Embracing the porcelain goddess – vomit in romance fiction
Okay, guys. Let’s talk about vomit.
You see, last week Smart Bitches, Trashy books posted a review I wrote for the RITA-nominated romantic suspense Cowboy In The Crossfire by Robin Perini. In this review, I mention the vomit list. (It was totally in context!)
(Oh, you’re not into vomit? How about menstruation? I talk about periods and vampires here. You’re welcome.)
If you haven’t heard of my vomit list, it’s a list of romance books with one or more vomit scenes. There are a lot more than you might realise. (Note: The list is a work in progress. I only started it a few years ago, so there are many, many, many titles missing, I daresay.)
Judging by the blog stats last week, romance readers display a significant level of enthusiasm for vomit in romance. This doesn’t surprise me. There are actually a lot of reasons why an author might include a vomit scene in their books. Here are some of my favourites:
When I was a teenager, one of my favourite plot machinations was the drunken heroine who makes a pass at the hero, who tries to resist, but can’t because (spoiler alert) lurve hormones, and she is magically relieved of her virginity in a lovely, somewhat hazy way. Look, I had strict parents. I wasn’t allowed to say yes to sex, so drunken heroine was tops!
I don’t recall reading many vomit scenes in those days. Possibly the heroines could hold their alcohol better. Possibly today’s heroines drink a hell of a lot more.
Did you know that Fifty Shades Of Grey is a vomit book? Ana gets drunk at a party, her friend hits on her, Christian intervenes, she ‘vomits spectaularly on to the ground’, and Christian offers her his monogrammed handkerchief. Could there be a more beautiful symbol of billionaire tycoon surrendering to the magical virgin hoo hoo? I think not.
The fact that there is not one joke about Ana worshipping her inner porcelain goddess is proof that the book has no sense of humour.
I should point out that this scene was much better done in the film 10 Things I Hate About You. After Kat vomits outside a party—with Patrick holding her hair away from her face, which is the height of gallantry in these modern times—he brings her home, she purses her lips for a kiss, and he declines. And she gets mad! But all I could think was, Hello, vomit breath!
Anyway, a lot of vomiting in romance books is a result of alcohol. However, I draw the line at waking up in a pool of your own vomit after a very big night. If you’re still at that stage of life, I’m not going to be convinced you’re ready for your happy ending any time soon.
2. Food poisoning or spiked drinks
This is the most disgusting reason, and yet my favourite for the simple reason that it’s the most disgusting.
The vomit list actually began when I read a Lynsay Sands historical where the hero kidnaps the heroine, the heroine poisons the hero’s food, and the hero chases after her while intermittently stopping to deal with the effects of food poisoning (from both ends, it was implied). And then he catches her and they kiss. And omg that is just so freaking gross. I mean, we’re already ignoring the many ways that historical characters may commit crimes against hygiene, but I’m pretty sure vomit breath was still vomit breath in those days. And probably worse because there were no breath mints.
Also, how do we know he washed his hands???
Incidentally, I’m also thinking of starting a diarrhoea list after reading Jules and Robin’s novella (in Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series). I mean, finally we have a gay couple with their own novella and they have to deal with diarrhoea. I can’t even remember if anyone vomited in that book, because the gross factor had already been exceeded. But IIRC, Robin got drunk in a previous book and, as per romance convention, Jules was there for him.
Usually, the death is sudden and violent, or the character walks in on a particularly gory scene (usually urban fantasy). Mercy Thompson does this a lot—after her first kill, after decapitating a vampire, and a few other times unrelated to death (inasmuch as any of those books could be unrelated to death).
I love vomiting characters in urban fantasy or romantic suspense. Surely that much adrenalin can’t be good for you. (I talk about this in the SBTB review.)
4. World building
I have a special fondness for Shadowfae, Australian author Erica Hayes’s debut featuring a succubus who sucks people’s souls and then vomits them into a jar. And then when things get really messed up, there are soul-vomit exchanges into jars and mouths. (This book is so trippy, I can’t even explain it, and it’s in my keeper list.) Rainbow vomit without the rank smell. It’s the only time I’ve read about vomit in romance and didn’t feel like brushing my teeth. Because why wouldn’t you build a world where vomit is colourful and exchangeable?
Before you ask, yes, I’m taking recommendations for the vomit list. What glorious upchuck scenes have you read lately?
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