The basic building block of any romance novel is – first the conflict, then the happy ever after. In other words, the pain before the gain. We take great pleasure in torturing our characters, making them sweat blood and tears for their happy ending. After all, the higher the stakes, the more emotionally satisfying letting them find their happiness will be.
In pursuit of this goal and in interacting with writers of other genres, I've come across a broad spectrum of “manoeuvrability” within books. There are the very obvious no-nos like infidelity (even though some writers have successfully tackled this subject), physical abuse and even sometimes emotional abuse (not to be confused with blackmail plots). There are also the secret babies which some people feel strongly about i.e. why the heroine almost always decides to keep the baby a secret. I know a particular reviewer who absolutely detests marriages of convenience and another who won't touch a revenge book.
But I’m more interested in the subjects that straddle the line and what you're willing to tolerate in any book. Nobody likes an ass-y hero. But what if your hero is behaving like an ass for a reason? What if your heroine is a complete bitch but is hiding a sensitive heart? In my latest new-to-me author, Nalini Singh's books, the male characters literally rip apart anyone who dares to harm their mates.
So, does a hero’s raised voice make you flinch? Does the sight of a heroine’s tears make you want to close the book? I must admit I read a book once where the heroine did nothing but cry from beginning to end and although the story was engaging enough, I had to "take a break" every time she let the waterworks loose because it was such a downer for me. On the other hand, I've read a historical where the heroine was being particularly hysterical and the hero slaps her back to her senses. Funnily, that didn't make me flinch because she needed that slap!
So, while the phrase "it's all in the execution" plays a part here, I'm curious to know, how much room will you give or forgive the characters in a book, and at what point do you write them off completely? Will you allow a heroine to slap a hero but absolutely detest a hero who shakes a heroine by the shoulders to make her see sense?