Am I the only one not attracted to glass bowls?

And you know I don’t literally mean bowls made of glass, right? Just trying to keep things a little light here.

So I’m waaay late on posting this time. I keep hoping and trying, I really do. It’ s hard to find both time to write and something to write about in a blog.

I read this article yesterday, and along with a couple of e-books I’ve read recently, this line got me thinking:

Day says similarities in the stories should not surprise people already familiar with the genre because “the tortured millionaire hero” is a romance staple that has been around for decades.

And I have no doubt this is true, and I’ve read a number of such books myself. Plus, I think the nonhuman genre — your werewolves, vampires, et al — take something from that. The alpha wolves and alpha vampires (if you will) are not so different from these guys. But when does your tortured hero become an ass? And if he is such a jerk, why is that so appealing?
Okay, I know some answers — it’s not the jerkiness that’s appealing, I get it. It’s the idea of helping the tortured man, or the wounded little boy, that lies underneath the glass-bowl-ness of it all. And that’s okay, to an extent. But why do these guys get a free pass for acting in ways we’d never take from other people? And why don’t the women involved have a little backbone?
For example, I just read The Italian’s Inexperienced Mistress by Lynne Graham. It’s an older Harlequin novel. In the story, your “tortured millionaire hero” decides he’s going to humiliate, in true Count of Monte Cristo fashion, a man he’s been told abandoned his mother (who has since passed away) when he was a child. Turns out he doesn’t need much help, as the guy is an idiot and has been discovered to have skimmed money from his employer. However, the Italian finds the man’s daughter — who has the Cinderella role; the idiot is her father, but she’s the product of his affair with someone else, although he takes her in after her mother’s death. His wife and her two daughters are less than impressed.
When Cinderella come to the Italian to ask for some kind of leniency for her father, he makes her one of those romance-novel offers: Be my mistress and I will take/not take action as appropriate. She does. She is intimidated by the Italian, and then later appalled by his behavior towards her and others, but — oh my, the chemistry is there and she is apparently a slave to the hormones/pheromones/whatever. I think this is what kills me.
Fine, she can be attracted physically to the guy — he’s gorgeous (a pre-req for this type of novel), etc. But knowing what he’s doing, and done, and why, I am baffled as to how she can get her physical and mental responses in line to have sex with him. Mind-blowing sex, of course (b/c there’s rarely any other kind in these novels and hey, I’m all for escapism 🙂 ). I cannot imagine myself enjoying such a thing, especially when the guy makes it all about him. Even — at first — the pleasure he wants for her is more about what he can do, satisfying his ego that yes, he can make a woman do this or that.
I know, I know, at first it is all about him being all Monte Cristo and relishing his plans for revenge, and to quote Inigo Montoya, “Humiliations galore!” on his target.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing these books, their authors, or their readers. And I know that what I want — stronger, what I think of as more rational responses from the heroines — is on me. So I should seek out those books, or write those stories (and I will). I just find it hard to relate and empathize with these characters. And I’m not even saying that these kind of arrangements don’t exist — I think it’s more that I’m just not wired that way.
I’m all for escapism and fairy tales, so I can understand in an academic way how these stories appeal. The man lets his defenses down, realizes the error of his ways and how much he loves the woman. The woman many times — not always, but many — is simply waiting. But you know what I want, don’t you? I want one of these women to say, “No. You’re a jerk, and I don’t sleep with jerks.” Then she leaves for a while. They can argue some more, because let’s be honest, few things get the blood going better than a good argument. 🙂
Is this too much of a departure from the “rules of romance”? Maybe. I can’t help it. I’m not usually one to go along with the mainstream. I don’t mind popular things, but sometimes what’s common or commonly popular just makes me scratch my head (exhibit A: the entirety of reality TV). Do I like the equality factor too much? Maybe. But aren’t there other people out there who want their romances to be just a wee bit different? Or do they want, as I saw on a forum, the stories to be “completely different yet the same”?
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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lady Falcon on October 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    I abhor reality TV. I don’t watch it. Way too many good Dramas with real actors and actresses in them. Have you seen “Revolution?!

    I can’t abide a weak, helpless woman. I am a sign of my generation and the times in that respect. But, I do remember a time…many moons ago….when one of my favorite Harlequin books was by Pamela Jordan. It was something about a Sheikh not being happy with the American woman his younger brother has chosen to wed even though he’d never met her. He insists the prospective bride come to Saudi Arabia and meet the family for an extended stay leading up to the wedding. He plans to seduce the woman and prove to his brother her unsuitableness as a wife. Calamity ensues much as you described above…humiliation and then oh my goodness I’ve fallen in love with the American only after she is so humiliated she thinks she can walk back to the compound through the desert and nearly dies of dehydration and heat stroke. Now, the idea of me loving that story and a woman who is dumb enough to walk into the Saudi Desert where the sand dunes are the size of mountains is ridiculous and I really have to wonder about my younger self. But, anyway…I think in the end…there is a story out there for everyone and to each his or her own.

    Reply

    • No, sorry, haven’t seen Revolution; my TV watching is very limited.

      See, growing up, I didn’t read many romances. My mom didn’t have any lying around, and the ones I do recall reading wer a few of the “Sweet Valley High” books that belonged to a friend of mine. So perhaps if I’d read books like this then, I’d have been swept up in it too. I think the thing is that I am older, that I’ve read a lot of this stuff in a short time (b/c most of it is easy reads), and so it’s fresher in my mind.

      And I think it’s easy, at first glance, to be swept up in it. I think a lot of people — men and women, actually — like that idea of someone liking them even if that person doesn’t know why, and then they drop their defenses and change and etc. But to me, when I read a little deeper or a little more objectively, I can only think: Give me a break. It’s funny, because I can handle the sex-for-whatever deal (although I think it’s not terribly realistic), but it’s the woman’s reaction, the idea that despite what this a——- is doing, that she wants him, then loves him. I’m sure there are situations where that’s the pattern, but it doesn’t sit well with me.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Sheni J on October 4, 2012 at 6:21 am

    SO not the only one there Eve. I think it is an age thing though. I remember loving anything by Penny Jordan as a young 18 year old. I read one of my favourites the other week and as a 40 year old got so angry with the heroine that I had to put it away again. I also used to adore Bewitched as a kid but now as an adult, all I can think is why the heck she doesnt she just frag his ass?

    Reply

    • It may very well be an age thing, as I said above. Or an experience thing, or both. It’s just amazing to me that these stories still sell so well or are so popular.

      Reply

    • Posted by Lady Falcon on October 5, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      lol Sheni! I was at a doctor’s office recently and they were holding a book sale – a bunch of used books and most of them were old Silhouettes and Harlequins. Several were by Penny Jordan and reading the synopsis and I scrunched up my nose in disgust because the woman was gonna be doormat. So, I agree its a maturity thing.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Nic on October 5, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    The older the book, the more the characters are like that. The female lead is some simpering girl, usually an innocent, with no backbone or thought that’s her own, while the male lead is a domineering jerk who starts out treating her like crap, then discovers he can’t live without her.

    Which is why i rarely found any of books in my mother or grandmother’s collection worth reading. I can tell you honestly that if some man grabs me by the shoulders and tries to shake some sense into me, like many of those characters in the books seem to do, I’d most probably knee him in the groin and head for the door…

    Luckily books nowadays have female characters with a spine. Im not talking about ball busters,but women who wont take that kind of treatment. At least now you have a choice, if you like the domineering male – submissive female type of book, you can pick that kind of book. If you don’t, you pick that.

    Reply

    • This is a good point — I’m no romance historian, but I think you are seeing not just strong women, but women who are more aggressive, or dominant, than what we had before. Not Amazonian ball-busters, mind you, just women who can stand on their own, women who want love because it strengthens both partners, not because it provides them with a caretaker or financial security.

      However, going back to (and I kind of hate to) 50 Shades of Grey, the idiot female and the jerk guy is not a theme that is going gently into that good night. I have to make my standard disclaimer that I haven’t read the books. However, I have skimmed a fair bit of book one, and I’m not sure I can finish these puppies. I cannot relate to Ana, and I roll my eyes at Mr. Grey.

      And while I don’t care what kind of a sexual relationship people have as long as it’s consensual, I don’t think guys or women should be given a free pass on the basis of bad past relationships or childhoods. Certainly, people are put in bad situations and survive and have problems because of it. But I think there comes a time when you are responsible for addressing those problems as best you can. I don’t expect people to go into therapy after an abusive relationship, say, and then be right as rain. But I do expect that you learn how to treat other people with some fairness and civility, and it doesn’t give you a right to be an ass.

      Reply

      • Posted by Nic on October 6, 2012 at 1:36 am

        People know I love books, so when they clear out stuff they don’t, I sometimes end up with a box of books. This is how I once got a box of Mills and Boons books. And it really is, the older the book was, the more the female lead didnt seem to stand up for herself. She was always this innocent girl without an original thought, and the male lead was usually an older man that basically had to do her thinking for her.

        Needless to say, that box quickly found its way to the chuch jumble sale table.

        Books today are a lot better. The female leads have careers, ambitions, confidence and can stand up for themselves while still being feminine. She can kick your ass while wearing a pair of heels, or give you a romantic evening wearing a pair of jeans andno shoes.

        But I have to agree with you on fifty shades. I havent read it, but I’ve read reviews and I cant understand why it’s such a big success. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been a Literotica reader for years and have had access to erotica at my fingertips in any genre I could want. I don’t know. It just seems like a lot of fanfare.

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