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Infidelity and the Romance Genre

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WARNING THERE WILL BE SOME SPOILERS FOR SHADOWFLAME by Diann Sylvan, a July 2011, release. I recommended her 2010 release but this book was the inspiration for this piece.  In February, we posted a guest piece by author Julia Spencer-Fleming entitled Julia Spencer Fleming on Infidelity: Adulterer. Cheater. Unfaithful. Home-wrecker. Other woman. In romance, infidelity is often used to describe the villain in the book whether it is the terrible ex boyfriend or husband or the faithless whore of a wife or girlfriend.

The romance between the two main characters, Episcoplian Priest, Claire, and Chief of Police, Russ, is forbidden because Russ is married. At the beginning of the series, Russ is happily married. Spencer-Fleming describes the dynamic this way:

However, the most interesting part–to me–of the relationship between Russ and Clare is their attempt to not cheat. To draw the line and stick to it, even when they’re not sure where the line is. To honor their commitments and struggle with their feelings.

In 2009, we posted a poll about adultery. The post generated 79 comments. These are the poll results.  (Some of you long term members of the DA community commented on this post so go check out your 2009 opinions).

When is adultery acceptable in a romance novel? (multiple answers acceptable)

View Results

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Most of the commenters stated that there was no hardline regarding infidelity in romance but there were others who stated that if a character is unfaithful, then they doubt that person could be committed to another person.  I don’t seek out books that have infidelity in them, but I’m no longer the hardliner I once was.  Having said that, how infidelity is treated within the story makes a difference.

I read four books this year that made me start thinking about whether I want to have infidelity in my romances and if so, how I want them portrayed.

Let me start with the Daphne Clair books.  Daphne Clair is a recommended author in the Amazon thread HP’s that you like? Clair is an interesting author and some of her works have been digitized but the two novels I’m going to talk about were published in 1984 and 1995.  Marriage Under Fire is about a wife who cheats on her husband and A Perfect Marriage is about a husband who cheats on her wife. Both books explore the why of the cheating.  In MUF, the heroine was married very young (I think 18) to a man in his 30s.  She hasn’t really had any identity other than wife and then mother.  She gets a job outside of the home and flourishes.  Her husband doesn’t understand and in fact demands she quit the job.  Hurt, she turns to this dynamic young man who had hired her for the position.  She spends more time with him and eventually sleeps with him one afternoon.  (I kept thinking she wouldn’t up to the point that she did and even then I wondered because I thought maybe she just kissed him, but in a later scene, she admits to having sex with him).

In APM, the husband is avidly pursued by a young female lawyer.  The hero and heroine married because they liked each other. They were a bit afraid of deeper emotions, the hero having lost his fiancee and the heroine having fallen in love with a married man at a young age.  The heroine never felt truly comfortable with her own sexuality and the marriage turned into more a friendship than a relationship between lovers.  The husband begins to look outside the marriage and at one point actually tells the heroine that he has fallen in love with another woman.  He had been having sex with the other women for almost six weeks.  He even moves out of the house and takes this other woman to meet his family.

APM is almost painful to read, primarily because we see things from the betrayed wife’s point of view. She doesn’t immediately kick her husband out.  She’s loathe to see her 10 year marriage dissolve and as she’s confronted with the fact that Max is leaving her, she recognizes that part of her pain arises out the fact that she’s loved Max for a long time but was afraid to show it, afraid to get hurt.

In both stories, the couples get back together.  In APM, the hero sleeps with his wife (at the same time sleeping with this other young woman) and gets her pregnant and so he leaves the other woman. He says that he was done with the other woman even before he discovered the pregnancy and truly, the wife and the husband’s lives had been interwined for so long that he kept returning to his wife’s side and ultimately her pregnancy makes him realize how much he loves her.  Yeah, I didn’t buy it either.

In MUF, the heroine returns from her tryst to find out her husband’s father had a heart attack whilst she was enjoying some afternoon delight.  Husband punishes her with a bout of angry, emotionless sex.  She’s miserable but eventually the work past it.

In both books, the infidelity opens up new pathways of communication.  It marks and changes them, for the better, at least if you buy what the author is selling.   The couples begin to talk about why they felt their marriages had failed them and why they had failed their marriages.  I don’t know that I was convinced about their HEAs, but I did feel like the infidelity storyline had a purpose, a reason for being there.  Daphne Clair was really trying to explore why marriages work, why partners stray, and how those relationships can be repaired.

Contrast that to Tori Carrington’s Reckless Pleasures wherein the issue of infidelity is never really addressed.  The characters aren’t marked in any way by the unfaithfulness of one partner.  There is no growth of the relationship arising out of the incident of infidelity.  It was more of a prop than anything else and led to an extremely unsatisfying read. There is a marked difference in how Clair treats the subject matter and Carrington treats it.  Clair recognizes it is a combustible issue. She looks at both sides of the coin. She tries to examine the underpinnings of the character’s actions.  It is meaningful for her and she treats it respectfully.  Carrington’s portrayal of it is almost cavalier, as if it is of no import.  It’s just physical is the message that I think Carrington wanted to send; yet, at the same time, it is supposed to be the basis of the conflict.

But even Carrington’s book didn’t both me like the portrayal of infidelity in the Diann Sylvan book. Before I go on, it should be noted that the Sylvan book is a UF book and not a romance.  In the Sylvan book, Miranda and David are soulmates, chosen to be together by a mystical stone made by gods that predated their lives.  The first book, the book I recommended, is the story of their coming together.  In the second book, Miranda is to meet the other leaders in the world.  They come from all over to greet her and honor her mating with David.  Unbeknowst to Miranda, David had a longtime affair with the leader of another territory, Deven.  Deven and David used to be lovers until Deven found his mate and then David was forgotten. Heartbroken, David left and become Prime of the South.

Deven and his mate come to meet Miranda.  While Deven is visiting, David and Deven fall into bed with one another.  Being in the other’s presence causes their lust and love to rise up until they cannot think of anyone or anything besides one another.  What makes this so much worse is that when two are mated, the other can feel their sexual pleasure.  To compound things, while Deven and David are having the most orgasmic sex ever, Miranda is recovering from a near fatal wound.

But like the characters in Daphne Clair’s books, David and Deven’s connection is not just physical, but emotional as well:

“I don’t want to feel this way,” Deven murmured into David’s chest. “I want to forget we were ever in love and be content with friendship. But I don’t think I can, David. I can keep my distance and I can honor your commitment, but I can’t ever stop loving you.”

David drew back to look at him. There was such anguish in his face, and David felt it just as keenly himself even if it didn’t show. “I know,” he said. “Neither can I.”

There are three things that set me off (I know, even beyond what I have stated).  One, I never felt like the infidelity issue was ever addressed. David apologizes and promises to be faithful.  To do this, he will not be in close proximity to Deven.  Second, the mate bond was kind of made a mockery of and yet the book never addressed the potentially explosive issue of true love versus mystical pairing.  Finally, the excuses Miranda gives that it was kind of hot to think of these two men together.

What I learned from these four books is that I can read an infidelity story and still believe it is a romance.  The problem is that infidelity is such an emotionally charged topic that even some of the most sensitive treatments can fall short. Ultimately the only way the Spencer-Fleming series worked for me was that Claire and Russ did struggle with their emotional connection.  It’s not an issue that should be inserted into a book without thought and care and even then, I think authors have to be prepared for negative reaction.

In this day and age, it seems like we are being hit with unfaithful men left and right.  Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eliot Spitzer, and yes, Anthony Weiner (whose actions bring up another interesting issue as to whether emotional infidelity is worse than physical infidelity as was suggested by one commenter to the JSF post).  Infidelity stories are not ones that I actively seek out. Most of the time, I will avoid them altogether. In Clair’s case, though, and on the recommendation of other readers, I actually ordered the paper copies. In retrospect, the infidelity stories cause me more pain than joy.  I know that I find the stories without infidelity far more satisfying.  What about you?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

78 Comments

  1. M
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 05:53:00

    I wondered why the Spencer-Fleming series got a pass for adultery, while other books didn’t. Reading the review, I was just as outraged by that scenario and those characters’ choices as any other book containing adultery that has been reviewed on this site. (Not outraged at the review – just the scenario described)

    So I suppose I fall into the camp of really disliking the that kind of set-up in my casual reading. Even reading your (not exhaustive, alas) list of real life cheaters kind of makes me sick to my stomach.

  2. Jan
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 06:07:53

    If it’s handled well, I’m not against it at all. I do think that the poll should have the option for ‘somebody made a (stupid) mistake’, because that happens a lot as well. I just read a historical romance where the hero’s infidelity was the cause of their seperation years ago, and I loved reading how they worked past their differences, and found the love to forgive each other.

    Has anyone read a romance where the partner to infidel with was the hero/heroine?

    I recently read Smooth Talking Stranger, which I loved, and I do think Ella says something to the point about infidelity there, according to the lines that if you start a relationship as cheating on another relationship, that that isn’t a strong foundation for a relationship.

    Despite my penchant for romance novels, I’m actually not so traditional in my views on relationships myself, but I feel strongly that each relationship has rules and understandings that it’s built upon, and it’s not kosher to break those.

    So I guess I’m not against infidelity in romance novels, as long as it’s dealt with in a believable manner.

  3. sirisha
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 06:29:20

    I guess I’d say never. I know its real, life’s not black and white and stupid things happen etc etc.But this is is a romance novel. Its supposed to be slightly Utopian. If I want real, I’ll read another genre. Or watch TV. Or listen to my friends talk.

    That said, if written well I just maybe able to accept it in a historical – as long as h/h have not emotionally connected with each other. Or one or the other is presumed dead. I wouldn’t want to read a contemporary with this plot line regardless of what spin is put on it and on the rare occasion where its taken me by surprise i usually find i cant read on despite all my best efforts.

  4. Angela
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 07:05:13

    I have a hard time with infidelity in my books. There’s a lot of it in the world, and my personal rule on it (in real life) is ‘no cheating – you’re not happy, say it and get out.’ That tends to be my rule in books too. So, I think my hardline is the secrecy and going behind another’s back.

    Also, I think, it’s hard for me to believe that someone that’s cheated is able to remain faithful. If the cheater gets their HEA with the person they cheated on, well why wouldn’t they cheat again when things got rough. If they end up with the person they cheated with….it’s not a very good basis for a relationship.

    I’m trying to think of books where there’s been infidelity and I thought it was handled well. Only one comes to mind, Lover Eternal by JR Ward, and I know there are people that don’t agree with me on that.

    If I know a book has infidelity in it beforehand, I’ll usually avoid it. As always though, the author can take me a lot of places and make me believe. But infidelity is a tricky place to go.

  5. Mireya
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 07:16:46

    Once upon a time I was a “hardliner” and believed there was zero justification for adultery. It was either black or white. Then I fell in love, grew up, and realized that adultery is, on many instances, many shades of grey rather than black or white only. However, I have zero interest in finding adultery as a theme in a romance novel I pick for reading because in truth, I still feel very uncomfortable about it and feel that it is inherently wrong, no matter the circumstances/justification. I don’t want it “tarnishing” my romantic read no matter how well justified it may be in the book. I also find the topic sordid and frankly, I’ve had to deal with it way too much in my own life as it pertains to myself, one of my own sisters (twice she was cheated on, twice ended on divorce), and several of my closest friends (one of them got involved with a chain of married men) so you see, I’ve been too close to it and from different perspectives to want it anywhere the books I read to forget about reality. That is why I can’t answer the poll either. In my very personal opinion, adultery has no room in a romance as it pertains to the starring couple in a romantic story. For me, it is a very personal experience and I can’t stand having to deal with it in something I am reading to actually escape reality. Where I come from, cheating is the “national” sport and I think that’s where my whole dislike started.

  6. Tina
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 07:17:14

    Like any theme, how well or not well it is executed depends on the talent of the writer. I don’t mind infidelity in a romance, it is the author’s job to sell me on the emotional work-through, the remorse, guilt, forgiveness and finally the HEA. Frankly there are tons of romances that don’t involve a whit of infidelity that don’t sell me on the HEA in the end.

    LaVyrle Spencer plays around with this theme a lot. In Home Song the hero cheats right before he is married to the heroine because he feels trapped into marriage. They go on to have a very happy 18 year marriage where the idea of cheating never even crosses his mind again. I thought she explored the theme very well. The heroine when she discovers this is chock full of anger and doubts about her husband’s continued fidelity. The reader, however, never doubts. So it was nicely handled and worked, for me anyway.

    Otoh, I read A Perfect Marriage and felt very ragey about that book on many levels. First because I don’t feel that the hero Max felt any remorse about what he did. Also I felt that Celine was too clinical about everything. I think I was more upset than she was. Also, the other woman wasn’t some predator either. If I am remembering correctly Max was her first lover ever and she was in love with him. He kicked her to the curb unfeelingly when he decided he wanted to go back to his wife. You know it is kinda wrong you are feeling bad for the other woman!

  7. Has
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 07:27:12

    Ohhh I got the 1st book recently and even though it featured rape, the reviews about the romance made me get it. But this has put me off. Infidelity is a trope that can rarely work and even then betraying the person they proclaim to love makes me wary and affects my belief in the romance. I know its a UF but they were committed together and for me that’s a no no.

  8. sarah mayberry
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 07:35:51

    I’m quite the puritan when it comes to infidelity – in real life and in fiction. I’m of the “if you’re not happy, get out” school of thought, and I honestly don’t understand how couples can move past the broken trust to find happiness in the relationship again. I have witnessed friends struggle with this and I know for myself that there would always be a niggle in the back of my mind every time my man was working late or going interstate for business. Horrible. I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned, but the Spencer-Fleming example where the hero was “happily married” before the heroine came along and him struggling with his attraction to her would drive me crazy. I’m the type of person who gets upset when Stephanie Plum is with Ranger instead of Joe. I didn’t like it when Bella got interested in Jacob instead of Edward, either. As a reader, if the writer has sold me on one relationship, trying to get me to buy into the attractions of the second love interest to create the third point in a triangle is a huge uphill battle – I guess, thinking about it, it’s asking me to go on the emotional journey of being unfaithful with the character, and I don’t want to do that. It makes me feel very uncomfortable, which is why I avoid these kinds of storylines.

  9. HeatherU
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 08:00:40

    I really hate the infidelity plot. It’s why I struggled so much with all of Emily Giffin’s novels, as that is one of the prevalent themes she deals with.

    I also hate (while not infidelity) plots where the hero or heroine is in a relationship, and moves on quickly to his/her new partner. Either the author has to find a way to make their lover(s) mean/cheater/users, etc, to make it palatable, or I end up feeling bad if the man/woman was good, and got the bad end of the stick. Even if you give them a HEA, it still seems too nicely wrapped up.

  10. LisaCharlotte
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 08:01:44

    Sarah Mayberry hits it right on the head for me. It does feel as though I am participating in the infidelity. I rarely if ever approve of gray areas when it comes to loyalty and commitment. If you are unhappy fix it (or attempt to). If you can’t or don’t want to fix it, get out. And, if you realize the grass isn’t greener after all, I can’t imagine taking someone so selfish back. The cheater’s wants and needs were more important than their partner and the commitment made. I don’t think that would ever change.

  11. Julie
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 08:04:47

    I hate this trope. Hate it, hate it, hate it. If I’m going to take the time to read a romance, I expect flowers, sparkles, and characters I can trust and rely on. If I wanted betrayal and cheating, I would watch a soap opera instead. In order for a book to qualify as having a HEA, I have to be convinced that it’s for real, and that the couple is so focused on each other that nobody else could ever get between them.

  12. tori
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 08:22:00

    Dang. I should have listened to you and not read the spoiler for Shadowflame lol. Infidelity is a hard storyline for me to accept. Especially if the author is using it as a way to further cement the h/h relationship. While I can see being unhappy and looking to someone for comfort; when you cross the line then all excuses become just that…excuses.

    David and Miranda had such an intense bond in The Queen of Shadows, I can’t even begin to imagine why the author would need to use infidelity as a conflict. UF isn’t romantic as a general rule so why even go that route? This makes me anxious now.

  13. Patrice
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 08:24:39

    I read for entertainment and I don’t find adultery and the ensuing lies and emotional upsets entertaining. I realize there are shades of grey and some of the situations listed in the poll may be more justifiable but I have to think there are always alternatives and choices. Like many, I have seen too many good friends and families explode due to infidelity and adultry. I’ll share what I told a friend who just had his marriage implode due to his infidelity – if you knew your relationship was over, despite all evidence to the contrary, you should have kept your dick in your pants until you got divorced or at least asked for one. No I don’t find adultery entertaining. It’s sad and stupid and definitely not romantic. :(

  14. Isabel C.
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 08:26:04

    Reading about infidelity doesn’t bug me at all in principle–in RL, I’m of the belief that it’s between you and your partner and I can understand if he/she leaves, but it’s not going to change my opinion of you, and I honestly haven’t *cared* that much in my own relationships–but I’ve never really sought out a romance featuring it. Not sure why. Too great an obstacle, maybe, particularly since I read historicals and divorce was less of an option?

    On the other hand, I liked Shakespeare in Love just fine. So maybe it’s just that I haven’t encountered many romances where infidelity was a thing. Huh.

  15. LoriK
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 08:46:14

    Count me as another person who really doesn’t want infidelity in my casual reading, especially in a romance. I’ve read a few books where it worked for me, but far more where it didn’t.

    I’m one of the minority that hated the adultery in Spencer-Fleming’s series. The way Russ’ wife was (not) portrayed from the very beginning left me feeling, as Sarah Mayberry & LisaCharlotte talked about, like I was participating in the adultery. Do. Not. Want.

  16. Joanne
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 09:33:05

    @tori:

    David and Miranda had such an intense bond in The Queen of Shadows, I can’t even begin to imagine why the author would need to use infidelity as a conflict.

    Maybe I’m just too cynical but I think it’s because right now m/m romance/sex sells.

    And because even though the author and/or publisher – knowing that the UF genre is separate from the romance genre – slip the first book in a series into the romance grouping that maybe will garner more sales.

    Or because (see news media any place, any day) ethics and/or commitment are not considered interesting so a plot has to have convoluted relationships to raise sales numbers.

    Bottom line, I think, it is a lumping together of the UF and romance genres and then authors getting annoyed when romance readers object.

    @LoriK: You are not alone with your opinion. I liked both the Spencer-Fleming characters but I found nothing romantic about their behavior.

  17. Lisa J
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 09:36:19

    Infidelity is a no go for me. I agree with Sarah Mayberry and LisaCharlotte, too. It would make me feel terrible to read it having seen members of my family who were affected by it.

  18. Caro
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 09:43:48

    Is A Perfect Marriage the correct title for the Daphne Clair book? I’ve read a lot by this author and can’t find that title.

  19. becca
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 09:50:44

    I sort of lived the infidelity plot: while married to Husband 1, I met and fell in love with Husband 2. When i realized that I loved h2, and didn’t love Husband 1, I severed all relationship with H2 and redoubled my efforts to save my marriage. It didn’t work, and H1 left me for another woman before I had a real chance to try. Two years after the divorce, some mutual friends got me back together with H2, and we’ve been happily married for 24 years.

    So I know how hard it is to avoid physical and emotinal infidelity, and I know that H2 isn’t the reason my first marriage broke up. As it was, H2 and I had to go through some intensive therapy to make things work.

    As people here have said, I read for entertainment – and infidelity isn’t entertaining.

  20. John
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 09:56:37

    @Joanne: While I cannot speak for the author, I was really put back by your comment about it being done because m/m romance and sex is popular. If the author was really ‘selling out’ for it we’d suddenly see a brand new couple sexing it up everywhere. Since when is m/m all about cheating? The author could have easily done it to show the pitfalls of a bisexual relationship along with someone who might not mind infidelity. Since it’s UF, I think it’s also safe to say the author could have just wanted to show how being fated to mate can still bring up problems, even if the people who are mated love each other.

    Sorry if that sounds really angry. I think it’s just a little inconsiderate to blame an author’s use of infidelity on gay romance when infidelity isn’t something people enjoy in romance as a whole. So it comes off as type-casting gay romance as being rife with infidelity if a character is bisexual or something to that affect. It could just be the way you worded your comment, but it didn’t come off as considerate.

    Back on topic – I haven’t read a romance with infidelity that I can recall yet. I don’t know how I would feel about it. Chances are I wouldn’t believe in the HEA unless it was superbly done. Which is obviously a difficult thing to manage. I could probably stand it in UF if I try to remember it’s not a romance…but if I was really rooting for the couple, I’d be disappointed. Just like in real life, it is possible to get past infidelity for some people, but it’s a lot harder to come back from.

  21. Patricia
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 10:06:15

    I hate infidelity. I have read two of the Spencer-Fleming series and I do not know if I will continue. Infidelity usually causes huge emotional pain to the spouse cheated upon, even if the marriage was in trouble, so I do not want to read about infidelity in my entertainment reading. I also have a close family member, a sister, who recently found out that her husband of 30 years has a fiance. In this internet/Facebook age, once she found out about the other woman, she quickly found out a lot of information about her and how long it had been going on. She said she could understand him falling in love with another woman but she could not understand the cruelty with which she has been treated. That element of cruelty, which I believe is part of most infidelity, is why I really do not want to read a romance with it as an element. Romances are supposed to make me feel better, not worse.

  22. Linda Winfree
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 10:12:31

    I’m all about the angst in my reading (and writing), but I don’t like the infidelity angst. I couldn’t get past chapter four or so of The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd because of its infidelity issues (know it’s not romance,but still). I try to avoid it in reading, although I can tolerate it in some instances. I can buy it in a historical because I “get” the concept of marriages in certain time periods. In some traditional literature, no problem, because, hey, Gatsby is lying about his entire life, so why be surprised that he has an affair with Daisy?

    Infidelity in romance bothers me simply because it’s grounded in deception and betrayal, and HEA love isn’t supposed to involve those two items.

    As a viewer, I’ve been struggling with this issue in the television series The Glades. I’m not sure if I’m bringing my romance genre expectations to the show and providing a framework or not, but still . . .

    S

    P

    O

    I

    L

    E

    R

    S

    I love, love, love the tension between Jim and Callie; however, I hate, hate, hate that they slept together at the end of season one. She’s still married to the husband in prison, and worse, in the season two opener, Jim talks about them using what time they have before the husband is released from prison. Once the husband is home, kinda sorta, Callie goes on to put off her divorce plans and gives the guy hope. What? Although it’s not a romance, Jim and Callie are presented as a romantic couple, but it just comes off sordid now. Unfortunately, it’s poisoning the whole show for me.

    E

    N

    D

    May have to check out the Clair books, though. I like HP angst at its most painful!

  23. Dana S
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 10:17:36

    Thank you for the warning about Shadowflame. Now I’m happy that I held off on reading Sylvan’s debut. I think I’ll be skipping her books.

  24. Joanne
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 10:23:07

    @John: Whoa, John. You are way off base. You may need to re-read my comments. I did not blame the plot about cheating on homosexuals or gay romance, lol! I never said homosexuality was the end of the world, nor do I believe it to be. Nor did I blame gay sex for all the cheating in the world.
    For God’s sake take a step back.

    What I said was m/m sex is selling right now and that’s exactly what I meant.. please don’t accuse me of things that I’m not actually saying.

  25. Sunita
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 10:32:44

    I’m definitely an outlier here (Hi Isobel C!), because I find romances with infidelity storylines can be really interesting. I’m always curious to see what the author does with it, since it imperils the HEA. There are some really good HPs from the 1970s and 1980s that succeed with that trope, in my opinion.

    That said, I stopped the JSF series after the first book. I don’t find reading about characters’ angsting over possible infidelity at all appealing. I want to see the results and the ramifications, but frankly, I don’t care about their mental torment as they decide whether or not to do it, unless those feelings are used to foreshadow or set up the aftermath.

    ETA: I forgot about the poll! My answer isn’t an option. It depends on the circumstances and the author’s skill. But I don’t have preconditions for h/h behavior.

  26. Darlynne
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 10:35:21

    .. the infidelity stories cause me more pain than joy.

    This is why I don’t care to read them either. Although I am a huge fan of JSF’s series and characters, even those books hurt.

  27. KMont
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 10:39:53

    Eh. Well. I’m glad I read the spoiler for Shadowflame. I was thinking I wouldn’t go beyond book one, and now I know I won’t. David’s character struck me as very inconsistent in book one, and it looks like that continues. True, it’s not a romance book, but it seemed like many were loving the first book in large part for the romance in it. It seems a little crazy to then bring cheating into the mix, but, well, the book isn’t exactly a happy one to begin with. Maybe that’s the consistency.

    I can’t say a book with infidelity in it will never work for me, but I don’t seek them out either and would likely look for another book once I see it in the one I’m reading.

  28. Martins
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 10:41:40

    I’m with Sarah Mayberry. I remember reading (or hearing – NPR?) that infidelity is often less about overwhelming desire than a lack of respect for the person they are with. Lack of respect for the partner and the relationship. It’s a gamble, and in the moment, the person that has chosen to cheat has decided that the stolen moments are worth more than the possible loss or destruction of what they already have. And that just does not work as a believable romance for me.

    I guess that’s the reason that every book I’ve read (that I can remember) having infidelity in it has left the HEA feeling decidedly flat to me. Usually, at the end of the book, when the hero and heroine are gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes and declaring their undying love, I remember the infidelity and think, “O RLY?”

    However, I would not be averse to anyone recommending a read (like the Clair books?) that somehow makes the infidelity less about an extra sex scene and more about a catalyst for true and honest communication in a relationship.

  29. LoriK
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 10:54:42

    @Joanne: I think I probably am pretty much alone on the Spencer-Fleming series. The infidelity left me unable to like either of the characters all that much. Their angst just rang false to me because they seemed less worried about cheating than they were about thinking of themselves as good people. Because of the way Russ’ wife was treated in the very first book I felt like I as a reader was being manipulated to agree with them. That left a really bad taste in my mouth.

  30. Tina
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 11:01:27

    @Caro:

    Look for it under the name Laurey Bright that is a Daphne Clair pseudonym.

    Also, aren’t the Spencer-Fleming books mystery/thriller novels primarily?

  31. Kati
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 11:02:46

    I’m definitely in the minority. Adultery is not a deal breaker for me. I won’t avoid books with it in per se, but it’s definitely not my favorite trope. But it’s a plot line that when executed well can make for a very interesting story. I’m thinking of a Sherry Thomas book where infidelity happened, and I remember thinking at the time that it was a really bold choice. She absolutely redeemed the perpetrator in this story. But she was also smart enough not to trot out the storyline until I’d already become attached to the character.

    I maintain that it’s the skill with which it’s written that will make or break the trope for me. Not the topic itself.

  32. Jill Sorenson
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 11:05:50

    I think there are some interesting issues with same-sex infidelity. Two of my recent f/f/m reviews featured this storyline. In Love Me by Kelly Jamieson, a frustrated girlfriend makes out with a female acquaintence to make her boyfriend jealous. He catches them and a threesome ensues. In Taken by Selena Kitt, the protagonist is cheating on her boyfriend with another couple.

    I found the Jamieson heroine much more sympathetic, but in both stories, the characters don’t consider f/f contact cheating. Jane commented that the issue in was brushed aside because the participants were women.

    The Sylvan book sounds similar. Is it cheating if the person being cheated on doesn’t mind, or becomes aroused by the idea of their partner with someone else? The heroine seems to think the m/m contact is hot, so she’s okay with it.

    Jamieson’s story wouldn’t have worked if the hero had made out with another woman. The same is probably true of the Sylvan book. Two men cheating together adds a level of eroticism that excuses the behavior for some readers I think. If Deven was a woman, and the hero couldn’t keep his hands off her, the reader reaction would be much harsher.

    Anyway, I think it raises questions about how we percieve same-sex relationships. If that kind of cheating “doesn’t count,” is it because of heteronormative attitudes? Do we consider gay relationships more eroticized, less important, having a different emotional impact?

  33. Kate Pearce Pear e
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 11:15:14

    I must confess it bothers me in contemporaries when it is relatively easy for a couple to separate, but not so much in historicals when it was almost impossible for a woman to get out of a marriage until late in the 19th century.
    I also grew up in the UK reading historical novels rather than American romance where adultery happened occasionally and I found it interesting to see how characters dealt with the fall-out and the emotions because I just love dissecting relationships good and bad. That’s probably why I write the books that I write, which tend to be a little fluid about sexual labels and one man one woman relationships, and that is also why some people don’t like them.
    I’ve always liked my fiction a little bit more lifelike and gritty, but I totally understand that for a lot of readers a romance is an escape from real life and that infidelity ruins the fantasy.

  34. Jan
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 11:17:29

    @Kati: I was referring to the same historical. I actually think the infidelity plot line in that one is one of its strong points.

  35. CEF
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 11:18:44

    I read a romance many years ago where the guy was unfaithful and left his wife. She wouldn’t divorce him. She kept waiting for him to come home. She had faith he would. He did in the story and was grateful that she waited for him. I had major trouble with her attitude and didn’t buy the happily ever after ending. I never read anything knowingly by the author again, but now for the life of me can’t remember the title or author.

  36. md
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 11:24:05

    @tori

    “UF isn’t romantic as a general rule so why even go that route? This makes me anxious now.”

    I think you’ve answered your own question.

  37. Cybercliper
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 12:31:33

    There’s enough infidelity in all facets of “real life” so I choose not to have it enter my “happy place” – my reading world.

    I’m disappointed to hear about Slyvan’s Shadowflame. I loved the first book and was looking forward to reading her next installment – but I’ve now removed it from my buy list. If she wanted to write “ala LKH” style why bother with a “mating” aspect of the story – just let everybody do their own thing as it falls in the storyline.

    I kind of feel like I’ve been given the ole bait and switch. But then again, UF fans probably felt the same way with the first book which seemed more PR than UF to me.

  38. Lindsey
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 12:48:52

    Well, thanks for the spoiler for Sylvan’s next book. I was already on the fence over it (loved book one the first time around, but it didn’t really hold up to a re-read), so I think I’ll leave it, and save my money for something else. I am not really a fan of the infidelity trope unless it is done VERY well. And, as someone else mentioned, I’m also more accepting of it in historicals, because of the context in which divorce was extremely difficult to obtain.

    This is kind of a weird topic for me, because in real life, I see things such as infidelity in shades of grey. I can understand why people cheat, and I can understand why people would take back cheaters. However, reading is my escape from real life, which is why, even though I love a good angsty romance, I need to believe in the HEA, something I find difficult to do with infidelity plots.

  39. Lynn S.
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 12:52:37

    @md: Oh yes, romance has its insidious fingers everywhere.

  40. Cara
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 13:44:40

    I avoid infidelity in my reading material like the plague. Because I figure it’s either going to try and romanticize something that is brutally hurtful and ultimately brings any character’s personality down to a level lower than someone I’d want to deal with in reality, or, if it’s done “well” and “realistically,” is going to cut to the bone. And maybe I’m a wimp, but I read romance as an escape. I do appreciate and respect those authors who approach infidelity from a realistic and complex standpoint, however. In reality, it’s not the black and white scenario people would like to believe it is. I guess that’s also why I don’t want to read about it – I figure if it’s done right, it’d be emotionally exhausting to get through, and if it’s done wrong, I’ll just want to throw up and/or stab something. I have a violent loathing for those stories that try and paint it as sexy or romantic and therefore easily excusable. It makes me think that the author has never been anywhere near it in reality and didn’t bother to research it, either. And like many things that happen in romance (same-sex relationships in a non-accepting society, interracial relationships in a non-accepting society, hard kinks, rape, logistics of anal sex, etc.), if you don’t at least research how it happens to real people, it not only shows in your writing, but it insults the members of your audience who have experienced it firsthand.

  41. Niveau
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 15:18:01

    I wish the poll had an “other – explain in comments” option, because as Jan and sirisha pointed out, there are other reasons that may/may not be acceptable. Personally, I don’t mind infidelity if the two characters aren’t both in love with each other at the time, but once they’ve both crossed the “I love you” line, even if they’ve yet to say it out loud, I’m not okay with it.

    Though, now that I think about it, I did once read a Balogh trad in which the hero was in love with the heroine but stupidly, so stupidly, cheated on her… and I was okay with them ending up together, but I think that’s largely due to the fact that they were separated for a very long time. (But it pissed me off that he continued to cheat after it became clear that they weren’t going to reconcile any time soon. It undermined my belief that his regret was sincere.)

  42. Junne
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 15:30:30

    I didn’t get the feeling that in Marriage Under Fire, the heroine really apologized or groveled. She was like ” I was miserable so I cheated on you, now get over it”. Plus, it really bothered me that she had NO good reason to cheat on her husband. She was just another bored housewife. I actually wanted the hero to cheat on her too, to make it even.

    And the worst thing about that is she didn’t even make the smallest compromise the H asked of her: stop working with her lover.The H deserved so much better.

    She actually reminded me of Betty Draper from Mad Men, and god knows – SPOILERS – Don did well when he dropped her sorry ass.

  43. Maddie
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 16:27:22

    I hate infidelity in romance books even though I do read them.

    I hate it because it’s almost comes across as a mistake, there is no mistake when you take off your clothes and climb into bed with some one other than your spouse.

    Plus they don’t delve deep into the repairing of the relationship, when trust that is freely given to your spouse who then throws it out the window, saying sorry just doesn’t cut it.

    Then you have the triggers that come with infidelity, did you go to our favorite restaurant? etc etc plus the mind movies that play in the minds of the spouses that were cheated on.

    Thinking you knew your spouse so well and then they pull this on you the lies,, the blame shifting and the gaslighting, authors never include the family members either nor show the ripple effect of infidelity, because it effects everyone you know that love and care for you.

  44. Rosario
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 16:45:03

    I can accept romances where the protagonists meet while one (or both of them) is with someone else. It depends on how it’s done. When one of the protagonists cheats on the other, however, that really, really bothers me. I know I’ve read one or two book I’ve liked where it’s happened, but it tends to be extraordinary circumstances (e.g. Ward’s Lover Eternal), rather than the tawdry thing of one partner giving in to temptation and sleeping with someone else.

    And by the way, it annoys the bloody hell out of me when people imply that not being tolerant of infidelity, whether in fiction or real life, is immature.

  45. Mary
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 16:59:04

    Mary Balogh “Dancing with Clara” is interesting that way. It has been a while since I read it, and unfortunately I don’t have a copy anymore. But I remember the basic premise was the hero marrying Clara because she was wealthy and disabled, and then going away, and I think having mistresses/casual sex while away from her. He eventually comes to love Clara.

    I liked the book a lot because the hero’s character was consistent, he came into it as an anti-hero – someone who chooses a disabled woman for her wealth, and expects his life to not change. And then eventually he falls in love with her and things do change. I found it believable, his behavior was treated as a serious problem, and the ending, while good, included some doubt about the future. In a way, I think I believed in that HEA more precisely because h/h discuss the problem and admit that it is real and not completely gone. Balogh used a later book to confirm that they had their permanent HEA.

    Another book where a there was infidelity was Gellis “Roselynde” series. In one of the later books there is a short discussion about it. Geoffrey uses prostitutes when away from Joanna in camp, but Ian doesn’t, feeling too loyal to Alinor. I may have confused who was doing what, but anyway ;-) The choice to use the prostitutes was presented as “satisfy physical necessity, my wife knows and is OK with it”, and it actually rung true together with the other history that was there in the books, so I noted it, but it did not bother me. But they one of their sons, I think, needs to make this choice, and some confusion ensues because he is not sure how his bride will react. I noted that it was somewhat disturbing, but it actually fit with the world as a whole, with them dealing with very long separations all the time, etc. I guess they did not quite read as a more “traditional” marriage from either regencies or contemporaries. So I remarked on it but it did not really bother me.

    Then there was Nina Killham “Mounting desire”. This is “Little Black Dress”, so I guess it is more chick lit. But it went from C- to “F” for me on the last page, where the hero uses the prostitute. In a contemporary. And the heroine supposedly takes him back with no discussion (it’s a romantic comedy) and a presumed HEA. This book would have hit a wall very hard if it wasn’t a loan from a friend – something like this would be completely unacceptable for me in any genre.

  46. Janet W
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 17:59:10

    If you want infidelity in a Balogh that is stomach-wrenching and realistic, read Obedient Bride. Sure it’s not a love-match but it was sanctified in a church and the heroine was sick to her stomach when she found out her husband had a mistress. And he did disrespect her, as did the hero of Balogh’s first book, Masked Encounter I think. The wives were incidental and what the man wanted came first. I personally find a little of that goes a long way and there better be serious groveling.

    There are a few contemporaries w/unfaithful partners that I’ve read: I always say a great author can make anything work but it’s nothing I seek out & probably would avoid unless it was recommended by people whose opinion I trusted.

    Just as an aside, Freddy in Dancing w/Clara was addicted to everything under the sun: gambling, booze, women … as a reader, I certainly didn’t focus just on his unfaithfulness. He was a mess of a human being — altho I did believe in their HEA by the end and was thrilled to visit w/them again in Tempting Harriet.

  47. wendy
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 18:13:18

    I have read and enjoyed many romances featuring infidelity. I hold every one of my Kathleen Gilles Seidel romances close to me, although more than one of her books featured infidelity. If the author is good and the plot believable I enjoy the journey.

  48. DeeCee
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 18:35:45

    I don’t like infidelity storylines. I can read it, but they won’t ever be a favorite. To this day I’ve read the BDB series multiple times, but Rhage’s book only one time. I absolutely hated Megan Hart’s Switch.

    S P O I L E R S…..

    Both the h/h cheat during marriage, and never address it. It’s just an itch that they scratched, and ignored during their next relationship. It completely turned me off the story b/c I like stories where I can atleast respect the h/h.

    @HeatherU

    I totally agree with you about the time between relationships.

    S
    P
    O
    I
    L
    E
    R

    It’s what pissed me off about the latest Erin McCarthy book. Spend 95% of the book getting the h/h together, finding a way to get past career issues and suddenly a bomb is dropped. And it’s revealed that in a space of 6 months or so this hero goes from randomly having unprotected sex with a stranger to being madly in love with his new bride (who he also has unprotected sex with). I couldn’t buy it and it was a wallbanger. I kept pushing on thinking this cannot be happening. It’s got to be like what happened it book one. But…no. I know it’s not cheating as it happened before they got together, but it was incredibly difficult for me to believe that they could have a happy future.

  49. lazaraspaste
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 19:35:15

    I’ll read anything. Whether I like it or not afterwards depends on how well the author depicted the conflict or infidelity.

    But I have a couple of questions: If unrestrained desire isn’t an excuse for the hero to rape the heroine, then why is it an excuse to cheat? Or is it? Because both in the rape situation and the infidelity situation the assumption is that both are excusable because desire cannot be controlled. But that’s just not true. The entire weight loss industry is built around the opposite notion: that desire can and should be controlled. Perhaps it is not easy to control desire or temptation. But isn’t impossible nor is it improbable.

    I dislike reading stories in which the characters behavior is excused by some reductive version of human motivation. If it is handled with complexity and nuance, then sure.

    @JillSorenson Yes! You took the words right out of my mouth. That’s exactly what I was thinking. And I would ask the same question: why doesn’t it count if it m/m or f/f? What does that say about our attitudes? I find it exploitive and demeaning, quite frankly, to assume that it means less if one’s partner cheats on you with someone of the same sex. To everyone involved.

    Which brings me to my second question: does finding the infidelity of one’s partner arousing preclude it being a betrayal? I mean, arousal does not mean consent, does it?

    Those are my thoughts for the day.

  50. Jane
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 20:14:08

    @lazaraspaste – I really disliked the excusing of infidelity based on same sex interaction. It was the major reason that the Kelly Jamieson book did not work for me. In fact, poor Jill and I were duking it out in the comments.

    I want to think on your rape fantasy comparison more, though. I’m not sure what I think of that. Must absorb.

  51. Jane
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 20:32:32

    @DeeCee – I actually liked that bit that you were talking about in the Erin McCarthy book. I thought it was something different but I can see how it could strain your credulity. They both had a lot of growing up to do.

  52. Jane
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 20:34:40

    @wendy – I did think of Mirrors and Mistakes when I wrote this post but I couldn’t find my copy and I thought that there was some indicating that he hadn’t slept with his co worker.

  53. Jane
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 20:45:45

    @Rosario – I agree. I do feel like infidelity is character flaw that has to be overcome. I need some explanation and even then, as I said in the post, I never feel very satisfied at the end.

  54. Jane
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 20:50:48

    @Junne – I agree with that, but I felt like she was almost unformed before cheating and that she came out of the incident more identifiable. However, I don’t disagree that she didn’t grovel at all.

  55. Jane
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 20:57:00

    @Kate Pearce Pear e –

    I’ve always liked my fiction a little bit more lifelike and gritty, but I totally understand that for a lot of readers a romance is an escape from real life and that infidelity ruins the fantasy.

    For some reason this comment really strikes me wrong. I don’t think that disliking infidelity means that you just want sparkly ponies in the romance or that you don’t want “lifelike” romances with “gritty” feel. It just means that infidelity isn’t something that people enjoy reading maybe because they don’t believe in an HEA after the trust has been violated (or for any of the many reasons given in this thread).

  56. Jane
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 21:00:56

    @Jill – it counts a lot for me. I almost think it is worse because they are bringing something to the table that you can’t.

  57. Jane
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 21:02:16

    @Tina – yes, the Spencer-Fleming books are mystery/thriller novels but I wanted to use that piece because we had featured the author and she had written specifically on the topic.

  58. Susan/DC
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 21:03:41

    I found Lazaraspaste’s comment very interesting: “If unrestrained desire isn’t an excuse for the hero to rape the heroine, then why is it an excuse to cheat?” But aren’t there many who do accept unrestrained desire as an excuse for “forced seduction”? I’d be interested in combining the two topics to see if people who don’t mind loss of control in terms of sex between the hero and heroine could accept it in terms of adultery. My personal feeling is that I don’t like loss of control as an excuse, whether with the heroine or anyone else — the man is not particularly heroic to me if he’s got the impulse control of a toddler.

    Adultery is not a theme I seek, but I have read books where adultery occurred and the author was skilled enough to make it work as a plot element and catalyst for character development. For example, the married hero of Mary Balogh’s “A Secret Pearl” has sex with the heroine the first time they meet. By the end of the book you understand exactly what happened and why and his actions become far more sympathetic than the simple statement “he committed adultery” would make you believe.

    Not mentioned by others is the “I did it for England” excuse found in Jo Beverley’s “An Arranged Marriage” and Eileen Dreyer’s recent “No True Gentleman”.

  59. Jane
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 21:18:30

    @M: JSF’s infidelity worked better for me because they took place over the course of several books. I think that she made it easier and more palatable by demonizing Russ is why which is a classic romance move. If I recall correctly, I did feel that expresses infidelity never crossed the line because he struggleswith it and he did not act on it until after they had separated. But for many people, it did not work.

    @Tina: Yes, that’s right. Max did seduce a young woman who gave her virginity to him. In some ways, Max did to Katie what the heroine’s first love did to her. It was some weird symmetry. The heroine’s response? Oh, she’ll get over it. Kate was definitely the one who got shafted the most. Poor girl.

    @sarah mayberry: For some reason, I’m not terribly bothered by the Ranger, Joe, Stephanie triangle but Bella’s use of Jacob really bugs me. Perhaps because I never quite felt that Ranger or Joe will really emotionally committed to Stephanie whereas I felt like Bella represented the world to Jacob.

    @John: When I understood Joanne to say was that the author was trying to capitalize on the popularity of m/m fiction by including back in her book. Not that all homosexuals were unfaithful.

  60. LVLMLeah
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 22:05:17

    I’m in the camp where it depends on the writing and who the characters are.

    If the author can really go into the psychology in depth of what’s going on with the characters and it’s not a straight up black and white issue, then it can be really compelling to me.

    I’m personally of the opinion that humans in general are not necessarily naturally monogamous. And that monogamy is an inherited social construct that we all try aspire or are expected to fall in line with whether it’s natural or not to our particular personalities.

    What bothers me more around the trope or issue of infidelity in a story is the usual dishonesty around it. This is always worse to me than the actual act of infidelity and if I read that, that’s what sets me off. Like others have said, it’s usually about the selfishness of cheater and not anything about the relationship.

    Do you all consider it infidelity if the cheating partner shares with their partner before actually cheating that they have an interest to do so and would like to start dialogue about it?

    This is common in erotica or erotic romance where there is an HEA and parties are decidedly open to the idea even if during the course of having a a stepping out intimate relationship any or all of the parties might get hurt or feelings might change.

    @Jill Sorenson –About same sex cheating in the case of bisexuality, I think it would depend again on how it’s written. When I first started reading lesbian and f/f, I was of the opinion that a bisexual woman would have a different kind of love story with a woman than a man and that it was completely different. That she could have a love story with both at the same time because of this. This is because I was reading it through a straight woman’s eyes and experience of having close relationships with women that are just different than with men even if not sexual. Now, I don’t believe that. Falling in love with someone is falling in love and that person becomes more special than anyone else no matter how they are relating or what sex they are. So I feel stories with same sex/bi cheating needs also to have excellent writing around it to get me to buy an HEA.

    The perfect HEA story for me which involved infidelity and a bisexual relationship was the movie French Twist. It’s a comedy but it goes into the issues of infidelity and what happens on all levels, including the pain and coming out through the other end to make it work. Everyone gets a taste of the consequences of their own actions and it’s funny and sad at the same time. But I believed that they all worked it out.

    @Linda Winfree

    Oh noes! I have a bunch of mixed feelings about what’s going on with The Glades. I just got hooked into that show and I think it’s an interesting story line. I have to see how it’s written whether it will bother me or not.

  61. cs
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 06:41:25

    I’m pretty much no go with infidelity, I’m not interested in it and if it’s a major plot in a book I won’t read it. I’ve read many books where a character is being cheated on and finds love with someone else. That character is minor and is only used as a plot device so the two main heroes can get together. I’m cool with that.

    That’s not to say I haven’t read books where characters have cheated. Some have actually been my all time favourites as well. That has more to do with how well the book was written, and how well the plot device was handled. Usually authors and publishers do not warn readers of infidelity storyline, I suppose that would be considered as a spoiler. If it was placed as a warning, I wouldn’t read it, but I’ve read a enough infidelity books without meaning to.

    I’m too much of a romantic and I get all sad when someone cheats. It’s probably one of the tropes that really upsets me (and no it’s nothing personal). I’m not going to be scarred or anything like that. Then again when the two main heroes don’t end up together, in any shape of form I tend to panic, heh.

    [I use heroes throughout this post, as I only read M/M stories]

  62. Infidelity is not gender-dependent | VacuousMinx
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 08:23:51

    […] has another great letter of opinion over at Dear Author, this time about infidelity in romance novels. She doesn’t like reading about infidelity, but in the hands of a good author, the storyline […]

  63. Jill Sorenson
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 08:35:09

    @lazaraspaste: Forced seduction isn’t something I read a lot of but I like the idea of unrestrained passion between the hero and heroine. If the h/h have wild passion for others, it ruins the fantasy for me. That feeling of overwhelming desire is what I associate with falling in love and one of the reasons I read romance.

    That said, I prefer characters that have some level of mastery over their bodies. Otherwise they come across as weakwilled or immature, as stated above. Cheating just isn’t very heroic and I have a hard time with it.

    Obviously, I excused the behavior in the Jamieson story, maybe because the hero was aroused by it. I think that a lot of men (not all) see same-sex interaction between women as less signficant. It doesn’t challenge their masculinity unless another man is involved.

    Jealousy is another issue, but I think that men are less likely to feel threatened by another woman. Women tend to be jealous of other women, and men of other men.

  64. Janet W
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 09:29:57

    @jillsorenson said, “I think that a lot of men (not all) see same-sex interaction between women as less signficant. It doesn’t challenge their masculinity unless another man is involved.

    Jealousy is another issue, but I think that men are less likely to feel threatened by another woman. Women tend to be jealous of other women, and men of other men.”

    And curse my memory for not working half the time but I remember a wonderful J.D. Robb about a nasty killer who was re-staging famous crimes from the past. During the investigation, Dallas and Peabody interviewed a writer of books about famous crimes. He was sort of a stay-at-home dad. Long story longer, his wife was having an affair with another woman and making plans to leave him. Dallas’s detectives, men, who were following the wife and her lover, were titillated by the notion of f/f love in the afternoon but the betrayed husband was heartbroken. For me personally, infidelity that is shrugged off or minimized, especially in a contemporary, well, let’s just say the writer would really have to convince me. I just don’t see those reactions fitting under the broad and all encompassing romance tent.

  65. Jane
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 09:34:45

    @Jill Sorenson: But infidelity to me doesn’t say much about the other person. Instead, infidelity is a choice that reflects the character of the person doing the cheating, betraying, etc. From there, the author has to convince the reader that the infidelity is excused or cleansed either by redemption or in the Jamieson case (and the Sylvan case) by titillation. Whether the reader buys that excuse depends upon the reader but it doesn’t erase the intent of the cheater and the character flaw that is revealed by the cheater.

    Similarly, in forced seduction cases (which I am not a fan of), the redemption of is of the rapist. In Jamieson, there was no redemptive moment.

  66. Jill Sorenson
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 10:17:05

    @Janet W: Right. I think it’s harder to minimize a long-term affair, which is especially damaging IMO. And I’m not saying that *I* think same-sex cheating is okay or less meaningful. Just trying to explain Jamieson’s character’s reaction.

    @Jane: Well, I guess I do think the reactions of the person being cheated on matter. But I agree that it reflects badly on the cheater.

  67. LVLMLeah
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 10:55:18

    Jealousy is another issue, but I think that men are less likely to feel threatened by another woman.

    I would respectfully disagree with this. I think it’s a common myth because of the common fantasy of two chicks together sexually for men. And in fantasy, yes, many men would love it and think this would be a turn on to them and they wouldn’t feel threatened.

    However, I’ve seen on many message boards that deal with bisexuality that men often feel threatened and totally freaked by their female partner falling “in love” with another woman. They can’t compete with that. That’s something beyond their sexual fantasy.

    .

  68. Jill Sorenson
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 12:14:32

    @LVLMLeah: That is a very good point. Sunita’s post mentions that men are more likely than women to think of certain sexual encounters as meaningless, which is another interesting layer in this discussion. But I agree that an extended bisexual love affair, or any love affair, is more threatening than an impulsive one-time makeout. And of course real life and fantasy are often dissimilar.

    One more point about the Jamieson story and then I’m really going to stop talking about it. Possibly forever. The heroine starts flirting/kissing another woman IN FRONT OF the hero, hoping to catch his attention. When he doesn’t seem to care, the women leave the room & continue the encounter. For me that makes a difference. Her intention wasn’t betrayal, and there is no lying or sneaking around. I found it forgiveable.

  69. chris booklover
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 14:44:31

    Junne @42: I agree with your comments about Marriage Under Fire. The heroine never apologized for cheating, and she insisted on continuing to work with the other man. These are red flags in terms of the likelihood of the couple achieving their HEA.

    In general, the problem with saying “I will not read books containing infidelity” is that you end up excluding many novels of genuine merit. As the original post observes, infidelity can be treated well (as by Daphne Clair or Sherry Thomas) or badly, as in the Tori Carrington novel described above.

    I wonder if it makes a difference whether the hero or heroine is cheating ON each other and will get back together for an HEA, or whether they are cheating WITH each other on a spouse or fiance. The latter scenario is much more common in romance novels and often attracts little comment. For example, the heroine of Elizabeth Hoyt’s To Taste Temptation becomes involved in a love affair with the hero while engaged to the man who will become the hero of To Seduce A Sinner. The heroine of Hoyt’s Notorious Pleasures is engaged to the hero’s brother, which is particularly surprising given the alleged relationship between the hero and his brother’s first wife. Karen Robards has two novels in which the married hero cheats with the heroine and at least five in which the married heroine cheats with the hero. For some reason, however, these examples do not attract as much attention as the cheating in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s mystery series, although the protagonists in that series try much harder to avoid temptation.

  70. willaful
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 18:13:24

    Re: the Spencer-Fleming books — I was also bothered by the how invisible the wife was in the first books, but I’m wondering now if that was done to make her eventual appearance, which is at a particularly brutal time for Clare, have even more impact. It’s the first time she becomes real for Clare and we can empathize with her feelings even more, because it’s the first time for us, too.

    I suppose this could be considered equally mainpulative, but I read books to be manipulated. ;-)

  71. Caro
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 18:23:57

    @Tina: Thanks!

  72. Laura Hunsaker
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 23:25:52

    I have to say infidelity is usually a deal-breaker for me. In one historical I read, the hero and heroine weren’t “together” yet (he was keeping her prisoner), yet they had made that emotional connection that we all hold our breath for…and then he went and screwed his mistress in the hall. And a mean-spirited maid told the heroine “oh, you need an extra blanket? Down this hall…” So the heroine saw the hero and his mistress.
    I know that they weren’t in love, I get that. BUT we knew they would have a HEA together, and yet the author felt that it was necessary to do that to the heroine? I didn’t get it. I didn’t like it.

  73. Kaetrin
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 01:42:14

    I say I don’t like infidelity books but when I really think about it, I’ve read quite a few where infidelity has been a feature and I’ve been satisfied with the HEA (Mary Balogh, Sherry Thomas, etc) but, I don’t actually like infidelity on any level. Adults can make choices to stay away from temptation or to be open about problems in a relationship (which might lead to temptation) and you know, actually DEAL with them.

    @Susan/DC – Am I in total denial? I’ve read An Arranged Marriage a few times and the rest of the series also and I didn’t think it was ever confirmed that he’d actually had sex with the spy-lady – I thought he’d just squired her around and flirted (and maybe just a tad more but no actual sex). Now I’m wondering if I have to re-think the whole book!! Oh noes!

  74. willaful
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 01:57:11

    @Kaetrin: I’m afraid so. It’s made pretty clear that he has sex with her, despite finding her totally repellent — this is why he’s so disgusted with himself for making love to Eleanor.

  75. REVIEW: AJ’s Angel by L.A. Witt | Dear Author
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 12:45:09

    […] but I liked that so much that I hunted down your other books. This one intrigued me because of Jane’s recent post about infidelity in romance and because I think tattoo artists are […]

  76. Historical authenticity and reader resistance | VacuousMinx
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 13:41:33

    […] could find a non-monogamous relationship romantic, especially given how romance readers feel about infidelity. So you tell me; could you read this and see 1979 on Donald and Timmy’s terms (and mine), or […]

  77. REVIEW: AJ’s Angel by L.A. Witt
    Mar 27, 2012 @ 21:29:27

    […] but I liked that so much that I hunted down your other books. This one intrigued me because of Jane’s recent post about infidelity in romance and because I think tattoo artists are […]

  78. Karen B. Jones
    Jul 03, 2012 @ 09:03:08

    Just for fun, I’m writing a story. I’ve been reading a bunch of cheap werewolf romances. It seems that an almost universal element to these is that the werewolf’s mate is a predestined, once-in-a-lifetime psychic bond. Well, the idea lodged in my head of what would happen if the female human in this predestined pair not only had no clue that she was destined to mate a wolf, but was actually already married. So, the process of claiming his happily-ever-after would involve the wolf luring her out of her marriage in one way or another.

    So, to help me write this, I was wondering how infidelity is handled in traditional romance novels. Can you think of a story to recommend where the wife is unfaithful and ends up leaving her husband to find happiness with her lover instead?

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