7 Reasons Why Halloween Is No Longer My Favorite Holiday

It’s October, and many of my friends and neighbors are decorating for Halloween.

When I was a kid, I freakin’ loved Halloween! I would totally plan out my costume and let my imagination run. My mom did stop me from wearing my Wonder Woman underoos out in 30 degree weather (I wanted to be Wonder Woman for most of childhood years, but we lived in very cold places). My parents didn’t really get into making Halloween costumes, and the store bought Halloween costumes of the 1980s were awful . . .


But man, when I dressed up like Batman, I felt so cool. And yeah, my Batman costume looked a lot like that Darth Vader one. But without the light saber.

My favorite year was the year I dressed up like a queen and got to wear a fancy party dress and a Burger King crown covered in glitter. I thought I was all that. My mom even let me wear a little of her lipstick. I truly felt royal.

Now that I’m older, however, Halloween has become a season to endure. Here are the top 6 reasons why Halloween changed for me:


  1. I Hate Scary Things – No scary movies, scary dolls, or haunted houses for me. I hate being scared, and more than that, I hate the nightmares it brings. Usually for weeks. I chalk this up to the over-active imagination that so many writers have. And, of course, to being a coward. As an adult, trying to avoid scary things during this time of year is always problematic. Doable, but only if you don’t channel surf. Never, ever channel surf during Halloween.


  1. Halloween Candy Is Not Longer Awesome – It’s no longer about making sure you hit the houses that give the best candy, then sorting through it and setting aside the chocolate while pawning off the candy corn to the one person in the world who’ll eat it. I know candy isn’t good for me, and I no longer have the metabolism of an eight-year-old to ignore that fact. I have also learned that if something is in the house, I will probably “forget” this and eat it. So, we don’t regularly have chips, candy, or junk food in the house. Except at Halloween.



  1. Gotta share – And if I’m caught eating a piece of candy, DD1 and DD2 each need a piece of that candy. And neither of them can hold their sugar. Minutes after having said piece of candy, both are running around like someone lit their hair on fire. Usually whooping and screaming as if the aforementioned fire had indeed been lit. To which DH gives me a look that says he knows what happened and that the current insanity is totally and fully my fault.


  1. See #3 every time DD1 or DD2 gets a piece of Halloween candy they got trick-or-treating


  1. Can’t Take DD1 to Certain Stores – I have to be super careful of what stores I go in during this season and where we go in those stores. DD1 will cautiously peek down Home Depot’s aisles at the animatronics and ask me to repeatedly reassure her nothing is real. She still refuses to set foot in a certain store that scared her two years ago. I don’t know how she remembers anything from being that young, but boy does she.  She still points at the store and calls it the “scary place”. We haven’t shopped there since the crying, screaming hysterics when a grim reaper went off as we came through the entrance (and yes, it was her, not me).


  1. Can’t Take DD1 Past Certain Houses – One of our neighbors is very festive. They have an amazing Christmas display that is only rivaled by their Halloween display. Which has led me to needing to find creative ways around their house as DD1 flips out every time we drive past.


  1. DD1 Yells at Halloween Decorations – In her loudest possible voice. In the middle of the street as we’re taking a walk. In the middle of the sidewalk outside a shop. Or in the stores themselves. Things like: “I’m not afraid of you!” or “You don’t scare me!” Some people laugh. Some people stare. I just keep waiting for November 1st and the Santa decorations.

My Catnip

I “found” Pinterest, thanks to Mariah Avix.

I am not sure if this counts as “social media” or not, but I spent an enjoyable 45 minutes making and pinning stuff to my board.

This is like the files of inspiration I used to keep, but so much better.

I think I just found my social media catnip!



On a side note, WordPress and I have been struggling a bit. I go to schedule a post, and it posts it two weeks prior. Huh? WTF, WordPress?

Of course, it could be an error between keyboard and chair…


5 Ways I Failed the Social in Social Media

After more than a little nudging, cajoling, and downright shoving, I finally joined social media.


As an introvert, this was a huge leap. For those of you that are extroverted, imagine spending a month on vacation. By yourself. Deep in the woods. Completely cut-off from civilization. Without cell service or the Internet.

You get the point.

After having spent a few weeks attempting to embrace social media, there are a few things that have come to light:

1. My Life Isn’t Very Post-Worthy DD1 has dance class and gymnastics. DD2 is a willful toddler we don’t like to take places unless they’re very child friendly. DH and I both work full time, then come home and take care of two young children. No restaurants, concerts, or exotic vacations.

2. Being “Social” is a Lotta Work – I have to get up earlier in the morning to check my social media sites, respond, comment, like, whatever. Then, I have to figure out something witty or important to say. See #1 above.


3. Political Posts are Everywhere – Newbie, remember, but I had no idea some of the ideals certain friends and family held, and I am more surprised that few seem to realize that their posts only appeal to those that already agree with them.

4. Not Really Connecting – It’s social media, so it must be social, but I haven’t figured out the skill of actually “connecting” with people. Again, I’m still new at it, but it feels more like a barrage of stuff comes through my feed, none of which I (or anyone else) spends more than a few moments looking at and then “liking”. Which brings me to…

5. Why Didn’t You “Like” That? – it’s harder to politely ignore or redirect conversations (see #3 and #4). And people know if you didn’t like and share their posts. Never thought I’d ever have to tell someone: No, I didn’t “like” your political post. No, it didn’t make me see things your way. No, I’m not a red commy bastard (I know for a fact my parents were married when I was born). And yes, I still like you and consider you a friend even if I don’t agree with you on this thing you posted.

How about you? How long have you been dong social media? Do you find it easy? How long did it take you to really get into it and understand it? Any secrets to really connecting with people or how you make interesting posts?


My Little Rebellion

DD1 has gymnastics class. It’s “only” 45 minutes long and less than 10 minutes away from our house. So, while I could drop her off and come, I’d be home less than 20 minutes before going back to get her. Because of this, most parents just hang out in the hallway and play on their phones.

I followed these unwritten rules for a few weeks, but the dark hallway, hard chairs, and beckoning sunshine fueled my little rebellion. So, I left DD1 happily enjoying her class, and rather than parking myself on a bench designed for discomfort, I took a stroll outside.

It turns out a 52 mile state trail ends very close to the gymnastics building. So, I set my  watch, knowing I’d have to turn around after walking 20 minutes or less so I’d be there before the kids got out of class and started walking.

As I turned onto the wooded part of the path, I paused and wondered if I should forgo the path for the sidewalk which would eventually take me past the sewage treatment plant. Yeah, I know, doesn’t seem like much of a decision, but I was slightly concerned about walking alone.

However, it was daylight, the trail is very well-traveled, and the “woods” is really only 15 feet or so of trees on either side as it runs right through our city. I was in a rebellious mood, so I took it.

I’m glad I rebelled.

The path was beautiful, and the time alone let me think through an issue I was having with my current story.

Actual shot of the actual path

As I walked, I realized I was taking things in the story too fast, racing forward with the plot and action scene after not letting the chapters connect. The time really let me think more about my characters, what was going on between them, and how they would feel about the events transpiring. More than that, it also let me get to know the characters a little better, make them feel a little more alive to me.

One of the lovely views from the path

When I got back to the gymnastics class, I was feeling pretty good after my walk, and I had another little rebellion. I broke the silence of the hallway. I know, I know, I actually talked to another of the parents. And she talked back!

The kids came out of class a few minutes later, I hugged DD1 and happily listened to her recount her adventures in class as we drove home.


Ever have a little rebellion of your own? What was it? Do you have to take your kids to activities, and if so, what do you do to pass the time? Do you find time for yourself? How and what do you do with it?

The Games We Play

People love games. Video games. Board games. Professional sports. Games on our phones.

Games are also a great way of showing more about the personality of the characters we write or learning more about the people we meet. Are they a poker ace? Perhaps chess is more to their tastes. Do they run off and leave their party all the time, or do they hide behind the tank? Do they mark the cards in Candy Land (looking at DD1 here)?

Or maybe you just drew Queen Frostine.

Perhaps they throw the chessboard to the ground if they’re losing. Maybe they never flinch even when they’re bluffing. The fact that they are bluffing also tells us something about them.


There are a couple of tried and true games Regency fiction uses to get characters together, usually croquet or lawn bowling. Archery contests are occasionally used, usually to showcase a character’s skills.


Yes, bowling. The sport of kings. In 1511, King Henry VIII banned bowling for the lower classes and imposed a levy on bowling so only the wealthy could afford to it. Another law passed in 1541 (and not repealed until 1845) prohibited workers from bowling except on Christmas, and only in their master’s home and in his presence. So, yes, pretty exclusive stuff if you’re reading or writing historical fiction.



In Regency romance novels, croquet is usually depicted as a light-hearted sport used as an excuse for the hero and heroine to be together. The characters are never shown as competitive, and frequently may not even finish the game.

So not my experience.

The only time I ever played croquet was with my in-laws, and to them, it’s a competitive sport (not quite as bad as Heathers). They even have an annual competition that is pretty serious business, although they also like to play “camp” croquet. Imagine setting up a croquet obstacle course over uneven terrain, rocks, sticks, twigs and sand. Fun to watch, but it has nothing in common with the Regency depiction of croquet.


Lawn Bowling

Again, another sport used to keep the hero and heroine together. You see this a lot less often than croquet in what I’ve been reading, and I’ve never read of actual bowling in a novel despite its popularity with royalty. Not sure why it’s so much less popular unless the authors are concerned most readers don’t know what an elite sport it was.

I’ve never lawn bowled. Seems like a lot of work to go out and set-up the pins after each roll of the ball. Granted, those that would be playing during the Regency period would have servants to do the unpleasant work. I am not sure if modern-day bowling would have much in common with lawn bowling in England, and the few experiences I have with modern bowling make for funny stories. Not sure those would translate well to historical fiction.



You see archery a lot in Regency fiction. Gives a reason for the gentlemen to take off their coats, and allows the hero to demonstrate his skill at the manly art. Sadly, I see few heroines bringing it in archery competitions.

As for archery, I’ve never even held a bow. The closest I’ve come to one is seeing them  at the sporting goods store. Of course, modern bows are nothing like what someone in the Regency period would be using.

Don’t believe me? Go take a look at a compound bow.  Not much like the ones we think of from the tales of Robin Hood.



So, while I don’t have a lot of experience in Regency games, what I do have a lot of experience in is board games. And not the Milton Bradley ones of my childhood. DH loves games and has collected quite a lot of them. From easy games we can play with DD1 like Stone Soup to games like Twilight Imperium (classified as an epic board game) that comes with a rule book longer than the novel I’m working on.

Not sure if board games will ever come into play in Fantasy Romance, but you never know. I need to do more research and learn about the different games people played.

How about you? What games do you like? Do you like bowling, croquet or archery? How about board games? Do you use them to show more about your characters?

More importantly do your children cheat at Candyland?


I know, I know, the last think you want to read about is punctuation. Me, too. But as I contemplate paying an editor to review my manuscript, I find that at $2 per page, I want them doing more than correcting my commas.

Which are atrocious, by the way.

Just as they are in many of the beta works I’ve read.

I had hoped another blog I follow would tackle this in a fun an creative way.


They didn’t, so I decided to do some research on “the rules”. Remember, you only get to break rules once you know them and are breaking them for good reason. Ignorance isn’t a good reason.

And there’s a lot of rules, some using phrases I had to google as it’s been a long time since 7th grade English.

Here’s what I’ve been able to find. I put this all together in one place for easy reference. And I put in examples as I won’t remember half the jargon later.

Please let me know if there are some rules I’m missing!

  1. Use a comma before any coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet) that links two independent clauses. – I find an example helps clarify this.  EX: I wrote a novel, and I want to publish it. However, you can rewrite the sentence as: I wrote a novel and want to publish it. In this case, no comma is needed. The “independent clause” part dictates that both parts of the sentence you are joining have a subject and verb.
  2. Use a comma after a dependent clause, phrase, or words that starts a sentence. Another example may help clarify this. EX: When I finish my novel, I want to publish it. Dependent clause basically has a subject and verb, but it is not a complete sentence. Similar to #1 as it has to have a subject and verb.
  3. Use commas to note appositives. What in the blue blazes is an appositive? It gives more information that isn’t necessary. The link gives you lots of examples. But here is another is case you don’t want to click. EX. The novel I wrote, a fantasy romance, is 76,000 words.
  4. Do NOT use commas with appositives that are essential. Right. So what is essential? It’s part of the sentence that you can’t do without and still get the context of the sentence. The novel I wrote that frustrated my daughter is 76,000 words. Yeah, I’m still a little fuzzy on this. But it seems that if the appositive tends to start with “that” it tends to be deemed essential.
  5. Use commas to separate items in a series. I wrote a novel, a poem, and a novella. Now, there seems to be some difference of opinion on the comma after “poem” in the above sentence. Those who support the Oxford comma say it should be there. Those who oppose it, say it shouldn’t. Never knew there was so much controversy in grammar, did you? There are a handful of cases where you need it, and you can find the internet meme all over, well, the internet. enhanced-buzz-19599-1389811749-10
  6. Use a comma after introductory adverbs. You know, those “ly” words we’re all trying to hard to avoid. But if you do use them at the beginning of the sentence, you also use a comma. Finally, I finished my novel.
  7. Use commas to set off free modifiers that can be placed anywhere in the sentence without causing confusion. I jumped up and down when my novel was published, laughing joyously. 
  8. Use a comma near the end of a sentence to separate contrasted coordinate elements. The new author was merely ignorant of the publishing process, not stupid.
  9. Use a comma when the first word of the sentence is “yes” or “no.” Yes, I’d like my novel published.
  10. Use a comma when you use a name. Elizabeth, would you like your novel published? 
  11. Use a comma between two coordinate adjectives that modify the same noun. Use commas here: The fabulous, amazing novel is 76,000 words. NOT here: The fantasy romance novel is 76,000 words. 
  12. Use a comma to offset negation in a sentence. I wrote a romance novel, not a thriller, as my first book.
  13. Use a comma to separate each element in an address or in a city-state name combination within a sentence. This didn’t come up much in my fantasy world, but I suppose it can be useful. Ex. I loved Seattle, Washington.
  14. Use a comma to separate the elements in a full date and separate the date from the rest of the sentence with commas. Again, didn’t really come into play in a fantasy romance, but may be useful to others. Friday, May 13, 2016, was a strange day. 
  15. Numbers.  1,000,000,000 (approximately the amount of money Disney has made selling my daughter princess stuff even as I try to hide the whole princess culture from her)



There are way better blog posts out there on the proper punctuation for dialogue, but as this is a comma post, here are the rules on when to use the comma in dialogue.

  1. Use a comma when someone says something.  The writer said, “I wrote a novel.”  OR “I wrote a novel,” said the writer.


You’ll note that all of my examples are nice and simplistic. These rules get a lot more complicated as your sentence complexity increases.

But it at least gets me started.

Book Review: I Spy a Duke


Rating: 2/5
Title: I Spy a Duke
Author: Erica Monroe


I was super excited by the premise of this book. It’s something I haven’t read before. Action. Romance. Spies. Sadly, the execution didn’t live up to the premise.

The Duke of Abermont, James, is a spymaster for the English Crown. The book opens with his sister dying after being tortured when she was caught by another spy. Gruesome opening to a romance novel. Would’ve probably been better to learn about that through the story itself so I cared more about the sister. Would’ve been easy to do as the next scene is James drinking on the anniversary of his sister’s death.

James is recently Duke as his father has just died. James is your typical brooding, powerful hero. Physically perfect and a deadly spy in his own right. Spymaster and Duke, oh my.

Vivien Loren’s brother was murdered, and the bow street runners didn’t bother with finding who killed him. She wants revenge and is willing to do anything to get it. Even bury logic and rationality.

For some reason, she believes a mysterious stranger who says he’ll tell her who murdered her brother. All she has to do is help him prove James is financing a revolution in France. She agrees. *eye roll*

Why would Sauveterre, clearly a French name, choose to appear French? Especially when he really is. Why would Vivien go along with it? Vengeance may be a powerful motive, but it’s clearly paired with blindness and stupidity. Not the traits that make a heroine particularly appealing.

The position of governess to James’s five-year-old brother has recently opened and it’s one of the first open positions in James’ household in years. Why would Sauveterre risk this with an unknown asset? Why not a French spy? Or at least a known quantity?

Vivien takes the position as governess, and lo and behold, is unable to find anything. Shocking! You sent an untrained innocent after someone you suspected was a spymaster. *eye roll*

So after 6 months in their employ, she finds James drinking to his sister’s death. Vivien joins him and drinks to her brother’s.

And just like that, James is in love with her and suddenly does a complete character reversal. For a man who’s promised to do everything in his power to serve crown and country, he is amazingly ready to throw it all away for a woman he barely knows. Especially as he’s vowed to never lose another agent after his sister.

And he fell in love with her after knowing her all of 10 minutes.

And James still loves her even after she reveals she was working for Sauveterre when Sauveterre threatens her life after she’s been unable to find anything.

He doesn’t kill her or turn her in. Because he loves her.

There is almost no interaction between them after drinking to dead loved ones to her revelation that she’s been working for the French. But our born and raised spymaster still loves her. After one drink…

Not only does James not deal with her as you’d expect from a spymaster, but he then proposes marriage to her. What?!? A shared glass of brandy, her bandaging his hand and talking about their dead siblings for 10 minutes and he’s in love…with someone that was spying on him.?!? Albeit she was spying badly, but still she was spying for the French.

He overcomes his sisters’ reticence to this highly scandalous marriage (she’s his brother’s governess). We have some narrative filler, they get married.

Then he tells her the truth about him as they head out to a safe house so he can train her to be a spy. Except, maybe she won’t want to be…more fluff and filler. There is no real tension between them, there is no real romance, and there are no real obstacles.

She just has to wrap her brain around his being a spy. Governess to duchess and now to being a spy herself…

We see him work with her, train with her, teach her self defense.

Somehow Sauveterre finds the safe house. How is never revealed. This was supposed to be the super safest of safe houses…Never did figure out why Sauveterre knew James would take her there, either. Sauveterre makes some comments about it all being part of his plan… Apparently, he knew James was stupid enough to marry her, wait, no he didn’t, because he admits that too…

Battle scene and then happily ever after ending with Vivian becoming a spy in 3 months. Um, yeah. Sure.


How to make it 5 stars
The author needs to be true to James. How he can forgive the heroine and risk his entire organization for her, I don’t understand. I also don’t see him falling in love so quickly.

Might have been better to give Vivian some knowledge from her dead brother she doesn’t know she has. That’s why the French spy wants her. Except he wants her alive to torture the information from her.

Now we fall back on James wanting to protect her, keep an innocent safe (rather than a woman who ignored reason and worked for a French spy) while he tries to figure out what she knows that’s useful to the French. Gives a reason to keep the characters together and gives them time to fall in love.

We need more romantic tension. The love between them needs to grow rather than just poof into existence.

Also, the villain needs more. Why would he be so foolish one moment by bringing in an outsider to a difficult and sensitive job, then the next moment be able to find the safest of English safe houses?

Author also needs to tidy up things. Such as in one scene James telling Vivien not to leave the house for fear of Sauveterre, then the next sending her into town so James can talk to his sisters.

Welcome Home

At the end of June, kidney failure claimed my darling kitty. He’d been my companion through some trying times, and as pets do, loved me unconditionally through them. Including DD1 and DD2 that he was teaching how to pet him properly.

I was not ready to get another cat, but our remaining kitty was suddenly quite lonesome as DH and I work all day and the girls are in daycare. Lonely to the point of launching himself through the house the moment someone came home to greet them, and then sticking to them like glue for the rest of the night.

We decided to welcome another addition to our family, and our first stop was the Humane Society. I was originally looking for a kitty who was a couple of years old but still liked children. Our search was going poorly when a co-worker told me about a friend of hers with kittens.

I wasn’t sure I could tolerate kitten antics, but of course, a few kitten pictures later and we were deciding it was fate as we made arrangements to go out and see them. There is nothing quite like kitten silliness to bring a smile to your face.

DH and DD1 originally wanted the grey one, but we agreed to go out and meet them.



These have to be the healthiest, most robust “barn” kittens I’ve ever seen. The little girl wanted nothing to do with us, but both boys were pretty friendly. After a few minutes, the orange one rubbed up against DD2 and let her pet him. Over the next half hour, he climbed over the girls, played with them, and let them pet him.

He came home with us.

I am surprised how much he loves to cuddle. I had thought a barn cat would be standoffish, but he cries to get picked up. And he’ll cuddle into the crook of your arm, on your lap, on your chest . . . wherever he can find a spot!

While I wasn’t sure I was emotionally ready for another kitty, it’s amazing how quickly your heart opens up when you have a little ball of fluff purring happily on your lap.

I still my miss my kitty a great deal, but kitten antics can’t help but make me smile.



Plot Analysis: The Romance

I realized my last post was about the plot outside the romance in a romance novel. All the things happening around the characters so they can’t just focus on what they feel for each other. We don’t want to make it too easy on them, now do we? Of course we don’t!

And while no one falls in love in a vacuum, I also thought I’d take a moment to discuss the plot of the actual romance.

You gotta earn it, buddy.

Yes, I think there should be a plot, a progression to the romance. Even for the soul mates trope. Even for the love-at-first-sight trope.

Think about this for a moment. You see a handsome guy at Starbucks. You are instantly attracted. He comes over to you and you start talking. What’s your first reaction? Whoohoo, let’s jump in bed together? I’ve never known anyone like that, but okay, maybe it is. But are you then instantly in love with him? Ready to spend your life together? Ready to give up everything for him?

How does your heroine know she just pledged the rest of her life to Sir Lancelot and not Charles Manson?

Is this the kind of heroine a reader is going to care about? Or is she the kind of heroine a reader hopes you’re going to kill off by the end?

Yet, I have read this over and over again. One night and the hero/heroine is in love, ready to do anything, give up anything for that love. And it is completely unbelievable.

The romance is an integral part of the plot. It should grow throughout the book. Perhaps the characters even say they love each other midway through the story. That’s fine, especially if there’s going to be things that test that commitment, and through the challenge, strengthen it.

In really good romance novels, the non-romance plot helps drive the romance. It keeps the characters working together when they wouldn’t otherwise. It provides time and opportunity for the characters to fall in love. Perhaps even a few challenges and pitfalls.

This brings me to another point. In a really good romance, the heroine also won’t settle for a jerk.

If you don’t believe me, think back to Pride and Prejudice. I remember my first read through being shocked when Elizabeth told Darcy off after he professed his love for her. And then I was ecstatic. Yes. He deserved being told off. He was being a jerk. Why would she want to marry that? Spend the rest of her life with his condescension and derision?

Why, indeed.

Yet, in books written 200 years later, I’ve regularly been reading heroines settling for worse than Darcy. Heroes who’ve let them down when they needed them most. Heroes who used them and cast aside their feelings like McDonald’s wrappers. Heroes mentally or physically abusive. Really? Why do authors end their story with their heroine stuck with one of these guys? Jane Austin knew better 200 years ago.

Am I saying characters can’t start out as jerks and then learn and grow through the story?


Can an author convince me a truly selfish jerk suddenly becomes Mr. Perfect?


Depends on the crucible of the plot that author just put him through. The nastier the character starts, the more he has to go through to make his change believable. That makes the author’s job harder, but when done right, it also makes the reward for the reader that much sweeter. Best of all?  The reader doesn’t get yanked from the world the author built when they roll their eyes.

Analysis: Plots

This might seem self evident, but a story is about something as well as someone.


As a romance writer and reader, I expect a couple of things from a story:

  1. A romance.
  2. Something keeping the parties in the romance apart
  3. A happily-ever-after ending. This includes the conclusion of the romance as well as removing and resolving whatever had kept the characters apart.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of stories with the first point but severely lacking in the second.

I may not be the average reader, but I need the “something keeping the characters apart” to be more than a misunderstanding a 5 minute conversation could fix.

Something bigger than “I forgot to tell you I wrote the letter”. Bigger than that “incident from ten years ago I had no control over and was no fault of mine but I still can’t possibly love again”.

Preferably, make it something important to the characters you made me love. If it is going to be something from ten years ago, make it so much more than something the character couldn’t control.

Perhaps that’s why I loved Finders Keepers so much. There was more on the line than hurt feelings. We’re talking about full-scale war between the Imperials, Conclave, and ‘Sco with the Imperials at a disadvantage if the ‘Sco and Conclave unite. An even bigger disadvantage if they can find a hidden back door. You feel the tension. There’s a lot riding on Rhys and Trillby.

And you care because you like Rhys. You want him to have a home to go back to.

There is so much more than “oh, there was a terrible accident, but I’m blaming my father without listening to him. Now I’m going to get even with my father by not having any kids and ending his line so I can’t marry you and live happily ever after”.

Um, yeah, which set of characters are you rooting for? Granted, my prejudice is clear in how I presented the scenarios, but you get the point.

Goes back to my character analysis on brooding heroes here and here. Introspection and learning from the past can make a strong hero and a good character arc. I can’t imagine living a life where you think you’re the ultimate stain, a result of your mother being seduced or raped. But I’d much rather read about a hero who turns that into an attitude of protecting women, children etc. from the same threat rather than a hero who abandons the heroine because he has feelings for her and he’s so unworthy. 

Outside forces can be almost anything, especially if you’ve made me love your character and made this thing is important to the character.

It’s really up to the creativity of the author on how to use those outside forces and your characters’ needs to further the story of the romance. It’s all about how to get the characters together, keep the characters together, and give them the chance to fall in love. Yes, in a Romance novel it’s secondary to the Romance, but it’s still important.