Reading a Romance (or any other kind of book but especially Romance) is kind of like entering into a relationship for the space of a novel. And just like entering into a relationship there can be red flags or worse, dealbreakers. I mentioned a couple of these in my post the other other day, if your memory is as short as mine the two rules were The Bechdel Test and The ladyprotag must show up by the end of Chapter 2. I decided to add to this list of things that just mean that this book and I aren't going to work out.
1) Consent. No explicit sexytime moves should be pulled by either male or female protagonist without consent of other protagonist. Some of my favorite authors have failed at this (I'm looking at you Susan Elizabeth Phillips, with the Molly Sommerville plotline, b/c it is Rape, not "if she were the man and he were the woman it would be Rape", non-consentual sex=Rape, the end.) The rule, for a Romance, should be simple; the characters don't touch each other without express permission, no matter what dazzling desires you have to plant to make that happen. As a side note, I don't mind if there is so much barely contained passion that a character doesn't think they can hold back, but then somehow miraculously they do hold back.
2) The conflict that keeps the couple from the HEA* must be more involved than the couple just refusing to talk to each other. There is nothing more annoying than two characters going on and on about how they think the other person feels and therefore they would NEVER tell them how they are really feeling.
3) 3rd person, or at least pov switching, I needs it. Maybe a year ago, before I really knew what I was doing I would have been okay with first person from the female protag's pov. No longer, it seems. My relationship to the female protag is way, way more important how I feel about the male protag. HOWEVER, first person leads to the tendency for the male protag to be fairly invisible with all the other things going on in her life. The balance is important, and the focus. And even if I don't have to love the male lead as much as the female, I do at least need to get to know him. I may not need to spend all day in his head, but a scene or two every once in a while doesn't hurt anything. Plus this helps me know what kind of conflict is really going on here. Is it just a miscommunication? How does he really feel about her? And so on.
4) Muscles do not need to pile on top of muscles. Actually let's just call this one the "cool it on the hyper-masculinity already." J.R. Ward did a lot of world building for her Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and I applaud that. Every times she describes a Black Dagger Brotherhood brother I picture The Undertaker from pro wrestling. I don't mean just for one of the characters. I mean for all of them, just with different haircolor or whatever. I'm sorry, but when you hypermasculinize dudes and go on and on about their muscles and maleness than that is what you get. I understand that while the Undertaker is not my cup of tea he might just do it for someone else. But, he is so aggressive and masculine to be a caricature of the alpha male. So, there's that. Also, please see my review of Dark Lover where I get into this book a little deeper.
Obviously this is all very personal to me, but I think it could be expanded out to other readers. What are your likes and dislikes and absolute dealbreakers when you read Romance?