Thursday, January 27, 2011

I'd like to know . . .

I'm working on a post about  Voice -  developing/identifying/pushing your voice to maximise its potential as asked by Jane on Facebvook but while I'm doing that - I was reading another post this morning and I'd really really like to know your thoughts and opinions on it.

So - over on the Mills & Boon web site  editor Flo Nicholls has a great regular column - and right now she's asking an interesting, provoking and possible controversial question -

Cheating: The Last Taboo?

This is a topic that was raised  briefly at the RNA Conference in  summer and I just kew it wold come back again. So now Flo is opening up the discussion  and she's asking these questions -

+ Can infidelity work as a romance theme for you, and why?
+ What would cause you to lose or retain sympathy with the protagonists?
+ Does it make a difference if it’s the hero or heroine cheating?
+ What actually constitutes cheating – sex / kissing / emotional infidelity?
+ When and where have you seen it work well before – think TV / films / books?
+ And, most crucially to us, is it something you want to see tackled more often in your M&B books?

I have my own opinions - and I'll discuss those later - when I get a moment - and I also don't want to influenced anyone right now.   But  I really would love to know what you think.

On the M&B site  you have to join the community to answer Flo - though that just takes a couple of seconds and you'll be able to join in any of the other discussions too.  I'm sure Flo will appreciate any contributions to the discussion.

Or you can answer here - or both! If you do post a response in either [place please let me know because I really would like to know what you think.    


Lucy King said...

Great questions, Kate. Katie Fforde had a book in which the hero and heroine originally split because he cheated. Thyme Out, I think it was, and I think it worked well (it's one of my favourites of hers). In my wip my hero cheated on an ex years ago, so am most interested to hear what people think!!

Doris O'Connor said...

Hi Kate,

NO, no, no, no! Lol ;-)

It may well go on in real life and look at the heartache it causes, but I certainly do not want to see it in my romance novels. I dare say a skilful writer could pull it off, but it would have me flinging the book across the room, well, I wouldn't have bought it in the first place.
Cheating is the one thing in a relationship that I have zero tolerance for. It's all about integrity. How can you believe in a H/H, when they cannot follow such a basic principle as loyalty in a relationship.

Nicolette said...

I've already posted my answer to Flo's question, and can only reiterate that I completely agree with what Doris said.

I've been cheated on and I have zero tolerance for it. If I was reading a book and discovered that the hero had cheated, I'd stop reading.

Nell Dixon said...

What Doris and Nicolette said. It's a no no for me as a reader.

Rachael Thomas said...

No cheating. It's a romance, an escapism and I want to know they live happily ever after and not have to live with the doubt of will he/she do it again. It is after all their once in a lifetime love!

Kaelee said...

I'm with the majority ~ NO CHEATING. It is not romantic in the least. When I sit down with any Harlequin line I want a happy ever after and cheating precludes this in my mind.

Janet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janet said...

(Deleted my last post because a few typos sneaked in )

Definitely no cheating.

The only time I felt sympathy in a cheating situation was years ago in British soap East Enders when a character called Jane had a very ill husband who was suffering from Huntingdon's disease (bedridden, struggled to communicate and and needed 24 hour care.) I can't remember if Jane was unfaithful or just tempted but she became very close with another man (Ian Beale)and didn't tell him about her husband.

lidia said...

I also don't like cheating in romance books. The only time it works for me is if the cheating happened in the past when the h and H were a lot younger. For example they knew each other in high school and then the H went to college and cheated. They now meet again, both older and wiser and can get past that cheating. I would believe that someone like that would not cheat again -- a youthful mistake.

However, anytime a mature adult cheats I don't know if that person could ever be trusted again and therefore would not believe in the HEA but would think the ending is a HFA (happy for now) which belongs more in chick lit than in HP/Modern books.

I also dislike it when the h and H are married and are separated for brief period of time -- say less than six months and in during the separation the H slept around with multiple partners. In my opinion that's cheating. And while I can understand if they are separated for years that this will happen I don't expect it when the separation is of short duration. It is even worse if the h suffered during this time, while the H was off having a good time and then when everything is resolved he doesn't even bother to apologize.

Actually I am very glad to see that others don't want to read about cheating in their romance books.

Nas Dean said...

Hi Kate,

I moved out of lurkdom and posted for the first time today to Flo's question at the M&B site!

As a reader I read to escape the reality. There are too many cheaters out there in reality. So if I'm escaping to books, I wouldn't want to read about infidelity.
But then again, if the book has strong undercurrent of determination and courage for the h/h to overcome their problems, then I think it would help boost the reader and help build her self-confidence and self-worth if she's at the receiving end of infidelity.

lidia said...


I also posted on the M&B site -- a much longer post

Erin K said...

I saw the M&B post via Facebook, but I was too lazy to comment there because I don't have a screen name.

My first instinct is no way, it would never work in a category romance. However, the more I think about it, the more I realize that it is done sometimes. I am pretty sure the Miranda Lee book from last year - A Night, A Secret, A Child - was a secret baby plot wherein the heroine is engaged to someone else but sleeps with her soulmate the hero just before the wedding, then marries her betrothed and passes the hero's baby off as his. Of course, the hero and heroine are reunited after the husband's death and the secret baby (now a teen) is revealed. At the time, I didn't mind the storyline, but looking at reader reviews of the book on various sites, it was pretty widely disliked.

It is certainly risky, but I think a skilled writer who makes the reader believe in the characters and explains the motivations of the characters could pull it off. I wouldn't want to read it very often, but it is sort of nice to come across some risky plot elements in category romance.

Janet said...

After reading some of the comments on the harlequin site I've decided the answer is: it all depends on the circumstances. It's another element to add to that list of 'Can a romantic hero/heroine...' (along with... kill someone, hit their partner...etc) But it is difficult to feel sympathy with a hero/heroine who cheats.

Michelle Reid said...

This has been an interesting discussion, Kate. I’ve caught myself thinking about an awful lot over the last couple days. The thing is, I don’t like taboos. I think taboos stilt a writer’s creativity, which is a bit like having a door shut in our face. But as far as this last bastion of taboos in romantic fiction is concerned (if we leave out much darker and destructive topics like physical or sexual abuse etc) this is probably one I would prefer to keep the door shut against...and even as I’m typing that sentence I’m thinking, but what if I suddenly come up with a fabulous plot involving infidelity? I would want to write the story – would probably "need" to write the story, which throws my principles into the trash.

Others here have talked about an expected honour and dignity and pride involving our heros and heroines so I won’t bother going there except to say that I agree with everything they say. But we are talking romance, and more specifically here on your blog, Kate, we’re talking about M&B Modern/Harlequin Presents. In 1995 I had an infidelity story published. I have to say that the backlash from The Ultimate Betrayal has never gone away even 15 years on. Lidia can confirm this because the book cropped up last year on a forum titled “Most Hated HPs,” and Lidia wrote to ask me if I would answer some questions about the story people on the forum were asking, which I did – and I still answer questions to this very day about The Ultimate Betrayal via private emails sent to me. Actually I’m proud that a book of mine can still generate so much interest/controversy. I don’t defend the book – it wasn’t my story, it was my H and h’s story and how they coped/dealt with the hero’s supposed infidelity. They made it through to the other end still intact as a couple. Whether they could do that in 2011 with all the pressures placed on people about what to accept in their lives and what not to accept is a different question.

What I can say through my experience with The Ultimate Betrayal is that feelings – strongly passionate feelings about the infidelity in the book have not changed at all in the 15 years since it was published. Most readers don’t like it, though they will accept it makes for one hell of a heartrending read. Even the fact that my hero didn’t actually commit adultery means very little to most of them - because he believed he had gone to bed with another woman. He still caused his poor wife all the agonising pain and heartbreak of believing that he been unfaithful to her.

So my answer to Flo Nicholls question on the M&B website would have to be: If my readers haven’t softened their views on infidelity in the 15 years since The Ultimate Betrayal hit the book shops, then I think it’s unlikely that they’re going to soften their stance in the foreseeable future. So my vote is against breaking the last taboo....unless I have this sudden brainstorm of a plot involving infidelity of course!

Michelle Reid

lidia said...

Since Michelle brought up her book I would like to say a few things that were mentioned on the other boards.

First of all, a few of the readers where reading between the lines and actually "making up" things that didn't exist. Michelle clarified those and I was very happy to post her response. I for one was very grateful that Michelle took the time to answer the questions.

The one thing that most everyone agreed with was that at the very least, there was emotional cheating going on. The H wined and dined the OW, talked to her about his problems, etc... For some of the readers emotional cheating is worse than physical infidelity. They felt that it is easier to forgive a one night stand versus forgiving an emotional connection which implies a long lasting tie.

Category romance has a big limitaton on length and that adds to the difficulty in making this theme work. First the characters needs to be developed. The reader needs to feel a connection with the "cheater." Then the mistake. Then again the redemption which could take time.

One historical book that many readers mention as being a very good cheating book where they believed in the H's remorse and more importantly beleived that he wouldn't cheat again and therefore beleived in a HEA -- is "Lady Gallant."


Home Bio Books USA Readers Writers Contests Events Blog Links

Join Kate's Newsletter

Email Kate

Modified and Maintained by HR Web Concepts