I just got halfway through a book where the hero smirked, the heroine cried all the time, and they all circled the drain without arcing. So I skipped to the end. THREE epilogues. THREE.

I don’t know whether I’m just grumpy–I’m behind on everything–but lately romance is just annoying the hell out of me. I think I’ll go read Murderbot again.

THREE EPILOGUES. With smirking. Jesus wept.

48 thoughts on “Grrrrrrrr

  1. I’ve been reading a series of duds, too – mostly samples, but a couple I’d made the mistake of buying. It’s amazing how depressing naff romcoms can be. If the fundamental worldview is off it takes a while to shake it off. And these are all stories other people like, they just seriously don’t work for me.

    I’m feeling a lot better for currently being immersed in Loretta Chase’s latest, where she’s made a most unpromising character from her previous novel start to really work as a hero.

    1. PS. I don’t know what Mollie’s done, but it was quite alarming to go to a page headed
      500 – Internal Server Error
      This is a temporary server error.
      Please try to reload the webpage later.

      However, I wasn’t left hanging, and it did reload immediately, so it is in fact an improvement!

      PPS. But when trying to post the above, it was back to its old tricks.

      1. Are you using Safari? Evidently Safari and Argh had a falling out and they sometimes do not speak to each other.

        1. Yes, Safari. I’m used to it now. I daresay it’ll get fixed by the tech gods sometime. (Vision of Apple and WordPress on Mount Olympus, fallen out over a nymph.)

    2. +1 on the Loretta Chase. Great character arcs, snappy banter and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

    3. Is that Ten Things? It was fun, but I wanted more arc from the heroine. The hero arced like crazy.

  2. It’s a good time of year to be grumpy about things; at least, everyone I know is struggling with that. Still…

    Three epilogues? WHY? It’s not that I haven’t read some good and necessary epilogues; I have. But I can only think of one book that used more than one epilogue to any kind of good effect, and it was a deliberately unconventional structure.

    And also now I’m picturing like the Lord of Swamp Castle in The Holy Grail, only instead of “No singing!” it’s “No SMIRKING! Stop! Absolutely not!”

  3. I’m not going to name names, but in the most recent romance I read, by an author who has been an auto-buy for me, the heroine gasped. A lot. Five times per chapter sometimes (and yes, I ran a search on Kindle to see how many times the word was showing up, just to make sure I wasn’t being hypercritical.) The last straw was when she gasped, then giggled. Just… blech. If I ever write anything again, gasp is definitely going to be on my list of words to edit out.

    1. Oh Sarah, I love your work. You have such a neat way of plotting and your characters are not caricatures.

      Btw, are you still van-lifing it? Because I want to know more.

      1. Van life in a pandemic is awful. I think my worst day was probably when I went to three different campgrounds looking for someplace to replenish my water supply. All of them were closed, so I finally decided to resort to Walmart and jugs of water, but Walmart was completely sold out of bottled water. Bare shelves, not a good feeling. I did find water eventually, but that day actually has competition for worst day status. I literally went three weeks without showering because I had no options. (I did have shower wipes, but still… three weeks is a long, long time.)

        Fortunately for me, I’d been planning to visit a friend for my birthday and she had an unused garage in her back yard. Now I live in her garage. (It took me several weeks and a ton of paint, but is an adorably cute garage now — my blog has plenty of pictures scattered through April and May, but this post probably shows it best:

        And thank you for the writing encouragement. I don’t know where my stories went but I do miss them. I hope they come back someday. (Preferably soon!)

        1. So are you in northern California? That’s what Google Maps seems to think. Really glad you found a haven – that sounds really bad, before. Hope the stories will return as you get settled.

          1. Yep! Arcata, because there’s a shop here with amazing gluten-free cupcakes and I was determined to have one for my birthday. Were it not for that, I’d probably have landed on my brother’s property in PA eventually. It’s definitely not how I pictured ending my travels, but hot running water is a huge selling point. As well as the ability to stay reasonably isolated in a healthy way.

            As for the stories — well, I think I start with daydreaming and that just doesn’t mesh well with doom scrolling. If I could give up the doom scrolling, I’d probably be doing better. (This is probably true for every single person with access to the internet.)

          2. I’ve just – once again – deleted all my politics/news-related podcasts and feeds, banished the Guardian app to the remotest screen of my iPad, and vowed to look at it once a week only. I don’t listen to or watch any news, so I’m hoping this cull will help me feel more at peace.

            Of course, my day job involves working on lots of books about the various crises we’re facing; I’m expecting one tomorrow about saving capitalism.

    2. I used to edit manuscripts by changing the text of, say, “gasped,” to a different color and a larger size (actually, I wrote a macro that went through the ms and reformatted a number of words and usages and vocabulary choices).

      1. Asthmatic would have been good — the heroine would have been more interesting. Alas, no. In the chapter that was my breaking point, she not only gasps five times, she gushes, and she giggles twice in rapid succession. Hypercritical of me, maybe, but all hope of story immersion was gone.

        On the upside, though, the exclamation points were fine.

  4. There’s a solid fantasy series where the author repeats certain phrases or sentences in each book verbatim.

    Instead of creating a feeling of a link to the previous book, it actually kicks me out of the story. It’s so odd, almost like they created an explanation for something and then they copy and paste it into the new book when the thing needs explaining.

    I know early in the Xena series where they filmed in New Zealand there was a scene of Xena travelling by horseback along a stream/river. Every time they needed filler to show travelling, they’d use the same footage AND IT WAS SO OBVIOUS! It always jerked me out of the narrative.

    So repetition of any sort is quite jarring to me.

    1. We’ve watched the FBI series ‘Numbers’ a couple times through and there were a few exact same background shots of ‘Cal Sci.’ 🙂 We probably wouldn’t have caught it except one of the extras was a girl with long red hair.

    2. That’s one of the reasons that put me off Poldark. He was always galloping along a cliff. Back and forth, back and forth.

    3. Haha, I can’t take long scenes of people walking/armies marching (Shogun). Or boats going across water (the Peter Jackson King Kong). They’re traveling. It’s taking time. We get it. I’m find with a story that takes place on the road, but they’re better be story not just filler.
      One of my personal rules is if a movie is over 2 hours long, it better earn every one of those extra minutes (Yes, I am a hard@ss, but I grew up watching black and white movies that managed to usually say plenty in 90-100 minutes). I have certain long movies/miniseries I love b/c I want to be immersed in that world, almost like a beloved book. Then there are the other ones. . .
      My husband jokes I should have been a film editor and he knows when we’re watching certain things, even it’s something we’ve never watched before “oh, they’re showing people walking for no reason. Jill is going to hate this part.”

  5. I don’t know what all changed but I LOVE the darker font. The old blog’s font seemed to be thin and dark gray and these old eyes had a problem reading.

    1. Mollie changed it.
      She’d chosen the original and thought it was fine. Fifteen years ago. Possibly her eyes caught up with ours.

    2. Hi ranch girl, nice to hear from you. I hope you have a safe and very healthy and happy new year.

  6. I just don’t get why authors would have their heroes smirk. Why would anyone think this is attractive? It is, by definition, irritating and smug. It is neither endearing nor sexy. I was just re-reading Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs. Can you imagine Adam smirking? No. Bonarata? Yes. That is why Adam is the hero and Bonarata the villain.

    1. I’m writing something where the hero smirks a couple of times, but that’s when he’s being deliberately annoying and he’s well aware of it.

      1. I support this type of smirking. From heroes and heroines. I think I just must come from a smirking background b/c to me it’s a way of showing, “yeah, I’m being slightly obnoxious right now and I know it.”

        1. To me, it’s condescending, as in “I’m always right, I know better than you” in an arrogant way; aka asshat expression.

          Dictionary def: smile in an irritatingly smug, conceited, or silly way.

          Why would you want a sympathetic character to look like that?

          1. It was the only right word in the context. Although there’s a shade less of the condescending smug and a little more of the annoying recognition of scoring a hit on someone who attacked him first.

  7. Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series includes an epilogue for the main character; then she wrote a whole book of Second Epilogues, picking up their lives years later. I get it–I don’t want to leave those Bridgertons either.

    My pet peeve is eyebrow waggling, which, sadly, appears in the work of too many writers I love. Nobody I know waggles eyebrows except Groucho Marx, whom I never met personally.

  8. I actually don’t hate smirking or crying. It just needs to a) not happen all the time and b) not be gendered.

    I think smirking only works if it’s in a teasing/battling context. If it’s someone who’s always smirking, regardless of context, that’s when it gets robot-like and sociopathic.

  9. For me Romance is like the Movies, when it is written well it is awesome, if it is bad, it has to be so bad it’s good, otherwise they’re just wasting my time. If I am dying with laughter then worth it. If I’m rooting for the bad guys to kill the really annoying hero (eat him actually) they went wrong somewhere. He got eaten, but I still felt short changed.

  10. Can I indulge a Grrr? I mean, I literally wrote that in my reading journal last night after staying up till 12:15 to finish book 3 of what is billed as a trilogy but oh wait here in the last chapter which is by the way full of unresolved plot threads we’re dropping a teaser that The Story Continues because Mobster.

    I incautiously bought a book because a romance review site has people who say ‘oh this love story is the best’ and I’m all about a good love story, right? Had I gone to the author’s page I would have realized that he writes mysteries/suspense, in which the main characters are generally M/M couples, but which I should not expect to be romances. Which is fine. I do read mysteries. 🙂 But … .

    I got hooked in, because the MCs are compelling even though they are both an absolute mess. But, not romance, and not especially satisfying as mystery (see: unresolved threads).

    The three books in question are set up as romantic suspense. Meaning (to me) the romance is at least *as* important as the suspense plot. And the amount of page time given to the love story is equivalent to the suspense plot, or plots, because each book has its primary plot. First book is blackmail, second book is drugs + murder of a person who used to run a ‘conversion therapy’ place, third book is corrupt cops. Except all of them are kind of about corrupt cops, plus understory of a serial killer who targeted gay men. All this is in St. Louis, MO. These details will probably tell somebody who’s read the books what they are.

    Problem the first is that there is no HEA and barely a HFN. Both main characters are really damaged, one has severe (and warranted) PTSD due to serial killer and the other is in an abusive marriage. End of book 1, PTSD guy is with someone else. End of book 2, married guy has finally walked out and MCs are nominally together but they continually do and say the wrong things to each other and then run away. (PTSD guy misuses prescription drugs, is in therapy but his therapist is clearly awful at her job. He has what are billed as loving parents with whom he never has an on-page scene. Meanwhile borderline-alcoholic married guy comes from what has obviously been an abusive home, mother is long dead, father is dying of cancer. MCs have no support, is what I’m saying.) It’s perfectly believable behavior, under the circumstances, but it does not hold out much hope for a long-term successful relationship.

    There is exactly one fully-drawn female character, who happens to be one of very few POC characters, and who is apparently meant to be comic relief. Except she’s not funny because she’s terrible at her job and makes things worse for the MCs. There is a plot puppy in book 3. Almost everyone in the entire community is either a criminal or a victim. There are two people who are neither, and are appealing, who are abandoned at the end of book 3, one by dumping him in an off-page relationship with a much older man, and the other by simply not referring to his existence again after his email delivering an important document to one of the MCs.

    The document guy, by the way, is the new boyfriend of the One Good Cop (okay, there may be one other, but she is a Plot Cop), who was with the PTSD guy for a while and is last seen in a coma in the hospital. Meanwhile the serial killer turns out to be One Good Cop’s on-the-job partner, as far as I can tell because he was the only person so far identified in the through-story who hadn’t been a) proved innocent b) killed. It made no sense for that guy to be the killer. Up till that moment everything he did supported him being one of the good guys. Then he turns up in the hospital room and I think ‘oh FML really, he’s the killer?’

    And after that confrontation it’s a birthday party and the end except Hello Mobster saying ‘you owe me.’

    What I want is an actual romance starring One Good Cop (recovered) and his nice-guy boyfriend. One in which two people have normal lives with friends and family and ordinary job conflicts like oh you finished your dissertation and now you need to find a job which means maybe we can’t stay together unless I leave my job as a cop. Which: why wouldn’t he, this town is a trash fire. Grrr.

    1. Just read your last paragraph, you should write this, a nice gentle M/M romance without all the other stuff getting in the way. I agree with you about trilogies, if you suffered through 3 books, you should get a decent finish, not an attempt to sell you number 4

      1. LOL I would like to write that book. A proper romance, in which *all* the people who got beat to shit in books 1-3 get to settle into life without so much shit, as background to Damaged Cop and Sweet Academic finding true love.

  11. Most books have been leaving me flat lately. This weekend, I watched It happened on Fifth Avenue and it pleased me on so many levels. I’m thinking about watching more B&W movies this season.

  12. I will allow ONE well-used smirk. But only if the hero/heroine is in their “annoying but has redeeming qualities” stage. Once I like them, smirking is off the table.

    I don’t even like it for a villain. It’s too twirly mustache, heroine tied to the railway tracks for me.

    1. Oh, I don’t know. I think Snidely Whiplash is one of the best villains of all time and he tied someone, usually Nell Fenwick, to the tracks almost every week.

  13. The only time smirking works for me is if the person doing the smirking was repeatedly ignored and/or when they tried to warn someone else of consequences of actions and after putting up with that crap, they were vindicated.

    That’s about the only time it’s okay.

    I will say that early in my writing career, I didn’t think of ‘smirk’ this way; in “southern” culture/attitude, I thought of it more as more of an acerbic “take” on what the other person was saying (fwiw, I have a migraine right now, so that probably doesn’t make sense). Anyway, I cut writers slack at first because there’s not an easy / quick way to portray that sort of, “get back, are you for real?” side eye glance ~in the moment~ of dialog.

    (Now someone is going to give me a great example, LOL.)

  14. Three epilogues?! Who needs three epilogues? I mean, if you want to tell us where it went after the end, then do it. One epilogue. Not three months after, 3 years after, 3 decades after. That’s nuts. Ya gotta let go at some time. Finish the story and let it fly free. No “oh, this is so cool, what happened to them after their third child left for college, I have to tell you about it!”

    I’m okay with some epilogues, but probably my least favorite epilogue was the one in the last book of Harry Potter. It actually was a let down and left me flat after a great ending. I didn’t need to see them 19 years later.

    1. Yeah, I didn’t care for that one, either. Helicopter authoring.

      The three epilogues were Smug Marrieds, the last one like fifteen years later so that the heroine’s son was grown and fulfilling his destiny or something. I threw up in my mouth a little.

    2. I think the 19 years later was to assure us, and everyone, that Voldemort was really really really really dead. Not a hint of anything untoward in all those years.

      Unlike books where the villain is absolutely totally defeated at the end, only to turn up in the next book, smirking.

  15. There are, in my past, books to Grrr! about, but as I have just finished Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance and am nearly halfway throughBet Me (which, this being a December Tuesday, is My Favorite Crusie of the Day!) I have nothing current to Grrr! about. Also, last night I took a break from reading and watched DareDevil and Electra back to back. No Grrr!. Mostly Meh!

    So, I could have gotten behind grumpy after wasting about four hours of my life watching Mostly Mediocre Marvel Movies, but then Bet Me

  16. I have read one entire book — don’t know whether to call it an anthology or not — by
    Lucy Monroe titled 2017 CHRISTMAS CODA . The individual chapters are there to tell the fans, “What happened after the HEA?” An interesting approach.

      1. The author is presuming that you actually read all her previous HQ Presents where the heroes were Greek tycoons. I think I had read all of them (45 has seriously impaired whatever intellectual standards I had before 2016, including a mind which used to be able to consider the sheer number of tycoons inhabiting book pages to be improbable), especially as the author had written one book I really enjoyed because I just liked the characters — THE MILLION DOLLAR MARRIAGE PROPOSAL.

        To date, she hasn’t put together a similar work following up on Italian tycoons, though.

  17. Smirks are up there with characters who are serial winkers. Unless you’re the Duchess of Cornwall, I’d really like fewer romantic winks.

    My irritation with smirking men and crying women with no agency is I think why I’ve been reading m/m. I wonder whether some of these m/f books are even written by women? And if so, do they just hate their own gender? Yes, I cry, and need help sometimes etc, but…I don’t have a but, I’m just irritated.

    (Not really, I’m feeling too grateful to have a job, a house, healthy kids, etc to be seriously grumpy just now, despite the state of the world/climate/system).

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