Monday, January 14, 2013

Going Off The Rails On The Baby Train

Not that many (OK, any) writers ask for my opinion, but my advice is always write the best book you can at that moment in time and for the love of all that is holy - don't think about readers.  Which seems like odd advice coming from, well, a reader - but let me explain.  Readers are nut jobs.  No, we are.  We can't help it.  We all have our own personal baggage and try as we might that baggage has a tendency to creep into our reading experiences.  It just does.  You know, unless you're a Terminator and can keep your emotions out of the equation.  Which all explains why, as much as I've enjoyed Soraya Lane's books in the past, that The Soldier's Sweetheart didn't work as well for me.  The heroine got on my last hot nerve, and yep - it's pretty much all about Wendy's baggage.

Nate Calhoun has come home.  He joined the Army, was recruited to Special Forces, and is back home, discharged, thanks to an injury that left him with a bum leg and a friend dead.  His time in Afghanistan, the mission that went bad, still haunt him deeply, and now he's home with a bunch of well-meaning family who want to help but are actually just making things worse.  Entering into the fray is former sweetheart Sarah Anderson.  They were a couple all through high school, and she stood by his side when he joined the Army.  However Nate ultimately broke her heart and Sarah went running into the arms of another man.  Uh, another man who is now divorcing her because he knocked up another woman.

This starts out as a solid reunion story with a wounded hero and a heroine who won't back down just because he's 1) wounded 2) surly and 3) claims he wants to be left alone.  There's a nice cast of secondary characters (thanks to the fact that this is part of The Larkville Legacy continuity series) that round out the action, spurring the couple forward, but never intruding on the new romance with any of their We're Now Happy Kissie-Face Couples nonsense.

Where things go south for me is with the heroine and the execution of her baggage.  I admire the fact that Sarah keeps pushing Nate, trying to get him to open up and share his feelings.  However what got really annoying is that while she's pushing him to spill the beans, she's not telling him anything about what's bothering her.  And what is bothering her?  The fact that she's infertile and that it ultimately helped kill her marriage.  Yes folks, Biology Is The Only Way rears it's ugly head.

Look, ladies - I get it.  I really do.  Infertility is a heartbreaking issue that effects millions of women.  It can be devastating.  I get that.  I really, really do.  But repeat after me: Your Ability Or Inability To Be A Baby Making Factory Is Not The End All Be All Of Your Life.  It isn't.  You can be a great person and never be pregnant.  Likewise you can be a raging asshole and give birth to a dozen babies.  I would like to think that, as a woman, I am more than my uterus.  But hey, that's me.

I also really, really began to resent that just because she couldn't get knocked up that Sarah felt her life was somehow over.  That she could never have a family.  There are moments when she does think to herself about adoption or becoming a foster parent but then she says shit like this that just pisses me off:

"Because she might have to come to terms with not being a biological parent one day, but it didn't mean Nate should have to make that compromise."


"But you still want to be a dad, Nate.  You might say no now, but I've seen the way you are with Brady.  I know you, and you're going to make someone a great husband and be a great father one day.  Of your own biological children."


I can't be rational about this folks.  I just can't.  Growing up, I had friends who were adopted.  I have friends, as an adult, who have adopted.  My own frackin' niece is adopted.  Those children are not loved any less because they aren't "biological children" of their parents.  When my sister looks at my niece she sees her daughter.  She does NOT see some consolation prize just because my sister didn't have the easiest time getting pregnant.

Breathe Wendy, breathe.  That's a girl....

So where does this leave us?  Well, with Nate carrying the story for me.  This guy, ::dreamy sigh::.  You know what his reaction to Sarah's baggage is?  He basically doesn't give a damn.  He cares insomuch as it upsets him that it upsets her so much.  That her asshole ex made it a deal breaker.  But the fact that she's never going to be pregnant isn't an issue for him.  He loves her (God knows why), and yes - wants a family - but he isn't such an asshole (unlike her) that he doesn't know there are other ways to achieve that particular goal.

So yeah.  I'm not sure how to grade this one.  As much as she pissed me off, a D grade doesn't seem to fit.  I haven't been in a slump but my reading has been slower than usual lately, and I inhaled this story.  Also, if you take out the Biology Crap, the rest of this story works for me.  And, you know, I'm a big enough person to admit that I have "issues" with this sort of thing.  Lane isn't the first author to toss something like this into a book and Wendy Goes All Hulk Smash, nor will she be the last.  Final answer?  Mileage is going to vary because what bugs me, isn't necessarily going to bug every reader on the planet.

Final Grade = C


Kwana said...

You always make me smile Wendy. Great review.

Anonymous said...

You sound like me after pretty much any book that has a disabled heroine in it. I think authors write it this way to show how understanding and wonderful the hero is, but framing that as "he loved her despite her not being perfect" is deeply problematic. Infertility, blindness, paralysis, etc - these aren't flaws that need to be forgiven and overlooked, they're just parts of life. Constantly defining these women as deprived versions of "normal" women marginalizes them.

I think your C is generous.

Lynn Spencer said...

And this adoptee says, "Amen, sister!"

The "adoption as consolation prize" school of thinking I see in books is definitely one of my hot button issues, so I think I just might give this one a pass.

Jill said...

yes! For me the true turn off is the "miracle pregnancy" epilogue that almost always happens. Why can't the happy ending ever be an adoption story? And where are the books where the hero struggles with fertility issues?

Wendy said...

Kwana: I probably shouldn't have used swear words. My father will be so disappointed in me....

Ridley: That is an EXCELLENT way of putting it. Yes it does showcase that the hero is a "great guy" but to the detriment of the heroine.

It probably should have landed as a D, but it just didn't ring that bell for me. Every other aspect of the story worked, just not her baggage. I rarely dither about grades (I usually just "know") but in this instance I'll probably still be dithering next month!

Lynn: It's a major hot button for me. I've DNF'ed books before because of it. I did finish this one - mostly because the element doesn't rear it's ugly head until the second half. And by that point? This is an HR. I was almost done with the book.

Jill: I will say this - NO MIRACLE PREGNANCY! Which made me very happy. There is an epilogue, but it's of the marriage proposal variety. I am tolerant of Miracle Pregnancies Because The Hero Has Giant Super Sperm, but only in historicals. Women's reproductive health knowledge being what it was back in the day. In contemporaries though I'm less tolerant, especially because, as you say - why not an adoption epilogue or a getting approved to be a foster parent epilogue?

AnimeJune said...

Yikes! I really do hate the "adoption as consolation prize." I read a historical romance where the heroine was adopted and raised by loving people instead of her (apparently) biological aristo father who sent her to live with them. She spends THE ENTIRE BOOK griping and moping about how unworthy she is because her "real" father doesn't want her - YOU UNGRATEFUL HO YOU HAVE TWO ADOPTIVE PARENTS WHO LOVE YOU JUST FINE!

Still - it could be worse. They could have given her a MAGICAL BARREN BABY EPILOGUE.

Lori said...

Thank you! I know that infertility is a horrible thing for many people, but as an adoptee the whole "adoption as 2nd rate consolation prize" thing is really a hot button for me. Adoption is difficult and expensive and I know it's not for everyone, but it's not 2nd rate either. It seems to me that someone needs to ask this "heroine" if she wants to be a mom, or she just wants to reproduce.

Wendy said...

AnimeJune: That totally reminds me of another category romance I read last year. Heroine's Mommy dumped her and her two siblings off on their grandparents. Granny and Gramps raised them in loving home etc. And yet? She's so hung up on Mommy's abandonment that she somehow uses that to justify keeping a Secret Baby under-wraps from the hero for TEN YEARS!!!!! Ugh!

Lori: That's it right there. It's like she's hung up on "reproducing" but just won't say it out loud.

It's probably not fair, but I tend to give conflict like this more of a free pass in historicals. Different times, different roles for women, etc. etc.

nath said...

Awwww, that's too bad about the issues you had, Wendy. Sounds like the hero was great!! I was planning to get this one, but now I'm not too sure. Especially since I've recently The Navy Seal's Bride and meh.

It feels to me some authors are trying to discuss subjects that are rarely brought up and credit to them... but the problem is that they do it the wrong way ^_^;