Romance is Not For Children: Why the Trendy Titles are a Bad Idea

I first noticed it with Kieran Kramer's stories. The cutesy titles that use popular children's book titles as a template for their own. Then it expanded further from "light historical" into the mainstream historical category. Now, they're everywhere.

This trend needs to stop. Right now. And here's why:

It's derivative. I understand that temptation to try something new. To get away from those throw away, easily forgotten titles. The titles are one of the main complaints from within the genre because they are so easily tossed aside. But copying another genre's most popular titles is not the way to show the world you can be original. It's really not. (This applies to copying other bestselling adult novels, too.)

It's infantilizing. We already contend with the snobs looking down on the romance genre as something less than refined. It's a genre written mostly by women for women. It's already marginalized. Do we really need to make it easier for the critics? Women are not children, but this trend seems to perpetuate that idea. By using patterns normally reserved for children's titles, we link romances with children. And that's bad because ...

It's creepy. The sexual content in most romances is one of the reasons  many stay away from the genre. I happen to like that part of romance novels. We're grown ups. We can handle those grown up words and actions. But using a children's book as a starting point for a title just feels skeevy. This isn't a genre for children. We're classier than this.

I'm not a PC crusader by any means. I don't have an agenda to get romance more mainstream respectability. I really don't care all that much. I like the man candy covers. I don't mind the alpha heroes. I don't even care about historical accuracy as long as they get the basics correct. But I really think that the publishing industry is being incredibly foolish to continue blithely along with this trend.

I'm not sure if this bothers romance readers who don't have this familiarity with children's books, but I'm positive it sends a negative message to those who do. And this romance reader is not buying another book, even by a favorite author, that follows this titling trend.


  1. Hi Amber! Good rant. And I'm guilty as charged. Loving Lady Marcia was an impulse buy because of the "Everybody loves Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" tagline, and the "much more than a hunch" reference on the back description. It struck a chord with me watching old Brady Bunch re-runs while taking a sick day from school. And I only wish critics knew how great these books are, because I'm still thinking it's the man-titty covers (case in point: Fifty Shades is worse than Green Eggs and Ham but the cover is more generic than Dare's or Kramer's). I didn't consider the creepy infantilizing aspect though - and now I feel impure.

    Also - could I add your button on my blog? (the Flaming June is one of my faves)

    1. Of course you may :)

      I'm not sure if the Brady Bunch is for children, exactly, although it is *about* them. Tough call. I probably would have thought that was funny, too.

      And I really like Sarah MacLean's titles (One Good Earl Deserves a Lover etc) which are funny (and punny) but don't seem to be borrowing the idea from another book.

      Part of my problem is how "trendy" this is. Doing it once was creepy, but unremarkable. Seeing it done across publishers and authors? Disturbing.

  2. Thank you. If the title of a book makes me cringe or roll my eyes--well, not a good start.
    That practice is, as you say, creepy and so unappealing, it puts me off reading any of these books.

    I remember reading these children's titles to my son. To see them convoluted into titles for adult romance is just--yuck.

    1. I think that's one of the reasons I find it so creepy. I own copies of these children's books. I have read them over and over. Some are very loved by my family. I don't find it charming to blur the line between adult and children's fiction in this way. At all.

  3. Lest this seem like an over-reaction, here's what happened to me yesterday: my 10-year-old got a "recommended for you" e-mail from Kobo (luckily, I have them sent to my address) featuring some Babysitter's Club type titles appropriate for someone who has bought Princess Diaries and Warriors cat books from them . . . and a "breeding" erotica featuring schoolgirls with a not very safe for work cover. When I signed into their website from her account (which only I have the password for), the same book was displayed on the homepage. So, yeah. If I were a somewhat less cautious parent--and I'm not super careful, I mainly don't want her running up my credit card bill without my knowledge--she could have been checking out that cover, title, and rather racy sample, and trying to figure out what a "creampie" is.

    True, I did not have her birthdate on the account (I'd rather not provide it to them, but now I have). And I think this was likely some kind of glitch in their algorithm (I buy romance from them and they've never suggested that kind of erotica to me). But I kind of think that these sound-alike titles might make errors like this more common. And I was not too thrilled about it.

    1. Um...wow. That aspect hadn't occurred to me. That booksellers and their algorithms might recommend books with these titles to children is horrifying. As a mom of a 10 year old with his own Kindle account (set up similarly to yours) that worries me.

  4. You know, I never thought about this - but you bring up some interesting points!

    I was sort of lumping these in with puny titles in general - which for some reason drive me insane. They're too cutesy - I think that's my problem. Plus even with the puns - I have a hard time remembering them. I like a happy medium - titles that are more than one word but not a full sentence long (Sarah MacLean is a great example of this - I can NEVER remember her book titles!)