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I read Shannon McKenna’s Return To Me last night, and I came across a plot device, that has often annoyed me in the past.

The heroine in this book is engaged to be married to the stereo-typical fine-upstanding-young-man-who-turns-out-to-be-not-so-fine-and-upstanding, when the hot-assed bad boy hero comes riding back into town, with the intentions of doing the horizontal foxtrot, with the already engaged heroine.

Simon Riley, was the town bad boy (aren’t they all?) who’d left town under testing circumstances 17 years before, and of course he’d never forgotten the only person in the world who’d ever treated him like a human being, yada yada yada. Plot sound familiar?

Anyway, this isn’t actually a review of the book, but as it happens, I enjoyed the story, and didn’t feel like I was losing the will to live whilst reading it, which as you know, is a rare thing indeed these days.

The crux of the matter, was that the heroine, even though she was engaged to be married, let the hero plough his fingers into her nether hole whilst they were sat on his BMW bike (the bike really isn’t relevant, but I thought I’d let you visualise the scene for yourselves), and I couldn’t help but think it was wrong that she would let him do that, even though the fiancé was the kinda guy, I’d have probably been tempted to give a Liverpool Kiss to, whilst dousing him with petrol.

It felt wrong, and so I ended up skimming their sexual encounters, until she eventually grew a brain and ditched the fiancé.

I come across this plot device an awful lot, and it seems to me that some authors seem to get away with having the hero or heroine being unfaithful as long as they aren’t being unfaithful to each other. Isn’t cheating bad, period?

The justifications that are often used include, the hero being a dickhead, the lack of chemistry between the heroine and the soon-to-be ex, or the soon-to-be-ex is actually the leader of a drug cartel, and the heroine with her innocent I-trust-everybody-because-I’m-a-daft-cow outlook on life, has no clue, until he eventually tries to kill her because she knows too much.

Admittedly, if it was me and I found out that my husband was trying to kill me, I’d probably go out and try to shag the Pope, just to piss him off… hmmm, maybe that’s just me…

Anyway, my question is, is there ever really a time when infidelity is acceptable in a romance book, or do you mostly just suck it up, and try to forget that it’s not actually romantic to cheat, no matter how bad the ex is. We can understand the motivation, but does that make it right?


  • Sarah McCarty
    September 1
    11:40 am

    I bet you know what I’m going to say, but let me try to shock you anyway. *G* And before I do, let me state clearly that this is my opinion based on my personal enjoyment as a reader. It is nothing more than my opinion on how this particular plot device effects MY PERSONAL reading enjoyment and should not be extrapolated (please resist extrapolating) to be more than a personal preference.

    No. For me never. It goes to character. The heroine has made a committment. The fact that something new comes along and she just becomes this victim of her hormones and would rather string one man along while betraying another’s trust makes me just rate her as swamp scum. If I like the hero, (which I rarely do because he is knowingly participating in infidelity and also seems to think a woman who will cheat on someone ele to be with him has any sense of personal honor at all) then I don’t want him to be with the heroine. I want him to find someone decent with a basic code of ethics. And since the hero should know that what she did with him she’ll do to him, I can’t envision this couple ever riding off into happily ever after. (Can you tell I really really hate this plot device?)*G*

    Anyway over the years, I have learned to decode blurbs to know if it’s in a books plot and avoid the book, but if I accidently buy one and find that in there, I stop reading immediately and make the drfeaded “wall banger” call.

    I am a very picky reader and have a low tolerance for infidelity or stupidity in books. I read to escape and enjoy, and require my hero or heroine to have at least the same level of ethics I do. It’s not the multiple partners I object to, it’s the sneaking around and betraying. And ok, what the behavior says about the heroine. More often than not, the women’s motivation to stay with the fiancee for more than half the book is security, either emotional or financial. No matter how the author tries to motivate it, when I cut to the chase, the heroine (who is usually around 30) is using someone because she’s either too weak or too lazy to make the life she wants for herself. While I can admire a heroine working her way through her fears, I cannot admire a woman who takes the easy way out and has a pattern of using people. As a result, I just don’t like or admire her as a result.

    Soooo, while I recognize many many people have no problem with this plot device and many well written books that readers adore contain it, for me it hits a hot button every time.


  • Anne
    September 1
    12:02 pm

    UGH! I’ll sum this up quickly and spare you a long, drawn out post. ;D I find cheating unforgiveable and just not necessary… whether it be on each other or on someone else! If we are to maintain respect for the hero or heroine, we need to see that they have respect for the person they are “promised” to. If they can’t do that, then I can’t respect them either. Make sense?
    Cheating, in whatever form, is just WRONG! It’s as simple as that.


  • Nicole
    September 1
    12:33 pm

    I read a similar scenario in a book I read lately and it did bug me, but for this one, the fiance was actually a rather nice guy. Okay, now I remmeber, I think it’s Night Games by Julie Kenner.

    It did hurt my enjoyment of the story in that it did feel too much like they were cheating. Especially when the other guy was made out to be rather nice, just not “the one” for the heroine.


  • Anonymous
    September 1
    12:52 pm

    It doesn’t really bother me, the main thing is that the h/h are faithful to each other. People cheat in real life anyway, so at least the authors who use this plot device are keeping it real.



  • Eve Vaughn
    September 1
    1:29 pm

    Well, as anonymous pointed out, people cheat in real life, but that being said, I don’t particulary care for the cheating storyline unless the significant other is a real a-hole. Then it really doesn’t bother me, but hasn’t this plot been used in reversed for so many years. It’s always been the rich guy engaged to the bitchy fiance and he chooses the good girl. Isn’t that just as bad? I think it’s all relative.


  • Nicole
    September 1
    1:59 pm

    Yeah, people might cheat in real life, but in real life, you know what, I wouldn’t stand for it. So I’m not going to particularly like it in my books. I just can’t respect anyone who would cheat on another person. And that’s the problem that came up when I read the book, I couldn’t respect the characters for knowingly cheating. Not to mention he got her drunk first. *sigh* I had issues.


  • Rosie
    September 1
    2:29 pm

    Yeah, I hate cheating…in any form. But shameless reader slut that I am I have to admit that I don’t recall this being a problem in many (if any) books I’ve read. I’d like to think it’s because I screen my reading so well… 🙂

    Karen…”I’d probably go out and try to shag the Pope, just to piss him off…” Gawd! You make me laugh!


  • Sam
    September 1
    5:35 pm

    Well, if you’re going to shag the pope, don’t forget he doesn’t believe in birth control or rubbers.
    That said, I don’t much like this plot device either. It sort of makes hormones speak louder than brains, if you know what I mean.
    If heroine wants to ditch boring ‘good guy’, then just getting hot and bothered over ‘bad guy’ shouldn’t make her unfaithful.
    First she should ditch the dud. Then she can let her hormones go crazy and bang the bad guy.

    May I just add that the little words we have to copy below in order to post are hell for dyslexics like me. I usually end up having to copy several times before I get it right, lol.


  • HelenKay
    September 2
    2:01 am

    The idea just doesn’t fit with the “promise” of a romance novel. And, I agree with Sarah, it goes to character. A hero and heroine can do dumb things and have all kinds of flaws but, at base, I want them to have a set of innate principles that guide them. Fidelity is one of those principles. There’s nothing all that heroic about infidelity.


  • McVane
    September 2
    3:09 am

    A while back I wrote up a list of romances that feature a hero or heroine being unfaithful to their other halves, and the list was incredibly long that I’m still recovering from the shock. IIRC, it was 248 romances [of those I read] in one year. Yikes. It’s part of the ‘if the h/h are faithful to EACH OTHER it’s all right’ mentality, I think. No solid answer here, I’m afraid.

    LOL to Liverpool kiss. So you’d headbutt his nose? Ow.


  • Karen Scott
    September 2
    2:35 pm

    Sarah, I think I agree with you in regards to it going with character. I’ve often thought that if they can do it to an ex, what’s to stop them cheating on the hero/heroine? And no, I’m not surprised by your stance *g*

    Anne, I’m always surprised by how many stories have this plot device. It wouldn’t be so bad if the author stopped them getting intimate first, but more times than not, they’ve at least had a fumble or two, and I’m afraid for me, this is cheating.

    Nicole, it’s still bad when the ex is horrible, but when the ex is a nice man, it’s unforgiveable.

    Anonymous, people do cheat in real life, but surely we don’t want it being littered in our romance?

    Eve, I think that it’s bad period. If the lead characters didn’t engage in foreplay whilst still being involved with their exes, that would make a difference I think.

    Nicole, it sounds like I would have had to blog about this book!

    Rosie, I honestly think that some people don’t even consider the implications, thus they don’t link this plot device with cheating.
    I said I’d try to shag the Pope, whether or not I’d be successful is something else entirely *g*

    Sam, I’d get him drunk first before I had my wicked way with him *waiting for hell and damnation to strike*
    I’m with you on the hormones and brains thing, and it wouldn’t be an issue if the dude was dumped first.

    HelenKay, you’ve got to the heart of my post, does this plot device have belong in romance? I don’t think it does personally.

    Maili, 248 books with that plot device? Wow!
    And yes, I think a good headbutt to the nasal area would do the trick!


  • Dakota Cassidy
    September 2
    6:17 pm

    I think cheating has degrees for people. Some men don’t think it’s cheating if they cyber play. I would wholeheartedly disagree.

    I say–if you’re doing it and not telling your SO about it–guilt is involved and you shouldn’t be doing it. Cheating is engaging in any form of sexual talk, touching or otherwise for this girl.

    A former infidelity survivor LOL

    Dakota 🙂


  • Erin The Innocent
    September 3
    4:34 pm

    I’m in total agreement with Sarah! (should that frighten me? *g*) I’ve had 2 books quite recently that have been tossed (really….I threw them into the garbage, I’m not going to give them away if they are that horrible) because of the heroine cheating on her fiance.



  • Kathy Allred
    September 9
    9:23 pm

    I’m coming into this late, but I have a question for all of you. One that really bothers me. Why is okay for the hero to cheat on his sig. other in a novel, but not the heroine? For example, in LaVyrle Spencer’s Bittersweet the hero is married. (she’s one of my favorite authors, by the way.) And in Linda Howard’s (another fav) Now You See Her, the hero is married, but seperated. Both books are fantastic. I’ve read tons of other books where the hero cheats, and no one says a word about it. But when it’s the heroine, the author has to go through all kinds of mental gymnastics to justify her actions. Looks like the old double standards are alive and well, even in fiction. Personally, as an author, I’d love just once to write a heroine who cheats like the men do. I want to write a hard living, chain smoking, beer guzzling woman who does exactly what she pleases, when she pleases. And I want women to love her for it. *G*



  • Karen Scott
    September 12
    6:52 pm

    Kathy, I think if you wrote a character like that, I for one would love her, but I think the problem begins when the heroine is supposed to be this really lovely, nice, good person, who according to the way she’s been written, would never do those things. Then it just feels uncomfortable, because infidelity is such a serious matter.

    It’s just as bad, when the hero cheats too in my opinion.


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