When the story starts off in the wrong place, as in LaVyrle Spencer’s, “Bittersweet”. The catalyst for the heroine returning home to her “real” friends from high school (apparently, she didn’t make any real friends after high school) was the death of her husband. We read about her support group, and then never hear from them again. The book should have started with her leaving her old life behind.
When the book is really two, interweaving stories. One story is always going to be more interesting. This was done in Francine Rivers’, “The Scarlet Thread”. Sierra Madrid (yes, that’s really the name of the main character) is the heroine of the modern day story, and her grandmother (whose name I cannot remember, as hers was the story that didn’t interest me), the heroine of the “backstory”.
Too many characters. It’s why I didn’t finish the “Left Behind” series. Mental overload.
Slutty men. Okay, this is popular in mainstream romance. I don’t see why a romance has to be a “Christian romance” for the man not to have slept around. A man who doesn’t sleep around can be attractive, too (and it’s not totally unrealistic. I’m not saying he has to be a virgin.) Lisa Jackson apparently doesn’t think so.
Female protagonist, if she’s going through a stressful time, she always under eats, never the other way around. I guess the author has an impossible time of conceiving a man being attracted to an overweight woman. (It does happen.)
When all your main characters sound alike. Even though I enjoy Mary Higgins Clark, all her women come across as bland (they all seem to like linguini with clam sauce, too). None of them have any memorable quirks or say anything witty. However, I read her because I like her plots.
When the author is in love with a hobby, and talks about it in minute detail. Barbara Delinsky obviously loves knitting, and she mentions it in her books, but she doesn’t overdo it. The one time I remember my eyes glazing over was when I read “The Bridges of Madison County”–the photography jargon bored me.
Too many references to pop culture. Jodi Picoult is bad about this.
Too many complicated names. Rachel Ann Nunes (an LDS author) tends to use a lot of unusual names in her novels. One or two is fine, but any more than that is distracting.
Poetry in novels. If one of the characters is a poet, it makes sense to include something they wrote, but sometimes, it just seems like the author couldn’t find a market for the poem, and wanted to use it, so he/she stuck it in there. Tami Hoag did this in one of her books; the poetess was supposed to be gifted (she wasn’t, in my humble opinion), and her work just sounded like a moody teenager’s stream of consciousness put on paper.