Monday, June 17, 2019

Bully romance, why do readers love it?

Girl being bullied

A little while ago, I wrote a post about bully romance when it first became popular. I was trying to wrap my head around the whole concept of the trend. I've done more research into it since that post because I genuinely wanted to understand why such a dark theme is so popular and has struck such a chord with readers.

For those of you who don't know, bully romance is a new, more extreme (in my opinion) spin on the enemies to lovers trope. It comes in varying levels of "dark" and contains a lot of triggers for people, particularly if they have been bullied in the past. The hero (or heroes if you are reading reverse harem) bully the heroine in the story, and it can be taken to extremes. These are usually in high school settings, although there might be some that are more adult-focused as well. I think there are some new ones being written that are focused on more college-aged characters.

Cruel Intentions by Siobhan Davis Shunned by Steffanie Holmes Boys That Tease by Betti Rosewood

Here's the thing. This trend is POPULAR. People are ASKING for books like it. I see it almost daily in some of the book groups I'm in, but I also see some people asking for recommendations and stating "no bully" so tastes vary, but I'd say the majority of readers are very into it at the moment.

And for me? I don't understand the appeal. I keep going back and asking why would you romanticize something like bullying? Where the abuse of a weaker person is celebrated? I mean, bullying is a real issue. I've seen and read stories of actual kids committing suicide because of bullying. Kids have lost their lives over it. So why is this so popular? I set out to understand and researched the heck out of it. I asked for positive responses only to my question, "why do you love bully romance?" The responses were varied and surprising but fairly consistently fell into two camps.

Fist

One, a lot of the people who read bully romance were bully-victims themselves. For them, it was a cathartic experience. It set them in the role of the heroine and allowed them to relive traumatic years and experiences while coming out on top when the heroine got her revenge on the bullies, got her own back, and ultimately had the bullies fall in love with her. It's the experience of triumph they are able to feel through the story where they weren't able to before. It's their way of claiming victory over the bullies of their past real lives.

Equally, the flip side of this is a lot of people said they could not read bully romance because it is triggering for them. The whole experience of reliving bullying through reading a bully romance is traumatic for them. Too traumatic to relive, so they avoid the books. Some people have gone so far as to say that reading the books would give them PTSD episodes.

Girl puching

The other major reason was that a lot of readers enjoy the drama, the angst, the emotional roller coaster, ultimately ending with the bullies redeeming themselves for the heroine and falling for her because of her strength and her beauty. It's her triumph over the bullies that drive the readers on to want to find out how it all ends. Since I haven't read any bully romances even though the topic fascinates me, I cannot speak to how many of the stories show redeemed heroes and how many don't. I've heard some don't and the heroine falls for the heroes anyway. On the flip side, I've heard many do too.

You'll notice that unlike many of my previous posts, I have not included direct quotes from the people whose opinion I've paraphrased. I did not feel I should call out anyone particular opinion or person so what you've got above is a summary of hundreds of opinions from people who both love and don't love the trend with some of my own opinion thrown into the mix.

Impetuous by Mercedes Jade The Initiation by Melissa Adams The Secret Girl by CM Stunich

Based on all of the above, would I read a bully romance? Not sure. The enemies to lovers trope is not one I enjoy. It's one of my least favorite tropes, and I tend to avoid it because I'm a wuss and I can't handle the animosity and battling between the hero and heroine. When I read romance, it's my happy place, so I don't read to throw myself through the wringer. However, that said, there's one particular "different" bully romance that I am considering reading when time permits. In this one, the heroine and heroes band together to fight back against external bully forces against them. I think that I could handle because it's not an enemies to lovers romance. This is people coming together to fight against an evil they are facing and triumphing over it. I'd have a hard time when the bullies are the heroes.

Girl reading

So what do you think? Do you think you'll give bully romances a shot after reading this?

And stay tuned. I'm going to have a review up shortly of one of the most popular bully romance series currently out written from the perspective of someone who enjoyed the books.


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24 comments:

  1. Can't see me reading it. Personally I think consent is sexy! I can read enemies to lovers, but not where there has been actual abuse
    Gill

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    1. I'm still not sure about reading it myself and if I did I think I'd be selective and want all the spoilers before going in since this is a touchy subject for me.

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  2. I have read and I've loved and hated in equal measure. I have different needs and moods and books that fit how I'm feeling. To me, it is very cathartic and allows me to vent my emotional turmoil. I love my books to take me on a journey, help me to see different sides to myself. I also use them as therapy. Books that take me to a different place and time and can help me reframe my own personal experiences and pain, or take me to an alternate universe altogether and allow me the opportunity to lose myself in another realm.

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    1. Great perspective on the reading experience. Thank you.

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  3. I'm firmly in the never ever reading bully romance. However, I don't judge people who read it. I'm sure my kinks are a turn off for others and wouldn't want them judging me.

    I just hope this trend will be over soon as I'm running out of things to read! lol

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    1. I'm honestly uncertain about reading one. I think I might like to try a "lighter" one at some point but don't know if I'd get to it.

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  4. I never would willingly. I almost read one by accident - it was an ARC, billed as enemies to lovers - and I had to stop at chapter 3. I was bullied in high school, it almost ruined my life (it was girls, mind you). I had to tell the author I couldn't do it. I certainly would not fall in love with someone who had bullied me, however gorgeous, well-endowed, and wealthy. He wouldn't even get past "Will you forgive me?", because it would be a flat no. Bullies can all go to hell. Sorry about that.

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  5. I was abused and sometimes it is hard to read some of the things. I keep going on and finish it. I guess for me it boils down to the heroine gets saved when I didn’t. Most of the time the heroine is also abused at home and they save her.

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    1. I think everyone's personal experience they bring to reading a certain topic is different and how they react will be different.

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  6. These are not something I would read, I like to feel good when reading, don't get me wrong there needs to be some angst throughout but I don't want to have it make me feel totally anxious, so no not my cup of tea but we are all different and each to their own

    have Fun

    Helen

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    1. Oh yes, this is very much a "you do you" kind of thing.

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  7. Different strokes for different folks
    Idc what ppl read JUST READ
    Reading is a place most ppl go to escape to see places they probably won't ever be able to visit to meet the kind of man that's more than likely not real and to see ppl get revenge that probably didn't get to in real life.

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    1. Yep, reading is a very individual thing when it comes to tastes.

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  8. Probably not for me but interesting blog. I do like power and control books though.

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    1. I think power and control is quite different from bullying when it comes to romance. I do enjoy power and control books too where the hero is quite dominating.

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  9. I can't say I've actually read a bully romance, but a lot of what you've said makes sense in respect to why some like it. We are all individuals, and something that sounds awful to one reader will sound perfect to the next. There is an element of judgment when it comes to bully romance, because there is that notion that the bully/bullies are rewarded by getting the heroine at the end. Perhaps, the character arcs focus on redemption, and in that way, it's not that new. Perhaps, in a way, the bully romance moves away from the perfect hero and shows how cruel humanity can really be and yet still worthy of love. I don't know, but those are my thoughts. I'll have to read a few to find out for myself. :)

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    1. I'm still debating whether to read one of not. There are certainly a lot out there to choose from.

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  10. I couldn't respect a bully, so a bully romance would be out for me. I do like enemies to lovers romance, but generally that means that the H/h are competitors or on opposite sides, such as he's the rancher who wants her property, or he's the head of a rival company, or they're from two different planets who are enemies. Bantering and competitiveness is okay, but malicious mean behavior is not.

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    1. It's certainly not for everyone. And yes, traditional enemies to lovers does not involve bullying. I think the bully romance takes the traditional enemies to lovers trope to an extreme.

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  11. Wondering if Lisa Cron is right, and we read stories to practice--to prepare ourselves for being in a situation.

    If so, I apparently don't feel the need to practice being bullied.

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    1. Very good point. I do not feel the need to practice being bullied. It's really rather awful.

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  12. I don't know if I want to read that mostly because I am not bullied but my friends sometimes are. The reason for that is I am more popular than them. I have always wanted lov so I would just get jealous of my friends and I don't want that to happen

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    1. I'm glad you have never been bullied. It's rather a horrible thing to experience.

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