Monday, April 22, 2019

It's a new thing...bully romance vs dark romance

Bully romance

So there's this new thing... or maybe it's an old thing repackaged as a new thing. Either way, the romance genre continues to evolve especially in the advent of self-publishing. Rules change, but one thing remains the same, there MUST always be a happy ending.

This new thing. Have you heard of it? It's called "bully romance." I've seen it being requested multiple times in a few book groups I'm in and people really seem to want to read them. It had me scratching my head because I didn't know what it meant. So I asked. Someone was kind enough to respond.

It seems that bully romance has emerged because dark romance has evolved. Dark got darker and then came bully.

Let me explain.

Dark romance The Wild by K Webster

In the past, dark romance was defined as where the hero was a bad guy / bad boy / asshole / jerk. He would treat the heroine badly, be an asshole to her, but eventually, there's a turnaround, he gets redeemed as he falls for the heroine. Loosely speaking, the asshole hero does need to eventually have some redeeming qualities. These days? Not so much. So I even wonder if it's still a romance, but the hero and heroine end up together, so there's that.

These days dark romance has veered into even DARKER territory. I've seen people asking for recommendations on dark romance, and a lot of it involves non-con (no consent from the heroine), dubcon (dubious, undefined consent from the heroine), rape, torture, incest, sexual slavery, underage sex, kidnapping, etc. It even goes beyond your run of the mill adultery and cheating.

Dark romance Saphyre by Loxley Savage

What happens when dark romance becomes much darker than it used to be? Well, it needs a new definition. And let me tell you, these books are DARK. Some have even been banned from Amazon and authors have had to find alternate ways to sell them to a surprisingly voracious readership. I question if it is even romance anymore.

Dark romance comment

Here comes bully romance then. It's defined now as what dark romance used to be. It's when the hero (or heroes if you're reading a reverse harem book) treat the heroine like crap, but she still falls for and loves him / them. There is no guarantee that at the end of the book or the end of the series that these men are redeemed (as in dark romance of old) and there's no guarantee that these men treat the heroine better. According to my research into the books, how the men treat the heroine by the end of the story varies between they are totally redeemed to they still treat her like crap.

If you go onto Amazon and search for "bully romance" in the search bar, you will get a heap of books coming up in the results. Some books even have the term "bully romance" in their titles.

Bully romance search results

Since I'm not one to read dark books in general, I haven't read much in the sub-genre. As for the bully romances, I've only come across them recently and from what I've been told about the books, they are probably not my cup of tea. I like my romance reading to be my happy place, not a place where the heroine is treated badly and accepts it. But for those people who enjoy it, you do you.

Bottom line? Dark romance became bully romance, and ye dark romance of old got DARK.

Have you come across the term bully romance before?

What do you think of this new divergence in the dark romance sub-genre and do you think you'd like to read something really dark or even a bully romance?

What's the darkest book, in your opinion, that you've read. Did you enjoy it? Are they your cup of tea or are you more a Harlequin Romance sort of reader?

Tell me, I want to know.

UPDATE: I've done a follow up post on why readers love bully romance. You can find it here.

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18 comments:

  1. WOW neither of these books are my type, I do read books where the hero can be very over the top but there is always a caring part to him and he always redeems himself, these books sound like a really hard read for me and they are not ones that I would pick up. Each to there own, we are all different and that is how it should be the world would be a very boring place if we were all the same.

    Have Fun

    Helen

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    1. I'm a little bit curious like I should at least read one to make a decision but everything I've seen written about it and all the comments about these books makes me not want to try them.

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  2. Doesn't sound my thing either. Although I've read some dark stuff, these have not been romance. Icelandic and Scandinavian noir spring to mind. Mind you, I'm not a big harlequin fan either
    Gill

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    1. That's the thing. How do you put bully and what it entails with romance? Aren't those two things diametrically opposed to each other?

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  3. Nope, no way, ain't happening. I read to be entertained, swept away, to become the woman in the book. So bully romances are a hard pass for me

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    1. I read to be entertained and escape too. I want to feel good when I read.

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  4. Huh... thanks for the information. I came here after reading a sample of a book where the story seems interesting but I wasn't sure if I wanted to buy it. I was in the mood for urban fantasy but not a paranormal romance where there were no plot except for the romance. I was a bit confused when I saw it was marked as RH and a bully romance since I (naively) assumed that was an oxymoron. So, thank you for taking the time to explain what it is. (The book btw is "Royals of Villain Academy 1: Cruel Magic" by Eva Chase)

    For curiosity sake could you cite the book title and author mentioned in the book review from earlier in your article?

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    1. I would be happy to provide you with the information you asked for. Feel free to contact me via the blog contact form and I will respond. I like to keep the people I quote anonymous on the article since they have requested it.

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  5. Thanks, Deanna, for clearing the 'bully' thing up. I do read dark, and I do like my alpha book boyfriends, but there HAS to be redeeming qualities. I do not want to read something, and have my mind forever scorched with a supposed hero who has NO redeeming qualities. Not my cup of tea, coffee, or lemonade! So, now I know what to avoid!

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    1. I think that's the difference for me. I've recently started reading a lot of what the publisher brands as dark romance. The heroes are very alpha and their treatment of the heroines may be considered harsh or brutal but at no point is there bullying, and the heroes are very solicitous and tender towards the heroines when they are not being disciplined. They are tough on the heroines when they step outside the bounds of what is allowed but otherwise they are total sweethearts towards them. The sweet, tender treatment of the heroines redeems the heroes for me.

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  6. I’ve not read a book described as a ‘bully romance,’ nor will I. Though, one author of dark romance I’ve read (2 books, to see if the scene improved - it didn’t), seems to fit the category. There was no enjoyment, only pain, for the woman involved. How this can be called romance is beyond my understanding. I read to take myself away from stress and ugliness, not to wallow in something even worse. #nobulliesforme

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    1. It's not for everyone. I think you really need the enemies to lovers trope taken to the extreme to enjoy this kind of book.

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  7. I agree that the genre is not for everyone, but I absolutely love bully romance books. I think the bullying adds another element to the story. Its the struggle/obstacle that the female protagonist must stand up and overcome. It creates interesting dynamics between the characters. The protagonists inner strength revealed through the refusal to back down - rebellion, the fight against the elite, then elites recognition and admiration of the protagonist because of that fight. That, to me, is interesting reading.

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    1. I'm glad to hear that you enjoy the trend so much. There do seem to be a lot of people who love it.

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  8. I would like the word "romance" removed from this trend. There's nothing romantic about it. I don't want a new generation of readers to think that it's acceptable to take abuse as long as he loves her. It isn't. It's never right. You walk away from people like that. And yes, I'm sure most readers know the difference between fiction and reality, but I fought for years on behalf of abused women who thought taking it was okay because "he loves me." To see that coming back sickens me. To give tacit acceptance to it by writing acceptance is wrong. Don't call it romance.
    So call it what it is. Women's fiction, or a twisted love story, or even erotica but one thing it isn't is romance.

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    1. I personally don't find it romantic and I'm unlikely to read something branded as a bully romance with a few exceptions. For me it was certainly eye opening when I wrote the follow-up article regarding why so many readers seem to love it. I get why it's not for everyone and I can certainly see from your point of view why you don't agree with the trend. I do have concerns still about the trend romanticising bullying.

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