I seem to be writing about these romances in twos – suspiciously apt pairs, at that. The last two books (technically four, but that’s splitting hairs) were inept and showcased deeply unhealthy relationships. These next two are a little different from the norm (but still predictable), and indicate tolerably well what consent should look like. Well, kind of.
The slightly worse of the two was Tiger’s Eye by Karen Robards. A married heiress is abducted and held in a house with some disreputable types. She gets rescued by a dashing scoundrel – though both of them get shot in the process. They hide out in a brothel run by a friendly whore so that they may recuperate fully, though both of them receive further attacks on their lives. Turns out, Rescue Dude is the king of the London underworld (which, to my mind, is thoroughly impossible – he was supposed to be in charge of every kind of theft, graft, and kidnapping, and that kind of logistical power is simply beyond someone who’s not even thirty yet), and her husband wants to kill her (he has run out of dowry money).
Long story short, the whore becomes monogamous, the bad guys in the crime world die (graphically, but generally offstage), and the husband bites it (because divorce – gasp! – is never an option). I didn’t particularly like how the hero and heroine’s first time having sex played out: it was made clear that she had imbibed more alcohol than she was usually wont to, and that she flew into his arms, like a seed spurting out of a lemon in the hands of a grasping five year old. I’d usually be fine with each enthusiastic party having some alcohol in their systems, but having more than usual…red flag.
All said and done, though, each character made cogent decisions about most things and showed some gumption. Karen Robards generally puts out decent work, anyway.
The slightly better one, My Hero by Marianna Jameson, was more complicated – though equally predictable. The
moment a cop is involved in the story, another man in uniform gads about wearing a ring. The moment a romance author becomes the main character of the story, you can immediately assume that her sexual experience is nothing if not limited. And because the writer is involved, the main driver of the story is not a crime, but writer’s block – and how that writer’s block is lifted by the policeman in question. There are inevitable disputes about privacy and about how accurate the book being written really is, but this one is still a surprising story in some respects – and really, being surprising is as good as it gets in the genre.
I really liked that this book features a couple of people who know what they want – even if they aren’t in touch with who they are – which means that they fought. A lot. Like cats and dogs. So there are points awarded for duking it out, and then there are triple points for knowing when to apologize later, which they do relatively frequently. This stunning level of evolution – in not just the woman but the man as well – is exceedingly rare and extremely welcome.
What I didn’t understand about the story boils down to four things:
- She wore fake breasts under a dress that was too fancy for the occasion (she invited him over to dinner and then went crazy overboard), which then proceeded to fall out under the relatively tame ministrations of her gentleman. Why anyone not competing in a pageant or suffering from breast cancer would bother is a mystery. And did she think that she could get away with having bigger breasts one day, returning to smaller ones the next? Also. Who buys a dress better suited for a better-endowed woman? It’s pretty clear to any woman buying clothes which tops and dresses are built for their specific figure – crystal clear.
- They tree-d a couple of dead hookers midway through the story. Sir Badge goes to the crime scene, does some investigating, and that’s all we hear about it. That’s it! I don’t particularly appreciate that women who sell their bodies are so disposable in fact and fiction – they are, after all, people – and if you have the wherewithal to indicate that someone died, the police could put their back into figuring out who would kill people and put them up in the foliage of a respectable suburban neighborhood.
- Consent, consent, consent! This story was nuanced in its treatment of each person’s desire for sex and for their communication with their partner, and I’m still not sure what to think. The first time, Cop Fuzz didn’t want to have sex, because he sensed that his uptight partner wasn’t actually into it – I have rarely seen sex treated this way, as it is usually the woman who doesn’t want to get physical. It’s slightly difficult for me when I think about when they do have satisfying sex: he says that if she says no, he’ll keep going, which happens. To his benefit, he pauses and figures out why she’s not on board, but there’s never a question of stopping entirely. I’m not sure if it could be pulled off any other way, but it’s still a tenuous decision for me. ‘No’ doesn’t mean ‘wait five minutes.’ It’s NO.
- Why do all the characters in romance novels go to Ivy League schools? Screw that!
Despite my fervent scratchings here, I did actually like this book, and I’ll be looking for more from this author – from both of them. Robards is good at exploring different locations and time periods, and Jameson is able to create people who can bicker constructively with one another.
Maybe I’ll try to read a Real Book next. (Very funny…)