Intelligence in Romance Novel Characters, or the Lack Thereof

I am one of those rare people who are not ashamed to admit I actually enjoy them, but, sometimes, they are exasperating. Supposedly intelligent characters do incredibly stupid things. In fact, sadly, a lot of the common plot devices used in these things involve Something Stupid (capital letters). It’s almost cliche.

Example, have you ever stood in the supermarket, reading the cover blurbs? Nine times out of ten this phrase, or a similar one, will be in there somewhere:

. . . the man she’d sworn to hate . . .


. . . the daughter of a man he’d vowed to despise . . .

How can you “vow” to despise someone? Especially, as often happens in books, you’ve never met them?

The most annoying, and unintelligent plot devices in romantic fiction:

  • The woman sneaking into a tavern or brothel, and being surprised, and outraged, when some guy hits on her.
  • She slips out of the house in the middle of the night, walking the streets of London, Paris, New York, etc, without an escort, and is surprised when she is attacked by brigands.
  • Stowing away on a pirate ship, actually believing that the pirates won’t figure out she’s a girl (my all time pet peeve).
  • The hero taking revenge on the heroine’s family by kidnapping and dishonoring her. For what purpose? She didn’t do anything!

I find paperback romances to be a cheap way of entertaining myself for an hour or so, though I truly hate the ones that are all sex and no plot, but, come on, I prefer for the characters to have a three digit IQ! And some common sense wouldn’t go awry, either.


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