I love a good romance. When my day or life has turned to absolute shite, the books I am most likely to pick up are romances. In fact, the author most represented on my shelves is a romance writer, Nora Roberts, who I love both in her incarnation as herself, and as JD Robb. (When things are really, really, bad, I reread the entire In Death series. Eve Dallas is one of my favorite characters in all of literature.)
Even in a book that is not primarily a romance, I have no problem reading about love, or lust, or SuperHawt SexyTimes. I'm not a prude, and sometimes I want a happy ending. (Minds. Gutter. Out.)
And, dear fellow authors, I understand that while a coming of age novel where the protagonist is a boy who becomes a man can end with him forging "in the smithy of [his] soul the uncreated conscience of [his] race," or whatever, a coming of age novel where the protagonist is a girl who becomes a woman must end with Marriage (or at least an engagement) (and, okay, no, I don't really understand why this must be so, but ranting against this rule is another post for another day), there is one thing that drives me bats.
Having the heroine fall in love with an asshole ruins her credibility as a heroine.
I am reading this book right now, and I am not going to tell you what it is because in all other ways, it is a really great book. It is taking a different, and interesting, look at a trope I normally find boring and overdone. It has incredible worldbuilding. The prose is really smart.
There is a forced marriage. To a guy who is an absolute ass. (Although I gather we are supposed to at least suspect he is a gentleman, since he does not forcefully claim his marriage rights from a woman he obviously believes to be his inferior in every possible way. But since Not Being a Rapist appears to be his only redeeming quality, I'm not sure I buy the "gentleman" label.) He is emotionally cruel, and verbally abusive. At about the halfway point, he attempts to murder the heroine. This is about when she starts to think he's hot.
What. The. Fuck.
The worst part is, this is not a book that needed a romance subplot. There was so much else that was interesting going on, that the inclusion of this subplot seems forced. Like maybe someone told the author, "oh, hey, you're writing a story about a girl, so could you please add in a love interest so we can make Team Not a Rapist t-shirts." And let me let you in on a little secret: I really liked the female lead up until she decided the guy who just stabbed her was cute, and started fantasizing about running her fingers along the line of his jaw. She was smart, capable, fierce, and had dignity. She was an awesome woman. Now, she's just another silly girl with a crush on a wrong guy.
We are creative writers. We can do better.