The Darkest of Secrets: Taboos in Romance by Kate Hewitt

by Kate Hewitt, author of The Darkest of Secrets (Harlequin Presents, October 2012)

There are some things which are guarantees in a romance novel, and if the reader doesn’t get them she (or he!) will feel cheated. Naturally a happily-ever-after is expected, along with a believable emotional conflict, a satisfying climax and resolution, and characters you can root for.

Then, depending on the genre of novel, there might be other expectations; the ‘Presents Promise’, for example, guarantees sizzling passion, lots of emotional intensity, and plenty of glamor and luxury.

I love writing for Harlequin Presents, and I try hard to fulfill the Presents Promise in every book–but at the same time I like to challenge myself to push in different directions, to think outside the box, and to bring in themes or elements that might not be in every romance.

The Darkest of Secrets contains what some might believe is a ‘taboo’ in romance, or at least something you don’t read about very often. I won’t give away what it is, but my heroine Grace Turner has a dark secret in her past, hence the title! And while my hero Khalis Tannous is swept away by her from the beginning, his emotional journey involves coming to terms with the woman he put on a pedestal… and realizing she doesn’t belong there. As for Grace, she must learn to forgive herself before she seeks anyone else’s forgiveness.

What do you think about taboos in romance? Is there any issue or plot element that is a deal breaker for you as a reader, or do you like books to push the boundaries a little? Sometimes it depends on my mood–occasionally I like a comfort read with no surprises and

at other times I like to be a little more adventurous.

Let me know what you think, and I will give away two copies of The Darkest of Secrets to two random commenters.

Update: The giveaway is now closed. Please check the comments to see if you’re a winner! ~Amy

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Comments ( 17 )
  1. Roxanne
    October 1, 2012 at 11:08 am

    I consider myself an open-minded reader and love it when an author steps out of the norm of their genre. Taboos keep a story interesting and intrigue me enough to want to keep reading. So no, taboo topics are not a deal breaker for me. What I don’t care for in romance are weak characters. Especially the main female character. That’s one thing I love about romance is a strong (in every sense) female character.

  2. Eve
    October 1, 2012 at 11:22 am

    To be honest I prefer traditional romance but at the same time I love twists and turns in a story (otherwise its too boring!). Everything depends on how well the story is written. With some authors I really hate to have hero’s pov because when I get to read hero’s thoughts then some surprises are not surprising anymore. So I’d say that revealing too much is taboo for me. I want to discover hero together with the heroine and no need to get too much inside info on the hero.

  3. gracie
    October 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    I don’t mind at all, If i did, i wouldn’t bother reading. To each his own. Bring it on!

  4. Kate Hewitt
    October 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Thanks everyone for your responses. It is so interesting to read people’s different perspectives.

    Roxanne, I agree I like strong heroines (and heroes)–although I like them to be flawed, too. One of my pet peeves is the heroine who is just so adorable, whose ‘flaw’ is a quirky sense of humour or freckles.

    Eve, I agree when too much is revealed by the hero’s POV it can be disappointing–but on the other hand, if there isn’t any of his POV, it can be really hard to understand what he’s up to! As an author, it is definitely all about finding the balance.

    Gracie, I agree, I like reading different takes and taboos in traditional romance. I’ll try just about anything once 🙂

    thanks everyone!


  5. Lori
    October 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    I love it when a book pushes boundaries a little bit. It’s gets boring when I read same story over and over where just the names of the characters or the name of the place has change.

  6. Kai W.
    October 1, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    I love books when they pushes the boundaries. It keeps the plot and story interesting. When I read a book, I’m looking for something different. I don’t like stories that have been there and done that already. I need stories that are something different from the same old, same old.

  7. Rachel
    October 2, 2012 at 1:38 am

    I don’t like reading about animals or children being hurt or men that are overly alpha and treat the heroine awfully without sufficient reason.

  8. Kate Hewitt
    October 2, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Lori and Kai, I agree that pushing boundaries can make for a change. It can be hard as an author to make sure your books are fresh and different, and dealing with some of those ‘taboo’ topics can certainly help that! Rachel, I agree with you about animals and children–some things are taboo for a reason. And I’m not particularly fond of the overly Alpha male either, although he’s got to be a little Alpha! 🙂

  9. Melanie J
    October 2, 2012 at 10:31 am

    I love twist and conflicts.. basically a book that is not so predictable because it makes the reading and story more enjoyable and often times, the story stays longer with you after you have read it. Those types of books are usually my keepers that I keep on my bookshelf.

  10. Laney4
    October 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    You said, “Sometimes it depends on my mood–occasionally I like a comfort read with no surprises and at other times I like to be a little more adventurous.” I agree, although these days I prefer the comfort read more and more. When life gets stressful and I feel like I’m being pulled in more and more directions, sometimes all my mind can handle are the comfort reads. I don’t want to have to read and re-read pages and pages because I “don’t get it” the first time. It should make sense to me.
    That being said, I enjoy books the most when all the aspects of it “make sense”; sometimes they don’t, and then I just kind of shake my head, thinking, “Really? How did they jump from this to that? That’s not how it would work in ‘real life’!”
    What I HAVE learned is that I can love, love, love let’s say six books by one author, and yet I’m not so enamoured with the seventh. I will go back to read the eighth and ninth books, mind you, because I am looking forward to “finding that magic again” (and I often do). The problem is when it’s the first book by that author that I read, as I don’t always give the author a second chance.

  11. MaryK
    October 2, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Oh, I’m a moody reader for sure. Though I really care less about taboos than I do about circumstances being believable within a story. Sometimes taboo themed books end up as comfort re-reads.

  12. Mawar
    October 2, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Greetings from Indonesia… 🙂
    I certainly love a comfort read. Comfort read for me is a book with a plot I deeply enjoy through an emotional, believable, a little bit of Alpha male (oh…it has to), sexy plot that gives me the tingle, and most important, satisfies the romantic mood inside me. The taboo in a book for me is when the author makes the characters talk with their mind too much, it just feels so exhaustive , makes you skip so many pages to avoid boredom, and suddenly you are at your last page!

  13. Lucy Ellis
    October 2, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Loved both books about the Tannous brothers, Kate, and was fascinated by Grace’s inner struggle. I was thinking about her long after I put down the book, and I think that’s the defintion of boundary pushing in category romance. Fabulous.

  14. Kate Hewitt
    October 3, 2012 at 3:10 am

    I’m really enjoying reading everyone’s comments, so thank you for stopping by!

    Melanie, I agree, I love when books have sudden twists and surprises–but they have to be believable without being predictable, which can be a difficult balance to manage.

    Laney, I have authors I love but I don’t love every book by them. It’s another hard balance between delivering what readers expect from you as a writer and not being too predictable so people feel you’re writing the same book over and over again. But yes, if I don’t like the first book by an author I am reluctant to try again.

    Mary, what a great point about ‘taboo’ books being comfort reads. You’re right, there is no reason why a book can’t be both!

    Lucy, thank you so much for your comments, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the Tannous brothers’ stories! I think when the characters stay with me after I’ve read a book , it is a sign I’ve enjoyed it 🙂

  15. Desere
    October 3, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Hi Kate!

    I am a very open minded reader and when a taboo gets added into a romance by a author I find it intriguing and fresh ! It is one of those where you don’t know what the author will go with it exactly and that makes the book even more interesting to read!

    Thank you for the stunning give away

  16. Steven
    October 9, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    I personally do not read alot but I know a friend commentor above that really loves your books ! Interesting post and good luck to everyone that wants to win !

  17. Amy
    October 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Hi everyone,

    Kate asked me to post the winners she’s chosen for her giveaway. Congratulations to Kai W. and Melanie J.!

    Please check your emails 🙂