She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not: Top 10 Things I Like & Dislike About Romance In Books

Hi, everyone! It’s been a while (OK, two weeks) since I last linked up with The Broke and the Bookish for their weekly feature, Top Ten Tuesday. So I’m joining that particular party once again!

This week’s theme is “top ten things you like/dislike when it comes to romance in books.” Well, I have soooooooo many thoughts on this subject that I’m going to make two top ten lists, one for what I love and another for what I loathe!

Why don’t I start with the things I’m not so fond of? That way, there’ll be lots of warm fuzzies at the end of this post!

Romantic Tropes I Abhor In Books

1. Insta-Love

I’ve talked about this before, but I hate it so much that I just have to mention it again. I will never, never, never understand the characters who quote unquote fall in love with someone as soon as they meet. What happened to character development, people?! Slowly developing romances are much more satisfying to read!

my true love gave to me2. From hate to love

A lot of other Top Ten Tuesday participants listed this as something they love, but… gah, no. This just isn’t my thing. I think it’s creepy! How is that kind of relationship AT ALL healthy?!

I don’t know. I guess I’m just tired of this idea that if a little boy makes fun of a girl (or pulls her hair, or shoves her) then that must mean he secretly likes her. Um. No. It’s just immature and pathetic and, when the characters are a little older, turns into this weird excuse for abuse.

3. Characters who find their One True Love in their teens

Come on, authors. Why do you do this?! I know a few people do find their significant other during their teens, but what about the other 95% of the population? YA books, especially, portray True Love as something that happens overwhelmingly – only? – in one’s teens. And that’s just unrealistic.

I’d like to read more books that acknowledge that most of us will not find our “someone” in our teens and that more often than not, teen relationships aren’t lasting anyway. And that most of us will date more than one person / have more than one crush, anyway – why are so many characters’ significant other the first person they’ve ever dated?!

4. Couples who claim to be sooooo in love but who don’t actually show it

I’m not interested in grand declarations of love. I’m not interested in long monologues about how a couple’s love can move mountains, create new worlds, blah blah blah. Whenever characters start doing this I’m always like, “Yeah, that’s… nice, but when was the last time you actually did something cute together just for the heck of it?” Don’t TELL me how much you love one another; SHOW me!

(My only exception to this is Caelan from Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant books… because it was intended as a spoof. OMG, how I love to hate him. He’s basically an over-the-top version of Edward Cullen. It’s kind of amazing in a horribly cheesy way.)

5. Stalking

You’d think this would be an obvious no-no, but if my bookish experiences are anything to go by… it’s not. What is up with this?! I don’t think it’s weird to ask your crush’s friends a few questions in order to learn more about them (hobbies, interests, et cetera) but the stalking needs to stop! This goes for cyberstalking as well.



6. Falling in love with a hot person because they’re hot

That’s not love. That’s attraction. I think Natalie Dormer is flipping gorgeous and probably the most beautiful woman who ever lived, but I wouldn’t say that I’m in love with her. Because I don’t know her. I love her undercut, and her smirk of a smile makes me feel all melty and gay inside, and I could fangirl about her all day. But when it comes down to it, I don’t know much about her personality – only what she presents to the media. I don’t think a relationship based on hotness – even mutual hotness – will last. Sorry, authors, but you need something a little “deeper.”

(Also, apparently it’s Natalie Dormer’s birthday today? HAPPY BIRTHDAY, YOU RIDICULOUSLY ATTRACTIVE HUMAN BEING, YOU.)

7. Pursuing someone even after they’ve said they’re not interested

Is it just me, or this is predominantly a straight dude thing? It’s not a sign of patience or perseverance and, damn it, it is definitely not a sign of heroic endurance. It’s just creepy. These characters need to get over themselves. Sometimes relationships don’t work out the way you’d like them to and that sucks, but… that’s the way things are.

And it’s REALLY creepy when one character tries to “convince” another character to boy meets boy“accidentally” confess their love for them. If they truly love you, why would you even do this? You shouldn’t need to do anything to “convince” them. Just be yourself.

8. Girls fighting over a boy

This is literally the last thing I want to read about, ever. I mean, honestly – why don’t the girls just stop fighting and date each other instead?

9. Uncommunicative couples

Look, fictional people: You have to talk to the person you’re dating. Like, a lot. (And if you’re not willing/ready to do this, I honestly don’t think you’re ready for a romantic relationship.) I am SO tired of couples who fight and/or have super awkward moments because they don’t just COMMUNICATE about what they want and what they’re thinking!

No one can read minds. (Unless you’re Snape, and who would want to date him? #shotsfired) I’m tired of reading about fictional characters whose dating problems would be solved if only they actually listened and talked to each other.

10. Breaking up and getting back together over and over and over

Ugh. No. This is sooooo boring and tiring to read about. Cue eye-rolling from the Engie. I’ll let T Swizzle take it from here:

“I remember when we broke up the first time
Saying, ‘This is it, I’ve had enough,’ ’cause like
We hadn’t seen each other in a month
When you said you needed space. What?
Then you come around again and say
‘Baby, I miss you and I swear I’m gonna change, trust me.’
Remember how that lasted for a day?
I say, ‘I hate you,’ we break up, you call me, ‘I love you.’

Oh, we called it off again last night
But oh, this time I’m telling you, I’m telling you

We are never ever ever getting back together.”


Romantic Tropes I Adore In Books

1. Slowly developing romances

I don’t want the characters to end up together almost as soon as the book starts! It’s so cute when it takes a while for them to meet, become friends, and fall in love. Insta-Love never
results in feels from me, but slower love stories always always always make me fangirl. Enough said.

the dream thieves2. Characters who don’t neglect their relationships with other people

Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle is an EXCELLENT example of this! She explores her characters’ platonic relationships in addition to their romantic relationships. I hate, hate, hate reading stories where the character begins dating someone and basically neglects all their friends from before they met that person. No matter how amazing my future girlfriend may be, I am determined to never be this sort of person.

3. Cuteness just for the heck of it

CUTENESS. CUTENESS ALL THE TIME AND FOR NO REAL REASON. I LOVE CUTENESS. I’m not that interested in reading about fictional couples who are only affectionate when they, like, go out on a date or something. BE CUTE ALL THE TIME SO I CAN FANGIRL OVER YOU, PLEASE. I love characters who hold hands and cuddle and kiss each other on the forehead. Oh my gosh, those adorable forehead kisses.

4. Love letters

And emails. And IMs. And text messages. And transcripts of phone conversations. THESE
ARE ALL SO ADORABLE. I love to read about characters who are so in love with each other that they constantly talking to one other in some way, shape, or form. Whether they’re saying, “What’s up, [insert mushy nickname here]?” or “Hey, today I saw something that made me think of you,” I find this endlessly endearing.

5. LGBTQ+ love stories

[Whispers] If I’m being completely honest, there are like three guy/girl couples that I ship even a little bit and all the rest are queer pairings. (Mostly girl/girl couples, yay!) Here are
some of the kinds of LGBTQ+ love stories that I’d love to see, or see more of:

  • LESBIANSinheritance
  • Bisexual guys (seriously, all the guy/guy love stories I’ve ever read featured only gay guys – what’s up with that? I’m looking at you, David Levithan)
  • Queer romance in historical fiction
  • Mixed-orientation relationships (for example, a bi girl dating a lesbian)
  • Bisexual people who fight against the erroneous idea that they’re straight when dating someone of another gender and gay when dating someone of the same gender because THAT IDEA IS SOOOO ANNOYING
  • Basically just lots of adorable ladies kissing other adorable ladies yes please

 6. Diversity in general

like no otherWhenever I read a YA romance that is said to be the Next Big Thing, I always hope that it’s something I haven’t seen before (or seen very often) and not just more of the same.
Straight, white, cisgender girl meets straight, white, cisgender boy? I’ll pass, because I’ve seen that story 3496574855494.5 times before. This is one of my problems with The Fault in Our Stars, to be honest.

love reading love stories where the characters are of different races, or religions, or whatever. It’s cool to see how they handle those differences, and how their friends and family react. Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye and Like No Other by Una LaMarche are particular favorites of mine.

7. Characters who grew up together and spent a long time as friends before falling in love

I love reading love stories where the main character begins to notice, say, their childhood friend, or the girl next door, or whatever. I love how that turns their world upside-down and forces them to reexamine things.

(And for the record, I think this is particularly awesome in same-gender relationships, because that always raises all sorts of Questions About Identity. Like, if the main character spent their childhood believing girls couldn’t love other girls romantically/sexually, and then they fall in love with the best friend that they’ve known for years, that’s really interesting to read about.)

8. Polyamory

I’ve only read one book that did this – it was YA – and I can’t even tell you the title because I don’t want to spoil the ending to that particular series. Anyway, the author cleverly resolved a love triangle by having the main character decide to date both of her love interests.

And it was super-cute! I was pleased and amused by how that author turned the standard
YA love triangle on its head. It was basically a ginormous “THHHHHBBBPPPPPTTT HA HA SEE IF I CARE ABOUT YOUR TYPICAL YA ENDINGS.”

9. Acknowledging that many people will have multiple crushes and date more
than one person during their lives, even while knowing that they’re not with their Special Someone

Does this make sense? I like books that portray people, especially teens, as being with first the miseducation of cameron postthis person and then that person and then that other person. Maybe a character has a minor relationship with another person in their story, then they kiss someone else, and then they date some other character. They don’t end up paired off right away. They may not be paired off with anyone at all, even by the end of the story.

My favorite book that does this (and my favorite book of all time, TBH) is Emily M. Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Between the ages of twelve and seventeen, Cam has relationships with and crushes on… six girls and women, I think? Relationships are complicated, people.

10. Lots of laughter

I think this is probably the ultimate test of True Love, whether real or fictional. There are definite times when one needs to be serious, but as for the rest of the time… go ahead and act like a dork! I love fictional couples who have inside jokes, who spend their time being goofy, who can’t go five minutes without laughing about something.


Well, there you have it. I’m sorry this post ran so long – I meant for it to be shorter, but I guess I had a LOT of thoughts about love stories, way more than I thought I did. It’s a genre that I sometimes love and sometimes loathe… if it’s well-written, it makes me squee all the time! But if it’s not, then I immediately throw the book in question at the nearest wall because I have literally no patience for sloppily-written, dull love stories.

And that’s all I have for tonight, so I’ll sign off – but not before telling you that YES I AM GOING TO DO A VALENTINE’S POST. It probably won’t be anything like what you’re expecting, but you’re certainly welcome to guess what I’ve chosen to write about. I am very much looking forward to it.

What things do you like and dislike when it comes to fictional romance? Have any of those things happened to you in real life?!


About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
This entry was posted in Books and Reading!, LGBTQ+, Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Non-Neville Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not: Top 10 Things I Like & Dislike About Romance In Books

  1. Artgirl says:

    To be fair, a large amount of the time in real life couples do have problems with communication leading to awkward situations. Obviously that doesn’t give writers a pass to forgo communication entirely or write poor communication with no justification, which is often the case, but it is in fact a real problem I have experienced. I do agree with you very much on all of this, though. Down with insta-romance, more gay ladies.


    Ooooh is the polyamory book Inheritance maybe not I know I’m a terrible person I haven’t read it yet but even if it isn’t the picture reminded me I need to read that book stat

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yeah, I understand that – it just seems as though pretty much ALL of the couples in YA stories have communication issues. All of them. :/ And that gets boring after a while…
      Gay ladies 5evah ❤


      …yes, yes it is. ❤ Omg it's so amazing ahhhhhhhhhhhh.

  2. Cait says:

    Well I basically agree 100% with your LIKES list. XD Like, seriously, cutness and slow-burns and teens who actually think “hey it’s nice to talk to other people and think about them instead of JUST my boy/girlfriend”. YAY! There’s life outside fo romance! Who’d thought?! x) okay! Okay! I shall stop being sarcastic 😉
    I’m not a fan of insta-love but I can’t deny that it’s real. I spent my younger teenager years with girls who’d have a crush on a boy and be marrying him and having two billion children within the hour of seeing him. -_- And one of these girls married the boy so, um, INSTA LOVE EXISTS. I just…gah. I hate it in books because I think it’s a poor excuse for skipping character development. If an author wants to write about a couple, start the book where they are a couple! <– Also that's extremely rare and I wonder why. Hmmmm.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Ehehe, two billion children? That’s impressive. 😛 And also very weird.

      Yes, yes, yes! I like books where the characters are already a couple, but you’re right – there don’t seem to be very many of them.

  3. The romance in my current novel is a lot differen than the average, I have to say. They’re friends [ok that’s typical] then get together. One is a bisexual guy, and the other s a straight transgender girl.
    I completely agree about instalove eben though I write it sometimes because I can’t help it!!!

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yay for diversity! *high-fives you*

      Ehehe, yeah… it took a while for me to learn how NOT to copy the insta-love from books because I’m just so used to it, even though I can’t stand it. It’s so much easier to rush things and not develop the plot slowly!

  4. AWESOME POST. Yessss I hate how people in YA books always find their true love when they’re, like, sixteen. Some of my friends didn’t even realise they were gay until they turned sixteen, let alone had a boyfriend/girlfriend, let alone them being “the one.”

    Also I really need to buy and read The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

    • nevillegirl says:

      THANK YOU. 😀
      *nodnod* That’s very true. I’d figured out I was a lesbian by age sixteen, but I was still going through a lot of weirdness and Feeling Bad/Guilty About My Sexual Orientation, so dating anyone was definitely out of the question for me. Hence, why the “I found my true loooooove at the age of, like, 13” stories make me giggle and roll my eyes because… really. Really.


  5. Bec Graham says:

    I love that you did a top ten for both! I agree with you on all points! Especially the communication point. I get annoyed at couples in real life who struggle with this. If people just opened their mouths and TALKED, I can almost guarantee there’d be way less divorce and break-ups. Also totally agree about the LGBTQ point. Teeth and The Goldfinch are the only books off the top of my head where the main relationship isn’t hetero. I mean, Cassie Clare has gay characters but the main relationship is still straight.

  6. Mo says:

    *giggles because I’m pretty sure I know what book has the polyamory you’re referencing*
    Alex Sanchez has written… one book with a bi guy in it. It’s called Boyfriends with Girlfriends and it does also have queer girls in it.

    I don’t think “hate to love” is necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely needs to be handled carefully. Obviously if it’s creepy/abusive/irrational/all of the above, I understand why you’d dislike it. But I think it is possible to have a love story that way. It’s not my favorite either, but I know of one example (in TV, though, not a book) where it was “I disliked you at first because you seemed like a jerk but I found you attractive and then got to know you and you still have jerkish qualities but you also have some good qualities as well.” Does that make any sense? Again, it’s not what I would pick, and I don’t think I’m explaining it very well, but I think in a few cases it can work.

    But overall I agree with your points! *thumbs up*

    • nevillegirl says:


      Ooh, thanks for the rec!

      Yeah… yeah, I suppose. Like… in the Percy Jackson books, Percy's a bit intimidated by how much Annabeth knows about monsters and stuff, and she's kind of bossy, so… Idk, they're not quite sure of one another at first? But I can't STAND characters who go from absolutely HATING each other to loving one another. Ew.


      • Mo says:

        *thumbs up* Boyfriends with Girlfriends was just okay, IMO. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but it didn’t stand out.

        I also think there’s a point of no return with those kind of couples, or with couples where it’s like “no we’d never date *a few years later* haha what yeah we’d totally date.” You know, you can have them dislike each other for a certain amount of time, but if you stress that over and over and then force them together it just… doesn’t work.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Oh, OK.

      Yeah, same. If they’ve spent YEARS hating one another and all of a sudden they’re in love it’s just like… whaaaaa?

  7. “Why don’t the girls stop fighting over the guy and date each other instead?”

    Legend of Korra heard your plea. And It Was Good.

    Also, completely agree with a lot of this, especially the stuff about slow-build romance and cuteness. Preferably combined! I’ll have to trawl through your book recommendations to see if I can find an interesting YA novel that doesn’t make me want to bonk my head against a desk.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yeah, so I’ve heard. I really need to watch that series now! 😀 A+ way to resolve a love triangle, imo.

      Well, what genres do you like/what else are you looking for in a story? I’ll see what I can think of. 🙂

      • I’m just kind of looking for a fun and enthralling book (or series, as long as its consistently good) with youg folks (preferably ladies) and a bit of magic or mayhem. I’m thinking of picking up The Lunar Chronicles and trying them out, but haven’t been able to find them in libraries, haha. Basically, The Diviners book 2 isn’t coming out until April and I’m trying to fill the void, and convince myself that THERE IS good YA out there :L a random search leaves you pretty disappointed (as I found with ‘Sleepless’. Sounded so good, ended up so boring. Avoid that one)

    • nevillegirl says:

      Ooh, I absolutely LOVED the Lunar Chronicles! Other than that, Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle is freaking awesome. And the Kiki Strike series (by Kirsten Miller) straddle the line between fantasy and… it’s not exactly sci-fi, but, like… spies with gizmos? Lots of weird technology? I think you’d love E. Lockhart’s books, as well, although they’re contemporary not fantasy. (But still – AWESOME LADIES.) I wasn’t too thrilled with her latest book, but I’d recommend starting with Dramarama or The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.

      …also, can I interest you in the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy? Shhhh yes I recommend it to practically *everyone* but it fulfills ALL of the things you listed. There are 9 books in the series proper, along with a novella and a collection of short stories. The main character… well, there isn’t exactly A main character, there are two. Skulduggery is a walking, talking, wisecracking, fireball-throwing, sharply dressed skeleton detective, and Valkyrie Cain is his sidekick. She’s 12 in the first book, but 18 by #9 (which I am currently reading). And…. yes to being fun, enthralling, and full of magic and mayhem.
      They’re HILARIOUS – seriously, very few other books have made me laugh that hard. But they’ll also break your heart. Eventually they get very dark and really play with ideas of good vs. evil and whatnot. Basically, they slowly transition from being children’s book to being middle grade to being YA.
      They’re amazing.

      (Are you on Goodreads, btw? My username there is ‘nevillegirl’.)
      (And do you watch Agent Carter?)

      • I have heard lots of good things about Skullduggery from other folks as well! It kind of feels like it would be much more enjoyable if you’d grown up with it, but it’s certainly worth a shot.

        Lockhart’s books sound fun too! I’m fine with contemporary; really, I don’t fuss too much over content if the story and characters and way it’s written can keep me drawn in. There are definitely a few things there to check out, so thank you!

        (I don’t have a Goodreads. I was thinking of compiling one someday when I have the time to trawl through and accurately list everything I’ve read and want to read 😛 Also, I’d love to watch Agent Carter, but have no legal way to at the moment unfortunately! Sad face)

    • nevillegirl says:

      *shrug* That’s possible. Idk, I didn’t grow up with them – my friend who recommended them to me did, but I only started reading the series last April.

      Yay! I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about her writing. 🙂

      (Pffft, I can’t even attempt to catalog all the books I’ve ever read using Goodreads. I just use it to keep track of books I’ve read within the past year or so – because that’s when I started using it – and to keep track of my ever-expanding TBR list._)
      (*sadface* *patpat*)

      • Well, L.I. has all of them I’m pretty sure, so I have access if I want to give them a crack 🙂 Could be fun. Never read about a skeleton before…

        (Making an AnimeList was hard enough, but I reckon a Goodreads could be fun. I’ll join you on there when I have an afternoon for compiling @.@)
        (thanks. The perils of not living in America and its internet wonders! Alas. nevermore)

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