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Contemporroneous: 5 Biggest Mistakes Writers Make About Lawyers (or why...



During the Mistorical discussion, some asked why we didn’t point out errors or miscues in contemporary romances.Lynn S even gave us a good name for it: contemporroneous.    To the extent that we know them, I think that we do.  I’ve been pretty scathing, in fact, about books featuring sports characters where I didn’t agree with the representation of the plot. I.e, the secret sale of a baseball team book was given a C- (maybe should have been lower); a C+ to a book that put the Yankees in the NL; and a C- for another football book. Obviously given Bella Andre’s big success with her self published football books, not many people seem to care about authenticity, but to say that we don’t complain about contemporary errors would be a mistake. Readers are very vocal about the contemporary errors.  For instance, read the comments to the Kate Angell review:

Well, I wrote a very long rant about how an earlier book in this series about the “Richmond Rogues” (a major league team in Richmond? Really?) drove me crazy, and my internet browser ate it. So, I thought better of ranting on an unfamiliar blog to a bunch of people I’ve never met. But, suffice it to say, I’m a huge baseball fan (Mets in particular), and I was personally insulted by the fact that this author not only seemed to know nothing about the sport, but hadn’t even spent 5 minutes doing research on the subject.

Mild mannered SuperLibrarian isn’t a fan of baseball books because so many authors can’t get the details right.

Maili mentioned a few miscues in her posts about books featuring deaf characters and she reminded me via email that I had promised to write up a post about lawyers in romance books. I told her I couldn’t do it because I’ve largely given up reading romances with books featuring lawyers. So few authors do it right and I can’t suspend my disbelief enough to get lost in the text. What I could do, however, is point out five of the biggest mistakes I’ve found in books featuring romances. Most of them do not involve around the intricacies of the law. I can forgive those. Most of the errors involve ethical breaches which would see the lawyers reprimanded at best and disbarred at worst.

1) Sleeping with the opposing counsel. This is a common trope because individuals on the opposite sides of the table is instant conflict. The problem with this trope is that most ethical rules require the sexual relationship to predate the suit that the two lawyers are involved with and require disclosure to the clients and consent of the clients in order for the lawyers to be involved with each other.  Beginning to sleep with each other during the course of a case? Not without disclosure. Disclosure, though, makes everything so unsexy right?

2) Sleeping with the client. This is a HUGE no no. Does it happen? I’m sure, but sleeping with a client is considered an ethical breach. In Icebreaker by Deirdre Martin (review here), she handles it fairly well, but the fact of the matter is most lawyers view sleeping with your client as verboten. The Bar Associations which mete out the punishment to lawyers agree.  Reader AS could not get over this ethical breach.

3) Talking about the client’s issues with someone else who is not the client. I’ve seen in a number of cases where the attorney will gab about the client’s case to a girlfriend or even his or her lover. This is a huge violation of the attorney client privilege wherein you only talk about the client’s business with people who are working on the case, not random individuals unrelated to said case.

4) The will issue. I’ve kind of given up on this but the use of the will to enforce marriage in this day and age and in this legal system is just wrong and not likely to be enforced. I know it’s a great staple of Harlequin books, but I wish it would be abrogated fully.

5) Trial lawyers. Oftentimes I see lawyers having intense emotional relationships develop just days before a trial. I find this incredibly unbelievable. The more intense the case, the less likely I believe in the possibility. This is because trial preparation, if you are a decent lawyer, is all consuming. You are spending fourteen to eighteen hour days prepping your witnesses, reviewing your case law, reviewing your depositions, practicing your opening statement, reviewing your jury voir dire questions. There is no end of things that you need to do.  People outside the case do not exist.  There is a reason that there is a high burnout rate for trial lawyers and many divorces amongst those lawyers.

I dislike the pairing of therapist and client as that very much violates the code of ethics.  It’s not that I don’t think that you can’t have a book wherein the characters violate their ethical canons, but if that is included then there must be some conscious thought about this in the text of the book.  Having sex with a client or opposing counsel imperils the character’s livelihood.  Their disbarrment or punishment would be the descriptive phrase appended every time that person’s name was mentioned. These are my contributions to contemporroneous books.  I know other readers have their own pet peeves such as authors taking a very well known city and getting all the streets wrong.

So what are the pet peeves of readers for contemporary books?  What makes a book contemporroneous?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Mikaela
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 06:06:50

    Shiloh Walker has a similar post about Medical romances at her blog. I recommend it :).

    My pet peeve is when everything is too neat. No conflicts between the citzens of a town, etc. ( 1000 people living in the same town, and there will be conflicts)

  2. Terri Schaefer
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 06:16:21

    The mistakes that crank my shaft are military-related. For example (and this is a BIGGIE)–retired or separated military personnel are not “ex” anything (i.e., ex-SEAL, ex-Ranger, etc) unless they have a general or dishonorable discharge. Instead they are “former”. Sounds like a nit, but think about what goes into “making” a military member and it makes sense.

    Also, rank structure–use Google!! It’s easier than you think. And now that you’ve got that right, please don’t have a general officer giving orders to a brand new enlisted member or officer–it’s so unlikely as to be a giggle factor for me, which obviously takes me out of a serious, suspenseful book.

  3. Danielle D
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 06:26:39

    The hero always has a cell phone that works no longer where they are at in the world and never runs out of money.

    I read a book where the heroine lived in Chicago and instead of calling Michigan Ave the Magnificent Mile she called Michigan Ave the Miracle Mile.

  4. Bronte
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 06:28:56

    I think that if you are very familiar with the occupation that is featured in any book then it makes it very difficult to read. Case in point I will not read ANY contemporary books featuring vets. I live the profession every day and am yet to read a book featuring a vet that events attempts to adequately recognise the challenges we face every day. My job is not cutesy. Vets have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession. Its a stressful sometimes horrific profession and my job is not all kissing puppies and kittens with lovely clients each and every appointment. I have declined to buy two books recently by authors that I usually automatically buy because they feature vets.

  5. Jayne
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 06:51:27

    @Bronte: I’m going to go kiss and snuggle with my kittens in your honor.

  6. Mary Anne Graham
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 06:52:11

    Like so many of us in the writing community – *waves* – I’m a lawyer. I do have a series of contemporaries that focus on what happens at the intersection of love and the law. I believe I’ve avoided the errors listed mainly b/c the attorney trying the case – if there is one – isn’t the hero.

    One of my books, Griffin’s Law, is a love story b/t a law professor and a student. There’s not a trial or criminal charges but it centers around a law school. My other contemporary, The Billionaire’s E-mail Seduction, involves a divorce hearing and a subsequent criminal trial. (My WIP features a murder in a law firm and will also involve a criminal trial) I’ve avoided the perils mentioned above, which also annoy me. (Sex between opposing attorneys? Clients get upset when they see opposing attorneys being civil in a courtroom. They don’t get that the lawyers in their case will be working together again and again long after this case is done!)

    In E-mail (recently retitled in a blatant attempt to improve sales), I’ve run into another criticism from lawyers who’ve read it. They say the trial portions read a bit like a trial transcript. I know it’s meant as criticism but I take it as a compliment. The book is plenty over the top – as is my writing style – but I tried to keep the trial parts more realistic.

    My efforts to write more realistic trials likely stem from having read way too many legal tales that lose me at the trial scenes.

    Great post!

  7. cead
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 07:17:51

    Almost every time I read a book set amongst professors or graduate students, I either can’t finish it or make it through by gritting my teeth or mentally re-employing everyone. Authors tend to write academe as though it worked like any other working environment, when in fact it has its own set of rules. I ought to quit trying them, but I haven’t got sufficiently wise yet.

    My Ph.D. is in linguistics, which doesn’t get much attention in romance novels, for which I’m thankful. When it does come up, it’s usually minor details that make me wince, but not major plot points. The only romance I’ve read that featured linguistics prominently was Judith Ivory’s The Proposition, which I enjoyed tremendously even though she got pretty much everything she could get wrong wrong.

  8. Las
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 07:31:29

    Medical and science-related romances often get to me, but depending on the story I’m usually fine with the minor details being wrong. Any mistakes in the basics drive me crazy. I read one recently where the characters were working on a vaccine and it was described as a cure for the virus, and that pulled me right out of the story, even though there was a whole bunch of other errors before that one that didn’t phase me.

  9. Sarah Frantz
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 07:40:11

    @Mary Anne Graham: See, there, as a professor, you just hit everyone of MY squick buttons. A relationship between a professor and a student? Why is that any less an ethical breach and something that would threaten the professor’s job than a relationship between a lawyer and his client? Professors don’t have an overseeing body like the Bar Association, but trust me, it’d affect his/her job.

  10. Jane
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 07:46:33

    @Sarah Frantz Agreed. Dislike the professor/student trope a lot. People lose their jobs over this.

  11. Ann
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 08:00:53

    Great post! Jane, you hit it right on the head regarding books with lawyers, especially regarding sleeping with one’s client (or opposing counsel or the judge). I also completely agree with Terri Schaefer regarding writing about the military (“Marines” should be capitalized while “soldiers” and “sailors” are not). Not only is rank structure good to know, but some branches of the armed forces have pretty strict fraternization rules, so having a Colonel sleep with a Sergeant is a stretch (not saying that it doesn’t happen, but when it does, it is rarely with an HEA).

  12. Lori
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 08:01:41

    @Sarah Frantz: I’ll second that.

  13. Annabel
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 08:01:56


    Uh oh! I have a linguistics themed romance book coming out next year, and now you’ve made me nervous. I actually did a lot of research and have a long time interest in language, but I had to bend some reality to tell the story I wanted to tell. It’s a calculated choice. I’m hoping my readers will love the characters and plot enough to suspend their disbelief about certain aspects of the linguistics side.

    I think in a lot of cases authors are aware what they’re writing isn’t realistic, but they’re hoping readers will play along if the story is well-written enough. And remember, these books go through many rounds of edits, and the author has to account for her story choices to the editors and publisher. So those “gatekeepers” make the same calculated choice. They hope there are a lot of readers for whom the thrill of seeing a lawyer and client fall for each other overrides the fact that in reality it would never happen.

    I will roll my eyes when I read a real zinger or when the silliness really gets thick, but if the author’s hooked me, I’ll give myself up for the ride and play along. Maybe I’m one of those readers who perpetuates the continued release of unrealistic books, since it really doesn’t bother me. There are things that bother me in romance novels and will make me stop reading, but realism isn’t one of them.

  14. HellyBelly
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 08:08:20

    Fact errors that are oh so easy to google annoy me.
    I live in Sweden and read (a sample) of an e-book where the Nobel prize committee was referred to as being in Switzerland. Because, duh, Sweden and Switzerland are almost the same, you know, two European countries beginning with Sw. Like Michigan and Mississippi…right?
    However, I guess a lot of people would not even have paid attention to that detail.

  15. Jane
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 08:08:51

    @Annabel: Is it really a conscious choice to mistake a famous street in Chicago? Or to make the sale of a sports franchise secret? To me, a conscious choice should be indicated in the book, particularly with choices that would imperil the lifestyle and security of a couple. I don’t think they are conscious choices at all.

    After reading many sports books, I’ve concluded many authors don’t do the necessary research in contemporaries thinking that research is unnecessary. In fact, if there is one area where I think historical authors are more attentive, it is to researching the time period even if they do get the details wrong from time to time.

    Worldbuilding is just as important for me in contemporaries as it is in fantasy or paranormals or historicals. If the setting doesn’t feel authentic, then the romance isn’t going to work.

  16. Kristi
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 08:33:11

    I have no problem with make-believe sports teams or street names that are all mixed up in a real-world city. It is fiction, and as a writer, I shy away from naming real places (heaven forbid a fictional murder happen on a real street) or real things too often. I guess I’m afraid that someone will get pissed that I didn’t get the details right :)

  17. Jane
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 08:42:01

    @Kristi: I don’t either but if you insert your make believe team into a real world city into an existing organization like the NFL, then you should be crafting your story consistent with the real life structure.

    The Magnificent Mile is a famous street in Chicago. Why would you name it incorrectly? I think that is the question that is presented. It’s not a made up street. It’s a real one and it’s a landmark.

  18. Connie
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 08:51:34

    Lovin’ this topic. Just popped over to Shiloh Walker’s blog and read her rant on medical romances, too.

    Disclosure right up front–I’m a brand new author for Harlequin Medical Romance. I’m not a doctor or a nurse, but I’ve worked in hospitals and in clinics in a fly-on-the-wall capacity. I worked in bioengineering, fixing the X-ray machines, MRIs, ultrasounds, etc.

    Here’s my small world view: When we write about a profession, we write about the exceptions, otherwise, it’s same ole’, same ole’. And face it, the world isn’t perfect, so all those things that ‘should’ happen often don’t.

    Truth: My mom was in the hospital overnight for a very minor matter. Twice during that time, she was almost administered the wrong medicines. I’m sure there are checks and balances, but they failed. Bad for patients, but good for my story.

    Do I know nurses/doctors who left their spouses for doctors? Yes. Several. And many more who didn’t leave, but had affairs anyway. Us flies-on-the-wall hear and see a lot.

    So how much should a reader suspend disbelief?
    My daughter, a lawyer, loves John Grisham books. She and her peers read them trying to spot the inaccuracies. It’s part of the fun while they still enjoy the story. But if Mr. Grisham wrote accurately, all that legalese would probably put everyone to sleep–including his loyal lawyer readers who are looking for a fun escape.

    So, do books have to be 100% accurate to enjoy? Or is suspension of disbelief a part of the entertainment value? I’m thinking that’s up to each individual reader’s own tastes. For my fiction, I’d rather be entertained by errors than bored by accuracy.

    PS I DO research trying to get all my details right. What I keep rediscovering: medicine is more of an art than an exact science. Lots of wiggle room there for Story.

  19. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 08:53:42

    When it’s a simple error that is just mentioned in passing, I can put up with it. When it’s an important plot point or element of the story, then no, because the whole things falls down like a pack of cards, and any believability with it.

    The “rugby” series from Mills and Boon/Harlequin featured some horrendous errors. The one that haunts my dreams is the one that featured the designer of the on-pitch wear for the England team. (She called them “shirts.” They’re “jerseys.”) But she designed and had made up one set of jerseys, and the plot depended on one of them being ruined. Now in any professional sport, can you imagine a team taking the field with only one jersey (uniform) per player? Much less a contact sport like rugby? If the jersey gets torn or bloodstained, it’s deemed potentially dangerous and the player has to change or stay off the field. And it can’t be a different design jersey. Because the plot hinged on that point, it was infuriating.

    And the marriage thing. In the UK, it has never been okay to say in a will, “you can have my money if you marry Fred Smith.” but you can say “you can have my money after you marry.” So in historicals and contemporaries, that’s the difference between believability and not. In the first instance, either party can have the will declared invalid on that basis. So, no story.

  20. joanne
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 08:55:49

    So many authors get older adults wrong that I’ve just about given up and let the stereotypes slide by with very little cursing on my part as a reader. I’m not sure if it’s just that authors don’t know any older adults or if the myths just perpetuate themselves book after book.

    Nora most often gets it right. Maybe because she and I are both women of a ‘certain age’ – that would be anywhere from 55 to none of your business for you nosey Parkers – but I recognize the older women she writes about. They are strong and smart and whether they choose to wear red hats or yoga pants it’s because they no longer have to follow stylists who are young enough to be their grandchildren.

    They are not senile or curmudgeonly or easily taken in by the latest bullshit. If we romance writers and readers can celebrate the HEA then we should be able to see the woman who has lived that life.

    I’m sure I’m not saying this succinctly or even correctly but I do know that if you call one of my friends a feisty old biddy she’ll (high) kick your veneers right down your throat. /rant

    And geeze, if your a teacher stay the hell away from your students (no matter what their age is). Really, a little professionalism and self control, please.

  21. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 08:58:27

    I am really beginning to dislike the “it’s fiction” argument. That doesn’t mean you can make everything up, or be sloppy in your research, or skim an issue that is important to real life practitioners.
    I can see a “forbidden” romance between lawyer and client, for instance, being really gripping, but if it doesn’t deal with the ethical difficulties, then it loses a lot of its tension.

  22. Corina
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:00:22

    Add me to the chorus of lawyers who has a rough time reading romances set in the legal world. Actually, unacknowledged ethical violations seem rife in just about EVERY profession featured in contemporary romancelandia. Just about every profession has a code of conduct, please look them up, and if, as a writer, you decide to have your characters push those ethical boundaries, go for it. But I really appreciate it when you have the character acknowledge that there could be real and serious consequences to that choice, or show me why THIS character wouldn’t even realize he or she is doing something wrong.

    And that vaccine example also drives me nuts. I know I’ve read more than one book where a character who really should know better misses the entire point of a vaccine.

  23. Jane
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:01:14

    @Connie: John Grisham was a trial lawyer before he quit to write. His book, A Time to Kill, has a very accurate rendition of how lawyers prep to pick jurors and how the voir dire goes. When he writes inaccuracies (and his later books go far afield) he does so from a well spring of knowledge. In other words, his inaccuracies are conscious choices (as Annabel intimated above).

    As I stated in the post, it’s not that I’m advocating for not writing about the exceptions but when you do and you fail to take into account what those exceptions mean, then you lose authenticity and believability in the world you are creating.

    Again, I don’t think any reader asks for an author to be 100% accurate. In fact, throughout the post and in the comments, readers admit to allowing a lot of things to slide, but getting major components of stories correct is important in rendering a believable and relatable character.

    For instance, if an attorney is going to sleep with his client and doesn’t think about the trust and confidence that he is taking advantage of, it shows him to be a thoughtless person more in pursuit of satisfaction of his own gratuitous needs. Or a really unethical lawyer who doesn’t care about losing his license because of a simple shag. Writing about the exceptions without acknowledging the consequences can lead to readers assuming fairly negative traits about the character.

  24. Annabel
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:07:20


    You’re right. Sometimes they are just mistakes and laziness in research (like the street in Chicago) but I’m guessing the author with the secret team sale just really believed she needed that for her plot, and her editor must have gone along with that. She was probably banking on romance readers being more interested in the love story than the reality of sports. It would have flown with me because I know or care nothing about sports. For other people, it probably ruined that story.

    I read Pamela Clare’s Breaking Point recently and I rolled my eyes through practically the whole book, but I kept reading, lol. I guess it’s just what every reader’s tolerance for reality is. I also personally love the idea of a lawyer falling for a client, teacher falling for a co-ed, doctor falling for a patient. Strangely, I equally abhor the idea of a guardian falling for a ward. It’s very weird, personal tastes.

    I have to agree with Connie though, who says “For my fiction, I’d rather be entertained by errors than bored by accuracy.” For a good engaging story I will go along with just about any nonsense.

  25. Mary Anne Graham
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:17:20

    @Sarah Frantz & @Jane:

    I’m sorry that Jane dislikes the “trope” but I agree that it’s an ethical problem and a real job risk. In Griffin’s, that’s one of the reasons that the professor has a rule that he’ll never get involved with a student – the rule is so widely known that it’s called “Griffin’s Law.”

    Slightly in my defense, I’d say that the ages are better with a law school professor-student r/ship, especially if the student is older – which many of my LS classmates were.

    At my LS there were rumors that a professor’s much younger wife was a former student. Yes, there were many theories about how and when that romance started….

  26. k reads
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:18:48

    I have a hard time with books about performers and entertainers. Not only are the details of the world very often wrong but I find the characters’ motivations unrealistic. In historicals I can somewhat ignore my inability to suspend disbelief but contemporaries are near impossible.

  27. Christine M.
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:19:26

    I don’t think I’ve come across one just yet, but I’d prolly be climbing up the walls if I read a book about a translator and the author wasn’t a translator. I mean, just yesterday there was this article in the Globe and Mail about the translation of swear words from Quebec French to English ( and there were at least quite a few commenters affirming that a) they’re profesionnal translator and b) translating swear words was *easy*. Can you believe it? I had to breathe through my nose several times to stop myself from replying to their comments.

  28. Renda
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:22:31

    As a court reporter, I am amused by the errors in legal trope books of any type. Maybe because after 26 years of being virtually ignored by every attorney in the city of Atlanta (and a number of those who travel in to take depositions) since, really, we are just office equipment, I have often made up little stories in my head about the attorneys and their involvement with each other. It makes the day go much quicker and makes for a better story than what is actually going on.

    I also know, being a piece of office furniture, that a lot of these attorneys, male and female, interact with each other quite often in their everyday, nonlegal lives. I have taken depos with attorneys on opposite sides who used to be married. I have taken depos with attorneys on opposite sides who are now married to the other’s former spouse. I have taken depos with attorneys on opposite sides who are currently in carpools for preschool/school/soccer/fall ball/whatever. I have taken depos with attorneys on opposite sides in things like asbestos cases or med mal, which are small worlds to a certain extent, where the attorneys will get together with the other side and go fishing in Alaska or have informal holiday get togethers, especially if these are the guys/gals who are traveling the country taking the depos and may never see the inside of a courtroom because that is not what their function is.
    So while I understand the ethics and while I am sure every letter of the guidelines/standards/ethics are adhered to, these are people with personalities, friendships, and lives that go beyond their client-for-the-moment.

    I will also say that I take a number of Bar disciplinary hearings, including disbarment hearings, and there are a lot of things that capable, intelligent, seemingly-smarter-than-that attorneys get into that is much worse than a literary device of sex on the courtroom table.

    But show me a court reporter on TV that is hitting a key a minute or has paper flowing onto the floor, I start to feel the blood pressure rise and the “oh, no, she didn’ts” start to flow.

  29. Maili
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:24:11

    The idea of having total privacy in a typical village still makes me laugh. Believe me, having a relationship with a doctor/vet/police officer/whatever without the entire village knowing is – honest to God – the Holy Grail. There are curtain twitchers everywhere, people.

    *having a tinfoil hat moment*

    I wonder what romance authors thnk of the general portrayal of romance authors in fiction and films? (Romancing the Nile! The Life and Loves of the She-Devil! American Dreamer! As Good As It Gets! Paperback Hero!)

  30. Connie
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:25:17

    @Jane said “Writing about the exceptions without acknowledging the consequences can lead to readers assuming fairly negative traits about the character.”

    I agree w/ you and w/ @Lynne Connelly completely on this. I think characters who explore the ethics and/or suffer consequences can greatly deepen a story.

    Getting basic world building wrong ie rugby shirts and street nicknames, would throw me from the story, too. But good storytelling might bring me back.

  31. Jane
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:34:02

    Let me ask a general question. Does romance get criticized for being dry and boring and being too accurate? Is being too accurate a problem in the romance genre?

  32. Liz Talley
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:36:21

    I think writers must walk a fence in regards to accuracy and entertainment, and it’s up to each author to decide how far she wants her toes to go over.

    I just completed a football book and turned it in to my editor. Da-da-dum.

    But I did panistaking research about college recruiting, meeting with a major football program’s recruiting director (Geaux, Tigers!) and several high school football coaches because it was VERY important for me to get it right. Will most readers know the strict schedule college recruiters must adhere to? Will they know what a five-star tight end should run in the 40? Will they care about statistics, logistics or any other “tics”? Probably not, but it’s part of building my world. If I don’t know the facts about professions, setting, etc, then I shortchange my characters.

    BUT, there is a limit to getting it right. When I read several paragraphs to my husband trying to get feedback on my awesome knowledge of football, he said, “Are you writing a recruiting manual or a romance?”

    Um, good question. That would be a romance.

    The most important element – the actual romance – has to remain the focus, but those two characters must operate in a well-built and mostly correct world in order to legitimize my writing. This is how I feel as a writer, but as a reader, I can be forgiving as long as the writing is good and the story takes me on a ride.

    Great topic, Jane. Can’t wait to hear what others think.

  33. Courtney Milan
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:37:26

    @Mary Anne Graham: One of my books, Griffin’s Law, is a love story b/t a law professor and a student.

    I could never read that book. Ever.

    Student-teacher relationships are basically a massive “DO NOT WANT” for me.

    I don’t doubt that these things happen. I don’t doubt that this is not a “mistake.” But it is precisely the opposite of sexy.

    Ditto lawyers sleeping with clients. Yes, of course this happens. And you know who it doesn’t happen to in my book? Heroes and heroines. Because it’s deeply irresponsible and utterly, completely wrong. In my mind, that’s like romanticizing drunk driving.

  34. Sabrina
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:43:57

    @Terri Schaefer:
    You hit one of my two pet peeves right on the head! I am myself a “former” where I was in the medical field which brings me to my second pet pevee, medical. A surgeon does not walk out after a case in his gown covered in blood to speak with the family of the patient!

    Pretty much I stay clear of medical and military romances, tv shows, and movies. Absolutely hated “ER” when it was on;)

  35. Gianisa
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:44:03

    Most of my annoyances have already been listed, but I’m going to rant anyways. ;)

    I’m a scientist, and pretty much every portrayal of scientists in books, TV, and movies has some glaring error. I vacillate between being annoyed (“How hard is it to find out what it’s like to work in a lab?!!!”) and just ignoring it (“Wow, that’s a stupid mistake. Oh well.”) It doesn’t help that I’m in math/stats and for some reason, mathematicians are really badly done in the most popular books/shows/movies (see A Beautiful Mind, Numbers, etc.). So bad!

    My hometown is generally not described well in fiction (Berkeley/San Francisco). Sure, the geography is a little bit complicated but it seems like every description is just a regurgitation of stereotypes and some details of touristy-type places that the author briefly visited. Carolyn Jewel’s books really made an impression on me simply because she got the street names right in my neighborhood (North Berkeley). It should not be that difficult to look at a map and see how Grizzly Peak and Wildcat Canyon Road intersect.

  36. Gianisa
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:47:39

    @Jane: no, there are ways to be accurate without being boring. That’s up to the skill of the author. I’m a terrible writer and probably wouldn’t be able to do it. :)

    For example, I’m a statistican. If you asked me to describe my work day, I’d either come up with something so simplified that it would insulting, or something so complicated that it wouldn’t make any sense. Part of an author’s job (IMHO) is to transmit information in an interesting way that is on the best level for the readers (and probably under the assumption that the reader is not a statistican or whatever profession is being discused).

    And now I really am going back to my difficult-to-describe work.

  37. dick
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 10:04:11

    Huh! I always considered glass rather fragile, yet Cinderella’s slipper didn’t break–and she danced in it, too. That error should certainly have ruined the story!

    All this business about not getting things “right” in a story, reminds me of an article which appeared in PMLA–about 16 pages of verbiage about whether Melville meant “coiled” or “soiled” fish at the bottom of the sea.

  38. Keishon
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 10:05:50

    May I just say that fiction novels that violate basic human nature or common sense throws me immediately out of the story contemporary or otherwise. I realize this is subject to my own world view and experiences.

  39. Moriah Jovan
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 10:25:11

    Eh. I like the professor-student tropes unless the risk involved is not explored. The risk is part of the fun. But different strokes and all that…

  40. Robin Amery
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 10:26:46

    Bad research when it comes to Europe:

    If your German character is named Otto/Karl/Franz/Hans I expect him to be in his seventies and not mid-twenties. Also Gretchen and Madchen are not names used in Germany. Well, Gretchen could be the pet version of Grete or Margarete but again, women named that way? Would be at least in their 50s. And Madchen or rather Mädchen means girl and that is not accepted as a name in Germany.

    Or things like getting geographical or political details wrong. Border controls between France and Germany in 2010? Not likely. Same as the chance of getting lost in the Black Forest and not meeting anyone for hours or even days. That would take a lot of talent and effort, considering that the Black Forest is strongly industrialized and a heavily used tourist region.

    Distances in Europe are also very different to the US: A flight of maximal three hours will basically take you from one corner of Europe to the other.

    And don’t get me started on using something like babelfish or google-translate to translate words or even whole sentences into another language. No, ‘meine Liebe’ is not something someone would use as a endearment when talking to his/her beloved, even though it appears as the correct translation of ‘my love’. The usage is totally different. Germans use endearments differently than English-speaking people. No shop-assistant in Germany is ever going to call a customer honey, dear or luv.

    As a professional translator I always cringe massively when I encounter such things. In this day and age it shouldn’t be that difficult to find someone willing to help out with proper translations (be vary of laymen though, a translator is a better option because they can differentiate better between written and spoken language) or help out with specific cultural and regional questions and details.

    Another thing that sometimes pisses me off are the way illnesses are handled, whether it’s something like migraines or depression or any other kind of serious, often chronic illness. It feels more like cheap thrills than an actual depection of the illness in question. Again mostly bad research and a lack of care.

  41. Kristal
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 10:29:23

    I hate it when a character who is supposedly knowledgeable about a topic doesn’t know something that I do, even though I have no specific interest in that topic.

    And please, if you’re writing about someone who belongs to a religion not your own, please have someone who is a member of that religion vet what you’ve written!

  42. Isobel Carr
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 10:34:04

    @Gianisa: Carolyn Jewel is a local. *grin* If you Read UF, you might like Seanan McGuire’s Toby Day books too (another local who gets it all right). I tend to avoid books set in the SF/Bay Area because people get it soooooooo wrong (opening paragraphs of BLOOD SUCKING FIENDS for example where it says “The fog rolled in off the bay.” Um, no it didn’t. It rolls in from the ocean, across SF and out ONTO the bay. It’s SF 101).

  43. Alex
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 10:34:27

    Huh… I can bypass any problems with plot for the most part except when there are no consequences for actions. I’m perfectly fine with student/teacher (as long as they’re adults, not teenagers, btw), client/lawyer, coach/athlete etc, but it does have to play a role in the story. It can’t just be love and roses and hea.

    Oddly, I’m totally and completely squicked against the idea of therapist/patient. I don’t think that works on any level and it creeps me the eff out. It’s pretty much the only no-no with tropes and me.

    For me an author can get away with almost anything as long as there are consequences to suit the actions.

    (To counter that last statement, last year NCIS had a story line about computer gaming. They got it so wrong and it was so completely ridiculous, I haven’t watched the show since. This is a show I watched religiously for the seven years prior. I can’t watch it at all. It was so full of mistakes that I’m sure many people on set could have pointed out. *fume*)

  44. Robin Amery
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 10:38:07


    Oh yes, I remember that NCIS episode. I’m not a heavy gamer and I had a really hard time suspending my disbelief because it was all so highly unlikely and so full of mistakes.

    I had similar issues with an NCIS:LA-episode.

  45. Christine M.
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 10:43:13

    @Robin Amery: I feel you. The last Nalini Singh I read (I’m a couple of books behind) had about two French sentences total, and yet she managed to get it wrong. *sigh*

  46. DM
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 11:07:46


    My favorite contemporroneous was Jill Myles Succubus series. Her heroine was an ambitious museum *professional* who is variously described in the book as an intern and a docent…with a salary. Neither are paid positions. She’s passed up for promotion in favor of a woman with fewer degrees and bigger boobs. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with museums would find this laughable. You might be passed over for promotion in favor of someone with a connection to a wealthy donor or board member, but you’re unlikely to net a job based on your cup size. More likely the heroine was passed over for promotion because she did things like ditching work without telling anyone and blew off tours she was supposed to be delivering. The best part is the heroine moving from NYC to New City, Wyoming, where the museum career prospects are better…The lack of basic google research in these books was astounding. I wasn’t surprised when the publisher cancelled the series. Even if you had never set foot in a museum, the lack of detail and authenticity was palpable.

  47. JL
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 11:11:34

    @cead: Academics in fiction is almost always a deal breaker for me too.It’s so rare that even one single detail is right.

    @Lynne Connelly, I **kinda** disagree about the “it’s just fiction” argument to a point. Truthfully, an author can be as lazy or take all the liberties she or he wants, as long as it doesn’t reincforce dangerous stereotypes. Some readers are going to enjoy the books regardless and a bunch of poeple wil walk away happy from the experience. While the ethical problems of lawyer-client relationships should be obvious to most people, I’m not really going to know if a book gets basic trial details wrong.

    That being said, it is amazing when you read a book where it’s clear the author is obviously so passionate about the details that you get swept away in it. I’m not from the Bay Area, but I’d echo the earlier commenter who mentioned how captivating Seanan McGuire’s books are because of the setting.

    My concern around the portrayal of certain professions is that they often seem to be a short-hand for lazy class commentary and stereotypes. Particularly where women in white collar jobs are portrayed as shrews who need a good lay to become ‘worthy’ or whatnot.

  48. Mfred
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 11:16:20

    Librarians that sit around and read books all day. Actually, my first thought is, “HOW DO I GET THAT JOB”

  49. Lucy Woodhull
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 11:22:55

    I hate “businessey” contemporaries written by those who obviously have never worked a day in corporate America or finance in their lives. They have no idea what a CEO is or does, what a Board of Directors is, how these two interact, and a million other details. Putting your hero/ine in a suit and calling them a CEO is not enough. Go ask a CEO or, maybe even better, ASK HER/HIS ASSISTANT. /rant / harumph

  50. Tabs
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 11:28:05

    The last “lawyer romance” I read was Julie James’ Practice Makes Perfect and, though I know absolutely nothing about the law profession, I thought it was terrific and seemed pretty authentic. It didn’t hit any of the “big five” mistakes.

  51. JL
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 11:31:43

    @Mary Anne Graham:
    Interestingly, professor-student trops aren’t an automatic squick factor for me, if they are done well. I’m not sure how it works in professional schools, but I definitely witnessed happy, healthy, non-repercussioned relationships between professors and adult grad students. The catch is that the students and professors did not have any kind of professional relationship between them. The profs didn’t teach the students (at the time), weren’t their supervisors, and had no real ability to affect their career trajectory. Universities and colleges are big places and at a grad level, the interaction is often peer-like (not always, of course, but for the most part in my experience). People are going to meet and fall in love/into bed.

    I know one couple who were both grad students, and one of them was hired on as an assistant prof at the same school & same department while the other was still finishing their degree. It became an “issue” only when it came time for the student’s candidacy exam and his wife was the only one with the right expertise to round out the committee.

  52. Jen
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 11:35:42

    Anything in a medical setting that acts like insurance doesn’t exist. In America, at least, it dominates every aspect of patient care.

    I did some plausibility verification for someone writing about a cancer patient, and while she clearly did her homework in terms of the latest cutting-edge research and treatments, she neglected to mention how this working-class character was going to finance her care, since it will be 3 to 5 years before any insurance provider will be able to be argued into covering the procedures and drugs she wanted to use.

  53. Patrice
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 11:35:50

    Hmm great topic. I have one area that is a big pet peeve and it relates to boating and/or diving. I’m a SCUBA diver and had a boat before I had a bike! (it was a little boat. lol) I spent years living on an Atlantic barrier island and still live by the Gulf of Mexico. I can suspend disbelief for some boring details, especially if the characters are engaging and the plot keeps me wanting to find out what happens next. I love a good sea adventure! But if there are glaring impossibilities relating to what happens on or under the water it throws me right out of the story. And it makes me sad because as I said, I love the ocean and stories set around it.

  54. SAO
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 11:53:59

    Russians. I live in Russia and so many books get it wrong. Average Russians in the boondocks of Siberia drinking whiskey? Yep, read that. The average people had the names of famous politicians? Yep. Got published. Okay, one was a pretty average name, like Rick Perry, but the other was kind of like Newt Gingrich or Zbigniew Brzezinsky. Not exactly Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov (Russian for John Doe).

    Then, the Russians act like the average Italian billionaire. ‘Cause, ya know, Italy and Russia share so much history and culture. Yes, Christos means Christ. But it’s never, ever used as a swear. When I say Jesus Christ as a swear, Russians assume a prayer erupted from my lips, not a swear.

    Russian names all have nicknames. The male nicknames are often feminine sounding to Western ears. Mikhail’s mom is going to call him Misha, not Mick. Vladimir’s family calls him Volodya, not Vlad. Gosha (Grigori), Valya (Valentin), Dima (Dmitry), Lyosha (Alexei), Serozha (Sergey) are all men. Nikolai’s nickname is not Nick, it is Kolya. Alexander’s nickname is Sasha.

    No one uses Mr. Russian doesn’t have a suitable equivalent. Comrade went out with the Soviets. The pre-revolutionary term Gospodin means Lord because in pre-revolutionary times, if you were called by your last name, you either didn’t merit an honorific or you were a lord. And yeah, it sounds as strange to Russian ears, too. When the bank or insurance company) calls, they don’t ask for Lord Ivanov (The closest thing the Russians have to Mr. Johnson), they ask for Ivanov, Ivan (Johnson, John). For people you know, but in English would use Mr or Mrs, you use first name and patronymic. A reporter addressing Putin says Vladimir Vladimirovich, not Mr.(Lord) Putin.

    The whole point of putting different people and cultures in a book is to make them different, but when they aren’t what’s the point?

    Labor. In TV, (and books are often not much better) pregnant women go from serenely pregnant to the throes of delivery in minutes, with the ensuing crisis to get her to a suitable delivery place on time.

    Banking. I’ve sent wire transfers. Sure the transfer might happen in milliseconds, but the sending bank has to process the wire transfer, their wire desk will probably close at 4 their time. There will be preceding paperwork that does not happen in milliseconds. The receiving bank will not start processing incoming wire transfers until 9 am their time. They might have quite a few. They have paperwork, too. Then, they have to get around to crediting your account. That is, if both banks work ideally. In real life, getting your wire in under 3 days is quite speedy.

    Bloody and Bugger. Both are quite rude in England. Bugger is not a synonym for rugrat. When my daughter was in school in England, ‘Bloody’ was the worst swear she could think of. As a side note, if you want to discourage your kids from swearing, burst into disbelieving laughter the first time you hear an impassioned, heartfelt swear. It works a heck of a lot better than lectures or time-outs.

  55. Kim
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 11:55:23

    @Jane Even though I enjoyed it, some readers felt that Linda Howard’s book, Up Close and Dangerous, read like an airplane crash survival manual, rather than a romance. Reviews criticized the book for being too dry and accurate.

    When I read a police/private eye romance, I often wonder if there’s anything unethical about getting involved with a witness or client.

  56. Tina
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 12:04:05

    The last lawyer book I read was Barbara Delinsky’s Escape. The main character is a lawyer whose office is in a cubicle (no fancy corner office for her!). And her daily task is checking to see if people are legit claimants in a class action suit. She’s bored of the grind and laments that this isn’t the type of lawyering she dreamed about in law school. She imagined being some heroic figure fighting for the underdog against greedy corporations. Meanwhile her husband is working back-breaking hours trying to make partner. They barely see each other and are in debt paying back school loans. It as to be the most un-romantic, un-TV ready depiction of lawyering I’ve ever read. LOL.

    I would imagine if anyone is a police officer or works in law enforcement that reading romance novels has to be incredibly frustrating. I remember reading one book where the brother of the victim (a civilian) was basically allowed to be everywhere with the cop who was investigating his brother’s murdered (they were falling in love, naturally). I’m not even in law enforcement and even I know that isn’t cricket.

  57. Abbie
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 12:06:12

    I’m a mental health counselor. You wouldn’t believe how often authors and TV shows get the most basic things wrong. Psychobabble may sound good, but so often it carries no logical meaning.
    And just for the record, in my profession if you sleep with a client–Game Over. You’ve lost your license to practice for good. No getting it back. Career change time. And you better hope the client does sue you for millions.

  58. Erica H
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 12:07:31

    I’m a professional archaeologist, but a lot of what is described as archaeology in romance is basically looting. And archaeologists never “sell” artifacts to museums. Not only unethical, but laughable. Archaeologists have to pay museums curation fees to accept and care for artifacts.

    And archaeology is dirty, people. Sweaty, dusty, filthy, muddy. Not particularly sexy.

  59. Jessica Scott
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 12:25:23

    As an army officer, I am completely turned off by any story involving an officer/enlisted relationship. I’m also annoyed when someone is enlisted and refers to having soldiers in his or her command. Command is a very specific thing and enlisted soldiers, no matter the rank, do not command (except for NCO academies and that’s a different story). Rank structure is a defined thing but also comes with significant cultural norms that can’t be picked up by reading a rank chart. And as with any research, where you are in the rank structure impacts your perception of it. I see it all the time in former enlisted soldiers who think x, y or z happens in the officer ranks or at the senior leader ranks. So know who you’re asking what questions when doing your research.

    That said, I’ll often pick up the book just to see how the author deals with the situation of inappropriate relationships in the military. I’m always happy to answer questions involving military research because my little soldier’s heart gets a little happier when someone gets it (and by it I mean the language, the tactics or the setting) correct. The officer enlisted story for me is a reality every single day. If I’m going to read that trope, there had better be some seriously compelling reason for an officer/leader to be sleeping with one of his or her soldiers. But again, just because something resonates with me on the do not do list doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen all the time.

    I also understand that what is true for the army isn’t necessarily true for the Rangers or the SEALs or whatever branch of service someone happens to be writing about. I recently read a nonfiction book that took place here on Fort Hood. In it, the author mentioned an Audie Murphy Blvd. I’ve been at Hood for over a decade on and off and I’m not aware of that street existing (which doesn’t mean it doesn’t actually exist). Plus, the author got the housing streets wrong (there’s a difference between Battalion Avenue and 761st Battalion Avenue in regard to what’s on them). For me, these errors were enough to irritate me about the story but this was a non fiction book. I expected more.

    As an author of a contemp military romance, I find I had to pull back on a TON of details that were important to me but not important to the overarching story. I had to learn how to write out full words like post exchange instead of just writing PX, or even improvised explosive device instead of IED. I had to explain the reason why a major, a captain, a sergeant first class and a sergeant were all on a first name basis because for me, it would bug me if it were not explained and yes, it would be enough to pull me out of the story.

    Ultimately, world building is important no matter if you’re writing UF, Paranormal or history. Some of my favorite authors get military romance right and nothing makes me happier to see it done well. But when it’s wrong, it’s so really really wrong, it makes me cringe.

    I recognize that my debut novel has one of the tropes being bashed here (nurse/patient). All I can say is that I did my research, I had a couple of nurses read to make sure it wasn’t glaringly wrong but any mistakes or errors are all my own. And I hope that the story will be strong enough that any mistakes don’t become deal breakers for readers.

    At the end of the day, write the best book possible. Research enough to make it believable but don’t get bogged down, as I once did, in explaining how to conduct a formation.

    What do you need to be believable?

  60. Lynn S.
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 12:30:33

    Contemperroneous?! Yeesh, I knew wordplay would get me in trouble eventually. The only time I’m bothered by inaccuracies is if the book isn’t working for me on any level and the inaccuracies give my ire something to chew on. The place authors often fall down is in forgetting that the personal is interesting in ways that professions and plotting can never be. Not much to add otherwise. My opinions here would be basically the same as those over at the Great Mistorical Debate of September, 2011.

    Regarding the lawyer books, I work in the legal profession on the administrative side and, although the psychological aspects can be fascinating, the profession is grinding hard work, irony abounds, and legal battles are usually more sad than thrilling or romantic.

    In parting I will say that if blue eyeshadow looked as good on the rest of us as it does on that painted bunting, the world would be a better place.

  61. Annabel
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 12:45:12

    Judging from the remarks so far, it seems like a good rule of thumb is to never read any book set in your field of expertise. :-)

    Maybe I’m being overly philosophical today, but in a way I suspend my disbelief with every romance novel I read. In a way, every book is “contemporroneous”. I’ve never met a real life guy who lives up to the standards of a romance hero, but I choose not to question how unrealistic 99.999% of romance heroes are. Because if I let that ruin the story for me, I would have to stop reading the genre. And then there’s the 100% Happily-Ever-After rate, which of course flies in the face of my experiences and the experiences of just about every woman I know. Again, I know it’s false and unrealistic, but it makes me feel good.

    I don’t know…if we can all accept these grossly unrealistic characters and storylines as hallmarks of the genre, then how much real-life accuracy do we have a right to demand? (Just asking rhetorically…I suspect the answer is different for everyone.)

    Another rhetorical question: Is it okay to have unrealistic premises and characters as long as the author gets the little facts straight?

  62. Tara Lynx
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 12:49:43

    Other languages. If you must have your foreign characters randomly use French, or German, or Italian phrases mid-speech (and please note that most non-Native English speakers who’re fluent in English *don’t actually do that*), at least get them proofread by a native speaker.

    An actual native speaker–not Google Translate (*shudder*), not that phrasebook left over from your vacation in Rome, not your aunt who took two years of French in high school. I guarantee none of those will get it right.

    Nothing bugs me more than characters unable to speak their own mother tongue.

  63. Christine M.
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 13:06:57

    @Tara Lynx: The Lonely Planet Phrasebooks aren’t too shabby but that’s about it. Google Translate is a big no no indeed.

  64. SuperWendy
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 13:10:13

    I’ve been burned so many times on sports romances that I generally avoid them like the plague now. It’s not “routine” for baseball pitchers to have 20+ wins every. single. season. An AFC team could not beat an NFC team to advance to the Super Bowl because hello?! The NFC and AFC don’t MEET in the playoffs UNTIL the Super Bowl. I know readers nit-pick what they nit-pick based on our own real-life experience(s) – but some time spent on Google or a crash course at the local sports bar isn’t going to kill anybody, says me.

    I’ll also admit medical “stuff” can annoy when it doesn’t ring true because my mother has been an RN for 30+ years. One of my “favorites” was this women’s fiction book where the heroine was “mad” at her surgeon husband for not performing surgery on THEIR DAUGHTER! Instead the bastard got a colleague to perform the surgery, a colleague who was considered “the best of the best.” Yeah, what a bastard ::headdesk:: Not wanting to slice into his own child. How unreasonable can you get? /end sarcasm.

    This all being said, I can roll with it when an author bends some things to make their story work. It all comes down to the sell job, or execution as it were.

  65. Christine M.
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 13:11:03

    @Tara Lynx: I had a friend from Oz over last week and the only moment I switched to French without even noticing was when I was driving and I promptly started to swear and curse because of the idiots in the traffic who were making stupid moves and putting the whole lot of us in danger.

  66. Ros
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 13:11:11

    @Jane: I think it can be. There’s one M&B author who I’ve stopped buying purely because her books have simply become vehicles for her research. It’s a shame because I loved some of her earlier books. Coincidentally, the same author wrote about a lawyer once. I metaphorically threw my digital copy of that book across the room because it irritated me so much. It featured a barrister who told the heroine he wouldn’t be prepared to defend someone who was guilty. Which… is not how the system works in the UK. There is NO WAY a lawyer could say something like that. I’ve just checked and it was Mistress on Trial/Strictly Legal, by Kate Hardy.

  67. Ros
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 13:14:37

    @Erica H: Dirty can definitely be sexy. Hot, dusty, sweaty, dirty from hard work? Yup, that can work for me.

  68. Las
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 13:25:11

    @Tara Lynx: The language thing drives me insane. Every time I see that random word or phrase thrown in the middle of English dialogue to add what the author seem to think as exotic flavor or something I want to scream. As a native Spanish speaker I just want to let writers know:


    We don’t even do that when speaking English with other Spanish speakers–why the hell would we do that when speaking with people who don’t speak Spanish?

    And on a related note, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese are completely different languages. Just FYI.

    @Annabel :Judging from the remarks so far, it seems like a good rule of thumb is to never read any book set in your field of expertise.

    I actually think that’s a really good rule, rather than creating new categories/tags.

  69. Robin Amery
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 13:29:06

    @Tara Lynx

    Exactly. I’m more likely to say: “What’s that word in English again?” And then try to describe what I mean.

    There are situations where I could imagine someone switching langauges but they either involve teasing, talking to yourself or to someone who speaks or should speak the language. Or someone being very impolite and trying to exclude the person who doesn’t speak the language at all.

  70. Jane
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 13:30:15

    @Annabel So the onus is on the reader to avoid any book with which she might have some familiarity because the author shouldn’t be expected to get the big things correct, all for the sake of fiction? I’m not supposed to read another sports book or book featuring a lawyer or any other book with which I might have famliarity? That seems to be the wrong shoulders upon which to place the burden.

  71. Kim
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 13:33:15

    I remember reading Opposites Attract by Nora Roberts. It was about two professional tennis players, yet they played one of the majors on the wrong surface. I could never figure out how everyone in the editing process missed that.

  72. Junne
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 13:46:19

    If the book is great (good story, well-written) I don’t really care if all things depicted are accurate.I mean I’ve loved sheikh books ( even though some, if not all of them are extremely offensive to the arab woman that I am) and books that feature French characters with butchered French sentences ( my native language is French). But if the book is so-so, I’ll be picky.

  73. Las
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 13:47:14

    @Jane: Big concepts (and I’d guess the definition of “big” would depend on just how much the reader knows about a particular topic), sure, those should be right, but I don’t think it makes sense to expect authors to know that much from their research. You know the law because you’re a lawyer–you went to school for years and put in countless hours of study to know all that you know about the law, and there are so many details that’s probably just common sense to you would be completely new to a lay person. Someone without that kind of background won’t know a fraction of what you know, and probably wouldn’t even be able to distinguish between valid research and bullshit.

  74. Ridley
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 13:57:03

    A couple things scream at me in fiction: How Boston is portrayed and the horrendously insulting things authors do with disability themes.

    I’ve read one author who got Boston right: Cara McKenna. It’s no coincidence, I’m sure, that she’s lived in a couple different Boston neighborhoods and currently lives in the area. Boston and its surrounding area is a tough nut to crack. We’re super parochial. My accent’s totally different from my husband’s, though we grew up only 50 miles away from each other, because my fam’s blue collar and his is middle class. Old money has their own accent, too, and then geography and race varies accents even further. You don’t get that sort of thing without having strong community ties and identities. It is not “anything goes” in Boston.

    So, Lara Adrian putting a nightclub in the North End and a budding photographer (raised by the foster system) in a multi-level condo in Beacon Hill totally tossed me out of the story. The North End is as conservative and involved as any suburban homeowners’ association and would never, ever, approve a nightclub, much less one in an old church. A studio condo in Beacon Hill could run you $500k, and it’d be nothing special, so a multi-level condo is WELL outside the budget of a budding photographer. She also gave a Southie-raised cop a brogue. Just. No. They eat their R’s and flatten their A’s like it’s their job and don’t sound a damn thing like Irish people.

    Shannon Stacey made a major plot point out of a secondary character rejecting the high fashion and glitzy parties of her old moneyed family and social circle. If there’s anything Boston high-society decidedly is not, it’s fashion-forward and conspicuous. Old money Yankees tore through the old Filene’s Basement for bargains with the rest of us. The people keeping Saks and Neiman Marcus afloat in the Back Bay are transplanted New Yorkers.

    Oh, I’m being long-winded. On to disability now!

    I could write an entire blog post about what I consider romance’s totally screwed-up take on disability, but I’ll try to dial it back. In short, authors like to use disability as a cheap vehicle for angst. Invariably, they show us the disabled character in terms of what makes him or her “less than.” Well before they introduce any sort of personality for the character (if they ever do) they enumerate and emphasize everything he or she is missing out on. A deaf character gets hit by a car he didn’t hear coming. A wheelchair-using character misses out on the dancing at a wedding. A blind character can’t see how beautiful/ugly the woman talking to him is. They’re cripples first, individuals second.

    Especially for physical disabilities, authors lay the ableism on thick. Almost always, the cripple character is bitter, angry, depressed or some other variation of unempowered. Their lives are empty. They’re joyless. They’re convinced they’re burdens no one could love.

    Then they meet the hero/ine and are saved! Suddenly they work hard at therapy/learn to enjoy the simple things in life/realize they are worthy of love and HEA. All they needed was an able bodied person to condescend to show them the way.

    It’s so friggin insulting, it makes me sick. Unlike Jane, though, I keep seeking out disabled themes. I want to be able to to either debunk the ableism in a review or, ideally, find healthy, empowered disabled characters and stories to recommend to people to counter the common, insulting stereotypes out there.

    And with that, I’ll shut the hell up.

  75. Jane
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 13:57:38

    @Las That’s not the assertion Annabel made and as I said in my post, I don’t mind if the intricacies of law trip someone up. The problem here is the big issues. The internet brings readers and authors much closer together. There are host of available resources for authors today that weren’t readily available 10 years ago. Look at this thread. There are people from different cultures and backgrounds such that big issues can be gotten right.

    I’m not asking for authors to understand say the difference between in personam jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction (unless it is core to their story). I’m saying that if you pick a profession or a locale or a nationality for your characters, don’t you (the author) have some obligation to get the big issues right. To me it comes down to thoughtful writing. Why are you going to have your characters walk down Michigan Avenue and call it a nickname that is inaccurate? Why even use the nickname? If you are going to have a sport story, why? What is it that you want to derive from that setting? Can’t you spend a few days listening to sportscenter? Reading wiki or even asking a few people around you or on the internet about some of your major plot points?

    If you are going to use non English phrases, why not reach out to a french speaking reader and say, “hey what kind of endearment would my hero use in this setting?” I just don’t feel like I am asking so much of authors. I don’t see how getting things right is so troublesome. Why it interferes so greatly with the narrative? Why can’t I expect more from authors in this genre that I love?

  76. Robin Amery
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 14:07:17


    I once had this discussion with a fellow writer because I’d beta-read one of her stories and told her that she needed to reserach some details about the FBI, as they were wrong. Her answer: ‘Why should I? It’s just fiction. Who cares about the details?’ She had the same approach with all of her writing and rarely bothered to do any reserach and it showed.

    It was an interesting thing because I sometimes end doing too much reserach and getting sidetracked by it.

    I guess for some authors it’s a time-issue. They have limited time for writing and research eats into that limited time. Or they have to meet a deadline. Others simply don’t care. And some might be too shy to try and talk to people (that’s my biggest issue) and there are just some things where you can’t find the answers in a book or online and need to talk to an actual person.

  77. Ridley
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 14:23:54

    @Robin Amery: I think the goal should be to get the big picture, rather than the details.

    For most books with disabled characters, I can tell the author researched her little heart out. They’ll get all the nit-picky details of sexual dysfunction and catheters for people with SCI, for example, and wax poetic about accessibility issues.

    What I’d rather they’d do, however, is ignore that crap and instead talk with someone who lives that life about the essentials. A solid understanding of the basic tenets of a life influenced by a profession/city/disability is so much more important to telling a story than the fiddly details.

  78. Tara Lynx
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 14:47:31

    @Christine M. But even a good phrase book–and It’s true the Lonely Planet ones are better than most–can’t account for context and social nuances. the way a tourist would/should talk to a stranger in the street is necessarily very different from the way people talk to their friends and lovers. (Preaching to the choir, I know.)

    @Las Exactly! And on a further related not, Chinese is not the same as Japanese, dammit!

    @Robin Amery Precisely. People generally talk because they want to communicate. Speaking a language that the other person can’t understand is rather pointless, unless, as you say, one is *trying* to exclude them. I could *maybe* believe a character lapsing into their native language when severely wounded or very sick, too–but as soon as they are semi-aware, they should have enough control to switch back.

    @everyone The thing that strikes me is that this sort of inaccuracy could usually easily be avoided. If you don’t speak French fluently, don’t use French phrases (unless you can reach out to someone who does). If you don’t know anything about lawyers, have you heroes have a different job. (Or, if something law-related is at the core of your story, find a lawyer willing to give it a read-through.)

    If the real world doesn’t satisfy the needs of your story, see if you can use a scifi or fantasy setting–those give you a lot of freedom to make your own rules. (Which is not to say that they’re “anything goes!” of course.)

  79. MD
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 14:48:20

    @Mary Anne Graham:
    Ugh. This is horrible. Romance between a student and a professor? Happened in my grad school. His and hers careerr damaged beyond repair. People still remember the scandal, 14 years later. What’s worse, there was tons of collateral damage: difficulties and complications for every single one of his students. Bottom like: the author would have to work very, very hard to make this plot acceptable to me.

  80. DS
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 14:48:26

    My theory is that an author should know more about the subject than appears in the book. Ok to dial back on the details, just don’t get the ones that are in the book wrong.

  81. Las
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 14:51:04

    @Jane: I’d certainly prefer authors to get the big things right, but I’m not sure they’re obligated to do so, and I’m not all that bothered by it in a general sense. There have been many books I’ve disliked for reasons we’re discussing here, and I certainly don’t think it’s wrong of other readers to have their dislikes, but unless we’re talking about issues like race, culture, class, disability, etc., I don’t consider such inaccuracies in fiction as a problem that needs to be seriously addressed.

    I’m not an author, but I have no problem with those who’ve managed to make it while writing books that I consider poorly researched/sloppy/whatever. If people are buying their books regardless of errors and inaccuracies, why should they bother writing a quality product? I might not buy their books, but good for them for finding readers who do.

  82. Magdalen
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 14:57:24

    @Mary Anne Graham: Any chance you and I went to the same law school? Two of my professors were married. Rumor had it that she was not only his third wife but his second former-student wife. As one of my classmates looked a lot like Mrs. Professor (only 15 years younger), I was concerned. (Turned out, the classmate probably batted for the other team.)

    There’s a margin where fiction and real life details have to blend together. There’s “that could never happen,” then “that should never happen” (I put the ethically proscribed relationships: client/lawyer, patient/doctor, student/professor in that category), and finally “that seems implausible.”

    I finished a novel this summer where a new federal judge walks out for a routine hearing on a motion. It’s a new case for him simply because he inherited a retiring judge’s docket. New judge is young & sexy (very implausible, but work with me). He sees one of the lawyers — a woman — and thinks, “That’s the one.”

    Guess what: judge/attorney-practicing-in-that-courtroom is one of the ethically proscribed relationships. And our judge knows that. He has to recuse himself, and the rules say that, if asked, he has to give his reasons for recusing himself. So he states for the record that he’s in love with counsel for defendant.

    Beta readers and agents have had a wide range of reactions, from not liking the “love at first sight” trope (I did research on that — fascinating how often people think it occurs) to the idea that a judge would act that way.

    Well, here’s what I know. Any judge who’d been on the bench longer than a few weeks would know to call a continuance and resolve the matter quietly off the record. My judge isn’t that cool & collected yet. I have him try to parse all the ethical and practical ramifications before taking a step, but the plot only works if he’s panicked.

    That’s the fiction part. The questions isn’t whether any other judge on the planet would do what my judge did, it’s whether any other judge on the planet in my judge’s precise situation would do it differently. If I’ve written it correctly, it’s plausible in that situation.

    At least I hope so.

  83. Annabel
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 14:58:14


    I only meant that comment facetiously, because it seemed like a lot of the people were saying “I work as a ____ and I can’t stand to read books set in that world.”

    I actually really understand your problem with lawyer books, and a doctor or nurse’s problem with medical books, etc. I personally can’t read BDSM stories for that reason. It never feels authentic enough for me. I’ve learned to just avoid BDSM-themed stuff.

    I’m only playing devil’s advocate because I have an unnatural compulsion to consider both sides of things. I also love to get all philosophical about all things romance related. I’ll desist, lol. Because I do essentially agree with you–a lot of what’s out there is unrealistic enough to ruin a reader’s experience.

  84. Elyssa Papa
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 14:58:57

    @Ridley, I’m the same way with disabilities in romance. One of my former good friends (we lost touch when she moved away) was paralyzed at 5 years old when the car she was in was hit by a drunk driver. She did all these races and was such a positive, happy person who got guys and was just awesome. Yeah, she had worries like we all did, but she was never “less of someone” because she was disabled and no one ever saved her. She did it herself.

    But, at the same time, I’m highly attracted to Beauty and Beast trope where one character is scarred and finds love, etc etc.

    As to what also bugs me….are when authors get theatre details wrong. There’s not many contemps set in theatre world so it’s not a huge issue but often time we’ll get an actor hero/heroine and the author will get things wrong that anyone who’s been involved in acting will pick up.

    Oh and can we please stop with the gay best friend who solely exists to see his friend get a HEA? This bothers me in books and movies.

  85. library addict
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 15:02:04

    My problem with contemporaries is often more about the setting. I have a tough time reading many books set in Las Vegas, because casinos do not operate the way most authors seem to think they do. And people who live in Vegas don’t spend much time on the Strip unless they work there or are playing tour guide. And Jennifer Greene wrote a book set in South Bend which had so many errors she’s obviously never spent much, if any, time there.

    I love contemporaries and read a lot of romantic suspense, so I think I do have a pretty high threshold for suspension of disbelief. Everyone’s realism threshold will be different. But authors do need to spend time getting the basics right, regardless of where they set their stories and what professions their characters have. And if their characters do something out of the norm, such as having an affair with their client or whatever, at least have them think about/address what the consequences might be. That’s not so much to ask.

  86. MD
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 15:06:48


    Yes, the same here. The only contemporary set in academia that I like is Jennifer Cruzie “The Cinderella Deal”. But there you have to suspend the disbelief for the “fake engagement” story to start with, so the rest just doesn’t matter ;-)

    My current personal pet peeve is a really stupid typo, which I have seen in a number books, most recently in Sylvan “Queen of Shadows”. They have programmers working on “logarithms”. It’s algorithms, people! A “logarithm” is a math function you get on a calculator. An “algorithm” is essentially a way to make a computer do something. Where are the editors there?

    On top of that, you won’t find a programmer these days who would say that they are working on “an algorithm”. Really. It’s “code”, or “program”, or maybe “a piece of software”, if you want to be fancy. Much less chance to make a typo, too!

  87. Carin
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 15:16:08

    The comments make for interesting reading, because I’m oblivious to many of the errors that are bugging the heck out of the rest of you. It sure does bug me when authors get something I DO know about wrong, though.

    I generally avoid romances featuring prof/student or upper and lower rank military. It just really makes me uncomfortable. I love the Cat & Bones series by Jeaniene Frost, but I had a hard time with the transition from trainer/student to lovers. It just left a bad taste in my mouth.

    I’m a foster parent and my pet peeve is authors who use “bouncing around in foster care” as instant angst. I know it does happen, and I know there are foster parents out there that just don’t really know (or maybe care) what they are doing. However, there are many of us who are trying really hard to do right by our kids – and by that I mean our foster kids.

    It warms my heart to read books where authors acknowledge there are all kinds of families. In particular, if I’m remembering right, Jill Shalvis’ Animal series coming out now features 3 (now adult) foster brothers. It’s not a huge plot point, but I love that they love their foster father.

  88. Magdalen
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 15:28:32

    And for the lawyers on this thread, here’s an amusing snippet of a case report sent out by my state Disciplinary Board. They summarized the facts of this decision by the Illinois Disciplinary Commission. Basically, a female lawyer said, “Sure, why not?” when a former married boyfriend told her he’d hooked up with a woman on named Chablis. Only he forgot to tell Chablis that he was married. The attorney thinks it’s a straightforward case, until she gets to court and talks to Chablis. The “client” gets annoyed and long, long story short, he’s arrested, his wife gets a phone call and they get divorced.

    Here, then, are the helpful tips from my state’s Disciplinary Board (filed under: stuff lawyers really should keep in mind…):

    Although Ms. Murawski was not disciplined, a few lessons appear from the case:

    1. Representing a married former paramour “as a friend” is probably a bad idea.
    2. Representing a married former paramour in a domestic dispute with another former paramour “as a friend” is definitely a bad idea.
    3. Representing a married former paramour with anger issues in a domestic dispute with another former paramour named Chablis he met while trolling as a single man is absolutely a bad idea.
    4. Not asking your married former paramour with anger issues why he wants you to file a protective order against a woman named Chablis is a very bad idea.
    5. Calling your married former paramour’s wife to explain that her husband is in jail and that you are filing a protective order against him because of his behavior in a protective order case you filed against another former paramour named Chablis he met on cannot possibly have seemed like a good idea at the time.

    Best part about it for me?: You can’t make this stuff up.

  89. Michelle
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 15:46:10

    As a physician, one of the best ways to lose your license is sexual contact with a patient or a patient’s family member. I remember there was one discussion about a book where a pediatrician(hero) fell in love with a patient’s mom(heroine). When I raised the concern that the doctor should lose his license and this is a big, fricking no-no. I was told I was missing a beautiful story. Uggh.

    Seems to me obvious like don’t make the hero a kitten torturer. But to each there own.

    By the way Jane have you read Sarah Caudwell’s books? She was a Brittish Barrister. I don’t know how accurate they are but I love those books. (They also have the best titles: Thus Was Adonis Murdered, The Sirens Sang of Murder etc)

  90. Colleen
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 16:40:47

    I’m not one for straight up contemporaries as a rule, I’m more of a historical gal. But when I have picked up the occassional contemporary the thing that has made me stark-raving crazy is if you have a heroine who is over the age of 20 and is a “still” a virgin.

    Most of the time it means that drives the entire story because how in the world can she “still” be a virgin??? OMG something must be wrong with her and it just must be disposed of!!! /sarcasam

    Lest you misunderstand, this is not about religion or being conservative or anything preachy like that – it’s because in my experience and those of my friends, most of us were closer to 30 (in a few cases, over 30) when we lost our virginity. School and work for most of us took priority – we wanted to establish ourselves before finding that right guy (and I’m not talking marriage here – just the guy that we could take time to trust and grow to be comfortable with in that way – I’m sure one night stands are a hoot and a half – they just aren’t for me or most of my friends) and really, that’s okay – it’s okay to have a modern day heroine who is secure in who she is, who is waiting for pratical (and yes, even romantic “I want it to be with The One” reasons) who is over the age of 20.

    And if anyone knows of any, please share!!! Otherwise I might just be forced to write my own and I’m not sure anyone wants that :)

  91. Ridley
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 16:54:38

    @Colleen: Well, you’re all statistical outliers, then. In the US, 92% of women have had sex by age 24, with the overwhelming majority doing so in high school.

    I don’t think something like this qualifies as “contemporroneous.” That’s romance reflecting contemporary society pretty accurately.

    If you want to see virgin heroines where it’s not seen as unusual, read a Harlequin. It’s one of my major complaints, actually.

  92. chris booklover
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 16:54:50

    Colleen @89: Authors feel the need to justify this scenario because some readers – including some who post at this site – object strongly to virgin heroines in contemporary romances, claiming that they are not “realistic.” Obviously views on this issue differ.

  93. Emily
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:14:10

    This is my fourth and final try trying to post this.
    I hated Brenna’s The Moon That Night, where the ex Marines constantly referred to themselves and each other as “soldier”. I always heard that Marines are Marines and soliders are in the army. True? How would Marines or ExMarines feel about that?
    Same book the heroine is an art restorer with no college and limited training. This was sketchy to me.
    Next Vision in White Carter is a teacher, whose biggest problem is grading papers. He has no worries about any student, no complaining parents, no test score problems, no ten year problems, etc. I know dozens teachers and none of them have jobs where nothing bad happens and the only parent we see throws herself at him for “saving” her son. Sheesh!
    finally also in Vision in White Carter complains that he wasn’t close enough to his family when at Yale. I used to drive through New Haven and Greenwhich to go to college. Thats about a 50 minutes on an average day. Thats not a bad commute for college students who often have to go hours and hours to get home. I think if I didn’t travel it myself I would think it was some long distance, possibly better by plane.

  94. Jane
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:15:07

    @Colleen The virgin is well represented in the Harlequin Presents. I read those monthly. Virginity is generally a highly prized commodity in that line.

  95. Jane
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:19:16

    @Emily I’m sorry. Our spam filter can be overly aggressive. Thank you for your persistence though. I hate the idea of the dratted spam filter turning away commenters.

  96. rachel
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:34:55

    My biggest problem in contemporaries is the use of language as well as description of fashion. Since I’m in the same age range as most contemporary heroes/heroines I tend to notice when the characters use silly or outdated slang. ‘Bling-bling’, ‘homey’ or ‘va-jay-jay’ make me groan and feel embarrassed for the author. Another thing that can take me right out of a book is when the heroine is described as fashionable then is described as wearing cargo pants or Uggs!!!

  97. Emily
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:44:31

    I didn’t read the list, but I live in DC and worked in politics and there are almost always large, gaping errors when discussing a rather specialized filed. Decisions about running for office or the mysterious powers of Congress drive me wild. Running for office involves, consultants, pollsters, and most importantly fundraisers. You will not be a serious candidate for elected national office of any kind without consulting all of those people. I read one where Members of Congress could decide whether to prosecute an individual for crimes committed and I wanted to scream. Members of Congress have no executive functions. They can’t decide to prosecute individual citizens. I actually admired Marie Force’s books set in DC involving a Senator and his Chief of Staff because the details were so in-line with the dynamics of a Congressional Staff.

  98. Sarah J
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:52:02


    The only book that comes to mind is one of Nora Roberts’ Donovan Legacy books. I think it was the one with Anastasia and Boone, but I can’t remember the title. I think the hero was surprised but the heroine told him to chill out.

    The whole “OMG she’s had sex, that whore!” or “OMG she’s a virgin, what’s wrong with her?” thing bugs the hell out of me. It seems wrong to denigrate either choice. That being said, I’d expect to see a larger number of virgins in historicals and sexually active women in contemporaries. I would just like to see more of heroines owning their sexuality, be it to have crazy jungle sex at nineteen or wait until their thirties.

    I think authors ought to get the big things right for sure, and smaller details as much as possible, but I don’t mind small, non-essential errors. I also really appreciate when authors include an afterward to explain “in the book I said x, but y is what really happened. I made the change because…”

    Speaking of consulting a professional, does anyone here happen to know 14th century Ottoman history really well? I know Arabic name construction, but the information I could find on Turkish name construction for non-elites was a best guess for a (personal name) bin (father’s name) style. Getting the hero’s name wrong seems like a bad start…

  99. Emily
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:52:56


    As a 23 (about to be 24) yr old virgin, I’ve been reassured. I’ve been thinking something is wrong with me for the past 3 years or so because being in the V club is soooo rare at my age, but I’ve meet at least two who are older than me and hold remind myself about them when I’m feeling ridiculous at my status. w

  100. Lynn S.
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:53:44

    @Ridley: And we all know no one would ever lie to a statistician.

  101. MaryK
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:56:42

    @Courtney Milan:

    Yes, of course ______ happens. And you know who it doesn’t happen to in my book? Heroes and heroines. Because it’s deeply irresponsible and utterly, completely wrong. In my mind, that’s like romanticizing drunk driving.

    Yeah, this. For me, it’s not about whether or not _____ happens or how likely it is ______ will happen. Romance is usually about people who aren’t average either in looks or situation or temperament. I can read about virgins or rich teachers or helicopter-flying, millionaire ostrich farmers if the writing makes them plausible.

    What bothers me is when characters do things that would make them incompetent or scum in their fields. It’s a characterization issue. All of a sudden the intelligent, sympathetic hero/heroine is a sleazy jerk to any reader remotely acquainted with the field.

  102. Ridley
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 18:01:40

    @Lynn S.: I trust statistics a hell of a lot more than “Well, me and my friends had this experience, so that must be the norm.” I’m going to weight an aggregate of thousands of answers over a couple of individuals’ opinions.

    I’m not saying normal women can’t be 30 year old virgins, but it’s hardly fair to say contemporary romance is making an unfair generalization when it assumes they’re quite rare.

  103. Sarah J
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 18:04:00

    @ Rachel Yes I notice this too! It can be really jarring. Really, what is this with the cargo pants?

    The other thing is when authors tend to write twenties-range characters as having the musical preferences of someone much older. Some groups like the Beatles or U2 might carry over, but for the most part it seems safer to say “rock” and let the reader fill the particular songs in.

  104. Christine M.
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 19:26:06

    @Emily: I actually know enough 20+ yo virgins (I’m in my late 20s) to think that those stats might be off (that or it could be a Canadian thing ;) ).

  105. JMM
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 19:38:50

    Social workers are too often presented as being emeshed in their client’s lives to the point where they practically adopt them. Not acceptable.

    As for virgins.. what I object to is the way they’re (sometimes) portrayed. Often they don’t decide to be celibate; they just have no sexual feelings until they meet the hero – then BAM! Sex, sex, sex – sometimes with no condom.

    Most of the women I know have feelings, and do know what a man’s penis looks like and what it can be used for.

  106. Charlotte
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 19:45:08

    To me, it is about worldbuilding and good a grasp the author has of the world she has built. Any book is a world in it self and there are rules there that the author has set down.

    HPs were mentioned upthread and they are contemporaries where the worldbuilding includes a lot of yachts and virginity. Not an accurate depiction of reality, but a consistent use of worldbuilding.

    If we take lawyers as an example, I think it comes down to how the worldbuilding is done by the author. Two types (or extremes):

    1. Some authors think to themselves: “Hmm, I want a heroine who wears secy pencil skirts and sexy heels… I know! I’ll make her a lawyer!” and this is generally reflected in their worldbuilding choices and the general accuracy in the plot. This, I find, is usually revealed early in the book, where the authors sets up the parameters of the world and the characters.
    2. Others authors use the lawyer heroine in a way that is, for lack of a better word, realistic. Again, this is reflected in (and is a reflection of) the worldbuilding. Here realism and accuracy is a much more significant part of the worldbuilding.

    Two different entry points to a story, which each carries different consequences for the worldbuilding and thereby accuracy -and expected accuracy.
    I judge books on whether they achieve what they set out to do. If a book is written as the second type, highly realistic worldbuilding, then I’m going to be much more sensitive to flaws.
    If it is written in the first mode -more fantastical, non-realistic – then I’m not going to judge as harshly.

    My point is that none of it is realism. All of it is worldbuilding. But some worldbuilding relies more heavily on realism than other and that’s when the details come into play.

    I do not expect realism, I expect a consistent and thought out worldbuilding, and books become wallbangers when the author doesn’t know where she finds herself on the scale and violates her own worldbuilding. This is shoddy writing/creation and then I’m out.

    Back to the lawyer examples. I really enjoy Julie James’ contemporaries with lawyers and I think her worldbuilding is highly realistic, and therefore I would be fairly critical of any errors in law.
    But take the old “marriage-by-will” trope and I’m fine, because the world is clearly built with room for weird laws, and often from the beginning, thereby giving me a good feel for the worldbuilding from the get-go.

    Problem is, of course, that you don’t really know what the author does wth her world until you are reading it, and it can be difficult to weed out what annoys you.

  107. Ellie
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 20:07:28

    To add to the list of ethical breaches in books about lawyers, I recently read one where the lawyer intentionally lost the case because his client was guilty. And that was seen by all involved, the lawyer hero and the heroine, as a good, ethical thing. Just no. I can suspend disbelief for 25-year-old law firm partners, the will trope, and courtroom histrionics. But an author should at least have some rudimentary knowledge of a lawyer’s job and legal ethics if she’s going to write about legal ethics.

    In other fields that I know less about, though, an otherwise good book will let me turn a blind eye to such things. In Nora Roberts’ “Sea Swept” the heroine is a social worker, and the hero is the guardian of one of her client’s. I can’t imagine such a relationship is anything but taboo and highly unethical. Still love the book, though.

  108. Claudia Dain
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 20:33:53

    What a fascinating conversation! I have a few pet issues–and I get annoyingly passionate about them. You’ve been forewarned.

    One: disabled characters. I have some people in my life who have been either physically disabled or mentally disabled. I find it morally offensive to identify a person first by their disability and second by their actual individuality. This was addressed earlier in the thread and all I want to add is, “Ditto.”

    Two: the entire issue of adoption. I happen to be adopted. I am not an empty shell looking for my “real” parents. I am a happy, well-adjusted woman who was adored as a child and had a wonderful upbringing. I am not lost. I am not suffering. Please stop writing “me” as if I have a problem that only being reunited with complete strangers will fix.

  109. LJD
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 21:01:58

    lucky for me, I:
    1) work in a really, really obscure field and have never encountered a fictional character in said field.
    2) I live in Toronto. I don’t think many books are set in Toronto unless the author is familiar with Toronto. And there don’t seem to be that many books set here to start with. Although I wish there were :)

  110. DM
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 21:06:34


    You are so right. Lara Adrian gets Boston totally wrong. When I read her first book, I actually kept flipping to the beginning to double check that it was supposed to be set in Boston, because the details rang so false.

    I believe that even when readers don’t know enough about a place or a subject to identify the errors, they can often sense the lack of authenticity. The Boston Lara Adrian writes about never feels like a real place.

  111. Courtney Milan
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 21:21:36

    @Magdalen: I would read that.

    I think recusal is damned sexy.

  112. Christine M.
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 21:22:03

    @LJD: They’re not romance but the first in Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Underworld series partly takes place on Toronto. And the background of her Nadia Stafford series (also not romance) is Ontario, if I remember well. That’s all the book sI can think of right now. :)

  113. Magdalen
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 22:05:00

    @Courtney Milan: Feel free to get in touch if you want to read it sooner rather than whenever I get around to self-pubbing it (probably late 2012).

    My father, who was at various times a law professor, a corporate in-house lawyer, our city’s lawyer, and the assistant attorney general of NYS in charge of opinions, used to say that he didn’t trust any lawyer who claimed to have the answer at hand. Dad’s theory was that the law was too complicated to be sure you knew the answer even if you were sure you did. If nothing else, you had to go back and double-check the law hadn’t changed in the meantime.

    I know there will be mistakes in my books because I won’t realize something — some detail about geography, food, fashion, or the law — has changed when I wasn’t looking. I’m willing to research everything I can think of, and I run all my legal questions past the smartest lawyer I know (alas, not my dad, who died a decade ago), but everything is still in the category of “to the best of my knowledge.”

    I wonder if some of the comments here are really faulting the writing. Surely a skillful writer can craft the mood of a job or office without committing to so many details that her ignorance is revealed. (God, I hope so, because I’ve made a hero the CEO of a closely-held corporation and I’m so going to hate being told all the mistakes I made!)

  114. JL
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 22:26:34

    @LJD: @Christine M.:
    Michelle Rowen’s demon books are set in Toronto, although the city is barely featured. She doesn’t get it wrong, she just doesn’t get it right either. The vibrancy that makes Toronto unique doesn’t really show up and there aren’t any real landmarks featured.

    My favourite book of all time, Carol Shield’s Unless, is set in my former neighbourhood. It got it so right that some of the scenes had me crying on a plane because they were so inescapably real (it’s a sad book, not a romance).

    Since I moved, I’m hunting for some Vancouver-set romances or UFs. Any recommendations?

  115. ami
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 22:35:07

    Eh. I’m really not that picky but then again I’m not an expert in any field. I just suspend my belief a lot since it’s required to watch TV nowadays ahahah. I wondered if Julie James lawyers were accurate though because some of the scenes felt like they would not fly over in a courtroom, but I don’t know any better so I just assume the artist can take special license.

    I also assume what I assume until proven wrong. For this one book, I thought the author made up female gladitors but when a one star review mentioned this, the author chimed in she had a PHD in that particular time period and in fact female gladiators DID exist and there were more than one. I was blown away and it was really cool but it didn’t take away from the story when I believed it to be false.

  116. Ridley
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 22:44:38

    @DM: I also forgot to mention that she used cardinal points in her book. She referred to the “east side” of the city at one point and I thought 1. that’s the Atlantic Ocean 2. when the streets are meandering cow paths, nobody knows which cardinal direction they’re going in. Saying “head 3 blocks east” to a Bostonian would net you a blank stare. I mean, 95S goes northeast for a stretch.

    Though, to be fair, that’s like realizing you’re using an Americanism in language. It’s hard to realize it’s not universal.

  117. RBA
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 23:20:34

    I HATE it when authors (mainly American) try and write Australian characters. It seems they base them on Australian characters from American television shows. The problem with that is those characters are almost always American actors reading American scripts that made up a total fantasy version of what Australia is.
    For example, Jill Shalvis having her “Australian” hero saying “G’day” at the end of every conversation. Uh, it means “hello”!!
    Also, Roxanne St. Claire’s Australian hero who kept saying, “God save the Queen,” whenever he felt emotional. Uh, we’re not BRITISH – and even they don’t say that!

    Then you have the American editors who take a perfectly accurate Australian manuscript and Americanise it before they publish it.
    For example, they get rid of the metric system, replace Australian foods with American equivalents, rename car brands, clothing types.

    It’s not even a case of writing what you know. Australian authors write what they know, and then American editors decide it doesn’t fit with the American stereotype of what Australia is.

  118. RBA
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 00:04:01

    Oh, and then there was Janice Kay Johnson who had Australian schoolchildren on summer holidays in the middle of the Southern Hemisphere’s WINTER.
    This is basic common knowledge, basic common sense. There’re these things called Google and Wikipedia now. Makes basic fact-checking very easy to do!

  119. SAO
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 00:27:03

    Yes! I grew up in the Boston area and I remember being in Philadelphia and we passed 4rd (or whatever) Street and wanted to go to 63rd (or whatever a lot higher number) street. We walked and walked. The idea that all the streets were the same distance apart and that there were 59 blocks between 4th and 63rd was something that took a while to dawn on us Bostonians.

    The New Yorkers heard this story with incredulity.

  120. Rosario
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 01:13:14

    @Tara Lynx:

    @Robin Amery Precisely. People generally talk because they want to communicate. Speaking a language that the other person can’t understand is rather pointless, unless, as you say, one is *trying* to exclude them.

    That’s exactly it. I can understand someone switching languages in the middle of a sentence if they’re completely certain the other person speaks both well (you should hear my conversations with my sister, we switch between English and Spanish practically every other word!), but not if the other person won’t understand. Like you say, what’s the point of that?

    I could *maybe* believe a character lapsing into their native language when severely wounded or very sick, too–but as soon as they are semi-aware, they should have enough control to switch back.

    The only time I unconsciously slipped into Spanish was while watching Uruguay – Ghana in the last World Cup. In terms of stress, practically the equivalent of being severely injured, lol! My British friends were quite amused.

  121. HellyBelly
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 05:06:18

    @Robin Amery:

    Your comment made me think of how often Swedish women are named “Helga” in books and films. That is more of a German name to me. (Even though my Grandma was a Helga, born in 1912).

  122. Tara Lynx
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 06:29:45


    All those vuvuzelas COUNT as serious physical injury! ;)

    Yes, it’s different when both people speak both languages. (Though even then, it’d still be bad practice to write their dialog that way in a book, because many of your readers probably don’t.) But the occasional foreign sentence or phrase just to show how extremely French/Italian/German/whatever the character is is just lazy writing.

  123. Maili
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 07:45:06


    Also, Roxanne St. Claire’s Australian hero who kept saying, “God save the Queen,” whenever he felt emotional. Uh, we’re not BRITISH – and even they don’t say that!

    Oh, my goodness. That made me laugh so much. You’re right, British people don’t usually say it. Not even when emotional. Only times it happens are when some men (usually elderly, English and tipsy) toast after a speech at special-occasion meals; when drunks sing the anthem at a pub after a good World Cup match, or when there’s a call for all to sing the anthem.

    Reading those comments reminded me of one thing I dislike about some British M&B authors: their heroines are so outdated that I sometimes check copyright dates to see if their stories were written during the 1960s or 1970s. Mini Coopers, cottages in the Cotswolds, flats in Mayfair, afternoon teas, touch-type secretaries, heroines’ favourite pop musicians are the ones my mother’s generation likes (Cliff Richard, Richard Clayton, Lulu, Sandie Shaw, Adam Faith, etc), and heroines’ younger brothers are ungrateful school boarders. Very 1960s.

  124. valor
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 07:57:58

    I had a little one, once. It was really a tiny mistake, but because it was repeated over and over again, it completely ruined the book for me. It’s a simple mistake, especially for a person who has only lived on one coast to make, but radio stations in the East of the US are W stations (WXYZ, e.g.) and radio stations in the West are K stations (KXYZ). There are a few very notable exceptions, famous stations that were grandfathered in before the rules took effect, but there are, I think less than five of them.
    So when you have a woman from NYC working at radio station KXYZ, it is distracting and annoying, and makes me angry every time this person’s job is mentioned (and it was a workplace romance.) Little details matter, even in weird professions like radio DJing.

  125. DS
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 08:06:26

    @JL: Not romances but mainly UF Tanya Huff’s Smoke trilogy is set in Vancouver. Never having been there I cannot say if they are accurate as to place. The emotional relationships in this series are between men. Her Blood series (basis of TV show Blood Ties) is set in Toronto (where I have been a couple of times and really loved).

    Jes Battis also set his OSI series in Vancouver. It’s UF and I’ve read the first one which came out in 2008 and never finished either the second or third one– can’t remember which. I may give it another shot sometime.

  126. Robin Bayne
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 08:46:47

    Wow, this is a great thread! But now I am terrified of picking careers for my next set of characters : >

  127. Lisa J
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 09:33:06

    @Lucy Woodhull: Also, ask the assistant if she wants to have a relationship with the CEO. I’m betting most would shudder and throw up a little in their mouths. I am an executive assistant for the CEO/Chairman of our company and I know way too much about him to ever be in a romantic relationship with him. On the other hand, I love the boss/admin trope. I can’t explain why, but I have a hard time passing up these books.

  128. JL
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 09:42:37

    Thanks for the recs!

  129. Isobel Carr
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 10:09:25

    When you know too much about a subject, seeing it mishandled can ruin an otherwise good story. For example, I quite enjoyed Hawaii 5-O’s first season. This season however has gone off the rails for me. First they introduced a DHS “officer” who is a profiler. Um, I work for DHS. We don’t have profilers, and if we did, they’d be agents (ICE), not officers (CBP). And then this week their investigation should have been done by NCIS (or at least in conjunction with), but there was no mention of the agency that would have been lead on targeted assassinations of Seals.

    I can suspend my disbelief only so far… even for Alex O’Loughlin and Daniel Dae Kim.

  130. Janet W
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 11:12:24

    Along with hating to see ex-military (hello, unless it’s an honourable discharge, it’s going to be former), my other pet peeve is seeing Seal instead of SEAL. It’s never Capital/lower case, it’s always capitalized. I’ve worked with a couple former SEALs and whenever they saw it in print, I’d get the do I look like a small marine mammal? Uh no.

  131. Lena
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 13:20:43

    “my other pet peeve is seeing Seal instead of SEAL.”

    These things bother me, too. I don’t know if there is a reason for this particular case. But I do know that once my publisher and I argued over capitalizing “Navy,” with respect to the armed forces. With Chicago style, so I’m told, the word “navy” isn’t capitalized. Of course the author doesn’t get the final say, but he/she gets the complaints and the publisher never has to worry about these things. It still bothers me to this day. I would have written “The Navy” in caps throughout the book. I prefer capitalizing all branches of the military.

  132. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 13:26:17

    I got that with a recent one, where I talked about the Prime Minister of the UK. It’s really tricky but we finally found the answer. If it’s the UK, Prime Minister gets capitals. Anywhere else, it doesn’t.
    I don’t know why. Frankly, I don’t care, I’m just glad we found the answer, even if it made me whimper a bit.
    Oh, and the Queen is always the Queen (God bless her! And please let her make 100 because Charles? OMG)

  133. Janet W
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 13:51:15

    Doh! I meant to say, hello, unless it’s an DIShonourable discharge, it’s going to be former … sorry about that!

  134. JMM
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 14:22:34

    *the entire issue of adoption. I happen to be adopted. I am not an empty shell looking for my “real” parents. I am a happy, well-adjusted woman who was adored as a child and had a wonderful upbringing. I am not lost. I am not suffering. Please stop writing “me” as if I have a problem that only being reunited with complete strangers will fix.*

    THANK YOU, Ms. Dain. I find the entire “adoption is the ultimate EVIL!” trope in entertainment to be disgusting and sickening.

    (I find that romance especially glamorizes teen pregnancy.)

    I am tired of characters who either “have a terrible hole that will never be filled without finding my REAL parents!” or “I gave up my child for adoption just because I was underage and homeless! What kind of monster AM I?” The condemnation birth mothers who surrender their babies receive is SICKENING.

    I’d like a little balance, please?

    I’ve read a few books in which supporting characters are mentally disabled, and they are presented as lovable toddlers who are easy to care for. As the sibling of two disabled people (one deceased), I can tell you, it is often hard and I have more than once wanted to RUN AWAY. (One more reason I will never be a romance heroine!)

  135. hapax
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 14:36:23

    Biggest peeve is any professional breaking confidentiality.

    I see it all the time. The author needs for the hero(ine) to find out a particular piece of information, and trots the character off to the hospital, the law office, the school, the library, whatever; and lo and behold, the friendly staff nurse / paralegal / school admin / librarian / etc. will immediately disgorge the pertinent personal details necessary to move the plot along.

    No. That isn’t going to happen. Not without people getting fired, and counting their blessings that they aren’t getting sued.

    For heaven’s sake, I can’t pick up my daughter’s eyeglasses at the optician’s without her standing right there giving me permission; and yet these so-called professionals are gabbing away to total strangers about someone’s miscarriage / divorce / thesis / fondness for books on poisons / any other maguffin that the author is to lazy to reveal in a plausible way!

  136. Janine
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 22:36:56

    Contemporary inaccuracies bother me more than historical ones, because they are easier for me to spot. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t read that many contemporaries because whereas when I read historicals I’m not always sure if something is an error, with contemporaries I’m often more confident of my knowledge and therefore the errors seem more glaring.

    The #1 contemperroneous thing that drives me up the wall in the romance genre is the ditzy scientist. My dad is a physicist and most of our family friends were scientists; I have also worked as a laboratory assistant to medical researchers in the past. I feel that I can say with authority that though scientists may be many things, ditzy isn’t among them.

    Scientists are more logical and well, scientific, than the average person. A brilliant physicist would not set out to conceive an average intelligence child by sleeping with a jock, like the heroine of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Nobody’s Baby But Mine does. She would understand that (A) just because a man is an athlete doesn’t mean he is below average in intelligence (a totally unscientific conclusion to draw) and (B) even if he were, genetics don’t necessarily work that way.

    Scientists can be socially awkward. Some are introverted and not all of them communicate well. But that doesn’t make them airheads. I wish I understood where this misperception of scientists comes from. What is it about the rest of us that creates a need in us to laugh at scientists? Is it that their smarts intimidate others? Or are the writers just totally ignorant about them?

    While I’m at it, I’ll also complain about academia is portrayed in the genre. If I had a dime for every time I read about twenty-three year old PhDs with tenure…

    Lastly, I am also annoyed by the many errors I encounter whenever I read about filmmaking. This is one of the most written about industries in existence. It’s not difficult or even boring to research.

    About the only book I’ve read that seemed to me to get the movie industry right was Butterfly Tattoo. When I read that book, I felt so grateful that finally, an author had actually done her research.

  137. Joyce
    Oct 06, 2011 @ 00:14:46

    It’s sounding like you should avoid anything that you have some experience with, whether it’s a career, a specific location, or a culture.

    For me, it’s Asian culture appropriation — it sticks out like a sore thumb. I love Laura Kinsale, but all the references to Japanese culture in the Shadow and the Star were really bad stereotypes. Similarly, Emma Holly’s Demon series are always fun reads, but the use of random Asian attributes in the Yama drive me nuts.

  138. Evangeline
    Oct 06, 2011 @ 04:42:30

    My pet peeve in contemporary romance has to do with our multicultural (American) society.

    I don’t do small town romances because the implications of such are weird me out, and neither do I understand the plots that feature a city-bred or city-transplant who moves to a homogeneous small town and doesn’t notice how samey everyone is, and/or doesn’t miss the things one can see, or buy, or experience, or the people one can meet, in a big city (not just NYC or LA…even in nice-sized suburbs/cities of near major cities). And UGH…even though this is a movie, I hated The Proposal with a fiery passion for making the only character of color purely comic relief (with added laughs at his accented English!).

    Another pet peeve is the biracial or multi-racial protagonist. A) I’m not mixed up or confused about where I fit in and B) Being part black or part Asian or part-Native American does not give “flavor” to an otherwise “white” character. For the most part, too many bi- or multi-racial characters I’ve read aren’t real…they are either part-nonwhite for some bizarre race-based angst, they exist (usually the only POC) to try to show a multicultural society, or they are written culturally “white” because the author was either uncomfortable getting under the skin of a person of color, or was uncomfortable even thinking that a person of color might have their own cultural values (while still being an individual).

    But my main peeve? Sports romances with little to no characters of color. I don’t know if I watch the same games as the rest of you, but black players make up the majority of the NFL and NBA, and I’m certain there are a lot of Hispanic/Latino and Asian baseball players, not to mention the rise in black coaches (NFL/NBA). It strains my credulity and makes my eyebrows rise that no one even notes this when it comes to this particular segment of contemporary romance.

    ETA: Impoverished or broke characters in contemporary romance! I literally feel my blood boil just thinking about how broke characters are written. I forget the book’s title, but I had to set it aside to laugh long and hard at the heroine who was a struggling single mother and worked at a greasy spoon-type restaurant, but could not afford daycare, so she brought her child to work with her. I guess it would have ruined the Cinderella fantasy to show the heroine traipsing down to public assistance to apply for food stamps or welfare or Section 8 and enroll her child in gov’t-assisted childcare (like HeadStart). As someone who grew up in material want, and was raised by a mother who fought tooth and nail so that it wouldn’t be my lot in life, it actually infuriates me that poverty is merely used so the hero can rescue to heroine from her struggles (and welfare is taboo).

  139. JMM
    Oct 06, 2011 @ 09:33:31

    *Bows to Evangeline*

    Yep. The whole “small town” trope is sooooo annoying to me. There is almost never any mention of gossip, boredom, or the pressure to conform.

    No, it’s all quirky characters who fight to babysit heroine’s offspring (for free) so she can fool around with hot “EX Seal” sheriff. Prying into something that isn’t your business is considered concern instead of… nosiness.

  140. The Good, The Bad and The Unread » PONDERING:
    Oct 06, 2011 @ 13:04:22

    […] over at Dear Author has written a column about why she avoids lawyers in fiction. That’s why I’m starting to avoid historical romances. They hurt. They are an insult to the […]

  141. Courtney Milan
    Oct 06, 2011 @ 15:26:36

    @Janine: Oh, ditto on Nobody’s Baby but Mine.

    A freakishly brilliant scientist who wanted a less-smart kid would say “Huzzah for reversion to the mean!” and leave it at that.

  142. Turophile
    Oct 06, 2011 @ 21:08:05

    I’m a lawyer and I too often have issues reading lawyer books. I just read “unwrapped” by Jaci Burton whose books I generally like but was so off on so many of the legal details. (I ranted it about on Goodreads but won’t bore you folks here.) I should just know better than to read lawyer-related romance novels unless written by another lawyer.

  143. Review: Bad Boys Do, by Victoria Dahl | Read React Review
    Oct 07, 2011 @ 06:56:54

    […] Dahl captures academic life perfectly. Dear Author recently posted about difficulties in appreciating books written about your own professional field. Not only does Dahl get university life down, but she captures the specific experience of teaching and working as an adjunct at a community college, which is not the same at working at State U, or Ivy League U. I usually can’t read romances about professors having relationships with students (in real life, it’s usually a middle aged man throwing over the mother of his children for a younger grad student. Not romantic.), but Dahl finessed this perfectly: it’s a non-credit night class for professionals. […]

  144. Vivi Andrews
    Oct 07, 2011 @ 12:11:53

    I avoid books about Alaska or Hawaii. I know the exotic locales are sexy, but to me they are home and the constant little errors kill any enjoyment I may have gotten. (If you’re going to make up a fictitious Hawaiian island, please at least use letters that are part of the language…)

  145. KKJ
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 00:17:52

    A little late to the party here – and a little surprised that there aren’t any rants about this yet…

    Things You Can Learn About Journalism and Public Relations from Romance Novels:

    1. Journalism and public relations are glamorous, fast-track careers, providing endless opportunities for dancing with celebrities in trendy nightclubs.

    2. Prominent display of girlie parts is always professionally acceptable. This allows for minimal wardrobe changes when working undercover as a prostitute and/or being seduced by a source/client.

    3. All reporters are investigative journalists who write about Serious Issues. Also, all reporters and PR hacks have a Former College Buddy Cop Friend who provides tips on ongoing investigations.

    4. The latest i-gadgets are always provided by employers to facilitate the recording of off-the-record interviews, accessing Secret Government Databases via voice command while engaged in a car chase, or capturing hours of high-def hidden-camera video to be instantly uploaded to a blog. Likewise, expense accounts are always open-ended and and alcoholic beverages are claimable.

    5. PR clients can generally be grouped in the following categories: Greek shipping tycoons, nightclub owners with ties to the Mafia, sports stars with drug problems, secretly gay actors/politicians, and shy billionaires coerced into charity bachelor auctions.

    Trust me – these important facts are not taught in journalism school. I’m still bitter about all that time I had to waste learning AP style and inverted pyramids, dammit.

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