I read a book this week that i was loving - witty banter, unbelievable chemistry, a huge conflict. I was so sold on it. I was devouring it, loving every word...
I hated it.
It's got so many fabulous reviews and readers love it. It's by relatively 'big-name' romance authors. I should have loved it because everyone else seemed to be, so what happened to me?
The female was disempowered. In a book that was all about the hero helping her and empowering here, the conflict disempowered her in such a way that it crushed me. It seemed to go against everything that it had been leading up to do... but it was subtle, and kind of went with the conflict, so it worked... just not for me.
I don't want to bag out the book, or single it out because romance is full of books that do the same thing, but I do want to explain my issue. So I'll try to do that in general terms.
Hero and heroine are both outsiders in their families. They bond because of this and the issues that arise from the ostracising. The heroine helps the hero in quiet, private ways, and in public, he pretty much sorts his own shit out.
The heroine... well, she doesn't sort her own shit out. The hero 'saves' her. Not only does he cover for her, he then tells her brother that she needs help and insists that the mother does too. So the brother 'forces' the heroine and her mother into counselling, which sorts all the issues out. Does the brother also go to counselling? NO. Did the heroine take charge of her life and organise her own counselling? No. Did the hero help her in private as she'd done for him? No.
The men sorted their own shit out, themselves, in private spaces.
The women had to deal with theirs publicly, and then go to counselling that had to be forced onto them, and the males involved did not need this counselling.
Why do we (as women romance writers) do this?
We are perpetuating the "useless" female stereotype that the patriarchy dishes up to us.
Can't we do better??????
I know the conflict doesn't happen on a grand scale unless this all gets aired publicly... but do we need that conflict as readers? Do we need to have the women humiliated and then saved by the men they love?
This is why I don't fit easily into romance. This is why I struggle to read the most popular romance titles.
I want to empower the females in my stories.
I want my women to save themselves.
I want them to be as strong as their men, or stronger.
It may have taken me a bloody long time to work out exactly what was fucking my brain up with romance, but I think I'm getting it worked out. My idea of romance is something completely different to the genre and the fairy tale.
I need to write what makes my heart sing. That's what I'll be doing. Proudly. With my brave pants on!
How do you like your romance?