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10 Books That Would Have Been Better WITHOUT the Romance

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly feature by The Broke and the Bookish. This week was a Valentine's Day-themed freebie...though this is a little bit of the opposite.

Ah, Valentine's Day. The time of year where every supermarket is filled with red hearts and boxes of chocolate. It's a bit like how books, especially YA books, tend to be filled with romantic subplots at all times of the year. I have nothing against red hearts, boxes of chocolates, or romantic subplots, but I do think that sometimes, we have more than we need.

I don't hate romance in books. Actually, I'm a bit of a sap and I LOVE a good romance, whether it's the main plot or a subplot. However, I can think of a number of books that had romantic subplots...and probably shouldn't have.

I think that I would have enjoyed all of the books and series listed below more if they'd left out the main romance. In some cases, there are important romances that don't involve the main character, but those aren't the ones I'm talking about here (because I usually have no objection to them).

Sometimes, the names of the people involved in the main romance could be considered spoilers, so I didn't actually include a lot of those here. Looking back, that makes some things I've written sound incredibly vague. I'm sorry, and I hope these aren't too confusing, but I figured better safe than sorry when it comes to spoilers. 

The Daughter of Smoke & Bone series by Laini Taylor: I know that a lot of people really like this series, but I'm not actually sure about how people generally feel about the romance. Personally, I wasn't a fan at all. My favorite parts of this series were the first half of the first book and most of the second book, almost entirely because they had - take a guess - no romance. I thought that both people involved were much more interesting when they weren't around each other. When they were together, the romance had a tendency to take over the entire plot, even when there were much more interesting things going on. (Side note: I can't say this without mentioning that I absolutely adore the secondary romance in this series. It's one of my favorites ever. The rest of this post will continue in an appropriate, no-romance fashion.)
The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters: The romance was one of the only things I didn't like about this book. Suffragettes, hypnotism, and monsters? Exactly my kind of book! It was incredible! I loved reading it. Fortunately, the romance wasn't much of a focus, because when it did come in, it felt completely underdeveloped. All it added to the book was a few pages. It wasn't quite insta-love, but it felt too much like it for my liking. Overall, the romance didn't really take away from my enjoyment of this, but I think that the book would have been even better if the romance weren't there in the first place.
Impulse by Ellen Hopkins (Impulse #1): This book had enough going on with no romance. It has 3 POVs, and it's about teenagers in a mental hospital who've all attempted suicide and their struggles recovering from the past and moving into the future. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that could be quite enough for a plot. And then there's the problem that I didn't even like the romance. It was a love triangle, which counts against it in the first place, and I didn't think either of the guys was a good option. One was interested in the girl even though he repeatedly said he was gay, which was never resolved. (Hint: BISEXUALITY EXISTS. And I'm pretty sure this book didn't so much as say the word bi.) And the other guy was a bit predatory and creepy. No thank you.
The Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer: In all fairness, I didn't dislike the romance for the entirety of this series. But as it dragged on, it got a bit dull. It didn't exactly help matters that for the majority of the series, the two people involved aren't in the same place and have incredibly limited communication. That means that the romance isn't really given an opportunity to develop, which would have been okay...except that it was brought up all the time. I remember there were parts of the book where I could barely go two pages without Jacky pining. Pining is great! IN NOT-OVERWHELMING DOSES. Also, there was a lot of flirting outside of the relationship by both parties, which was unnecessary at best and highly questionable at worst.
The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger: I have a number of problems with this series, but the romance is the one I think could have been fixed the most easily - namely by getting rid of most of it. I signed up for a steampunk spy school! Intrigue! I decidedly didn't sign up for the majority of the teenage male characters within a 100-foot radius falling head-over-heels for Sophronia. And somehow, even though each of these romances is individually weak and underdeveloped, they manage to take up far too much of the books. If there had to be romance in this series, I really with it hadn't been some kind of bizarre, structurally unsound polygon.
The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare: *hides from fans* I KNOW that I'm in the minority here, okay? But the thing is...I've never really liked Jace. I know. I'm one of the only people on the planet who doesn't see his charm. I do appreciate his humor, and I think that he's an interesting character, but I didn't want as much focus on him as we got and he was by far my least favorite of the main characters. So, understandably, I wasn't a fan of the main romance. I didn't hate it, and I didn't have anyone better in mind for the romantic lead, but I really could have done without it.
Fairest by Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5/0.5): I'm not even sure that I can call whatever is in this book romance. This book has MAJOR triggers for rape, emotional manipulation, and ambiguous consent, and it's all from Levana's crush on a palace guard. It disgusted me. The parts of the book that I thought were both interesting and relevant to the main series had pretty much nothing to do with it. I had to force myself through the first half of this book. I'm pretty sure that I was feeling as repulsed as I was supposed to - this isn't exactly one of those let's-make-you-feel-sympathetic-to-the-villain backstories - but I think that we could have had a strong prequel WITHOUT any of the creepy stuff.
A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass: This book was interesting. It was my first exposure to synesthesia, and it explored so much having to do with it! The main character had interesting problems, and fascinating relationships with her family and with (most) other people she met, and the descriptions were captivating. You know what wasn't interesting? The romance. BORING. I didn't care about the guy. Everything else that was so great beforehand seemed to fall flat once he was introduced. And he wasn't even there for most of the book! The romance was introduced pretty late, and everything was going just fine until then. The romance was pretty much there just to teach the main character a lesson, and it's one everyone could have done without.
Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle (Vivian Apple #1): This book started out really great. About half-way through, though, things started falling apart for me. One of the main reasons was the romance. I'm glad that it wasn't a huge part of the plot, because it wasn't very interesting to begin with. We're dealing with the end of the world! The rapture! Missing people! An epic road trip to find the truth! And suddenly...romance. *sigh* I liked both of the characters involved, and I thought they had decent chemistry, but the end of the world isn't really the time to be losing track of your priorities and falling in love.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #1): The main romance in this book wasn't actually bad. It was just the fact that we didn't just have a romantic pairing. Instead, we got some kind of exponentially growing romantic web. Each of the two main characters had two potential romantic interests, and then some of them had other potential romantic interests, and it was just TOO MUCH. I do have to say that the romance didn't come at the expense of the plot. If something romantic wasn't resolved, then TOO BAD, because THE PLOT IS MOVING ALONG. That's what I like to see in a book like this. Even so, I think it would be better without all of the additional small possible romances.

What do you think about romantic subplots in books? What are some books/series that you think could have done without them? Do you agree/disagree with any of my choices? Tell me in the comments!


  1. I resisted making a post along those lines, but I'm really glad that someone did ! And as one of the only people who didn't like the Mortal Instruments, I totally understand your view on Jace (I hated him and Clary, both separately and as a couple), and the romance in these books was just EVERYWHERE, I couldn't escape !

    1. *sigh of relief* It's always SO nice to meet someone who shares your unpopular opinion. I didn't really mind the other romances in that series, but Jace and Clary REALLY got on my nerves sometimes. (Mostly Jace.)

  2. I have only read (so far) The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. I thought the main romance was fine mainly because it wasn't happening in the NOW most of the time. But I can see how it could also be seen as annoying and not needed - after awhile at least. I LOVE the secondary romance though. So cute.


    1. *nods* Yeah, i see where you're coming from with that. It still bothered me, though, mostly because I REALLY liked the magic and mystery and excitement of the first half, and it seemed like as soon as the romance came in, we got backstory and sappiness and just a BIG change from before.

  3. I'm still midway through Days of Blood and Starlight, so I can't fully weigh in on the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, but I do agree about the first book. I liked the first half a bunch more before the romance just took over. And I do love the secondary romance so much. :)

    It's funny, I can totally understand why you didn't like Fairest, but I really liked it for the same reasons--because I really didn't like Levana and so it was gratifying to see more reasons for why she was an awful person and why it was necessary to take her out and why it would be a bad thing for her to be the ruler of Luna and Earth.

    I havne't read any of the other books you mentioned, so I can't weigh in with my opinions on them, either.

    Thanks for sharing! I definitely think that there should be less romance in books--or at least that romance shouldn't be obligatory. So many authors include it when it doesn't necessarily add to the story, and it bugs me. :P

    1. The romance definitely did take over the second half of Daughter of Smoke & Bone. I felt like we were going one way and then suddenly ROMANCE and we go off somewhere COMPLETELY different. I think I spent most of the second half just trying to figure out what was going on!

      I see what you're getting at with liking fairest because of hating Levana (and really, who doesn't hate Levana), and it definitely made me see why she'd be a bad ruler. I definitely appreciate that it exists because of that, but I just couldn't actually enjoy reading it.

      YAY for no obligatory romance in books! I've read a lot of great books with romance, but I think that's just because there's so many more of those. More books with no romance!


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