Discussion Forums - Love & Romance Love & Romance

Topic: instant turn-offs/turn-ons

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
Page:   Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: instant turn-offs/turn-ons
Date Posted: 9/18/2009 2:54 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2006
Posts: 6,436
Back To Top

I started plowing through my historical TBR (Oh. My. God.) and while reading the blurbs noticed that some topics just made me instantly either interested or not interested.


 -- women dressed as boys. Even though one of my old favorites is The Masqueraders by Heyer. And Anne Stuart did it well too. But as a general rule, I find it tedious.

-- archeology. Another weird one, since another old favorite is Elizabeth Peters. But just the mention of archeology/archeologists on a back cover makes my eyes glaze over. This may be why I didn't get into Bound By Your Touch.

-- Native American heroes. I associate them with really terrible books.


-- marriage of convenience of had to get married stories. I'm instantly intrigued.

Date Posted: 9/18/2009 3:12 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
Posts: 9,175
Back To Top

Turn offs,  forced imigration, witch trials, covers with Fabio.

Turn ons,  I'm a sucker for a damaged hero!

Date Posted: 9/18/2009 3:16 PM ET
Member Since: 8/23/2007
Posts: 26,510
Back To Top


I also can't stand the heroine trying to masquerade as a boy

  Hero/heroine are married at beginning book and begin an affair. I don't care if her husband is 40 yrs older than her and can't get it up-I                don't like to read about h/h committing adultery for half the book before the wife/husband is killed off in some way.

 Heroine is married to sick/dying or ancient husband and needs to give him an heir-again the adultery thing-even if the husband is    encouraging her to cheat.

Heroine obsessed with hero. I hate reading a book when the heroine is doing everything she can to throw herself at a hero who doesn't really want  her until the end

The long lost relative of a family group that's had a series built around them (Cynster's anyone?)-I don't generally like when every second cousin, thrice removed gets their own book just so previous characters can be updated

Not a fan of the old blue-stocking. Especially if she's considered really unattractive by everyone but the hero who happens to be the most beautiful man that ever lived. 

Amnesia plots

ETA: long seperations-this is why I stopped reading Bertrice Small-I read 4 books and in all of them one of the main characters had amnesia and they were seperated for more than half the book. Also in each one someone became the sex slave of someone other than their spouse.


Turn ons:

Love the Native American hero (I'm part Iroquois)

Undercover heroes (as long as he's not undercover as a fop)

Um-late 1700's books where everyone wears powdered wigs. Or usually everyone but the "hero" who dares to go with his own hair showing.

Hero falls in love with best friend's sister

I happen to like the marriage of convenience and "shot-gun" weddings. 

Mail-order Brides

Free-spirited American Heiress seeking title husband to please her parents

ETA: Falling In Love with Guardian (as long as he's not too much older)

ETA: Kilts

Captive plot (preferably heroine)

Light bondage

Last Edited on: 9/19/09 8:36 AM ET - Total times edited: 6
Date Posted: 9/18/2009 3:22 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2006
Posts: 673
Back To Top

Turn Offs:

Hero finding a strange woman unconscious/sleeping in his hotel room and nailing her

Cop heroes

Scottish/Irish settings

Indian romances (either continent)






Detectives (I want romance, not mystery!)

Any author blurbs that starts with "If you love Julia Quinn . . . . "

Heroine dating the son of the hero at the beginning of the bk


Turn On:


Cross-dressing (altho I found the Anne Staurt one boring)


Women warriors

Childhood friends

Date Posted: 9/18/2009 3:25 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2006
Posts: 673
Back To Top

Covers with Fabio? LOL. If I ever had to replace any of my Laura Kinsales, I would hunt for the old ones with Fabio on the cover. I love those. :-)

Date Posted: 9/18/2009 3:38 PM ET
Member Since: 6/20/2007
Posts: 808
Back To Top


  • amnesia,
  • marriages required by some family member's will,
  • time travel,
  • archaeology (ditto here, Willa. Makes me wonder how we get through Diana Palmer's books),
  • whimpy/whiny/wussy women,
  • men who think great sex will keep a woman happy when everything else sucks.


  • grand gestures (two of the best are in Cherry Adair's Take Me - the Christmas scene and the diner proposal),
  • men who tune in to what will please their woman and not rely on what pleases other women,
  • virgin heroes,
  • unusual plots (again, Adair's Take Me, Suzanne Forster's The Arrangement, Lisa Kleypas' Somewhere I'll Find You),
  • unusual character traits (Alison Kent's Sweetest Taboo and The Bane Affair, Beverly Barton's Guarding Jeannie)
  • reveals that are so unexpected, they make you gasp.

JERELYN - You might enjoy Dark Thirst by Sara Reinke. Abused, deaf-mute virginal vampire hero who can't stand the thought of killing anyone (which his family has taught him is the only way to get blood). Can you get any more damaged than that?


Last Edited on: 10/7/09 10:53 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/18/2009 4:14 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2007
Posts: 1,057
Back To Top

Ooh, what a fun thread! Okay, here's mine:

Turn offs:
Paranormal - vampires, werewolves although I enjoyed the first of Emma Holly's (oops, not Lora Leigh) Midnight series.
Spy/espionage/mystery plots
Heroines who are too outspoken, too independent, too aggressive
Ultra-alpha males (Brenda Joyce's Victory series)
Series that go on forever about the same family or group of friends
H/h who think they must leave the other for their own good - Good grief, just communicate!

Turn ons:
Unrequited love but h/h eventually get their HEA
Western historicals/cowboys
Mail order brides 
Time travel, only when heroine goes back in time
Sensitive, wounded heros

Last Edited on: 9/19/09 1:26 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/18/2009 5:09 PM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2008
Posts: 12,776
Back To Top

Turn offs

Prologue longer than 2 pages.

Men in Wigs, women in panniers (the Georgian period?)

A little story with a lot of sex

Turn ons

alpha male

secret pregnancy (I know, I know....)

damaged or tortured hero!

beauty and the beast

hero rescuing heroine from poverty, abuse, etc

Date Posted: 9/18/2009 5:31 PM ET
Member Since: 10/19/2007
Posts: 1,028
Back To Top

Turn ons:

Damaged heroes.

Classic romance novels.

Turn offs:

Weak conflicts.


Date Posted: 9/18/2009 6:21 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2006
Posts: 6,436
Back To Top

Still slogging through and discovered yet another turn-off: historicals set in New Orleans. Again, an association thing. They always seem to be full of purple prose and woo-woo.

The words "epic" "sweeping" and/or "saga" on the cover will definitely make me think twice.

Amnesia is a turn-on.

Date Posted: 9/18/2009 6:44 PM ET
Member Since: 6/20/2007
Posts: 808
Back To Top

Oooh, Oooh, Oooh. Reading all of yours made me think of another BIG turn-off:

Descriptions of physically impossible intimacy. i.e., he's standing up, she's on her knees, he's fondling her thighs.  Who is he, stretch armstrong?

Date Posted: 9/18/2009 7:18 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
Posts: 9,175
Back To Top

lol Colleen I hate that too, and I always have to stop and see if I missed a position change.  That poor vampire! that would suck!  (sorry couldn't resist)

Date Posted: 9/18/2009 7:32 PM ET
Member Since: 12/21/2007
Posts: 1,642
Back To Top

Turn offs:

The one where the hero and heroine spend 99% of the novel keeping some big secret from the other that's a really stupid secret that they could clear up in a five minute conversation

Adultery by the hero or heroine

Way too beautiful heroines

Damaged heroines


Turn ons:

Heroes damaged in mind, body, or spirit

Heroes who are former spies and burned out

Archaeology  and archaeologists

Sub plots (or main plots) of man/man love

Strong heroines with damaged heros

Date Posted: 9/18/2009 8:52 PM ET
Member Since: 2/28/2008
Posts: 2,553
Back To Top

Turn Offs:

Anything alluding to a secret baby.

Anything with children characters in general.


Any or both charactes are spies. (Don't know why, I like secret-agent hero contemporaries, just no spies in historicals!)

Nobility masquerading as a servant...ugh. Now if it's impoverished nobility who's forced to work for a living I enjoy those, just not the girl who's family members are meanies so she runs away to work on some duke's estate.

Evil family members. Way too trite.

Adultry - not romantic at all!

Family series - where everyone including the second cousin twice-removed has a book.


Turn Ons:

Marriage of Convinenece stories - love these!

Tortured, reclusive heroes.

Any beauty and the beast story.

Bluestocking heroines (yes, I know it's trite but I can't help but like a tomboy heroine).

Gothic-style historical romances.

Impoverished hero or heroine.

Gunslingers, or any bad-ass hero who's morality is in question (who doesn't love a bad-boy?).

ETA: Mail-order brides! Love those stories!

Last Edited on: 9/18/09 8:53 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/18/2009 9:08 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
Back To Top

Turn offs:


Secret baby books.

Adultery or "cheating" of any kind - this includes either of them sleeping with someone else after they meet & discover they're attracted to each other.

Hero or heroine marrying or being married to someone else and then waiting half the book for this signifcant other to kick the bucket.

Wigs and hair powder, hooped skirts, panniers, bustles, etc. (in historicals, obviously).  Btw, this is why I think regencies have enjoyed so much popularity; relative simplicity in underwear makes getting undressed easier:P  Add to that heavy face powder, rouge, & patches, high heels on men.  I prefer boots myself and instantly urk out when I read a description of a hero wearing "red pumps".  Don't especially care for stockings & knee breeches either.

Believe it or not, blonde heroes:P

The big misunderstanding.

Captor/captive plots.

Kidnapping highlanders.

Squicky sex scenes.


The oft repeated question "What do you mean?".

The independent dimwit heroine who thinks she can handle everything and only succeeds in getting herself into trouble.

Heroes who really believe that sleeping with someone else will cure them of their obsession with the heroine.

"Historicals" set in fictional countries/kingdoms.

Alleged "warrior" heroines who never actually kick any ass in the story:P

Masquerading H&H - this includes heroine dressing as a boy.

Lady pirates (except for Marsha Canham's).

Sex in Chapter 1.

Sex in the epilogue.

Descriptions of sexual positions that sound more like they're playing Twister.

Food games in sex scenes.

References to bodily fluids:P


Turn Ons:

Tall, dark haired heroes with green eyes.

Scarred/wounded heroes.

Pining & obsessed heroes (as long as they aren't creepy:P).

Impoverished heroes.

Quirky, neurotic heroes (Dain from Lord of Scoundrels, etc.)

Unusual/exotic settings.

H&H not being nobility.

Last Edited on: 9/19/09 11:17 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/18/2009 9:29 PM ET
Member Since: 8/12/2006
Posts: 1,012
Back To Top

Turn Offs:


Erotica with little or no romance

Blondes  (although i feel bad because both my boys turned out blonde even though my husband and I are both dark)

Secret baby

Historicals in which the characters talk like they are comtemporary

The Sweet Home Alabama type of contemporary, rich girl comes back to town.  I've read far too many of these.

Perfect heroes

Turn Ons;

Heroes secretly in love for a long time


Heroes in love with friends younger sister (of age of course) :-)  I can't tell you how many of my friends older brothers I adored, ha ha.

Heroes with great survival knowledge

Heroes that are multilingual

Left-handed heroes

Military special-ops

The hero and heroine who hate each other in the beginning



Date Posted: 9/18/2009 9:52 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2006
Posts: 673
Back To Top

Considering how the topic is INSTANT turnoffs, I wanna know how you can tell if a bk has a long seperation in it just by the backblurb. I would think its a useful talent to have.

Date Posted: 9/18/2009 10:09 PM ET
Member Since: 8/26/2008
Posts: 167
Back To Top

Turn offs:


Hero pretending to be dead, HATE this plot device: look buddy if you come back to me from the dead prepare to die for real


Long seperations, esp. ones involving secret babies

Big Misunderstandings that 60 seconds of communication could have averted

Loud mouthed, cursing, aggressive but secretly vulnerable heroines (or heros, though I cut them a bit more slack is they are passionately in love with the heroine)

Doormates and the a-holes that walk over them (looking at you Diana Palmer;))


super cops/FBI/covert ops/whatever (just how many best of the best of the best  of the . . . can there be anyway?)

Turn ons: :D

Beauty and the beast

bluestockings, esp. the ones who are slightly oblivious to everything (fine line here, can easily slip into TSTL territory)

paranormal creatures, esp. the weres

heros who a passionately in love with the heroine, will do anything for her

closely related: hero falls in love before the heroine

friendly banter between the H/h

H/h who earn a normal salary working normal jobs

hero "rescues/heals/fufills" the heroine emotionally and visa versa

I'm quite sure I will think of more for both catagories. Great question!

Last Edited on: 9/18/09 10:12 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 9/18/2009 10:23 PM ET
Member Since: 3/22/2009
Posts: 2,898
Back To Top

Turn Off's:

Covers with Fabio.{Barf-o-rama}

Sissy looking heros that could possably be girls in guys clothing.

Lesbian action.{I'm sorry I really get into my books and have no desire to kiss a female either fictional or real.LOL.}


uptight british guys.

Turn On's:



Highlanders...I just picture them without a skirt.LOL.

Any gorgeous sex god of an immortal hero.

The hero and heroine who hate each other in the beginning

Scarred/wounded heroes.

Captor/captive plots.

One hell of a sex god native american hero,yum.{Contemporary or paranormal only though}

Sexy nerds. :p

Last Edited on: 9/18/09 10:24 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/19/2009 9:00 AM ET
Member Since: 3/24/2008
Posts: 271
Back To Top

Turn off:

any Pirate books or books that primary deal with boats

too much action adventure stuff (Marsha Canham)

Older than 30 heroines(I'm young it may change as I change)

Turn on:

Big misunderstandings ( Judith Mcnaught stuff)

Marriage of convenience /shotgun weddings /arranged marriages (love that stuff)

Pioneers/Texas setting

I am sure there is a lot more that turns me  off/on but right now that  is all I can think of :)

Last Edited on: 9/19/09 9:09 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/19/2009 9:33 AM ET
Member Since: 2/24/2006
Posts: 5,498
Back To Top

Turn offs: 

Fabio or similar covers

adultery/having a leman

separations for longer than 2 or 3 years

women reporters

huge age differences where the woman is younger


leaving the other "for their own good"

baby stories unless she gets pregnant by the hero during the time they are CURRENTLY together

secret baby plots

Beta males

15 page love scenes (thank you Lora Leigh)

female heroines with gutter mouths

overusing a word until you want to scream, aka "soul" by Lora Leigh

Spanish heroines (nothing personal, just not my taste)


Turn ons:

Native American hero's if its done well.

Marriage of convenience / shotgun weddings / Mail order Brides

Falling in love with your best friend

Time travel if done well

Special Ops/Military

Beauty and the Beast stories / plain jane heroines

Captive plots / stranded plots

Highlander stories

Unusual settings or unusual heritage of the hero


Date Posted: 9/19/2009 9:45 AM ET
Member Since: 1/27/2009
Posts: 753
Back To Top

Turn offs:

Secret baby/secret pregnancy
Heroine is a reporter (cause you know she's going to do something stupid cause she must get her story)
Medieval setting
Contemporary heroines who are virgins or have never ever had an orgasm
Lack of a sense of humor in the hero
Heroine doing something stupid (like giving up the man she loves) to save a family member
Heroines with no common sense
Time travel
Nerdy heros

Turn ons
Best friends turning into lovers
Heros secretly in love with the heroine for a long time
Alpha males
Marriage of convenience
Heroine is hero's best friend's sister
Damaged heros
Strong independent heroines

Date Posted: 9/19/2009 11:40 AM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2007
Posts: 462
Back To Top

Turn Offs

Brutal or crude sex scenes - where there is no finesse involved
Child brides
Sappy heroines -- Weak heroines who never realize their own potential
Series that last too long that the plots/characters go haywire
Erotic books with no plot

Harlequin presents where the European/Mediterranean hero is a jerk till the end

Turn On's

Witty conversation - heroine can give as good as she gets - when its funny or frustrates the hero even better!
Alpha Males who fall hard - but fight it all the way
H/h who fall in love despite classlines
Heroes who convey their feelings
Harlequin presents where the European/Mediterranean hero is a jerk till the end OOPS wrong section!!
Erotic books with a great plot
Time Travel - think Karen Marie Moning

Last Edited on: 9/27/09 2:13 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/19/2009 1:43 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2007
Posts: 1,057
Back To Top

I'm with you, Willa. Please, no sweeping epics for me. I don't like it when the story covers many years/generations.

A few others turnoffs:

  • Book covers with couples that are almost naked - how embarrassing!
  • Russian settings
  • The big misunderstanding! (You're right, Kim. That one drives me crazy.)
  • Military settings - maybe because I didn't like my own military experience :P
  • Long prologues that could be whole stories by themselves.

Turn ons:

  • How could I have forgotten beauty and the beast themes?
Date Posted: 9/19/2009 2:31 PM ET
Member Since: 6/18/2005
Posts: 30
Back To Top


This is a great thread!  It's so interesting to see how different people are in the turn off/ons.  I'm cut/pasting and adding some of my own comments.



  • Baby stories/secret baby plots - Another thread recently had a link to free Harelquin e-books.  At least 1/2 of them were secret baby plots.  I'm not even going to sully my harddrive with women who have a hard time with some basic biology. ;)
  • Most historicals - the problem is for me that most modern authors write a modern character into a period time setting.  It's natural all things considered, but I find it jarring, like someone with an eighties hairdo wandering around in 1850's movie set.
  • H/h "misunderstanding" plots -  benefit of the doubt and 5 minutes of communication would go a long, long way
  • Anything with Greek/Italian millionare/billionare - how many unmarried greek/italian million/billionares are there anyway?  Why would they be interested in me, uh, the heroine? (Honestly, I've never understood how European guys are more romantic, so that might be part of it.)
  • Paranormal/witches/vampires, et al  unless really well done. 
  • Mismatched characters - you know, where 1 is competely messed up, driven stubborn, etc, etc and the other appears to have the patience of Job.  In real life, the average non-messed up human would have left the other behind by 1/4 of the way through the book.
  • Adultery - hello, this a romance.  I have a hard time simply spending time with people that I know have lied to me.  I can't imagine any sane romance that involves being cheated on.


  • Nerdy heros - my DH is one. ;)
  • Marriage/situation of convenience/forced/arranged
  • Witty/fun conversations aka - Pride and Prejudice; Much Ado About nothing
  • Contemporary ranch/cowboy stories
  • H/h who earn a normal salary working normal jobs