I just remembered a manuscript that I read many years ago, and I can’t resist sharing. But so as not to sully my prior blog entry, I’m making this a separate one.
Yes, I once read what possibly was the worst cute meet for a hero and heroine EVER. He was being treated at a VD clinic. For those of you reading this in foreign countries, that means he had a sexually transmitted disease and had sought medical assistance at an establishment staffed by public health doctors. And the heroine happened to be part of the medical/social worker team.
There several very good reasons why this isn’t a good opening for a romance. I’ll bet you can guess at least one of them:
1) Introducing a hero who has had the bad luck or the lack of discrimination to have contracted a sexually transmitted disease does not make him appealing to a reader. In fact, it makes him repulsive and makes the reader question his morality. Most such diseases are accompanied by rank symptoms, too, which are off-putting. Plus, the idea of dangerous and disgusting results from having sex is anti-romantic.
2) A person seeking treatment at a public health clinic typically has no money. A romance hero ought to have his life together enough to be able to afford to visit his own doctor. Instead, imagine him sitting in the clinic with the hoi polloi for hours, just another number waiting to be called. A hero ought to be larger than life, not caught in the machine.
3) This cute meet is the opposite of cute. It might be considered realistic, which is not the preferred tone of a romance. I mean, come on. Who daydreams about meeting a man with gonorrhea? Nobody! Venereal diseases are generally considered to be dirty secrets or embarrassing plights. They are not the stuff of which romantic fantasy is made.
4) This opening gambit runs the risk of seeming funny to the reader, like a bad joke. A romance is not supposed to be a bad joke.
Cynical realism is a quality that romance writers and readers actively avoid. While I and most romance readers don’t want to see a lot more broken down car, fender bender, or other cliché cute meets, this one isn’t an acceptable substitute. We’ll take the stupid mixed-up hotel reservation ploy over a nasty sex-related disease anytime.
Sorry. I couldn’t help talking about this. Because even many years later, I am still wondering what on earth possessed that writer to think of such an obviously unromantic way to start a romance.