I love many romances, I do, honestly. But sometimes I’m disappointed by the genre restrictions.
I was reading an enjoyable romance by an author I love, and the heroine was forced to choose between two men (granted, not my favorite trope at all, because you know what I’d say: let Guinevere have both King Arthur and Sir Lancelot!) But this wasn’t an erotic romance, so I knew she was going to choose one or the other. I suspected something a little odd was going on, and then one particular event ruined the “reveal” for me entirely. The surprise twist of the book was no longer a twist — it couldn’t be. Because it was a mainstream romance.
What was the big event that spoiled the twist? She had sex with someone other than the “hero” of the book listed in the blurb, quite late in the book.
Now how many books have we read where the hero is in bed with some skanky mistress? Scads. But we rarely see a HEROINE of a romance involved with anyone but the hero–because to allow her to be with someone else implies that she’s a slut. That she DID have sex with the other man told me immediately that the “two men” thing was a complete and utter sham. He had to be the same man, and yes, he was (although it was complicated). I’m not naming the book so I don’t spoil it for anyone, and I still enjoyed the book. I mean, she did get both heroes, then. In a way.
But it made me think about romance in general and the double standard. I’m not saying I want skanky heroine sluts running around by any means, but sometimes, the restrictions of our genre chafe.
Come on, haven’t we moved beyond the following “choices” for a heroine?
- virgin pure as snow
- previous experience but they were all terrible, unsatisfying lovers and only the hero can teach her how wonderful a “real” man can be in bed.
Of course I also read about a review of Victoria Dahl’s A Little Bit Wild today where the reviewer couldn’t get over the heroine’s “morals of a gnat.” Errrr, I didn’t know that gnats were so permiscuious? But the point: the heroine (in a historical, no less) had had sex with other men, and that was just unforgivable. Worse, she likes sex. How terrible! *boggles*
I guess that’s why I’m so intrigued by Victoria’s heroines. They’re typically brash and unashamed with their own sexuality. They’re subversive, really, compared to the rest of the heroines I’ve been reading lately.
That’s one of the things I really wanted to play with in the new world I’m building. Subversive heroines. Role reversals. Taking beloved romance tropes and totally turning them on their heads, but still pulling off “romance.” We’ll see if I succeeded…or failed utterly!
Sometimes I love that I can trust everything to work out in the end when reading a romance. No matter how terrible things get, in the end, I know they’re going to be happy. Nobody too crucial is going to die. Nobody’s going to make a permanent wrong decision that costs them someone they love. Happy happy happy! But sometimes, that safety net reads more like a lie and a cheat than forever.
What subversive heroines have you enjoyed?