Not only do I write romance, I read it. Avidly. One thing I’ve noticed over the decades is a decided departure from traditional values. Being rather old-fashioned myself, I find that disturbing.

The particular trope that annoys me is promiscuity. All too often I read a book description that begins with the heroine seeking her next one night stand. Hopping from bed to bed with a variety of partners is, apparently, not an issue. It’s a character trait, like a nervous tic or a hot temper.

I beg to differ. Promiscuity is behavior and behavior can be controlled.

In a novel I recently read, the heroine is “neurodivergent” undergrad and has had a few sexual liaisons prior to the beginning of the story. She found them disappointing, using her past bed partners to scratch an itch rather than because she felt any affection toward them. It’s an attitude and behavior in women (female characters) that I find as offensive in men (male characters). That kind of promiscuity is just people using each other to get their jollies. Such behavior and attitude reduce human characters to their base instincts and desires. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

In that book, the heroine is powerfully attracted to her professor’s teaching assistant. He returns her affection, but resists her attempts to seduce him because … get this … he’s got integrity. When she questions him on his failure to succumb, he again points out that the power imbalance between them forbids intimacy and tells her, “It’s called restraint.”


Restraint is what’s missing from too many of the characters in modern romance. That lack self-control shows a lack of respect for oneself and for others. It’s a “do what feels good when it feels good” attitude with an expectation of zero consequences, no matter whom the action might hurt.

Which makes me wonder in such books as to why there’s always surprise when someone gets pregnant. Really? You haven’t figured out that’s how babies are made?

That, of course, leads me to the next annoyance: the “secret baby” trope. Of course, it usually occurs after a single encounter, a passionate one night stand. Often the resulting single mother is struggling financially but won’t contact the baby daddy for financial assistance. In reality, this is stupid. There’s no determination by the mother to ensure the father takes responsibility for his part in creating that baby.

Yes, I understand the trope is the catalyst for getting the bed-hopping parents back together for a happily-ever-after ending, but I don’t understand the heroine’s reluctance to force the hero to admit to the consequences of their promiscuity.

Like I said: I’m old-fashioned.

In my books, sexual relationships occur within committed relationships or at least where there’s affection. Sex is far too intimate an act to be casual and dismissed as without consequence, even if it doesn’t result in pregnancy. It smacks of believing oneself unworthy of commitment or a deeper relationship: one is only good for temporary amusement. That’s where the lack of self-respect comes into play. If you don’t believe you deserve respect and courtesy, then you’ll be content with poor treatment.

Gender equality doesn’t give one gender leave to treat the other as a disposable convenience. It’s reprehensible when men do that to women and just as bad when women treat men like that: without respect.

Perhaps we need a return to those old-fashioned values.