Random Thoughts of a Romance Blogger: Where did the romance go?

Posted August 17, 2017 by Suzanne in Random Thoughts, Under the Covers / 21 Comments

Where did the romance go?

I’m not starting this post with a caveat along the lines of ‘sorry if I offend anyone blah blah blah’ because, I am so disappointed and angry that I don’t care. And frankly, it would gall me if this post offends you, yet the subject of the post has some how not pinged on your what-the-fuck radar. Because, for me, it’s not so much pinging as hammering down with all the finesse and force of an elephant doing an bungee jump wearing a harness made of string.

You’re probably wondering what has got me so worked up that I am leaving all pretence of English politeness and decorum behind me. Very few things have the power to get me truly angry and upset, but numbering in that short list is domestic abuse and coercive control and I’m sure I am not alone in that. However, it’s about context; when I’m listening to the news, or a true crime podcast or reading studies about the subject I know what to expect, I can gear myself up to listen dispassionately and learn. When I am chilling out at home and reading a romance, my heart and mind completely open, the last thing I expect to see is a book that reads like a case study of domestic abuse.  It’s totally out of context. So, this week what got me climbing on my high horse was reading Taking the Fall by Alexa Riley.  Whilst reading and even now, a question keeps revolving around and around in my mind, where did the romance go? Was someone going to come in and save this heroine from the idiot abusing her? No, I realise to my horror, this guy IS the hero.

It got me thinking back to those 80s and 90s books, you know the books, where the heroine is wearing a half torn dress supplicating the strong handsome hero and where “forced seduction” was running rampant. Have we regressed back to this? Where the number one courting technique for heroes was a bit of rape? Is this the modern day version of that? Will we look back in 20 years time and wonder what the hell we were thinking? I hope not, I hope it doesn’t take that long to realise that these heroes aren’t just “alpha a-holes” as I’ve seen them referred to, but abusers. They’re criminals. No woman should be subjected to their behaviour and authors romanticising these heinous relationships just adds to the problem. Trying to make a man controlling every aspect of a woman’s life from the clothes she wears to the food she eats and then threatening punishment isn’t romantic and caring. It’s coercive control, which is abuse even if it doesn’t leave a bruise. Is R.Kelly a romantic hero? No he’s a criminal, an abuser who grooms young girls and then proceeds to debase them and even worse most the girls don’t even realise it.

Which leads me to my next thought. These heroines, they are all so young. In the case of Taking the Fall the heroine was under 16 when the hero, who was ten years older, noticed her. She was under 16 when he stood outside her door listening to her masturbate. There’s just something wrong with this whole scenario. In general I have no issues with the whole younger woman, older man and vice versa romances. However, when the hero/heroine is so young that it’s ‘philia’ to be attracted to them then it’s just plain wrong. Do you want someone 10 years older than you’re 14-15 year old son or daughter to start taking a sexual interest in them?

Now, I want to talk about this weeks controversy regarding K. Webster. Normally, we don’t comment and like to stay neutral about any sudden scandal happening in the romance book world. But this, this offended all of us. I simply don’t understand how her book was okay. This book was chronicling the abuse of a child. I don’t care how “sexy” it was. Fucking Shakespeare could have written this book and no matter how finely crafted the words, how eloquently he would have put it, it’s still child sexual abuse. Once again I ask, where is the romance? How is this okay? Why are people supporting this? Would you like your child in the same situations as this “heroine”? The young girl sounds like she’s been through a horrible ordeal and yet people are toting how “hot” this book is. And, when I read the “warning” K Webster gave this book I was even more offended.

Apparently I am not open minded or brave enough to like this book. Well, if open minded means letting paedophiles near children then you’re damn straight I am not open minded enough for this book. As for brave? I believe to like this book it’s not bravery you need, it’s a strong stomach and a complete lack of empathy and understanding. And more food for thought; if this book was written by a man, perhaps a man with a young teenage daughter…would your feelings about it change? If this book was made into a film would you watch it? I doubt it because if this was made as a romance and not a harrowing tale of a young girls abuse at the hands of a parent then I imagine those involved would be arrested and jailed for making and distributing child sexual abuse images. Why is it okay just because it’s in book form? The images still get ingrained into my mind the same as if I were watching it on my TV.

This trend of turning victims into heroines and the abusers in to heroes is deeply disturbing and offensive to me. It upsets and angers me. Romanticising some of the horrible abuse against women, normalising it and glamourising it; this is not okay. If a woman who is in one of these despicable situations reads one of these books and recognises the behaviour, how is she supposed to feel? Like it’s okay? Like she’s lucky that she lives with one of these men that apparently we are toting as the heroes that women fantasise about? Of course not! But, by authors writing these books and by us reading them we are perpetuating and encouraging that behaviour and worse, telling these women that they should be enjoying it.

*takes deep breath* This is a subject I am very passionate about – as you can tell – so perhaps these trends don’t stick out in your mind like they do for me. But, for now I am climbing off of my high horse and asking that you give this some thought. We all love our alpha heroes, even when we know that in reality we couldn’t live with them. However, I believe at the moment far too many authors are crossing over that line from alpha to plain ol’ abusive and it makes me really uncomfortable. So, I felt like something had to be said, as women (for the most part) we should stick together and help those of us who need it, who are suffering either psychologically or physically, at the hands of another. What we shouldn’t do is make it into a romance.

 

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Suzanne

Blogger/Reviewer at Under the Covers Book Blog
Gosh, we all seem to be admitting our ages…and I hate that I am at the point in life when admitting my age is a “thing”…whodda thunk it? I was kind of hoping I would remain 21 forever. However, I have moved out of that New Adult stage of my life and am now strictly in the Contemporary Romance age zone of 28. I would prefer to be in an Urban Fantasy arena, but I don’t think I own enough black leather. However, I could probably squeeze into some PNR, I am fully prepared to give a horn job to my favourite demon, or suck on my sexy vamps…fangs and I am definitely up for some heavy petting with some fine looking shifters. Than again their’s always Sci Fi…I am fully prepared to do the right thing and help some poor alien race with more 6 packs than a supermarket repopulate their planet. Not that I am loose woman or anything.

Annnnnd I will stop myself there, before I start waxing lyrical about my love of historical romance and fantasy as well; no one needs to know about my elf fantasies. As you can tell, I adore and day dream about most romance genres, and my three big loves are 1) reading about romance 2) writing about romance and 3) talking about romance with my gals. Which, is why I love Under the Covers so much, I get all my bookish needs satisfied and don’t get judged when I talk about my favourite characters like they are real people. Which they are right?
Suzanne
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Kelly Oakes
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Kelly Oakes

Well said.

Bonnie Loshbaugh
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Bonnie Loshbaugh

I have definitely stopped reading highly rated books in the middle when it the “hero” was obviously emotionally abusive. I just want the heroine to run away! Sure, there’s probably (hopefully?) a character arc which develops him into a reasonable human being, but it’s not one I’m interested in, and I agree that it seems misleading to label such as “romance.” I can’t say that pedophilia and/or stalker isn’t a fantasy that some people have, but I hate the feeling that these stories are normalizing abusive relationships.

Elizabeth
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Elizabeth

And if people are reading and enjoying these, they are going to think it’s ok to be treated this way. This is why I stopped reading Meredith Wild’s Hacker series and could barely finish Jodi Elwn Malpas’s This Man. They weren’t written to the extreme of the books you are referring to but those ‘heroes’ were way too controlling.

Elizabeth
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Elizabeth

***Jodi Ellen Malpas

Lucy Dosch
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Lucy Dosch

I stear clear of anything where a hero or heroine is straddling too close to being underaged.

But there have been plenty of stories where there is a fine line between the “hero” and the villain the hero should be saving her from. We are supposed to enjoy it because we are being told he is the hero.

Jonetta (Ejaygirl)
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Jonetta (Ejaygirl)

AMEN!!!!

I keep seeing these titles and reviews and think what is romantic about this at all???? I give these books a wide berth for all the reasons you outline. And, it worries me a LOT that young women will find these relationships okay for themselves.

Thanks for an extremely relevant post on a troubling topic.

Nancy
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Nancy

Thank you for writing what I have been thinking for a while…

Amy R
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Amy R

Thanks for the post.

Marika Weber
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Marika Weber

This. Thank you, Suzanne.

Very well said and I agree. Abuse is abuse, no matter what form.

This is why I don’t read the so called erotic books anymore. Authors seem to think that if they gloss over the issue with lots of sex, then it’s okay. Nope, not okay in my book.

Kathy Valentine
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Kathy Valentine

So true Suzanne!!! I don’t mind a dark romance were the alpha has demons,but I don’t and won’t read a book or watch a movie with rape or child molesters !!! Its just not me!!! Why these books sell is anyone’s guess.if what happened to somebody you know or love you would not feel the same,it would make you sick!!! I don’t judge anyone by what they read to each his own.

Lover Of Romance
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Lover Of Romance

Great thoughts you have shared here and I completely agree. I see happen quite a bit, especially in contemporary romance and I don’t u nderstand the appeal of attempting to romantacize abuse, its just not right.

Monique
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Monique

Thank you. XOXO

Milena
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Milena

Well said Suzanne! I started to avoid dark romance books because the abuse is so often romanticized in them. I didn’t read K. Webster book and like you I had a big problem with the vague blurb. If the book has major triggers and romanticizes child abuse and incest it should be stated in the blurb what the book is about. I think a lot of readers were very upset because they were tricked into reading something that they would’ve never read if they knew what the book was about.

Sophia Rose
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Sophia Rose

It’s been a while since I picked one up that disgusted me, but last year I was on a role of picking up and putting down a few mainstream romances because they romanticized abuse. You’re right about so many authors crossing the line and expecting us to be so titillated that we ignore the truth.

Lisa
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Lisa

You’re absolutely right. There’s nothing sexy or romantic about abuse. That’s called Stockholm Syndrome.
While I don’t mind reading dark themed stories, I don’t want to read about child molestation or romanticized abuse.

Tania
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Tania

I couldn’t agree with you more!

Gretchen
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Gretchen

No don’t care any of those things in books. Sadly those kinds of books and many others like it been going on for a long time. Also writers crossed the line ages ago. So not romance esp books also about killers,etc. I stay away from a lot of different books. It makes me sick that anybody writes this no matter who they are.

Sarah (Feeling Fictional)
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Sarah (Feeling Fictional)

Thanks for writing this post Suzanne and I 100% agree with everything you said! I’m so sick to death of abusive heroes, I can deal with alpha a-holes (to a certain extent) but DO NOT want to see them crossing the line into abuser. I NEVER want to read about child abuse either. It’s not sexy and it is not something that should be romanticised. There are children out there suffering this every single day and how dare anyone try to romanticise that horrific experience? It makes me sick! This is why I’ve pretty much stopped reading contemporary romance these… Read more »

Natalie
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Natalie

I agree. I’ve encountered this a lot in romance novels. Where the “hero” is basically just abusive and controlling yet somehow it’s meant to be sexy. Women forced into situations against their will and told to behave a certain way is very very far from why I enjoy reading romance. As if somehow I’m meant to enjoy a woman’s sense of self being eradicated just because the guy is a super hot brooding dude. Just no. I don’t know K Webster but I did investigate a little after reading this and even the warnings made me uncomfortable and annoyed: “extremely… Read more »

Tanya @ Rantings of a Reading Addict
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Tanya @ Rantings of a Reading Addict

Very well said. I agree 100%.

Glenda
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Glenda

I don’t think I can say anything that hasn’t already been mentioned in the comments, but I do want to say THANK YOU! This is a trend that we do not need to follow for so many reasons. I refuse to read this type of book.