You Can’t Do That Here: Awkward Moments in Romantic Suspense

Girl with gun
Saving the world and having nookie…at the same time!
Ever notice how you can be reading a really good romantic suspense and then something just plain screwy happens?

Like…say, there’s one of those life or death moments. I’m not talking after the life or death moment has passed and the adrenaline rush is still going and people just have to have the glorious life reaffirming moment… (you know where I’m going with this, right?)

But right in the middle. Guns blazing, or people chasing them, or the bad guy is so very, very close…

And what do the hero and the heroine do?


Right in the middle of the action, when any wrong move could end up with one (or both) of them dead. And if it’s one of the thriller type books, hey, who knows, the entire world could be in danger. But here they are…reaffirming life, in that very basic way.


Don’t get me wrong, I love those glorious, life-reaffirming moments between the hero and the heroine. But there is a time, and a place. And if there is a bad guy creeping up around the corner, is that really the place?

Other oddities that sometimes abound in romantic suspense? Well, there’s the impetuous heroine.

I think it usually happens because the heroine needs to be portrayed as strong.  And yes, we want a strong heroine. Romance readers (me, most definitely included) can’t stand a wishy-washy, weak heroine. But strong isn’t the same as… I have no training, I don’t know what I’m doing, but dang it…I’m going to jump into this with both feet and just hope it ends well!

So the impetuous heroine is another thing that can throw me. I want the heroine to be strong, but strength doesn’t necessarily have to be the same thing as running out to solve the crime. Strength can be the very opposite. Strength can be acknowledging the fact that she doesn’t know what she’s doing and if she gets involved, no matter how much she hates to admit it, she’s going to make things worse. That can take a chunk out of a strong woman’s pride. That can sting.  And that’s strength.

Female Police Officer
She carries the badge, she should call the shots.
On the flipside, if we’ve got a heroine who is in law enforcement and the hero is a civilian and he needs to be the one taking the backseat, but insists he get involved? Ah, does he have training? Does he know what he’s doing? Or he is in there just because he has testosterone and must protect the little woman? I hate that.

Faulty research will do it to me every time. Writers can’t be experts on everything and I can suspend disbelief, if the story is compelling, but I do want to at least feel like the story is believable. A book where the heroine is a doctor? I don’t want to feel like the majority of the research happened during a weeklong marathon of watching the TV show ER.  FYI, guys…I can tell you as a nurse…the show might be fun, but it’s not exactly true to life.  Since I can say this with relative certainty, I’m pretty sure the same can be said for the various crime dramas Law & Order and CSI shows.

Oh, and the cardboard villain. I don’t like a cardboard villain. He can be evil as all get-out, but I want to understand something about him. If I understand something about him, I’m that much more likely to get invested in the story.  Why does he want to kill the hero? Why does he stalk the heroine? Why is he obsessed with taking over the world or whatever it is that he wants…?

And I hate it when I can figure out the bad guy within fifty pages of starting the story.  I’m kind of good at that, so I love it when an author throws me.

Now…all of that said…a good, compelling story can actually make me overlook all of this. 

Is there anything that will throw you out of a book?  Do you have the same knee-jerk reaction to the inappropriate nookie or the impetuous heroine?

Tell me what can take a great book and make you just shake your head…

[photos via,]

Shiloh Walker has been writing since she was a kid. Once upon a time she worked as a nurse, but now she writes full time and lives with her family in the Midwest.  She writes paranormal and contemporary romance, as well as romantic suspense. Connect with her on Twitter or Facebook!


  1. Kristina V

    I completely agree on both points. I know that when I’m in the middle of a stressful situation, sex is always the last thing on my mind. I’m too busy trying not to freak out to notice how hot someone is or isn’t. It’s very disorienting to see in fiction.

    Also, I loathe impetuous heroes and heroines who thrust themselves into plotlines apparently for the simple hell of it. There are a lot of character attributes that I am willing to forgive, but that ridiculous mix of naivete and bull-headedness will always make me want to drop a bridge on a character. The only time I find it t0lerable is if character development rips the impetuosity away from the character… But that has to happen [b]quickly[/b], in the form of either emotional maturing or physical training.

  2. Laura K. Curtis

    Inevitably, it seems to me, the inappropriate time/place nookie is always someplace that makes me go “eww,” too. Like…being chased through the rainforest and they are forced to hide in a cave filled with bats and bugs but it’s dark so…nookie! Um, no. Sorry. Not for me. Maybe *they* can forget the guys with guns and the creepy crawlies, but I can’t.

  3. Shiloh Walker

    @Kristina V… I’ll do a lot of things for the hell of it. Really. I’m impulsive as all get out. But I’m generally not going to do something that could or would lead to death, dismemberment or lots of other bad stuff just for the hell of it. There, I’d manage to show a little bit of caution. 😉

  4. Shiloh Walker

    Bats and nookie. Um. Ew, Laura!

  5. Laura Roberts

    Agreed! Just finished reading a book like this, and the love-interest was a psychological profiler who also had a family connection to the case, in addition to deciding to engage in nookie with the heroine/victim while they were hiding out in a safe house and the killer was about to be revealed. Jigga-WHAT?! Dunno how the guy could’ve been at the top of his game with this type of behavior.

    I was also able to guess the killer within the first 50 pages, and normally I’m NOT very good at that, so that was a big disappointment.

  6. Clare 2e

    I try really hard not to guess in advance, so if the killer jumps out at me, so to speak, in the first chapters, I get so annoyed. I’m usually thinking, “It can’t be that obvious, can it?”

    As a corollary to the eye-rolling danger/chase nookie, what about the wounded nookie? She’s sprained her ankle and been half-strangled, neither of them have eaten in 2 days, and his bullet wound is infected. Nookie time!

  7. Shiloh Walker

    @[url=]originaloflaur[/url]a, Yep! That’s more.

    @Clare2e… well, the sprained ankle wouldn’t sway me. I’m a chronic klutz and that wouldn’t keep me from nookie. But…um, strangled? Yes. Breathing is KEY to nookie. And breathing through a damaged throat HURTS. Infected bullet wounds, yep. That’s gonna slow down the nookie, too. 😉

  8. Kristina V

    @ShilohWalker: Some impulsiveness in a character is good. It keeps them from being boring. It’s when the character runs around like they haven’t an ounce of sense in their head that I really want to start clubbing said character over the head. Also, it really irks me when, in-universe, this headstrongness is treated as if it’s endearing, or the character doesn’t get called on it. I know that if I had a friend who got themselves into avoidable scrapes all the time, I’d just stop answering my phone when they called.

    I feel the same way with snarky characters at times. I love snark. A LOT. However, if that is the only side of a character’s personality the audience is shown, I’m going to start questioning why another member of the cast hasn’t shoved them off a cliff yet.

    I suppose my point is basically for the creator to practice moderation. Any personality trait taken to an extreme is a terrible thing, unless curbing how extreme it is becomes part of the character’s development throughout the story.

  9. Becky Hantsbarger

    @clare2e…EWWWWW! Good point! @LauraKCurtis…Bats and guano? Nope, not for me either! I don’t appreciate the heroine who has been strong and independent and suddenly becomes mush because the “big, strong, handsome man” walks into the room. Nope, not buying it. I want her to stay strong and independent and make HIM tow the line. But what will make my reading come to a bone jarring halt is bad copy editing. I’ve been seeing a lot of that lately and it’s really inexcusable. I know proofers don’t get paid all that much, but really! Show some respect for the writer who has worked so hard to get the words on paper. There, I said it!

  10. Alicia .

    Hahaha, Laura, that’s so gross but so true.

    I agree with this entire post so much. The other thing that drives me crazy is convenient stupidity. It often goes along with the Impetuous Heroine. Throughout most of the book they’re pretty intelligent, can read the clues fine, and follow appropriate leads. Then, suddenly, the major final clue is smacking them in the face and they do everything possible to ignore it or stare at it scratching their heads. Or they walk into an incredibly obvious trap. It makes me twitch.

  11. Shiloh Walker

    @[url=]BeckyIA[/url] now I’m imagining… guano sex. Ewwww….

  12. JackieC

    I’ve been wondering if I’m the only one bothered by these things. Thanks for coming right out and saying it. I’d like to send a copy of this to some of my favorite authors.

    I was going to mention the snarkiness, but Kristina V beat me to it. The only thing worse is a book where all the characters except Our Hero are so miserably snarky that you just want to throw something at them.

    And then there are the main characters that get beaten nearly to death in every book, and with multiple broken bones, torn flesh, and head injuries that would leave anyone else clueless for life, they can still find their way out of dark caves, cross snow-covered fields in a blizzard, climb mountains and wade through snake-infested swamps. I’m thinking of Anna Pigeon, but there are lots of other series like this. Every time I buy the latest book (I will always buy the latest book) I marvel that the poor woman is still alive and able to endure another trial.

  13. Teresa Nielsen Hayden

    Main character injured in every episode? As in, Rupert Giles, Francis Crawford of Lymond, and Nancy Drew have no long neural axons left, and Batman’s a poster child for temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems? Yeah. It bothers me too.

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