A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

His For Keeps by Theodora Taylor

His For Keeps by Theodora Taylor.

This interracial romance is a follow-up to His One and Only, and overlaps with it a bit. It’s also the first of the “Fairgood Boys” trio, but without the controversial aspects of the other two. Country star Colin Fairgood recruits Kyra Goode (I like the parallel naming, because she gives as good as she gets) to help him make his high school crush Josie jealous. Unfortunately, Kyra has an extremely soft spot for Josie’s ex, Beau, and helps him win Josie over instead. But Kyra continues to pursue a friendship with Colin — without telling him that Josie asked her to, and is technically paying her as well. As things get intense between them, the secrets she’s keeping from him, as well as from Josie and Beau, become ever more potentially explosive.

I’d definitely call this romance rather than erotica, but it does get kinky, with domination and bondage. (Nothing really scary or painful.) It’s neither straight-out fantasy nor a realistic safe-sane-and-consensual depiction: Colin throws Kyra right into a power exchange with very little warning or preparation, which I found off-putting. But she does have the power to stop it and chooses not to, so there is consent of a sort. And I did really like their discussions about how to have a D/s relationship while also having a regular everyday life, including having children.

I’ve really been enjoying Taylor’s first person stories, and Kyra has a particularly strong voice. Her interactions with her grandmother add humor and sentiment, and songwriting gives her a life outside her romance.

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The Turning Season by Sharon Shinn

(Some spoilers)

This is the third in a paranormal romance series, and reading it gave me the weird feeling it was written to address concerns I had with the previous two books in the series — and perhaps with some other Shinn books as well. Both of the previous books focused on obsessive love of human women for shapeshifters, and they were frankly disturbing. In this book, the female narrator Karadel is the shapeshifter herself, and she’s facing a choice between her charismatic ex-lover, a classic bad boy type who’s also a shifter, and a solid, reliable new man in her life. Astonishingly enough, she goes good — although you could say the choice is made easy for her by her ex going very bad.

I’ve often found Shinn books to be morally ambiguous, to say the least. There are two other Shinn books — Summers at Castle Auburn and The Thirteenth House — in which the main characters use mind control powers to deliberately change someone’s memory, “for his own good.” That’s not exactly what happens here, but Kara is faced with someone she cares about playing God, which creates a serious ethical dilemma for her — as if Shinn is trying to say, “see, I do think about these moral implications!”

I didn’t find it very satisfying though. For one thing, Kara is spared from having to make a real decision, and for another, so much else about the book is perturbing in an unquestioned way. Kara has been pretending her dead mentor (one of the obsessed characters from a previous book, who basically died for love) is still alive; she goes so far as to write letters to the woman’s mother to comfort both of them. And she seems to feel no particular guilt or worry over the ethics of what she’s doing.

In another part of the book, one of  Kara’s friends, a foster mother who is portrayed as deeply committed to caring for and protecting the abused teenager in her care, is described as being thrilled to let him participate in a crime. It’s a crime with the best of intentions, one that will protect many innocent people, but it’s still a crime. She should have at least had to think about it, and the possible ramifications — including losing him.

I love many of Shinn’s books; Angelica is one of my top favorite romance of all times. But I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep reading them if they continue to feel so… unthinkingly morally bankrupt.

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