Thieves of hearts

So, I was reading this book the other day, called “Eye of the God,” on my Kindle. It’s reasonably well-written and is about an attempt to steal the Hope Diamond from the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian. It opens with an art theft in Rio de Janeiro, and then later our heroine, Abby, is targeted as a key of getting to the Hope Diamond by one of the thieves from Rio. I haven’t read it in a bit, but for now, I’m going to assume that the thief, Alex — who is posing as a National Geographic reporter — is going to fall for Abby and begin regretting his part in the heist. I could be wrong, and it would be an interesting change if I was, but for now that’s where I think it’s going.

And whether it is or not, it made me wonder, why are thieves presented as “heroes” in romantic/erotic fiction?

These are not your usual thieves, of course. These are thieves who (usually) steal jewels, and they do it for the thrill, or because they’ve decided that the people they’re stealing from won’t be hurt. The victims are rich and the jewels are insured, and everything is done, of course, to minimize anyone being hurt, let alone killed.

I’ve decided that this is stupid. They are thieves. They steal things that do not belong to them, because they think it’s fun.

I’m as big a Robin Hood fan as anyone else, although my preference is Erroll Flynn with Olivia de Havilland. I could in fact get behind someone like Jean Valjean, someone who has done everything they can and are forced into stealing because they have no choice. Robin Hood engaged in a somewhat extreme form of civil disobedience, depending on how you like the legend — the king was taxing his people into the ground, for no good reason, and Robin fought back. This kind of thievery has mitigating circumstances.

However, these jewel thieves that one sees so often as romantic heroes have nothing mitigating about them. They may have been poor and refused to be again (play me that violin, Miss O’Hara), or it may have been the family business, or perhaps they tried it once and got addicted to the thrill or the chase or what have you. Whatever, to them it is as valid a career choice as bookkeeping. What gets me is that I don’t think I’ve ever seen the heroine (usually not a thief) say anything like, “Hey, what you’re doing is wrong!”

What? This is a tough call?

I admit, one has less sympathy for Rich Man losing a diamond necklace than they do for Middle-Class Man losing his possessions. Because, basically, Rich Man can afford it, at least to our way of thinking and the little we know about his circumstances. However, stealing is stealing and it’s wrong, even if the victim can “afford” it. It’s not about who can afford what, it’s about the fact that taking things that belong to someone else is wrong, and is recognized by most societies and religion as such.

I know that “bad boys” and “bad girls” are a staple of romantic and erotic fiction, and that’s fine. We all like the guy in the leather jacket who rides the motorcycle and flips society the bird. And we like the woman who tosses her hair back and does the same. But there are bad guys, and there are bad guys.

A related tangent: A year or so ago, on Literotica, there was a story called Seven Days by Soular that was quite popular. A young black woman approaches the son of a mob boss in an effort to get some relief for her father, who owes them money. She refuses to back down and finally Mob Guy says okay, you spend seven days with me to do whatever I want and we’ll call it off; any “problems” result in an additional week. To start this off, he humiliates her by having her strip in front of a couple of his associates. Naturally by the end of the story, they are in love. If I recall, these characters were also voted sexiest male and female in the site’s annual awards.

In the current awards, a candidate for sexiest male is a Satan-worshipping lawyer involved in a BDSM relationship … with his sister.

WTF?

I’m all for fantasy in fiction (hey, I write about people who turn into tigers and wolves), and I’m perfectly willing to suspend some disbelief. But what is this about?

Does it have to do with the idea that women think they’ll be the one to change that guy, no matter how bad he is? Is it the vicarious thrill, knowing that most of us will never be in that situation?

I’m not saying that the lawyer is not good-looking, or a well-developed character (although I haven’t read the story), or anything like that. I am saying — what about this is sexy? What is sexy about a guy who makes a woman strip down just for laughs and to assert his control in the situation?

Give me a mild-mannered hockey player any day.

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by aaditee on September 4, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    I have exactly the same question! It’s all very sweet that they fall in love and get together, but no-one mentions anything about him/her being a thief! The fact that a rich person can afford to be robbed makes me think of the London Riots- the rioters seemed to think it was all right looting big shops because they could afford to be looted? WTF? (Tangent. Sorry!) Coming back to the original question, surely, if you love the person, you should have the guts to tell him/her that what he/she is doing is morally wrong, mitigating circumstances ignored of course?
    About the Awards..not really a fan of BDSM at all, so I really don’t understand it! but you are leading for best editor 🙂 I wish you would write a new story soon so I have new favourite characters!

    Reply

  2. I totally agree on the thieves. I realize it’s not like the thief characters don’t realize it’s wrong — they just don’t care. And of course, aside from that, they are usually morally upstanding people. But how can they be, if they have no compunction about stealing from other people? I suppose just once, I’d like to see the girl (or the guy, but it’s usually the girl) say, sorry, buddy, I like this guy over here — the one who’s not a thief! Guess I’ll add that to the queue. 😉

    I am working on more, I promise! This year has just not been good for writing. 😦 But there’s a hockey story in the works, and another in the “reindeer” series.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Aaditee on September 6, 2011 at 6:44 am

    I’ll definitely read that story! 🙂
    I’m sorry it hasn’t been a good year. Hopefully it’ll still pick up! I promise to be patient for your next stories! 😀

    Reply

  4. i have read that story by soular and her other stories…although i am not a big fan of her heroines (i actually have deleted her from my faves list) i am not surprised by her characters winning as i think (imo only) that there’s a lot of people out there into bdsm in one form or another…for me ANY kind of pain/pleasure (emotional/physical) sex IS bdsm…

    as for romanticising thieves….it boils down to the robin hood phenomena – just in extreme and lack of common sense LOL….i mean, really, a thief is a thief is a thief whatever reason behind the thievery….that’s not to say, i didn’t get robin hood, i do! if i were in those circumstances i’d probably join his band of brotherhood….add to that is the thinking of a lot people that they’re gonna be the one to change the bad boy/girl….NO ONE can change anyone unless that person HIM/HERSELF wants to…

    i personally don’t read books about those themes…i’m not that good at suspending my disbelief for me to get into the story…i’d just annoy myself and what’s the use of reading if one can’t enjoy one’s self? LOL

    Reply

    • It was funny, with soular’s story — and a couple of others — I told a friend about them, and his problem was he couldn’t get past an Italian-American mobster falling for an African-American woman. He said in his experience, and he’s had a bit of a rougher life than many of us, any group that identifies via ethnicity is tightly-knit and somewhat racist in I guess you’d say a xenophobic way. They’d be against anyone who wasn’t part of that initial group. You may be right on the BDSM element, or it may be just the general attraction of the bad boy.

      As for thieves, Robin Hood was engaging in civil disobedience; he had a serious reason for doing what he was doing, he was correcting what he thought was a major wrong against the people. I suppose you could say he was stealing back what was stolen from him, or the people. Do two wrongs make a right? Probably not. However, I can take that much better than I can take someone deciding that they just don’t want to work and stealing is more fun, and then they decide who is better to steal from b/c they are less “worthy” than someone else.

      On the books, I find I often can’t leave a book unfinished, even if it involves thieves. 🙂

      Reply

  5. Posted by blue on September 27, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    regarding the italian and african pairing – i actually asked an american chatmate about that (i’m not american LOL) coz i read on another author that those ethnic groups DO NOT mix if they can help it…he said, yes they really don’t mix…more common for hispanics and blacks or blacks and whites (non-italian) to be friendly….but i have read several entries by african-american women (well it says on their bio anyway) on Lit abt that type of pairing – african-american woman and italian-american guy and always the guy’s a mobster LOL…so i guess this is a fetish/fantasy? (a bit off tangent but still has a bit of a connection to thievery heheh)

    Reply

    • I have to admit that most of what I know about the mob comes from movies like The Godfather. Which is to say, probably not much. So the racial parings have not bothered me. If I was more familiar or knowledgeable, it probably would have. But now that I do know, I can’t take those stories terribly seriously. You’re right, though, it does seem to be an interesting theme and it is interesting that it’s African-American women that seem to write them.

      Reply

      • Posted by blue on October 3, 2011 at 6:54 am

        an author i find who is good at creating this suspicious past or characterization about a, well, character in the story and then be able to adequately explain everything – judith mcnaught….examples are someone to watch over me and every breath you take…in them, the male protagonist has this veil of suspicion of being involved in seemingly illegal activities but turns out it’s a misunderstanding or a case of some overzealous G-man…there are other stories of hers but the best i think is perfect – i love zach benedict and julie mathieson! wished i was as kind-hearted as julie and i had a zachary myself….hehehehe

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