Sunday, November 20, 2011
When Being A Romance Reader Gets In The Way
OK, here's the thing cupcake: It's a suspense novel. The author has one job, one requirement they have to meet - and that is solve the suspense thread. Period. End of story. Personal relationships can be left twisting in the breeze. Authors can even kill off beloved secondary characters (readers probably won't like it - but the author can still "do it" without breaking The Genre Code). What the author cannot do? Is not solve the suspense. They have to give readers the whodunit.
The romance genre is a bit different. Yes, you have to have the happy ending - but fans of the genre also despise loose ends, as a general rule. So while mystery/suspense authors can get away with leaving personal character relationships "messy" - romance authors? It's a short leash.
I was a mystery/suspense reader long before I was a romance reader, so I'm pretty good and flipping the genre switches in my brain. When I sit down to read a suspense novel, I expect certain things. When I sit down to read a romance novel, I expect other things. I've always had pride in the fact that I can keep my preferred reading hats in separate boxes in my reading closet.
That is until I read Choke Hold by Christa Faust.
I thought I had bound, gagged the romance reader in me, and locked her in the attic - but apparently not. That sneaky witch somehow managed to slip her bonds, remove her gag and start screaming to beat the band.
Choke Hold is the second crime novel in Faust's series about ex-porn-star, turned vigilante on the run, Angel Dare. Obviously when I read her books I expect 1) dark 2) characters with dubious reputations and 3) lots o' violence and dead bodies. I'm not expecting Sunshine Happy Land. I have to acknowledge the fact that none of the secondary characters are sacred. Angel, being the main character, is probably safe from death - but the others? Yeah, not so much.
However the author makes some choices in this novel that drove my inner romance reader batty. First, there's an unprotected sex scene. This sex scene happens after a break in the action where our fair heroine literally escapes with her life. Adrenaline is surging towards the OMG, We're Still Alive! Let's Celebrate With Hot Sweaty Sexy Times! spectrum. I get that. But the romance reader in me? She sees "unprotected sex" and immediately thinks, "That bitch is going to end up pregnant, I just know it."
Wendy Mad, Wendy Smash!
However, that wasn't what bothered me the most. No, in this novel it was the feeling I had that Angel was being exploited.
Yes, yes - I know she's a former porn star. I know me worrying about her being "exploited" sounds ludicrous. I also understand that she makes the choices she makes in this book when her back is literally up against a wall. She doesn't see any other way out.
However, it didn't stop me from feeling like Angel was more reactive than proactive in this book. Hence, exploited.
I have no idea if Faust is going to keep going on with the Angel Dare saga, but even with my misgivings with this book, I still appreciated the fact that we had a gutsy, gory, pulpy crime novel with a female lead. That lead might not have always "behaved" the way I wanted her to - but she was still the star of the show. That is something, especially in a fictional universe where testosterone has always been king.
Now it's your turn - Have you ever read a book that wasn't a romance, wasn't marketed as a romance - but you still couldn't silence your inner screaming romance fangirl?