A catch up post from April, and a response to Thursday’s post
I don’t like to rant. It doesn’t make me feel better. In fact, gentle readers, most of the time it makes me feel much worse. I get all enraged about whatever my subject is, and I am usually ranting at people that already agree with me, so there’s no place for all that rage to go. Or I’m ranting at people that don’t agree with me, and we get all mad at each other, and leave even more entrenched in our ideas. I would much rather have an open discourse, without any name calling, that allows each party to express their ideas and listen to the ideas of the other.
But this is the internet, and sometimes you roll a nat 1 and have to rant.
I made some DNF reviews this week, and I’d like a little space to write out a bit more of my opinion. One of the books I DNF’d was really harmful to women, and the other was The Dresden Files.
But I’ll talk about Dresden’s treatment of women later.
I want to go into Lisa Kleypas, and her treatment of her heroine in Cold-Hearted Rake.
Trigger warning for discussion of rape. If you don’t want to read it, skip to The Dresden Files (though that might not be better…)
It was fun writing that review. It felt very freeing, and it helped me to consolidate some of my feelings on why I finally put the book down. But I wanted the review read, so I didn’t want to get too spoilery on Goodreads (though I’m not sure it counts as spoilers for a five year old book).
So, here’s my take, with all the spoilers.
Kleypas had a good set up. A woman with a wounded past, terrified of men with tempers, meeting a man with a temper that needed to soften up. Which is usually good for the all the trope-y goodness I love in my historical romances. Except this didn’t turn out that way. I made it a good two thirds to three quarters of the way through the book, and he was still using every excuse to blow off his lid with his temper, and more often than not blaming her for it.
And she kept coming back for more, like this was a serious character flaw that needed to be fixed in the course of the romance. I mentioned in my short review that I started off with Chasing Cassandra, which is the last book in the series. So I know that he eventually learns to control his temper, but it’s apparently not in this book. She gets together with him without, as far as I can tell, any significant character growth.
None on either side, that is.
By the point where I’d stopped, she’d stripped herself bare emotionally at least twice to him. Once, before they even really liked each other. He was splendid during the encounter, but it was a little bit of a whiplash that it had happened at all. The scene before Devon had been gleeful that she would be lost in the rain, on the moor, close to evening. Now she cries a bit, and suddenly he’s all tenderness and understanding? Of course, it was told from her perspective, which meant that right after we got his. And all he could think about was his cock, and where he’d like to put it, and how to get it there most efficiently. So we were back to normal.
And don’t get me started on her crying. Again, just the scene before, we were presented with the fact that she hasn’t cried since she was a small girl, even though she’s wanted to and tried. I was expecting tears to be the climax of the book, not almost the very next scene.
And then we get to the rape themes.
Some people might not see it as rape. But when a man comes into a woman’s room, drunk out of his mind, and attempts to force himself on her, that in my mind is rape. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t completed, that she managed to fight it off. For the rest of the three days of her marriage, Kathleen was constantly badgered by her husband to have sex.
And what does Devon say when he hears this story, “You know what I would do if I did that to you?”
And then he goes on to say how he would have apologized. Not how he would have never done it in the first place.
I could maybe forgive that as bad reaction or bad writing. But then Devon does it. And doesn’t seem to recognize the parallels because he actually seduced her instead of straight up trying to force her. Kathleen is trying to put on her overskirt and having trouble. She’s already told Devon that she doesn’t want to have sex with him, because he is dangerous to her. Devon dismisses this, because he would never physically hurt her. Fine. I can deal with that as a lesson my hero needs to learn. So Kathleen tells him not to help her with the skirt. He says that either he will help her with her skirt, or she will run, whereupon he will chase her and have her.
I had to skip the next scene.
Later, when they actually have an “arrangement” of “mutual desire”, which mostly involved Devon wanting her, pulling her into a secluded corner, and kissing her into compliance, they actually have penetrative sex where he ejaculates into her. His response? To get mad and blame her. And she blames herself for not stopping.
I stopped reading at that point.
I want historical romances that are nice to women. That have women who know what they want and go for it. I want men who learn from their mistakes. And that goes both ways, but I can more often find books where it is the women learning, and the men knowing.
Sigh. At least Chasing Cassandra was good enough that I am willing to give the next book a try.
The Dresden Files
Trigger warning for mind-whaming
I mentioned Lucio in my review. As I won’t be actually reviewing the books in question, I’ll go into it here.
Harry Dresden is a self-confessed male chauvinist pig, and this is presented as some kind of throwback honorable thing. Every girl in the series who falls for him comments on it, and while some fall for him despite it, some fall for him because of it. Some complain about it, but it is never something that actively harms Dresden in getting his way. (I’m talking about in personal relationships. Sometimes his inability to hit girls does do him actual harm.)
But beyond his personal relationships, this is the way he treats every single woman in the series, up to and including the wife of his best friend and her fifteen-year-old daughter. Oh, he says he shouldn’t notice the things that he is noticing, but he spends paragraphs and pages lovingly describing curves and bodies, even while he is saying that he doesn’t or shouldn’t notice.
And every woman is drop dead gorgeous. Every. Single. One. How do I know? Harry Dresden tells me.
I listen to this series rather than reading it, so when I got to the scene with Lucio, in a newly younger body, having a sponge bath in front of Dresden, I had to skip forward on my tape after the first minute of description. And then keep skipping forward. Again. And again. There was nearly five minutes of just description of Lucio’s naked body. She was trying to clean herself, and she thought Dresden was asleep. Then they have a conversation, because Lucio having spotted Dresden perving on her is apparently just fine.
This is reinforced later when Thomas tells Dresden that Lucio was flirting with him. By getting clean. In front of the only source of heat in the apartment. While she thought Dresden was sleeping.
This is a Warden of the White Council. One that trains other wardens. She was flirting with him. Someone who might be the equivalent of a fifteen-year-old girl from her perspective.
I nearly stopped the series there. But, there was enough that interested me that I continued on. It did make my decision on whether or not to buy the series much easier. I will read The Dresden Files, but I will not read them again.
And then, just one book later, we discover that this wasn’t her choice at all. She was mind-whammied into it. No one seems to notice or care that she was forced to have sex with someone she might not have wanted to. Nope.
Oh, she goes to therapy and a mind healer at the end of the book, but the tone is all about how disappointed Dresden is that the “relationship” is ending. Nothing about the consequences. Dresden doesn’t seem to realize, even, that in this situation he is the one cast as the rapist.
I almost quit the series then. In fact, I didn’t continue reading for nearly two years. But again, damn you, Butcher, I will finish the damn series. But I don’t feel bad about DNF-ing any of the books ever again.
So there you have it
My rant. I’m not sure I feel better, but I at least feel better about explaining myself further.
Have another cute dragon.