Monday, May 08, 2006

Please Take Away the Purple Crayons

Nearly wall-banged it, I did.
Instead I just swore.
Was reading one of a clutch of romantic suspense novels I picked up on Saturday.
You know - tall, dark and dangerous hero working for a semi-secret organization must save heroine from nefarious plot by kidnapping her by helicopter in the middle of a severe electrical storm on her way to her wedding to the traitorous villian who plans to use her to blackmail her father who is on the brink of discovering a breakthough in something vital to national security.
Need to take a breath?
No, I had no problems with the plot. Fairly standard plot.
Nor with the heroine really.
It was the hero.
Don't know whether it was an example of semi-gelding urge that seems to afflict some writers when they try to betatize a basic alpha hero and turn him into a girly man.
Maybe it was a bassackward, misapplied attempt to show the hard-case hero as sensitive and caring.
Anyway, it stank.
He's a trained professional who is saving her silly life and yet we are supposed to believe he feels "the guilt that stabbed him for interrupting her wedding?" to someone he knows is a traitor who plans to kill her after her usefulness is over?
My eyes rolled all over the place, believe me.
They arranged for her limousine to be stopped on a deserted stretch of road, "her slicing look of anger, hurt and bewilderment stabbed him....he steeled himself for her tears."
Oh, dog squat.
Of course, though she's wearing ninety pounds of full-length wedding satin with crinolines and such, when he heaves her over his shoulder to make a run for the chopper, he is "very aware of his hand on her pleasantly curved bottom."
He must have very sensitive hands. Princess and the Pea hands at that.
"Her knees kicking his ribs?"
Now, correct me if I am wrong - I haven't been abducted lately - but I had the impression that when a guy heaves the odd delicious bundle of feminine pulchritude over his shoulder, he holds said bundle in place with an arm behind the knees - which cannot kick.
It is a convention in romance writing that the hero - even a trained, professional - must be perternaturally aware of the heroine's seductive physical charms, but jaysus, give the guy a break willya?
Here they are, just made the chopper - don't forget the severe thunder, lightning and pouring rain - she's intent on rapelling out the open door without a rope as they lift off , this mission is vital for her life and the security of the entire country, and he is "trying and failing not to notice her sexy curves."
Oh sure, he will.
Sarcasm fails me.
In the famous words of Patrick Nielsen Hayden, "This is stupid. Now I have stupid all over me."
And they wonder why romance sometimes has a bad rep.


Ric said...

"Don't know whether it was an example of semi-gelding urge that seems to afflict some writers when they try to betatize a basic alpha hero and turn him into a girly man."

You must have had SOME weekend!

I supppose this has something to do with women wanting men to be sensitive. Crying at the funeral of the goldfish, pausing to pick the perfect wildflower for madam, etc.

May come from the 'helpless' females in the last century.

Bernita said...

Going to vault over the "weekend" comment with a ten-foot pole.
It's an exciting life.

"Crying at the funeral of a gold fish" doesn't make a guy "sensitive" - it just makes him a dork. Kids cry over goldfish. Adults, whether male OR female generally don't.
I know, you were providing an exaggerated example, and it does hit the point - the use of ersatz, synthetic, unbelievable, indicators.
I tend to blame it on stupid - tossed in from a list.
Men can be sensitive, but ferchrissake, writers, pick appropriate times and believable examples.

Erik Ivan James said...


Bernita said...

Don't try to tell me, Erik, that male writers don't sometimes do the same stupid thing.

Mark Pettus said...

Gee, I just told someone that I prefer heros who appear to be alphas, but who were really just betas in alpha clothing. I never knew I was writing about castrati ;).

I don't think the problem was the writer's urge to create a sensitive hero, but rather the writer's lack of ability.

By the way, men are aware of pleasantly curved bottoms, and how close their hands are - to said bottoms, through car doors, across crowded rooms, around corners, and behind wedding vows. That dress wouldn't hinder us. I'll bet most men could describe her underwear with some accuracy after that same ordeal.

One other note; for men, a hand on the back of her knees becomes a hand on her behind as it is transferred into memory. I'm not defending the writer - stupid is as stupid does - but pleasantly curved bottoms make us all stupid sometimes.

Bernita said...

Oh dear, I have so annoyed Mark.
The problem is not beta males in alpha clothing.
It's the writer assuming that beta males think like stupid women.
Nevertheless, I do have considerable trouble believing that men are so obsessed with sex that they are excessively keyed to women's behinds during a 3 minute snatch in the middle of a severe tunderstorm.

Dennie McDonald said...

they are all a bunch of horney bastards....

Bonnie Calhoun said...

ROFLOL....that is why I stopped reading romance. I'd go through the whole book making the...LOL...same comments!

"semi-gelding"...and at that, all the men crossed their legs....LOL!

Bernita said...

Claiming that they are, Dennie, makes us all prudes and liars as I recall.
I just submit that in the scenario proposed by the writer, the last thing on hero's horny mind is the shape of her ass; and while the sexual attraction should be introduced as early as possible according to convention, the writer really crowded the beat and believability in this instance.
It's a false and female fantasy that has little basis in fact. Guy's going to concentrate on getting the job done. At that point she's just an object, a package to be gotten from A to B, not a person.

Bernita said...

Really annoyed me, Bonnie, especially since I had just finished a similar book where the writer had all the ducks in a row regarding motivations and actions by a nice sensitive but manly hero.
He didn't notice her nice ass or her soft mounds in her lacy bra until he had her bullet wound cleaned and bandaged, the baby changed and fed, and he had time to view her as something other than an inconvenience and a complication.

Sela Carsen said...

Men, do, as a general rule, have one track minds. And it's not always on sex. There's also work. And while they're working, unless they get seriously distracted by something, they're not thinking about sex.

They don't have as much practice multi-tasking their thinking as women do. Says Sela as she types, holds the mouse between her teeth (don't ask), folds clothes with her feet, drinks her coffee through a straw, and keeps an eye on the clock to recall when to pick up ds.

Bernita said...

In my experience, Sela, a mother has exactly seven and one half minutes to complete any given task before she is interrupted.

archer said...

The only real way to abduct a babe is to render her helpless by showing her your tax return.

Bernita said...

You think paper cuts will render her, Archer?

Dennie McDonald said...

LOL - Archer!

Gabriele C. said...

So many traps and pitfalls in romance. Too Stupid To Live heroines, beta males in alpha clothes, purple prose and throbbing manhoods, and that If They Had Talked There'd Never Been a Problem plots.

And Bernita adds time travel and a few explosions, just to make it more difficult. :)

Amie Stuart said...

I shouldn't laugh. I REALLY Shouldn't laugh because you're so dead on but (to use your word) jaysus that was funny!

Mark Pettus said...

You know, Bernita, the most annoying thing is...

Wow. Did you see her ass?


Bernita said...

Hoot, Mark.
Your pic and mine.

Glad you liked it, Cece.
The one saving grace was that the heroine didn'timmediately wet her panties at first sight of the hunka-hunka hero.

At least, my Damie is not TSTL, Gabriele. In fact, I'm not even sure any longer I'm writing "romance."

Robyn said...

Romance takes many forms, my darling.

Once- just once- don't you want the hero in situations like that to just clip the screaming ninny and not feel a bit sorry for it later? Or is that too politically incorrect?

Gabriele C. said...

Bernita, you got all the clich├ęs wrong from the moment you made Damie a middle aged widow with a head of her own instead of a simpering virgin. :p

Ric said...

Geez, go to work for the day and this whole blog turns to horny men and lovely curves....

Just love this place.

Bernita said...

Oh YES, Robyn.I would dearly like to see that.
In this novel, he actually thought of it - but he didn't want "to mar her perfect skin."

I'm certainly sunk on those, Gabriele.And what will I do if some editor wants me to change her?

A living room has to have full-length sofas and soft rugs, Ric...

Gabriele C. said...

Since her age is not just propped up but part of what she is, including her widowhood, experience in life etc. and that is what hooks John, you should be fine. If not, don't ship it as Romance but Commercial Fiction.

I have some troubles about the not-HEA between Ciaran and Julia as well, even though hist fic, I'm afraid an editor might think readers want them to get together in the end but I don't see any way it would work in the historical context.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Gabriele.
I may have to do that.
Otherwise, I would be in for a massive re-write.

Surely no historical editor would be quite that dense, just for a HEA...oh yes, market.

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