Monthly Archives: March 2013

Rape in Romance – It Is NOT Romantic

        Drug rape is wrong. Fact.

Throughout my years as a reader, I’ve noticed that for every few romance novels I read, a rape pops up. And then it’s casually dismissed and forgiven – like it’s all ok, he just couldn’t control his desire for her. Although real life rape is generally more about power and control than sexual desire, there are romance novels which include rape which is all about the man controlling his partner/wife, and using sex to do so.

My first experience of this was in the Calder series, by Janet Dailey. In book number one, This Calder Range the protagonist, Benteen has some serious mother and abandonment issues. As newlyweds, they set off on a somewhat harrowing journey from Texas to Montana, during which, she threatens to leave him. Now, I get that Benteen has Mommy issues, and doesn’t trust women not to abandon him. I even understand his anguish at his wife wanting to leave. What I do not understand is that he rapes her, and the consequences are that she is wary of him for a little while, until she discovers he might be visiting prostitutes while she’s denying him, and so she rushes back to his bed. The fact that we are supposed to forgive Benteen, see his reasoning behind the rape, and accept that he raped her because he loved her so much is just ridiculous to me. He used his strength and brutality as a man and did the worst thing possible to a woman, all to exert his authority and punish her for wanting to leave him. This was entirely about power and control. It is an extremely unhealthy attitude that haunted marriages until marital rape was recognised, and is still an excuse often used for abuse today. Rape is unforgivable, and a lot of women would be pleased the man who attacked them was slaking his lust elsewhere – they would not be jealous of it. This medieval attitude ruined a book I would have otherwise really enjoyed – the men in the rest of the series are really so much better.

An interesting take on rape occurs in Prisoner of My Desire by Johanna Lindsey. In this instance, there is a bit of gender bending going on, in that the heroine, Rowena, rapes a man, Warrick de Chaville, after her step brother has kidnapped him (she needs to get pregnant to secure her step brother’s lands and armies – her husband dies on their wedding day so they kidnap a man with the same hair and eye colour. She is unwilling, but the step brother threatens to kill her mother).  As revenge, Warrick then kidnaps Rowena and gives her the same treatment, for he is a men hell bent on vengeance to anybody who crosses him. However, obviously, for a woman to rape a man, he must be aroused. Warrick climaxes every time Rowena rapes him, and so during his revenge, which is to be ‘like for like’ he arouses her, and ensures she orgasms. She acknowledges and is ashamed that she enjoys their coupling – which provokes an interesting discussion of ‘mental rape.’ Their bodies are willing, but their minds are not. They enjoy it, but they don’t want to. They want each other, but they wish they didn’t. What exactly does that make this? Another Johanna Lindsey novel explores this – in Secret Fire main character Dmitri slips Katherine and aphrodisiac. She begs him to take her, and he happily does. After this, he kidnaps her, and when she keeps denying to sleep with him again, he wants again gives her the aphrodisiac, knowing she won’t be able to say no. This is quite literally drug rape – but she falls in love with him, and seems to understand that he just desired her too much. This is such a bad, weird and plain wrong attitude to have about being drugged for sex. It’s just wrong. Seriously.

Whether, as in the above case, the author tries to blur the lines of rape slightly, or even romanticise it, it is, in my opinion, not best suited in romance novels. Although the success of Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty series shows that clearly there are people who enjoy reading about rape, I do not believe it should be covered in a Romantic genre between the protagonists – as no matter what the circumstances, there is nothing romantic about rape. There are books out there for people who enjoy reading about that sort of thing – I do not appreciate it invading my light and fluffy entertainment.

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Dirrrrrrty Dogs

Flicking through some photos on my camera, I came across a picture of one of the only pieces of art I actually like in the Louvre, the sculpture of Cupid and Psyche. They look so young, pure and in love, that the tenderness is apparent even through the cold, hard marble.

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I decided research their story, and was interested to find they are recognised as the original fairy tale – and they date back to the 2nd century. Their story (briefly) goes like this: the youngest daughter, Psyche, of a King and Queen is so beautiful, that the people begin to worship her instead of Venus. Venus is angered, and so uses her son, Cupid for revenge, though Cupid falls in love with the girl, and decides to make her his own. The King receives a prophecy which states his son in law will be a monster, so they perform a ritual which essentially throws Psyche off a cliff. She wakes up in a meadow, and comes across a beautiful home. She enters, and hears a voice talking to her. In the dark, she is visited nightly by a man who makes her his wife. He vanishes before light, and she is forbidden to see him. She enjoys their nights together, and ends up pregnant.  Cupid arranges for Psyche’s two sisters to visit, and they are so jealous of her beautiful home and riches, they taunt her by saying that she is sleeping with a monster, which will probably eat her and the child. Shaken, Psyche lights a lamp one evening to look at her husband. He is the most beautiful man she has ever seen and, startle, she pricks herself on one of Cupid’s arrows, spills oil from her lamp and wakes Cupid. He flees, and she begins her mission to search for him. Through several interactions with Gods and Goddesses, Psyche ends up serving Venus herself. She is tortured and given a series of tasks, which culminate in a trip to the underworld. Throughout this time Cupid is recovering, and in Venus’ home. When he finally makes a full recovery, he escapes, rescues Psyche and obtains the Gods permission to wed Psyche. She is given ambrosia and thereby immortality, and the love each other eternally. This story inspired ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’ a Scandinavian tale, which in turn inspired Madame Le Prince de Beaumont’s ‘La Belle et la Bête’ – otherwise known as Beauty and the Beast.

Has a love of the unknown, of mystery and danger, always been an attraction for women, and the novels we read to indulge our fantasies?

As a child, my favourite Disney Prince was Beast, and I hated that he became human in the end. From the outpouring of love for ‘Team Jacob’ – I believe he was the Twilight werewolf, and the general smokin’ hotness of True Blood’s Alcide – do women fancy a bit of a dirty dog from time to time?

Or, can we forget the claws and fangs and fur and make something much more basic – danger. We like a guy we can’t control, who can’t be tamed, and is more than a little wild and mysterious. The excitement of night time visits by a mysterious husband, the taming of the beast and loving a wolf all point to romances that thrive on passion and unpredictability – which is probably what really attracts us to the creatures is stories.

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Tessa Dare – A Lady by Midnight (Spindle Cove #3)

A Lady By Midnight – Tessa Dare

So as far as historical romance novels go, I absolutely adore the Spindle Cove series by Tessa Dare. Because I live life dangerously, my first review will be on the third book of the series, just because it’s my favourite. All books in the series can be read independently, though if you do read them in order you do get more of a sense of progression and character awareness, which is a definite plus by any book. The main reason I love these books is that the women are all so unconventional – they’re no ladies whose biggest worry is whether the ton will approve of the early they fancy – they’re more like real women. As the town is nicknamed ‘Spinster’ Cove, it is generally full of women, who I would consider a little too smart and challenging for most men.

Anyhow, A Lady By Midnight, is in my opinion, the best in the series because I absolutely LOVE a dark, brooding male lead. You know the kind of guy that acts indifferent, but would really move heaven and earth to protect his gal? Well Corporal Thorne, the strong, silent and terribly damaged male lead is as self-depreciative and self-loathing as a leading man can get. Although some readers were put off by his constant determination that every kiss would be their last and he would control himself, I understood his feelings of unworthiness.

And as for the leading lady, Kate Taylor pulls no punches. She’s a great example of a woman who has that inner-confidence many people lack. She doesn’t go barging into situations, but she is entirely prepared to defend herself, and in spite of being timid, the girl does not take no for an answer. She’s brave, talented and sees the good in people. That’s another great thing about Spindle Cove ladies – they’ve got more going on than just being beautiful, and they all have their hubris.

So, Kate and Thorne start out by constantly locking horns, or more eloquently put, they ‘are like oil and water. They don’t mix.’ However, as per usual in such novellas, certain events push them together, and the walls that have been built are slowly knocked down. Thorne is a complex man, and Kate has a complex life, but their story really is beautiful, and perfect for those days you want to curl up and escape to the time of red coats, breeches and swooning.

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Where did my world go?

This is a blog about books. If you are interested in books, please carry on reading. Don’t be misled by the title, for every book is a romance. A good book captivates you, sweeps you off your feet, makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you hope it never ends, and then leaves a little hole when it’s over. Getting caught up in a good book is like getting caught up in love…to understand a book, you need to understand love.

The WordPress simulator recommended that I write about something precious that I lost. As I have previously stated, this blog is about books. The first thing I remember losing was the world I created after I finished reading my first real book. Suddenly, the friends I had, memories I’d shared and magical world I lived in was lost, and could never truly be reclaimed So whether you were disappointed to learn you weren’t on Crusoe‘s Island, or struggled to deal with the modern world without Pip, you gained a life from that book, but you lost and found a little bit of yourself within the pages.

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