rereading more often. I hope more authors and their publishers will read this post and it’s many comments.

  • Yes! Yes to all of the above. But it’s not just contemporary romances. There are some rise and repeat elements in Paranormal romance too. In fact, all romance genres have some. That’s why I try to switch between romance and urban fantasy so I don’t get burned out or I would stop reading all romance.

  • Falyssa Mayhew says:

    I found myself giggling like mad and agreeing with you! Every word of it! This one author that I like I also want to hand a dictionary. Research, lady! You are 20 books in, and have another 6 waiting to be released. Yes, in your little area of Texas, people may refer to EVERY carbonated beverage/soda/soft drink as a coke, but not everyone in the STATE of Texas refers to a soda as a coke. It’s ignorant to assume that. And the final point, girlfriend I am referencing is guilty of that, too. In some, way, shape or form. Its almost gotten to the point of being predictable, but I am trying to be polite and not piss any readers of hers off.

  • Drue Hoffman says:

    I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this post. Well said, very well said. I have found very few authors who write outside the box, Liz Crowe comes to mind. But I am so tired of reading the same story over and over with just different characters & settings, it seems like everyone is recycling each other. And the stepbrother thing, I don’t understand it and never will. ICK!

  • just another reader says:

    Count me as one of those who can’t believe you actually compared “Lil T and his gold teeth” to “Adolf the neo-Nazi.” You might want to take a step back and more closely examine your own definitions of “diversity” and “open-mindedness.”

    Complaining about the books that currently dominate the charts, and saying you can’t find the ones you really want to read (which stumps me, given that there are nearly 350,000 romance novels listed in the Amazon store alone), also says you aren’t grasping the simple economics of the publishing business:

    The books that sell best are the books that appeal to the most readers.

    Apparently, people still want to buy all those “heaping helpings of shit” books you’d rather not see out there. That’s not a reality created by the authors who need to pay their bills and simply write what the readers are saying they want. That’s a reality created by the readers who speak with their pocketbook. I’d say most of them apparently don’t follow your blog.

  • Monica says:

    I guess I have a crass sense of humor because I LOL’ed when I read the Amy Schumer joke contained in this article. A lot of people think she’s hilarious so I guess this is an example of how everyone has different tastes, and to each his/her own and all that. 😉

  • Viktoria Blake says:

    Wow! Fantastic! I have been struggling with the pickings out there as well; so much so, I have started re-reading and re-reading those works I love because I’m afraid to go elsewhere (I’m a Kristen Ashely fan). One point you didn’t really make, however, in your very clearly expressed piece, but a point I feel needs to be made: writers need to monitor punctuation because good writing is good when everything works and a comma or a period in the wrong place screws up the reading process.

    The question now: what or who to read in March?

    • Joanne Medsker says:

      I just read on Twitter that Kresley Cole in releasing “The Player” in March, which is the 3rd book in The Game Maker Series. Not paranormal, but erotic. I love this series!

  • Twyla Turner says:

    I do agree with much of what you said, except #8. I am an author of IR and BBW romance with amazing multifaceted African American women. And mostly contemporary. I also know of Tiffany Patteson, Kim Golden, Xio Axelrod, Ines Johnson, Kaia Bennett so on and so forth that write amazing African American women that ANYONE can relate to. When speaking to readers as a trusted and popular blogger, the wording you use carries a lot of weight and can be harmful to the careers of authors. When readers read #8 the wording you used could very will sink into their subconscious. And when they come across a novel with POC as the characters and the storyline sounds like something they’d enjoy, they may bypass it for fear that it could be a “hood book”. I feel as a book blogger you have a responsibility to give correct facts about genres. There’s a plethora of amazing contemporary novels without any of the complaints you listed above in IR and AA, but you haven’t taken the time or research to find out. You probably wouldn’t be so discouraged from the genre if you had. Just saying.

  • Lindsey says:

    Oh my god! I was going to write something very similar on my blog, but girl you did it way better than me!

    I will admit, I’m guilty of doing a dirty talking bandwagon book. I am! But I’m not offended by this post at all! Mostly because I felt kinda guilty that I did one. My books are usually original and paranormal and don’t fit in the bandwagon box lol but lately I’m so sick of all the same crap to pick from reading I’ve been reading all the books made into movies this year, particularly the academy award ones.

    Thanks for this, although people are still going to keep jumping on the bandwagon because they make a quick buck. And I’m sick of street teams too, I’ve seen them tag team the hell out of authors to bring them down because they are better than the author they support. Just effing read people!

    And Walmart readers is the BEST term!

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