A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

What Authors Owe to Their Readers

A big spoiler for the Feed series by Mira Grant. Proceed at your own risk. (But the whole point of this post is that the spoiler should have been known.)

I started Feed for an online buddy read, and I was getting into it. Good world building, interesting characters, sad backstory, fun title pun. I posted about this in the group, and mentioned that I was just a little worried about there eventually being a gross romance. I thought I was being paranoid, but nonetheless my YA-dar was tripped.

The group leader responded — apologizing for not having known this and issued warnings — that they had just learned there is an incestuous element to the series, which is not shown on page in Feed but is revealed in later books. You could argue that it is not technically incest, since the characters, though brought up from birth as twins, are not blood-related. I don’t care.

I particularly don’t care after I went looking for reviews, surprised that people weren’t bugged by this. And I found one in which a reviewer gushes about the beautiful brother-sister relationship in Feed, and how it reminds her so much of her own brother. She even posted pictures of them growing up.

At first I thought this was gruesomely funny, but the more I think about it, the more furious I get. The author of Feed, whether intentionally or not, involved her readers in a taboo sexual situation without their knowledge or consent. That is ethically and morally wrong.


Just for Fun

The new Shallowreader Bingo card is out and I couldn’t help noticing how much of it applied to my recent trip to the Pacific Northwest. So I’m filling out trip bingo! (I’ll do reading bingo too, of course.)

“Sweet City Woman” — every time I visit a big city, I’m reminded of how much I feel at home in them, and kind of wish my life had gone another way. Except not, since I wouldn’t have my family.

“Sleepless Nights” — So, so many of them. Especially the ride back.

“April” — when this all took place.

“Puppy love” — We visited someone who is passionately in love with her pet.

“Exploring” — a whole lot of this! I can’t remember when I’ve walked so much.

“Toast” — what I was after the nightmare of our return trip.

“Chasing the Light” — Seattle. Nuff said.

“Belles” — A friend of my mom’s we stayed with and her adorable girlfriend.

“Wild ride” — again, the return trip.

“Drinks O’Clock” — what every single Amtrak passenger riding with us was feeling.

“Double Denim” — I lived in two pairs of jeans.

“Now!” — the only way out is through. One moment at a time.

“The Perfect Kiss” — The one I got from my husband when I returned.

“Lily” — one of my mom’s friends we visited has a flower name.

“No Questions Asked” — how we felt after the first few attempts to get information from the AMtrak employees.

“7” — approximate hours we spend on the bus from Klamath Falls to Sacramento.

“Dark Apollo” — the sun in Seattle.

“Pajama time” — I didn’t feel comfortable sleeping naked, as is my usual habit.

“Morass” — my emotions!

“West Side” — one of the two ballets we saw was a medley of “West Side Story.”

“A Token Wife” — What I certainly don’t feel like, after all the stuff that needs to be dealt with now.

“Special Delivery” — What Amtrak most definitely did not treat us as.

“Cherish” — what I did with my son when I got back home.

“Hollywood” — We watched the most Hollywood of all Hollywood animated movies, “Sing.”

“Party” — What I hope Amtrak will be, if we sue them.


Caught in the Act

Hub and I were having lunch today and I noticed four college-aged kids nearby, an Asian guy sitting with a white girl and white guy sitting with an Asian girl. And I immediately started wondering about why they were all together. Were the two Asian people siblings? They didn’t look ethnically similar…

And then I realized I’d caught myself being totally racist. And in a way that’s particularly egregious, because there’s so much of that kind of racism/heterocentrism/ableism etc. in the book world. “Why are there black people in this historical?” “Why is this couple lesbians when it’s not important to the story?” “Why does there need to be someone in a wheelchair — it’s just pandering.”

Why does there need to be any kind of story about four friends or coworkers or whatever eating in a restaurant, just because two of them aren’t white? Because I’m a white person and  I’ve absorbed a lot of shit and I may never get rid of it all. 😦

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I know they mean well, but…

Every time an author posts a comment on something I wrote, it’s instant death for the comment thread.




So Sick of This in Romance

“Marriage comes before babies in my family,’ he enlightened. [Why yes, this is Michelle Reid — why do you ask?]

Marriage–? “Oh for goodness’ sake.” It made her feel sick to her stomach to say it, but — “I’ll take one of those m-morning after pills that–”

“No, you will not,” he cut in.

She stood up. “That is not your decision.”

His silver eyes speared her. “So you are happy to see off a fragile life before it has been given the chance to exist?”

“God, not,” She even shuddered. “But I think it would be–”

“Well, don’t think,” he said coldly.

Yes, God forbid you should think, or get information, so you can make an informed decision about one of the most life-changing situations you could be in.


ETA: OMG, now there’s this:

She felt the muscles of her womb clench tightly as if it was acknowledging that it already belonged to him.

No. NO. Turns out I do have a line and THAT CROSSES IT.





When Are They Going to Start Casting Movies With White People?!

(Sarcastic title courtesy of my husband.)


I recently wrote a post about romance in Cassandra Clare’s books for “Heroes and Heartbreakers.” While double-checking on the ethnicity of the character Jem, I was disgusted to find, via this passionate post, that fans have been whitewashing the character, who is half Chinese.

While searching for that post again, I learned that the casting of an Asian actor as Magnus Bane in the movie “City of Bones” was also causing controversy amongst fans. It’s Rue of “The Hunger Games” all over again. Do people even actually read their so-called favorite books? They love these books enough to be upset by the casting, but not enough to have noticed their beloved characters aren’t white.

Here’s an especially charming quote from the comments of this post:

“I have always thought of Adam Lambert as Magnus! Adam has been doing theater since he was a kid and was in the cast of Wicked and Hair. He would make a fantastic Magnus if they could make some more of his features Asian.”

Actually, that one is really just thoughtless and naive. The reactions captured by “racebending” are far worse. (Trigger warning for racism.)

Here’s an interesting post from Clare on the casting, and on readers whitewashing her characters. And an interview at racebending.com. Read the comments for criticisms on Clare’s portrayal of race.

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WTF Did I Just Read


I’m having the worst luck with Charlotte Lamb lately. First there was Savage Stockholm Syndrome Surrender and now Betrayal. AKA Rapey, Cruel, Entitled Men and the Insane Women Who Love Them.

What gets me the most about Betrayal though, is it knows how crazy it is. Here’s the basic plot, with plenty o’ spoilers:

Cathy accidentally falls in love with Muir while a conference, then has to tell him that she’s engaged. She won’t break her engagement because her fiance was badly injured. (I expected this to be the worst part of the book, the fact that Cathy is staying with her fiance only because he’s disabled. It was actually the least offensive part, since he’s pretty strong and sensible, and not in the market for pity love.) Muir is driven mad by love — yeah right — and rapes her, then somewhat accidentally knocks her down the stairs. He’s then arrested for rape and Cathy has temporary amnesia and can’t speak up for him; after he’s cleared, he refuses to believe she had amnesia, so he then kidnaps her and abuses her both physically and psychologically. Then somehow it all kind of dies down, he decides to believe her about her memory loss — for now? I bet he’ll be bringing it up constantly all the rest of their lives — and Bob’s your uncle. There’s no remorse. (I’m pretty sure everything resembling an apology is accompanied by a “but you made me…”) There’s no catharsis. There’s nothing satisfying to have made all that horror remotely worth reading.

And Cathy feels terribly guilty about forgetting him and him getting charged with rape, even knowing perfectly well that he did actually rape her. Because it wasn’t rape-rape. (How she actually puts it is, “there are rapes and rapes.”) And she knows he’s violent and cruel, and she’s freaking terrified of him, yet she loves him so it’s supposedly a happy ending.

None of this is sugar coated at all. Cathy’s fear is real. The rape is real. The violence is real. The fact that he will probably abuse her every day of her life until he snaps and kills her one day is unexpressed, but frighteningly real.

But what got me most was this throwaway line from Cathy’s friend, speaking about a co-worker:

“She rejoices in a mind which believes that what it wants it’s clearly entitled to.”

And neither of them seem to notice that this describes Muir to a T. But I bet Lamb did.


I Choo-choo-choose You


I used to be weirdly hooked on the show “Judge Judy” — don’t judge me! I judge myself! — and one of the funniest episode I remember was one in which a man is telling a story about how his neighbor went off on him because he called her cockatiel a cockatoo. And you can tell that the judge and everyone in the audience is thinking this man is completely round the bend — until the neighbor gets up to testify and immediately starts screeching about the fact that her bird is a cockatiel, not a cockatoo.

(I’m amused to see, btw, while looking up the spelling, that the cockatiel is in fact a variety of cockatoo.)

That came into my mind today after reading this piece by Julie Burchill lambasting intersectionality. She rushes to defend a friend accused of being transphobic and in doing so reveals herself to be pretty much the definition of transphobic.

“The idea that a person can chose their gender — in a world where millions of people, especially ‘cis-gendered’ women, are not free to choose who they marry, what they eat or whether or not their genitals are cut off and sewn up with barbed wire when they are still babies — and have their major beautification operations paid for by the National Health Service seems the ultimate privilege, so don’t tell me to check mine. “

I had no idea that we have the privilege of choosing our gender. Somehow I missed that option when choosing my race and sexual orientation. And how handy to be able to choose again, if you were accidentally born into a culture which discriminates against you.  Why don’t all those tortured women just choose not to be women, for fuck’s sake?


Rant: The Italian’s Suitable Wife by Lucy Monroe

(Minor spoilers)

Monroe went from being my favorite Harlequin Presents writer to being one of my worst romance “allergies” — the meandering, circular conversations make it almost impossible for me to get through one of her books these days. But Ros Clarke’s recent comments got me to try this one, and it was interesting enough for me to finish. I’d agree with pretty much everything Ros says, except for me there was an extra level of cringe. I’m still trying to decide if it was funny-cringe or omg-burn-it-with-fire cringe.

Monroe often writes books with medical/reproductive themes and generally does a decent job, given the space and fantasy limitations of an HP. Her story with a heroine with severe endometriosis, The Scorsolini Marriage Bargain, is one of my favorites.  This story involves IUI, which I know very little about, and I’ll assume the description was reasonably accurate. (By the way, what is going on with the term IVF being used as romance shorthand to indicate “any kind of fertility intervention”? That is very annoying.) It’s what happens right after the painful  procedure (it’s considerably more invasive than a turkey baster) that really made my eyes roll. I don’t know how I’m supposed to enjoy a sex scene when I’m wincing so hard, and worried about the heroine’s safety.

The story is… insensitive around disability, to say the least. Rico is partially paralyzed and impotent after an accident, so he feels like he’s not “whole” on several levels. This is understandable enough for someone only recently disabled, but couldn’t there have been some counter-balance to it, aside from Gianna worshipfully assuring him that she doesn’t feel that way? Like Ros, I thought it was cool that their sex life is shown as very satisfying despite the lack of intercourse, and I wish there hadn’t been so much undermining that positive side.

The end of the story brought on one last face-palm. See, having twins is all about how studly the dude is. His sperm is so powerful it even brought on an extra egg release, I guess.

If this sort of thing doesn’t bother you, it’s a pretty emotional story. But I couldn’t turn my brain off enough to really enjoy it.


Sloppy With a Chance of Boredom

(I have to use this gif again, because it’s just too perfect. Perhaps it’ll become my signature gif.)

We took our son to see “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” and squirmed miserably through the whole thing. (My husband even nodded off at one point.) Although it did an admirable job of not driving home jokes from the previous movie too much into the ground, the pacing was completely off, the transitions were sloppily done, and the whole thing felt badly in need of more work. And the new characters took weird to a whole other level; the premise was fantastical enough itself without needing a science fiction villain.  I think it’s interesting that every bit of advertising I’ve seen has completely eliminated the new characters.

It’s especially sad because I have to contrast it with the last children’s movie I saw, “Despicable Me 2,” which left me feeling like I’d been slugged in the jaw by the sexism fairy. I know it’s my job as a mom to talk to my kid about things that offend me, but how do I even bring this up? “Well young son, that scene with the drugged woman being dragged around unconscious and treated as a joke and an object upset me because it reminded me of a real live case I hope you have never heard of in which a bunch of men did actually that to a drunk woman.” The other, myriad instances of sexism and racism would also be hard to explain without the background to understand them.

By contrast, “Cloudy 2” has a smart, straight-talking, and capable female character, who does some of the rescuing herself.  Although she is in peril at times, she’s never alone — most of the other characters are in just as deep.  And although her relationship with the movie’s hero has a touch of romance, they are obviously true best friends. 

Son thought the movie was awesome. He loves cuteness, and as a budding marketing genius, immediately saw the potential for adorable stuffed toys (he wants a “Barry” strawberry lovey, and he shall have one — when they’re available commercially and not $80 on ebay.) It’s kind of cool too, now that I think about it, to see a movie that isn’t marketed specifically for girls but has so much cute in it. And unlike, say, “Wreck-it Ralph,” its cuteness isn’t gendered.

So if nothing else, I guess I can be happy that my son didn’t recognize how crappy this otherwise was, and gets to be exposed to some more positive messages about women than he usually gets from movies. I’ll just be sure to have a crossword puzzle book handy when it comes to Netflix.


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