I read a review of a new romance novel yesterday in which the reviewer made the comment that women never fare well in this particular best-selling author's books. Coincidentally, the same day I started reading my first book ever from another best-selling author and found the same thing.
The hero is very wealthy, as heroes who don't think highly of women often are, and he's very accustomed to getting his own way. Back in August, I blogged briefly about my dislike of alpha heroes, and this guy is really alpha. He determines to have sex with the heroine almost immediately after meeting her, threatens her job if she doesn't comply, orders her about like the lowliest of employees, harasses her, hires people to snoop into every aspect of her life, then lies to gain her sympathy so she'll spend time with him.
That's where I turned off the Kindle.
Set aside my dislike of domineering heroes. My complaint here is the heroine. At first the hero's persistence -- after she'd very clearly told him no a dozen times -- annoyed her, but before long, she was flattered. He was looking into her finances because he was a wealthy man and wanted to be sure that she had no designs on his money. He commanded her where to go and sent drivers to make sure she got there because he was so very interested in her and concerned that she arrive on time, safe and sound. He was interrogating her employer and friends because he was a wealthy man and wanted to know the character of the woman he was pursuing. (She called it pursuit; the law calls it stalking. Hey, it depends on your viewpoint, doesn't it?)
Flattered. By a stalker. Where was this woman's spine? Why did her brain malfunction every time he came around? What kind of heroine is she?
The worst kind. She was no more a heroine than he was a hero.
How many years have we been repeating to our sons and daughters and anyone else who will listen that No means no? Is it supposed to make a difference when the man refusing to accept no is handsome, has a great body and is richer than sin?
The facts that this particular book is a New York Times best-seller and that many other romance novels contain similar characters in similar situations suggest that for a good number of readers today, the answer is a resounding yes.
I know: it's fiction. Make-believe. Not real. But I find it disheartening that some writers and readers still, in some part of themselves, embrace the idea that domineering, controlling, stalking behavior is in any way romantic. Don't we need to relate to the characters to enjoy a book? Don't we live vicariously through our heroines, root for them, fall in love along with them? These two sent such huge shudders of revulsion down my spine that I couldn't make it through more than a few chapters.
No surprise, I would have done a few things differently if I'd been writing the book. First, the heroine would have threatened the man's dangly bits the second time she had to tell him no. If a third negative was required, she would have called 911, she likely would have fallen in love with the cop who answered the call, and the rich psycho jerk probably would have wound up dead or, at the least, unable to threaten other unwilling women.
That's what I call a happy ending.