I did a poll over the past week about how romance readers felt about cheating in a romance story. I got a lot of wonderful discussion and many people voted in my poll. (Vote or just check out the results).
I was surprised by the results, actually. Contrary to expectations, I discovered that most readers didn’t have a black and white view of the issue. They all understood and even accepted some cheating scenarios—in principal at least. It seems it’s okay with some readers if one MC cheats on a girlfriend in a gay romance, or if one main character cheats on his current lover with the other MC before they start their own relationship. Very few readers said they would never read a book with cheating, but nearly all commented that the cheating had to be resolved properly, and if the cheater was a main character, he had to change and grow as a person. Personally, I’ll accept a lot if it’s written well and there are no magic solutions. The cheater needs to learn a lesson and change or I can’t believe he won’t do it again.
But what if cheating helped bring the two main characters together—and not in the usual way? What if one guy sees the other in an–ahem–intimate situation with someone other than the current partner, and knows that relationship is doomed, and it might be a way to win over his former flame? That’s about the way it happens in Hostile Takeover, my novel that’s coming out from Dreamspinner on Friday. Mathias Tobler believes in love and romance and happily ever after, but when he finds out he’s being cheated on, everything he’s been telling himself about that relationship turn out to be lies. So he lashes out and cheats in retaliation, to help him cope with the fact his current relationship has failed and he hadn’t realized it. Enter former lover Chase Richards who thought he’d lost Mathias forever. He sees what Mathias is up to and understands why. And while Mathias feels enormous guilt over his bad behavior, Chase realizes Mathias might just be available again, giving him an opportunity to win him back.
It was a very tough decision to put cheating in this story, but it really fit for all the characters and what they wanted, and how they would respond. Without giving away too much of the plot, it works, or at least it does now. I’ll admit that beta readers and editors had some issues with the cheating and I did some scrambling to layer the characters so that when Mathias cheats, he’s still a decent guy. He’s just a guy who feels like he’s failed at love and for a brief time finds an easy solution to his loneliness. But it’s all the encouragement Chase needs to see that Mathias isn’t happy and hope he can fill the void he senses in Mathias’s life and heart.
Of course it doesn’t work out quite like Chase—or Mathias—expects. But you’ll have to find out for yourself.
I knew the cheating aspects would turn away many readers. I’d heard and read comments and criticism and outright hatred for stories and authors with cheating. As the discussion progressed on the issue, I realized it has everything to do with how the cheating is portrayed: who is cheating, why they cheat and whether it can be resolved in an appropriate way for the characters and the story. Since the two main characters do not cheat on each other, I felt the unique situation I’d portrayed might be looked upon a little more kindly. And without it, I’m pretty sure Chase and Mathias would never have had their second chance.
What are your thoughts on cheating? Can you believe it could get two characters back together? Comment for a chance to win a copy of Hostile Takeover! Read more, including an excerpt.
Word Counts - Today: 7,000 | October: 7,000 | 2012: 119,800