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Sex and Death – A Rant

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I recently finished reading Linda Howard’s Death Angel. This will not be a review, as I have no idea how to go about reviewing this book. If I were to judge on the usual criteria – plot, characterization, prose – it’d be maybe a B or a B-. But the story made an impression on me that surpassed what any mere letter grade could convey. I spent most of the book on a rollercoaster between kind of pissed off and really pissed off. After reading it, I fell into one of my periodic "why is the romance world so hostile to women’s sexuality?" funks.

Warning: I can’t say more without revealing big spoilers for Death Angel. Please do not continue reading this if you plan to read the book and don’t want to be spoiled.

Drea Rosseau is a gangster’s girlfriend and Simon is an assassin. They meet cute when Simon asks the gangster, Salinas, if he can have sex with Drea in lieu of payment for services rendered. Drea, after initially being horrified at the idea, fallz in the luv with Simon from the orgasms and all, which Salinas, being a boor (as well as a gangster, drug dealer and killer) has thus far failed to provide. She begs Simon to take her away, and he refuses, telling her, "once was enough." (Did I mention that this is the hero? And that he kills people for a living?)

So, Drea gets mad and runs away from Salinas, but not before stealing a bunch of money from him. Salinas sends Simon after her; not to retrieve the money, but to kill Drea. Simon tracks Drea with laughable ease (he’s your typical romance novel assassin/spy/Navy SEAL/what have you in that his abilities seem just a hair short of supernatural; he always knows just what the heroine is going to do and how to deal with it. Must be nice).

Drea gets into what turns out to be a fatal car accident while Simon is chasing her on a deserted road. She is understandably afraid that Simon intends to kill her, while Simon still isn’t sure what he plans to do, even as he tracks her to another state. But anyway, Drea crashes her car and dies. And goes to-some sort of heavenly waiting room? I’m not real clear on that part. Anyway, she is told (not unkindly) by the angels there that she doesn’t belong. Then one angel comes forward and says that he brought her there to give her a second chance – it turns out that he’s the son she gave birth to at 15 who died shortly after birth. He thinks Drea deserves a second chance, because as she lay bleeding and in labor, she prayed that her son would live instead of her. Drea had demonstrated the "purest" form of love, which apparently is mother-love (that would not have been my guess, but whatever). So the heavenly waiting room welcoming committee takes a vote, and Drea gets sent back to Earth, admonished to go and sin no more, lest she end up in The Other Place.

Okay, this is where this book seriously went off the rails for me. Drea has not shown herself to be a particularly admirable character, but Hell? She was really going to go to Hell? For being kind of lost and misguided and skanky?

Drea is a potentially interesting character. That she has had a hard life is implied but never really explained in detail. We know that she got pregnant at 15 and lost the baby at five months, having to get herself to the hospital because there was no one to take her. The implication certainly seems to be that she was at best neglected, and as a result, she has developed a tough exterior and has learned to do what she needs to get what she wants. While this is not admirable, I found it understandable, given what little we know of her background.

Drea thinks of herself thusly (after her accident and return from death):

But they had held her cheaply because she’d held herself cheaply. She couldn’t remember a time in her life when she’d ever held herself to a higher standard. Not once as an adult had she ever made a decision based on what was right, what she should do; instead, she had gone for whatever paid her the most, benefited her the most. That had been her only criterion. Maybe most people also used that as the basis of their decisions most of the time, but they also went out of their way to help friends, they sacrificed their own material needs to provide for their children, or their aged parents, or they gave to charity or something. She’d done none of that. She had looked out for Drea – first, last and always.

I can tell I’m not simpatico with an author when I feel more sympathetic to the character she’s created than the author herself seems to feel. Maybe it’s that Drea doesn’t seem that hard-bitten, and we’re not given enough information to really understand why she does what she does. I came to wonder if that was a deliberate choice on Howard’s part; it was like she didn’t want to make Drea too sympathetic. But my mind filled in the blanks from what little we are given about her upbringing, and I couldn’t help but feel that circumstances had made Drea the person she was. Which doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t have reformed; but it does mean, for me at least, that if she had died unreformed, she wouldn’t deserve an eternity of torment being poked with pitchforks, etc.

Another hole in the portrait that Howard has created of Drea: she doesn’t seem to have been hugely ambitious, pre-embezzlement and death, which made me wonder what she was doing with such a dangerous character as Salinas, a man whom she has to play dumb around (she feels it’s safest that he not know she has a brain; that way he won’t ever feel threatened by her or worry about what she might overhear). Couldn’t she have just married a doctor, or something?

I will say that unlike Simon, Drea didn’t appear to be a complete sociopath, incapable of empathy, which puts her one up, in my books.

So, Simon. He kills people for a living; but it’s okay because as both Simon and Drea think several times, the people he killed deserved it. Glad they cleared that up. Simon is a sociopath, at least by the self-description afforded by his own thoughts. We are given even less motivation for why he lives life as he does, but we are told that he has never really cared about people:

He was what he was because no life, his own or anyone else’s, had ever meant anything special to him.

Alrighty, then. That’s not creepy at all.

I understand that the focus of this book was on Drea and her growth, but the respective characterizations of Drea and Simon, and the fact that Simon kills again at the end of the book (in cold blood, though to protect Drea) after both of them have supposedly repented, left me with the uncomfortable feeling that in Howard’s world, being a cold-blooded assassin wasn’t great, but it wasn’t as bad as being the kept woman of a drug dealer. I was just really uncomfortable with the juxtaposition of these two characters, and how I felt we were supposed to view them.

Again, both Drea and Simon indulge in justification and rationalizations over Simon’s career choice. These justifications boil down to: the people Simon killed deserved killing. By whose criteria, I wonder? Anyway, in my opinion, the assassin who only kills people who deserve to be killed is sort of like the defense lawyer who only represents innocent clients: a myth found in books and movies, never in real life.

Which I suppose is what some will argue about this book: it’s not realistic, nor is it meant to be. Which, fine, but when you place these two characters on somewhat parallel journeys, it tends to highlight their similarities and differences. To summarize, for me as a reader:

  • Simon was by far the worse person before they each reformed, and even though Simon “reforms” he still kills when he decides it’s necessary (making me wonder what his future body-count might look like).
  • Simon is given less of a background that might mitigate his behavior.
  • Simon manifests serious signs of sociopathy. Drea manifested simple garden-variety selfishness, which I found a lot more palatable (and believably reformable);
  • Yet it’s Drea who gets told she’s ending up in Hell if she doesn’t change her ways. Simon’s reformation seems to be far less of an issue, and his decision to stop being an assassin (after he kills just one more person!) feels like it has less of a sense of moral urgency than Drea’s reformation.
  • Both characters excuse Simon’s behavior but not Drea’s.
  • Drea feels compelled to give the money she steals from Salinas to charity. There is no mention of what Simon plans to do with his blood money, but I have the feeling the United Way shouldn’t be expecting a big check any time soon. Simon earned that money! Killing people. It was totally hard work. What?

I think it’s a sign that the book wasn’t working for me that the one character who I felt had some depth of characterization, and who I could even kind of feel for a little, was Salinas. He is shown to be callous and cruel, but when Drea deceives him for a brief time into believing that she loves him (as part of her plot to run away) and is devastated by his turning her over to Simon, he actually reacts in a recognizable human way – he seems to feel remorse for how he’s treated Drea, and has a desire to examine their relationship. Of course, when he realizes she’s duped him, he wants to kill her, but – nobody’s perfect. A couple of times in the book Simon thinks about how much contempt he has for Salinas, and I just couldn’t help but wonder – why? Why were we supposed to root for Simon and disdain Salinas? I just didn’t get it, and it made me kind of resentful, actually.

Lessons learned: prostituting yourself, stealing, driving over the speed limit, not returning library books in a timely manner and killing people for a living are all bad things, but only one if them is worthy of getting sent to hell. Wanna guess which one? If you said not returning library books, you’re totally wrong. Silly, it’s being a whore, of course!

has been an avid if often frustrated romance reader for the past 15 years. In that time she's read a lot of good romances, a few great ones, and, unfortunately, a whole lot of dreck. Many of her favorite authors (Ivory, Kinsale, Gaffney, Williamson, Ibbotson) have moved onto other genres or produce new books only rarely, so she's had to expand her horizons a bit. Newer authors she enjoys include Julie Ann Long, Megan Hart and J.R. Ward, and she eagerly anticipates each new Sookie Stackhouse novel. Strong prose and characterization go a long way with her, though if they are combined with an unusual plot or setting, all the better. When she's not reading romance she can usually be found reading historical non-fiction.

151 Comments

  1. Meriam
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 04:56:43

    Oh, Lord, I hated this book. I did vent on the other thread, but just to recap: HATE.

    I stopped reading shortly after Drea got her second chance (thanks to the purity of her ‘mother’s love’ – my expression: stony), and had it not been an ebook, I might have hurled it.

    You’re absolutely right about Salinas; I was actually more sympathetic towards him than the leading couple. At least he made sense.

    As I stopped reading half way, I did not get the opportunity to witness Drea or Simon’s ‘redemption.’ The complete inconsistency of Drea’s reactions up to her death were problematic enough. The double standards Howard imposed on her heroine left me fuming (and it doesn’t surprise me at all that the book ends the way it does).

    Our only point of divergence is this:

    If I were to judge on the usual criteria – plot, characterization, prose – it'd be maybe a B or a B-.

    Actually, I thought it was poorly written; Howard seems to think reams of inane and repetitive internal monologue and description can pass for an entertaining read. It doesn’t.

  2. Ann Somerville
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 05:27:04

    I don’t like the god this author wants us to believe in, in this book.

    I just read a story where an orphan girl was sent to hell for killing her rapist. Apparently it’s okay to kill in war, but not to kill someone hurting you unbearably – at least, if you’re female.

    This is my problem with paranormal books, and shows like Supernatural. They want you to accept a cosmology that was deeply at odds with my personal beliefs even when I was a Christian. I could never believe in a god that stupid.

  3. Corrine
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 05:31:28

    Okay, I actually haven’t read the book, only the reviews, but having been raised Catholic, I have to raise this point: Was Drea repentful of the lifestyle she’d led? If not, well, bingo, there’s your Go Directly to Hell, Do Not Pass Go card. And I’m not saying she wasn’t, this is a legit question since I haven’t read it.

  4. Mrs Giggles
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 05:38:05

    Well, color me unsurprised. Having a penis and the ability to give the heroine an orgasm allow any hero to get an instant get out of jail card ever since a certain romance author created a brute named Steve Morgan. On the other hand, any heroine who makes one move out of step with the Good Conduct Codex gets the pillory unless she spends 300 pages in self-loathing.

    My great amusement comes from reading reader reviews on Amazon of Elizabeth Vaughn’s Dagger-Star. I know the Xena-style heroine will irritate many folks, especially when Red Gloves is very different from Xylara, but I don’t know what to think when some folks slam Red-Gloves as “without redeeming features”. Let’s see, she can take care of herself, she is loyal to those she care about, she saves people… oh, is she irredeemable because she is NOT A VIRGIN and is therefore automatically a HOOR?

    Some romance readers, heh. And some romance authors who either share the belief or trot the line because they believe that these readers are the biggest buyers of romance books.

  5. Emmy
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 06:07:25

    I spent most of the book on a rollercoaster between kind of pissed off and really pissed off.

    Judging by that and the rest of the post, you don’t appear to have particularly liked the book. So why, then, would you say

    If I were to judge on the usual criteria – plot, characterization, prose – it'd be maybe a B or a B-

  6. Sparky
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 06:29:27

    Gah, just gah. Like Ann I have to say that I want to take a pass on that particular deity. In fact, if said deity is going to condemn someone to hell for just doing what they hve to (and not all that bad at that) to survive a hella hard life then I wouldn’t WANT to go to heaven and spend eternity at the god’s side.

    It’s such a shocking mix of priorities. Murder? Not so bad. Having sex? EVILLL! *sigh*

  7. Meredith
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 06:44:52

    Wow, I guess I must just be a rabid Linda Howard fangirl or something. I actually liked this book. I haven’t been impressed with her books lately, but I read them anyway, and I was encouraged by this book that Howard has some interesting stories left in her. I actually didn’t get the “murder–not so bad/sex–eevil” connection. I thought that Simon was a person with no morality and that Linda Howard didn’t really excuse that. Drea was a person who was also lacking a moral compass (it wasn’t the sex for me, it was the fact that she was living off a man who was making money off the misery of others, and that she thought that was okay as long as “she” personally wasn’t “involved” in the drug trade herself). Did I think the supernatural part was a bit gay? Yeah, I admit it. But I thought it was a nice departure from Howard that she put two people together who were not good people, and the HEA was sort of ambiguous (at least it felt that way to me, two people living on the run).

    Now, don’t get me started on Howard’s Blair Mallory books. I HATED those. I felt like this was kind of Anne Stuart-lite. And then again, despite the number of people who HATE the book, Howard’s Dream Man is still one of my top five romances of all time.

  8. Ann Somerville
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 06:46:45

    Did I think the supernatural part was a bit gay?

    Excuse me? What?

  9. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 06:56:26

    Um, yeah, Ann. Right there with you. Hey, if there’s hot gay boys and beautiful leather dykes running around in heaven, sign me up, but somehow I don’t think that’s what Meredith meant.

  10. Ann Somerville
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 07:00:20

    if there's hot gay boys and beautiful leather dykes running around in heaven

    I don’t believe in heaven, but I would really pray for this to be so :)

    I don't think that's what Meredith meant.

    I’m really hoping you’re wrong because this is the last place I expect to see ‘gay’ used pejoratively. I mean, everyone’s so smart here.

  11. GrowlyCub
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 07:04:58

    The double standard is alive and well. It’s really extremely disappointing that an author who has written some of my favorite books (before turning to suspense) would produce such garbage.

  12. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 07:10:05

    Ann, I expect to hear that from my students–and when they do say it, I call them out on it. But not here. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that here–which is just fabulous–and it just slapped me in the face when I *did* see it. Sigh.

  13. Leah
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 07:16:52

    I have not read the book, but I just read the whole review. I’m guessing I would have bawled the whole way through the heaven part–one, ’cause I just cry at those things, and the other, because I nearly died after having my last child prematurely (he survived–he’s 3 now). As to mother-love being the purest…nah, that would be selfless love, or, as Christ said, “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (I’m sure He was talking about Himself, but well,that kind of sacrifical love, for friends, or anyone in danger….

    But I seriously don’t get the current fascination with assassins and hit men. Maybe in a paranormal, where they’re taking out demons and stuff, but in “real life”? Why is this cool, or hot, or good in any way? I think you would have to be a very cold, nasty person to take lives for a living, or even for a few grand, like the thugs on Dateline. I don’t see them as worthy of a heroine’s affections, or, seriously, an HEA (in a romance, unless there’s some serious redemption–not “I’ll just kill if they need killin'”). We glamorize this stuff so much–romantic outlaws, the Godfather movies, some rap songs and gangsta movies, Bonnie and Clyde. And there’s that “bad boy” appeal, but I don’t think we seriously understand how ugly that stuff is.

    Ok, gotta get the boys up. Have a good one, everybody.

  14. Janine
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 07:34:34

    Linda Howard is consistently a satisfying author to me — her books are usually at least in the B range for me and sometimes higher. Nonetheless, I often become aware when I read them that her worldview is different from mine. Many of her characters believe in vigilante justice (sometimes it is the only way to get justice in her books), like the FBI agent in Death Angel who endangers Drea to set up Simon to kill Salinas, and then congratulates himself on his actions. That makes me uneasy, because there seems to be a philosophy there that I don’t agree with. I’ve reached a point with her books where I expect that, and just enjoy them for the characters and the unusual plots.

    Re. Death Angel specifically, to quote from Meredith’s post:

    it wasn't the sex for me, it was the fact that she was living off a man who was making money off the misery of others, and that she thought that was okay as long as “she” personally wasn't “involved” in the drug trade herself)

    That was what I saw as the majority of Drea’s sin, too, but sex was also in the mix there somewhere too IMO, as can be seen from lines like the first one you quote (“But they had held her cheaply because she'd held herself cheaply”). I agree that there’s a double standard operating here but because I know going into Howard’s books that I’ll get a worldview that is different from mine, I was able to enjoy the book despite it.

  15. Janine
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 07:41:14

    Judging by that and the rest of the post, you don't appear to have particularly liked the book. So why, then, would you say

    If I were to judge on the usual criteria – plot, characterization, prose – it'd be maybe a B or a B-

    I’m not Jennie but I took Jennie’s words here to mean that if it hadn’t been for the issues she brings up in the rest of her post (which don’t have anything to do with the originality of the plot, the believability or dimension of the characterization, or the quality of the prose), the book would have been a B or B-, but taking those into consideration, her assessment is different.

    Hopefully Jennie will correct me if I’m wrong.

  16. Laura Vivanco
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 07:48:12

    Drea was a person who was also lacking a moral compass (it wasn't the sex for me, it was the fact that she was living off a man who was making money off the misery of others, and that she thought that was okay as long as “she” personally wasn't “involved” in the drug trade herself)

    I’ve not read the novel, but presumably Simon’s also accepted money from people like Salinas for his work. Or did he always accept sex with their girlfriends in lieu of payment? The payment in this case is presumably considered OK because instead of it involving “the misery of” a woman who’s basically in the position of being trafficked for sex, she gets an orgasm, and that’s taken to imply that she’s not exploited or being made to suffer? I still see a massive double-standard there. It begins to look as though the argument is:

    Being a woman who exchanges her body for money is bad, and it’s doubly bad if the man doing the keeping has immoral earnings.

    Being an assassin is not so very bad, and it’s OK if a man accepts a woman’s body (both bought via immoral earnings and brought to him in a way which humiliates the woman and makes it clear that she’s being treated as an object which can be bartered) in payment instead of money derived from immoral earnings.

  17. Corrine
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 08:08:27

    Did I think the supernatural part was a bit gay?

    Because apparently, parts of books can be attracted to each other.

    It’s kind of disappointing, Meredith, because there were some really valid points in that post, but everything was immediately invalidated by you entering that one word.

  18. Elizabeth
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 08:39:00

    While the world(s)view described in this book definitely does not conform with my own, the opportunity to read a book full unfamiliar ideas–well, that’s one of the main reasons I read books. I think it’s possible that (warning: prepare for sweeping, unfounded generalization) because people who consume lots of fiction tend to be more open-minded generally, they also tend to resent books that promote a, um, retro–shall we say?–morality. (I’m also thinking of the Stephanie Meyer books, and a few others.) But really, hating on a book because it’s too conservative puts us in a place similar to people who hate on Harry Potter for promoting devil worship and lack of respect for authority. I mean, it’s FICTION. You shouldn’t HAVE to agree with it. And believe me, I know some of it is WAAY out there–I read that “Left Behind” series for giggles one summer.

    That said, I think it’s the author’s job to make their wacko reality palatable–or at least comprehensible, or interesting, or whatever–to their readership. And it’s not like we’re talking JK Rowling reaching out to the evangelicals, here. This is a romance author writing for a romance audience. That’s the way in which, for me, this book was a borderline failure. Idea: interesting. Execution: not interesting.

  19. DS
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 08:46:12

    This is a romance author writing for a romance audience.

    But surely you are not suggesting that the ideas in this book shouldn’t be discussed seriously because it is a romance?

  20. Antonella
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 08:47:50

    IMHO, I didn’t perceive this rant to be a slap against morality. It was more a slap against a double standard; one that is prevalent in the genre.

  21. Elizabeth
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 08:50:44

    Not at all. I’m saying the author knew who she was writing for, could maybe have predicted a romance audience would not be especially enthusiastic about the whore=hell thing, and should have labored a little more to make that interesting for us.

    @antonella: I guess I would consider the double standard to be a reflection of an underlying morality.

  22. Morpho Ophelia
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 08:54:50

    Did I think the supernatural part was a bit gay?

    FYI: was a bit gay, is an expression (street slang) that younger people now use. That’s so gay. Whatever its origins, on the streets, it’s evolved into something that has NOTHING to do with sexuality.

    On the review (which I thought was insightful and well done)– how can a book with this many problems be rated a B catagory? Character is story, and who could really like these characters? As described, I see a major flaw in the emotional structure of the novel. It failed, period.

  23. Jane A.
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 09:15:05

    I read the book, and I enjoyed it. I’m not a Christian, I don’t believe in hell, I do believe in some sort of afterlife but not that depicted by Howard. I’d not want to have anything to do with Drea or Simon in real life, but I was caught up in their story and had no problems empathizing with them. That’s not to say I don’t empathize with those readers who were put off by this book. I’ve had such reactions to other books, too. But for me it was a good story and I put the book down feeling satisfied that LH can still hit the spot for me. One readers “garbage” is another readers “treasure” and I don’t think a mediocre writer could engender such a response.

  24. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 09:44:09

    FYI: was a bit gay, is an expression (street slang) that younger people now use. That's so gay. Whatever its origins, on the streets, it's evolved into something that has NOTHING to do with sexuality.

    Meredith, we know that. Trust us. I teach college students, my husband teaches high school students, and we recently had three teenagers in our house. I’m perfectly aware of what it means on the street/in teenagerdom. But the fact is that it has EVERYTHING to do with sexuality. The only reason “That’s so gay” can mean “That’s dumb/stupid/ridiculous” is because of the meaning of gay that has everything to do with sexuality. It’s the homophobic version of saying “That’s so black” to mean that something is bad or evil, which isn’t a phrase because we all know how wrong it would be.

    So, using the phrase “That’s so gay” is a ridiculous shorthand that insults anyone with an alternate sexuality and means that you don’t think through the meaning of your words. Some of us think it’s close to the equivalent of using the N-word or Bitch in a derogatory matter while saying “but everyone uses it that way. It doesn’t mean what you think it means.”

  25. Anah
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 09:45:03

    FYI: was a bit gay, is an expression (street slang) that younger people now use. That's so gay. Whatever its origins, on the streets, it's evolved into something that has NOTHING to do with sexuality.

    Actually, it has everything to do with sexuality, and it’s not just younger people who use it. That slur — directly related to the negative image of homosexuality and the constant marginalization of homosexuality — has been in use for over thirty years; I’ve been hearing it my whole life. Dismissing it as merely a part of the modern idiom that’s lost its original sting is extremely privileged and insulting, as is somehow validating its use by making it seem like a ‘cool’ colloquialism.

    The word has not evolved; it maintains its original purpose, to denigrate something by associating it with the state of being homosexual. The fact that it is in common use is not justification for perpetuating it, instead it’s a symptom of a massive system of discrimination and oppression that causes suffering to people every day. The use of ‘gay’ as a pejorative is unacceptable.

    …I also cannot believe that was my first comment ever on this blog. My apologies to the OP, whose review was entertaining and insightful and just plain good reading, even though I haven’t read the book.

  26. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 09:55:02

    Anah said it much better than I did, with much bigger words. Thank you!

  27. joanne
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:03:01

    I know, really, I do, that my opinions are not sophisticated or well-formed by my education and/or knowledge of ‘writing’ in all it’s different forms and scopes. I read to escape and to explore places and people I will never (and often hope never) to see and meet… not to learn how to navigate this life…. Or to see what should or shouldn’t be done in the real world.

    I do not understand looking for real life lessons in a fiction book… it’s an imaginary tale…and if a romance author has a job it’s to write something with a different perspective or ‘take’ and I think Linda Howard did that.

    I liked this book, I liked the pacing and I liked the surprises and I even liked that they [spoiler]had to leave the country to be safe[/spoiler] because, for me, that’s punishment enough for them… it is, after all, only fiction…. and at that it doesn’t claim to be Crime and Punishment.

    So for me it was a B…. but for different reasons.

  28. Barbara B.
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:09:56

    “FYI: was a bit gay, is an expression (street slang) that younger people now use. That's so gay. Whatever its origins, on the streets, it's evolved into something that has NOTHING to do with sexuality.”

    Utterly disingenuous bullshit.

    At any rate, I’ve noticed that quite a few romance authors as well as readers are quite misogynistic. While reading romance I often have to remind myself that the book was written by a woman. It’s really disheartening. Romance is touted as by women for women but it’s rare that the female protag is allowed the full range of human emotions that the male lead is afforded. I found this quite shocking when I first started visiting romance forums. The comments are frequently virulently anti-woman and regressive. I guess in fiction as well as real life there are always women willing to socially police and restrict other women.

  29. GrowlyCub
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:11:01

    Well, while I agree that using this slang sentence is dismissive and negative towards people with a homosexual orientation even if the original poster didn’t mean it that way, I have to disagree with the assertion that ‘gay’ as homosexual is the original meaning of the word.

    From MW online:

    Main Entry:
    1 gay
    Pronunciation:
    \ˈgā\
    Function:
    adjective
    Etymology:
    Middle English, from Anglo-French gai, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German gāhi quick, sudden
    Date:
    14th century

    1 a: happily excited : merry b: keenly alive and exuberant : having or inducing high spirits ]
    2 a: bright , lively b: brilliant in color
    3: given to social pleasures ; also : licentious
    4 a: homosexual b: of, relating to, or used by homosexuals

    The usage of the word has definitely evolved since the 14th century, but there are indeed people who use it to denote things other than homosexual.

    Again, I agree that the usage here was not appropriate, but it’s also wrong to claim that ‘gay’ always and forever will mean homosexual.

  30. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:19:36

    GrowlyCub, as someone with a middle name of “Gaye,” I do understand that it means something else! :) But it’s pretty darned obvious Meredith didn’t meant it that way, either, because gay is a happy thing and that’s not what she was implying.

    Huh. I didn’t know about meaning #3 there. Is that why it switched from #1 to #4, I wonder.

  31. Marnanel
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:21:57

    GrowlyBear: where did anyone say that “gay”==homosexual was the original meaning? Sure, it has meant other things before, but that doesn’t mean that use of it in this context isn’t homophobic. To make an imperfect analogy, the original meaning of “bitch” has nothing to do with humans, but that doesn’t mean that a lot of the ways people use it aren’t misogynistic even when not applied directly towards women.

  32. veinglory
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:23:31

    The use of the n word, and in New Zealand ‘Maori’ also went through a period of meaning something of poor quality, well after open racism was tolerated. I used the later thoughtlessly at least once myself as a teen, and was appropriately corrected. I think the derivation here is clearly of a similar sort.

  33. Elizabeth
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:31:33

    BTW, Jennie, this is a great review–definitely got me thinking. I never got past hero’s “once was enough” line, either, and never quite figured out what she did to make him change his mind about her. I think it was supposed to be her cleverness but, as you mention, he predicts her every move, so that can’t be it. I guess it was her dying that really did it for him.

  34. GrowlyCub
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:35:13

    Marnanel,

    it’s actually GrowlyCougar. :)

    Anah said ‘The word has not evolved; it maintains its original purpose, to denigrate something by associating it with the state of being homosexual.’

    She may have meant the ‘phrase’ and in that case I would not disagree, but she said ‘word’ which I took to refer only to ‘gay’.

    I’m all for refuting the idea that ‘that’s so gay’ has nothing to do with sexuality or homosexuality, but in doing so I believe in staying accurate. I’m a language whore, what can I say. :)

    SarahF: I recently saw ‘The Libertine’ with Johnny Depp about John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester at the court of Charles II. I don’t know, but I could easily see both usages 3 and 4 evolving during that time in English history.

  35. DS
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:36:14

    Meaning #3 is one I’ve run into in 18th cent. writing– can’t cite which ones right now unfortunately but I think iI first saw it in a 19th cent. commentary on an early 18th cent. broadsheet ballad– and I think this meaning may have been used as a folk explanation for the term gay becoming connected to homosexuality.

  36. Laura Vivanco
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:40:54

    the opportunity to read a book full unfamiliar ideas-well, that's one of the main reasons I read books.

    Not everyone reads books for the same reasons. Some people may not read books in order to encounter unfamiliar ideas. Secondly, there may be some people who read in order to explore unfamiliar ideas/cultures etc, but only as long as those ideas are not ones they find offensive, illogical etc. Thirdly there may be people who are happy to read about unfamiliar ideas, even if they find them offensive, illogical etc, but not if the novel concludes by endorsing those ideas. There are no doubt plenty of other possibilities.

    really, hating on a book because it's too conservative puts us in a place similar to people who hate on Harry Potter for promoting devil worship and lack of respect for authority.

    If you mean that both groups analyse the ideas underpinning the novels, then that’s possibly true, though the extent of the textual basis for the criticisms made by the different groups may vary. There is also the question of what you mean by “hating.” I wouldn’t think that reading a book in an analytical manner and critiquing some of the ideas it contains constituted “hating.” There may also be differences in terms of what actions the various groups propose should be taken in response to the book. Nobody here is suggesting the book should be banned from public libraries, for example.

    I mean, it's FICTION. You shouldn't HAVE to agree with it.

    Precisely. We’re not all agreeing with it. But there’s no reason why we shouldn’t discuss both the books we like and the books we don’t like.

    I do not understand looking for real life lessons in a fiction book… it's an imaginary tale…

    So are fairytales, parables, fables, myths and other stories which are told in order to help people to understand and internalise particular messages. Fiction can be an extremely effective way to transmit ideas and “real life lessons.”

  37. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:42:07

    Okay, as an eighteenth-century scholar who has a passion for Rochester, I now feel completely inadequate! :)

    I HAVE to watch that movie! What could be better than Johnny Depp as Rochester.

  38. GrowlyCub
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:54:14

    He was great and once you hear the prologue you’ll know why I see both usages evolving around that time. I got it from Netflix and it has a low rating there. That’s interesting to me, because while the subject matter was definitely depressing for the most part, I thought the film itself was very well done.

    Maybe the folks who saw it took the prologue very seriously. ‘I do not want you to like me.’ :)

  39. Elizabeth
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 11:07:17

    @laura vivanco: I’m not suggesting we can’t discuss books we don’t like-that’s what I thought I was doing. I would suggest it might be more interesting to discuss reasons the book didn’t work BEYOND not liking the idea/value system, because once you’ve said that, there’s not much more to say. Also, I truly believe that a good book can make ANY idea or value system seem interesting and/or compelling to a reader, so we might consider why this book did/didn’t do that. And by “hating on” I was attempting to describe, in the vernacular, the act of acting on the visceral reaction you get when you read something that really doesn’t jive for you. :) This COULD include anything from comment postings to hurling books into volcanoes. This would not include “reading a book in analytical manner and critiquing some of the ideas it contains.”

  40. Maggie's Mom
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 11:08:19

    Gosh – I liked this book. Generally, I have like most of the books she’s written. I didn’t all tied up in “who’s sin is worse”. I just read it without judgment and enjoyed her storytelling.

  41. Morpho Ophelia
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 11:22:42

    The use of ‘gay' as a pejorative is unacceptable.

    Well, I agree. I’d never use it, even in a phrase, but I’ve recorded it in some research and just thought I’d clarify that since some comments focused on that word instead of the review. If we want to get really technical and philosophical here, we might all consider that the book being discussed is misogynistic. That’s probably a more constructive debate. However, I’ve not read the book.

  42. Laura Vivanco
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 11:24:06

    I would suggest it might be more interesting to discuss reasons the book didn't work BEYOND not liking the idea/value system, because once you've said that, there's not much more to say.

    But (a) for some people that might be the main/only reason they didn’t like the book, and (b) depending on the book in question, it can actually take quite a lot of time to work out how the idea/value system affects the characterisation, the plot, the imagery etc.

    In any case I’m not sure if you’re directing this at Jennie’s original post (which went beyond just discussing the value system) or whether you’re suggesting the comments thread would be more interesting for you if the discussion had gone in different directions.

  43. MB
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 11:47:10

    I think, in her latest books, Linda Howard has been trying to stretch the boundaries of romance fiction. A lot of people didn’t like the book before Death Angel, Up Close and Dangerous, which dealt with a strong woman “saving” a strong man and was definitely more of an action/survival/suspense novel than a typical romance. The book prior to that one Cover of Night was also more of a survival/suspense novel with a very strong & capable heroine. I really like these smart/strong women!

    Personally, I love these newer books! I think her latest books are much better than the ones she used to write that seemed to always feature abusive men and the women that put up with that kind of treatment. (Yes, I do realize that I am in the minority.) I also love her sense of humor.

    Death Angel was a real departure from the norm of romances. I think maybe it should have been categorized as suspense thriller instead of romance. I think that it is more comparable to Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter series (where the characters do indeed shoot and kill). Death Angel to me seemed like a “let’s see what I can do” novel for Linda Howard. She took two basically unsympathetic characters and tried to create a compelling narrative about them. Does it work? Well, that’s up to the reader. It sounds like for many of you it did not. But is it compelling and disturbing? Yes, it certainly was for me.

    In romances, we tend to like to have a compelling happy ending with no loose ends left dangling. In real life, and in this book, and in Brockmann’s books this doesn’t happen. Maybe that is what left many of us unsatisfied as well as the paranormal/religious aspects. If I could give this novel a theme I would call it redemption. How two unhappy characters find each other and become a team and fulfill each other.

    I am guessing that Linda Howard is in a place in her life where she is writing what she wants to write and not necessarily what she used to write. Maybe she doesn’t need to worry so much about what will sell and now can produce the stories that she finds compelling??? I’m all for that! You Go Girl!

  44. AnimeJune
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 11:50:16

    There’s a similar sexist women are HOORS message in Susan Mallery’s Sweet Trouble, as well. The heroine, Jesse, was a bit of a floozy party-girl as a teenager. Later, she’s molested by her sister’s husband, and when they’re caught in the act, Jesse gets blamed for seducing the husband because she was the family screw-up.

    Of course, she didn’t have sex with the husband, but her boyfriend Matt believes hearsay rather than her, calls her a whore, and when she tells him she’s pregnant, he says he doesn’t give a crap even if the kid is his. Understandably, she gets the hell out of dodge.

    Fast forward five years, Jesse comes back with her son and the entire novel blames HER for running off to another city and not involving her boyfriend in her child’s life. Not ONCE in the entire book is Matt blamed AT ALL for how he believed hearsay instead of the woman he supposedly loved. The entire book blames Jesse for the way things turned out, saying, oh, if only she hadn’t been a slut as a teenager, she and Matt could’ve been a happy family.

    Gag me with a spoon.

  45. Elizabeth
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 11:51:49

    @Laura Vivanco: All comments, unless specifically addressed to Jennie, were simply describing my own reaction to the book: why I had an unfavorable visceral reaction to the premise and qualifying that, while the use of a strange premise is not usually enough to make me dislike a book (because I like to think I’m more open-minded that that and also because, as I said before, a good book can make any idea seem interesting) I didn’t like this book for reasons beyond that. I completely agree with you that everyone has a right to like or dislike a book for whatever reason they want, and to post that reason in the comment thread. I also believe there’s a lot to delve into here. I mean, plenty of stuff in this book didn’t work for me, but I finished it anyway, and, oddly, I wasn’t really that displeased with the experience. (Jennie seems to be similarly conflicted, or so I’m guessing from the critical review/B grade juxtaposition.)

  46. joanne
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 11:54:22

    I do not understand looking for real life lessons in a fiction book… it's an imaginary tale…

    So are fairytales, parables, fables, myths and other stories which are told in order to help people to understand and internalise particular messages. Fiction can be an extremely effective way to transmit ideas and “real life lessons.”

    Absolutely… and if that is what a reader gets or wants to look for then that’s fine… but I pretty much know at this point in my life what works for me and what works for me is fiction that is fun to read. That’s all I was saying… that I enjoyed the reading of this novel and that’s all I need from an author.

    Again, I know I’m missing all the deep meanings in this work, I’m so happy I missed them. And I’m so glad about this review because well… look at all the posts.

  47. Jane
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 12:00:40

    I would suggest it might be more interesting to discuss reasons the book didn't work BEYOND not liking the idea/value system, because once you've said that, there's not much more to say.

    Are you saying that you cannot be set off as a reader by the idea/value system that is portrayed, no matter how unintentionally, by the author? That it is somehow inappropriate to suggest that an author’s portrayal of a woman who trades her body for comfort (money) is somehow less valuable in society, or at least less moral, than a man who kills for comfort (money).

    In a book about an assassin and a whore, it seems perfectly natural to question and disagree the value judgments that the author is implicitly providing to the readers are not winning ones for that reader.

    It would be one thing, I think, if the author were creating an alternative value system intentionally to provoke a reader to challenging her own beliefs. I don’t think that was the case here. The double standard of male v. female mores is pervasive throughout the romance genre, particularly when it comes to sexuality. A male whore is looked on with approval within the book and by a large body of readers whereas a female whore is looked upon in disgust (witness the reaction by many readers to the latest Loretta Chase book).

    If romance novels are written for women by women, why not challenge the author’s point of view and the messaging of the story? It doesn’t matter if the book is just FICTION or ROMANCE FICTION because to say that implies that the work is not worth critical evaluation.

  48. Elizabeth
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 12:40:05

    In a book about an assassin and a whore, it seems perfectly natural to question and disagree the value judgments that the author is implicitly providing to the readers are not winning ones for that reader.

    You’re probably right. I just couldn’t imagine anyone disagreeing that there was a completely screwed up moral judgement going on here, as Jennie does a nice job of pointing out. (I didn’t see what Drea had done in her previous existence to warrant almost being eternally damned, either.) But I guess there may be someone out there who disagrees with what is, essentially, my value judgement that hooking up with a gangster isn’t the most deplorable thing ever (presumably the author did) so I take your point.

    You may also be right that we should challenge the author’s POV. In general, though, I’m inclined to explore whatever POV an author feels like espousing, as long as s/he makes the experience valuable for me. I feel an author (of ANY genre) should, to some extent, be able to anticipate what her audience will find difficult and develop ways to make sticky areas more appealing/relatable/interesting for her audience. My critique is that LH failed to do this for me here–I was fairly bothered by the whole thing–but I won’t go so far as to say an author shouldn’t be able to write about her values, even if I find them disagreeable.

    And, to clarify, I NEVER implied romance fiction wasn’t worthy of critical eval. I simply contrasted an author who is receiving criticism from her own audience with an author whose books are being criticized by those who are NOT her core audience.

  49. Robin
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 13:07:45

    I just don’t think authors are necessarily aware of the value judgments that readers pick up in their work, in part because of the role the reader plays in the relationship with the book — that is, we come to books with our own views, too, some conscious and some unconscious, just like authors. So I’m not convinced that any author could anticipate reader reactions or even gain full awareness over what he/she is writing. Nor do I think we will ever resolve the controversy over whether things exist objectively in a book or whether readers see them there against the author’s intentions. In a sense it doesn’t really matter, because if you have a reaction to a book and can support it with evidence from the text, then it becomes a point of discussion for other readers, and readers will decide what makes sense to them.

    But I definitely think these discussions are worth having, not only because they’re interesting textually, but also because we ALL harbor ideological views we’re not fully aware of, and IMO it’s valuable to talk about those in a genre written largely by and for women, especially a genre many believe to be inherently feminist, or at least pro-women.

    And sometimes that process is difficult, especially when we find ourselves caught up in or even loving a book that rubs something inside us the wrong way. Should we enjoy books that go against our values? That seems to be a question that bogs discussions like this one down, even though it’s rarely asked, but merely inferred, which is why I think you get this side discussion about whether or not we should even be analyzing Romance.

    So I think we should just put it on the table that we all can and do enjoy books that aren’t necessarily in agreement with our personal principles (whatever they may be), give ourselves a break with that right off the bat, and then decide whether we want to look more closely at the book in question. Personally, Howard is one of a number of authors — which also includes Anne Stuart, SEP, Melody Thomas, and more — whose books can be very compelling and entertaining to me, while also making me so frustrated I can barely stand it. I LOVE that we’re having this conversation about Howard, because I think her books have rarely been given this level of attention, even though they are, IMO, some of the most profoundly value-laden tomes in Romance. The value of vigilante justice, the virtues of violence, the subjugation of female sexuality, the sexual politics of gender roles, all of that and more is at issue in her books, IMO. I have yet to read Death Angel (Jennie just sent it to me — thanks Jennie, btw), but the patterns she describes are not unfamiliar to me in Howard’s books. So count me among those who am thrilled with this column, even though (or especially because?) I’m barely keeping afloat in writing hell myself right now (and damn, if only it had been a ton of fun that got me here!).

  50. Patty H.
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 13:19:12

    I enjoyed this. I put my disbelief on hold and read. But I do have a few thoughts…

    Near death experience: each participant’s experience is unique. This from my friend who is an ICU nurse and has had many patients relate their experience. I thought Howard did a good job making Drea’s experience relative to her life–wanting to save her baby’s life was (in her mind) the most honorable thing she had done. I thought she judged herself just as harshly as the spirits in her afterlife. The event changed her–didn’t make her perfect. Have seen this effect on my brother after his near death trip. So for me this part worked.

    Simon. I preferred not knowing his backstory. I didn’t see him as completely redeemed. She fell for him even though he was a killer. Engage disbelief suspension.

  51. Jill A
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 13:31:10

    While reading romance I often have to remind myself that the book was written by a woman. It's really disheartening. Romance is touted as by women for women but it's rare that the female protag is allowed the full range of human emotions that the male lead is afforded.

    I’ve also noticed this, and wish that I could find more romance that doesn’t have this internalized double standard in it. I think that’s a major part of the appeal of my favourite authors (Amanda Quick, Loretta Chase), so when I find an author who ‘clicks’ for me in this respect, it makes me very happy.

  52. Mariana
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 13:49:34

    My 2 cents: I don’t think Linda Howard made a judgment call on Simon, because he clearly doesn’t care or expect to be saved. His character said in the book he doesn’t/didn’t expect a miracle after death, he was grateful for the one he got with Drea coming back to life. I think that while Drea was judged and was given an opportunity to change, Simon wasn’t expecting the same for himself. I got the feeling that for Simon, redemption was not in his future regardless of how his life turned out.

  53. kirsten saell
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 14:09:07

    So I'm not convinced that any author could anticipate reader reactions or even gain full awareness over what he/she is writing. Nor do I think we will ever resolve the controversy over whether things exist objectively in a book or whether readers see them there against the author's intentions.

    I’m hesitant to assign any more self-awareness to authors for writing what they do, than I can to readers for either their choice of books, or their ability to discern author intent.

    And speaking as someone who writes romances featuring protagonists who exist in a moral grey-space populated by thugs, whores, thieves and hired killers, well, I’m starting to wonder whether my books might put people off. Although I hope there is gender parity in my stories–in the sin department, anyway.

    Should we enjoy books that go against our values?

    Hell, yes!

  54. MoJo
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 14:46:29

    Should we enjoy books that go against our values?

    Hell, yes!

    I got roundly trounced by a beta reader of my manuscript who was A) a couple of years new to reading fiction and B) definitely not a romance reader because I had written characters whose worldview she didn’t agree with–and she was extremely offended by me.

    Her take was that I required readers to assume the characters’ values in order for the story to work. I had no rebuttal for that because, as a lifelong fiction reader, I’ve read all sorts of stuff that offended the hell out of me–but I still enjoyed myself. Those works changed me, transformed me in some way, even if it was only for me to realize, “Hey, somebody thinks differently from me.”

    I haven’t yet figured out if she was an immature reader of fiction or if she had a point or if I’m an abnormal reader of fiction, but her reaction shocked me. Don’t buy my lie? Great. Tell me why or don’t. The fact that you don’t buy my lie is enough for me to go on. I don’t buy all the lies that are told me, but other people buy the lie I didn’t.

    Offended by me because you think I’ve told you a morality tale that I want you to accept and embrace? I’m not even sure I know what that means. I was confused then and I’m still confused.

    With regard to this book and this thread, I keep hearing the subtext, “the AUTHOR’S values.” Why is it assumed that the author’s values are the same as her characters’ values? I create people I don’t agree with all the time and I stretch myself as a person when I do that.

  55. Julia Sullivan
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 15:26:55

    I have no idea what Linda Howard’s values as a human being are. I’ve never met her, I know nothing about her actions or philosophy or affiliations.

    But the values that are expressed in this book (from the point of view of the narrative, which I understand is not the author and not synonymous with the author’s point of view), if Jennie’s outline of the plot is accurate, repulse me to the point where I would rather stare blankly into space than read the book.

    There are some writers whom I’m willing to go out of my moral comfort zone for–Henri de Montherlant, Louis Celine, Ezra Pound, Stevie Smith, and a few others. I can note the racism/sexism/anti-Semitism/misogyny/whatever, deplore it, and keep reading for the beauty of the words or the insight into certain characters.

    But if the whole plot is permeated with assumptions that make me sick to my stomach, I’m going to pass. I will defend Ms. Howard’s right to write and publish anything she wants, just as I defend John Norman’s right to write and publish the horrible, horrible Gor books, but I’m not going to read them.

  56. veinglory
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 15:29:57

    I can enjoy a book where the characters don’t share my values, if written well. I can also hate a book with just one line of hateful preaching in it. It isn’t clear cut. And for romance I do want to identify with the protagonist and admire the love interest.

    To be honest I already choose not to read 95% of romance for reasons along these lines, fortunately it is a large and diverse genre.

  57. kirsten saell
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 15:43:40

    I can enjoy a book where the characters don't share my values, if written well. I can also hate a book with just one line of hateful preaching in it. It isn't clear cut. And for romance I do want to identify with the protagonist and admire the love interest.

    It did strike me all through this thread, that if the book had been labeled something other than romance–even romantic suspense or whatever–the reactions of commentors might have been less resoundingly negative.

  58. Ann Somerville
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 15:48:53

    the reactions of commentors might have been less resoundingly negative.

    Absolutely not.

  59. MS Jones
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 16:07:15

    If I were to judge on the usual criteria – plot, characterization, prose – it'd be maybe a B or a B-.

    we all can and do enjoy books that aren't necessarily in agreement with our personal principles

    I've read all sorts of stuff that offended the hell out of me-but I still enjoyed myself

    I can enjoy a book where the characters don't share my values, if written well

    These and other comments make the point that good writing can make us suspend dismay with the underlying philosophy/world view. I think the better the writing, the easier it is to swallow values at odds with our own.

    An example: the double standard of male promiscuity = admirable, female promiscuity = evil and/or female virginity = good (the rake hero/virgin heroine characterization, which has got to be the most pervasive trope in the entire romance genre) doesn't work for me (and please, I'm not judging readers who buy it). But I really liked Lord of Scoundrels, which has not only a RH and a VH but – bonus! – another expression of the same double standard: Dain, the hero, has abandoned his son to a “trollop” (the villainess) who “had no business having him [the child] in the first place.” Chase redeems these clichés with her excellent characterization and witty writing. She could write The Virgin Widow’s Secret Baby and I’d buy it.

    Likewise, the sexy, socially acceptable assassin doesn't work for me either, but I like the man-ho Diego “call me Jimmy” Nash because the author (Brockmann) presents him as a man who's tortured by his own actions and who is basically compassionate. (She also doesn't consign non-virgins and whores to the second circle of hell.)

    Anyway, thanks, Jennie, for the provocative rant, and the non-review of Death Angel.

  60. azteclady
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 16:21:01

    The thing is… I read the book and liked it, and didn’t see many of the things that so riled Jeannie.

    Does that mean they aren’t there? Or simply that I interpret the text completely differently?

    And I certainly feel extremely uncomfortable ascribing motives or value system to authors based on their works–I cannot know the author’s intent, I can only know my own perceptions.

  61. GrowlyCub
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 16:55:51

    If one looks at an author’s complete oeuvre and certain attitudes and motives are repeated over and over, in every single book, I don’t feel that it’s unwarranted to assume that theses attitudes and motives reflect the author’s (possibly subconscious) perception of the world, especially when it concerns gender.

    It’s certainly risky to assume to know what an author thinks, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that if an author had a different ingrained subconscious belief on gender roles, that would have peeked through at some point in the oeuvre and with Howard I have not seen a book that didn’t subscribe to this ‘hero good regardless of what he does/heroine questionable in everything she does’ pattern. Some of those books I’ve enjoyed immensely and some I disliked with abandon.

  62. Gwenn
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 17:16:02

    OMG, Jennie, you so hit this one out of the park…I would have have given it far less than a B, however, because the whole “love” dynamic between Drea and Simon totally creeped me out. I did keep reading, hoping against hope that the flimsy characterization of Simon as a major hottie-sociopath would somehow evolve into something more empathetic and at least proto-human. Something stirring his conscience beyond “they deserved to die.” I used to be a huge fangirl of L. Howard but the last several books have really turned me off.

    For a series of books with an assassin protagonist who indeed DOES evolve and prove himself far more interesting, redeemable and vulnerable than I could ever have imagined at the outset, see the wonderful “Rain” thrillers by Barry Eisler. Hopefully Linda Howard will read some of those for perspective before she writes her next book.

  63. Barbara B.
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 17:34:14

    Kirsten Saell said-
    “It did strike me all through this thread, that if the book had been labeled something other than romance-even romantic suspense or whatever-the reactions of commentors might have been less resoundingly negative.”

    I don’t follow your logic. My understanding is that the negative comments on this thread are mainly due to the gender double standards, not the overall morality. Why would the genre or subgenre make a difference? If I was reading a thriller or suspense I would have the same response to the “slut shaming”.

  64. Robin
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 17:35:09

    When I think about the ideology of a book, if I reference the author it’s in a disembodied-authorial voice-beyond-the-characters type of way. The way I would were I writing a more formal literary critique (where that practice is accepted and mutually understood as such). The book proper doesn’t speak, nor does the author personally. But somewhere between those two options is the author-as-book, aka authorial voice, who gets invoked under the name of the author. I don’t know how else to do it, frankly, without getting all wound up in language both distracting and unclear. But it’s never the author personally, unless I refer directly to the *person* of the author behind the authorial voice.

    As for enjoying books that contravene my personal beliefs, I cannot objectively quantify my reactions, of course, but I have certain patterns of response as a reader that are dependent on a number of factors:
    — do I feel as if the authorial voice is aware of what it’s creating
    — do I feel that there is consistency in what is being created

    If these two things are present, I am more likely to follow along on the journey set out before me, even if I am not in line with what the characters believe or what the novel creates in terms of worldview.

    Beyond that, there is
    — do I feel that the authorial voice is trying to sell me an ideology
    — do I feel that stuff exists in the book without much of a plan or an attempt to sell me on something

    If I feel the first, I can be easily put off, regardless of whether I buy or reject the ideology, but if I sense the second, I may be able to read past it, or note what bothers me but still enjoy the book overall. Or it might piss me off to the point of inarticulate sputtering and gurgling. It’s hard to tell until it happens.

    In practice these things are a bit fuzzier, of course, but that’s basically how they break down for me. As for how other readers relate to the morality of a particular book, I have seen among Romance readers a more overt articulation of preference than I have in other genres. But that may have to do with the way the genre seems to invite sympathy and even identification with its protagonists.

  65. Marianne McA
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 17:48:31

    The word has not evolved; it maintains its original purpose, to denigrate something by associating it with the state of being homosexual

    To play Devil’s Advocate – if my aunt says, and she might – ‘Those are lovely gay curtains’ she is not praising the curtains by associating them with the state of being homosexual. ‘Gay’ means something else to her – it’s a generational thing. So if my teenager says ‘Those curtains are gay’ why must she be condemning them by associating them with the state of being homosexual? Why can’t ‘gay’ mean something else to her?
    Who gets to decide if a word has evolved?

    Teenagers do use words counter-intuitively: ‘that’s wicked!’ to mean something is good, or ‘that’s sick’ as a term of praise.
    (The word that’s really annoying me at the moment is ‘classic’. Everything good is classic.)

  66. Ann Somerville
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 17:52:35

    Marianne, there is not a jot of evidence that the poster used the word ‘gay’ in a positive sense. Yes, ‘gay’ has non-negative meanings, and doesn’t always mean homosexual either – but that is not how teenagers use or this poster was using it.

    I would appreciate you not giving more credence to the idea that using ‘gay’ in the sense of ‘stupid’ or ‘bad’ as the poster clearly was, is not as offensive as all hell. It’s an ignorant, homophobic, nasty usage, and all decent people – and I do mean that exactly as it sounds – should expunge it from their vocabulary.

    When ‘gay’ is used only positively, the teenagers can have it back to play with.

  67. K. Z. Snow
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 18:09:40

    Uhh . . . and this would be a B graded book? Did I miss something? Sounds like tripe stew to me.

    Now I have to go figure out how gayness got thrown into the mix.

  68. Jane
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 18:14:45

    I don’t think that we are criticizing authors’ values but rather the messsaging of the book. I don’t know that Howard is trying to explicitly selling the idea that assassins are higher on the moral scale than whores. I think what we are saying (some of us) is that the way in which the story is told conveys that message.

    What I think happens is that authors are so caught up in their male characters that they don’t give the same care and attention to the development of the female characters. It doesn’t mean that the author intentionally means to degrade the female characters, it simply is by product of the author’s own interest.

    I see this in other authors that have really compelling male characters such as JR Ward. She knows her male characters so well that she plays them on her message board. She knows the cut and style of what pants they would wear down to the type of material (italian silk, leather or denim). The women are merely foils for the advancement of the male characters. In one book they wore dresses that matched the color of the covers of the books. They appeared like Miss America contests in the evening gown competition.

    I don’t think that this means that Ward hates women or thinks that they are less valuable. It shows, imo, where Ward’s interests lie. I would certainly love it if these talented authors would be more careful in their construction of the female character as they are with their male characters. But their lack of attention to the female characters isn’t a result of anti feminine values. It’s just that by focusing so much on the male character results in less robust female characters.

    Perhaps authors rely too much on the shorthand to provide the female character with attributes that make them appealing thus the prevalence of the virgin females. By giving the female virginity, you make her wholesome and innocent and honest and giving and kind to animals and loveable so that you don’t have to spend time on making a less attractive female more nuanced.

  69. Nat
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 18:32:43

    Azteclady, I’m with you…I read this book in one sitting and enjoyed it immensely, not even considering many of the viewpoints brought up here.

    I guess the main difference is that I never really equated Drea’s “being kind of lost and misguided and skanky?” as the reason for her possible damnation (slut-shaming), but rather, her inability to feel for anyone else but herself. Yeah, she doesn’t hurt anyone, but she doesn’t go out of her way to help anyone either. In fact, she even admits she’s never looked out for anyone but herself. Granted, selfishness is a bit tough to stomach as a mortal sin, but I pressed my belief suspension button here and took it. At the very least, she’s never really done anything overtly good to justify not going to hell or purgatory, or whatever other negative alternative there may be. And yes, Simon is a sociopath, far greater than Drea, but even at the end, he admits himself he isn’t expecting any kind of heavenly reward, so I never really considered them on equal terms (like who’s more deserving of eternal damnation). Also, I loved the scene in which he discovers she’s alive. It went a long way toward redeeming him in my eyes.

    I guess it’s just one of those love it or hate it type novels. It worked for me.

  70. Miki
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 18:55:10

    I think I’m with Mariana (comment #52). I didn’t see this as gender inequality because I think Howard painted them both as “bad”. I read this book with my jaw dropping to the ground through most of it. I’m not sure how I feel about it as a romance, but as an unusual story, it certainly kept my attention! On that level I can say I enjoyed it.

    But I didn’t get the feeling that Howard was trying in any way to say that the assassin hero was any better than the user heroine. We were in her head more, so we got more of her story, which included her redemption (and whatever she felt was necessary to make that real to her).

    I’ve seen the “mother-love” comment on blogs before, along with lots of cyber eye-rolling. I don’t remember – was that phrase actually used in the book? If not, it could have been her willingness to sacrifice herself for another (mother or not), that gave her that second chance.

    Personally, I am pretty amazed and awed at the self-sacrifice some parents display for their children. I don’t think it’s ingrained in all parents (and that may be what people are rolling eyes over), but I think when it’s there, “mother-love” or “father-love” can be pretty damned impressive.

    And I don’t take Simon’s killing of Salinas as a hint that he’d spend the rest of his days killing, regardless of his intention to do otherwise. I think it’s a fairly common theme in suspense, thrillers, even some fantasy or urban fantasy to have a character who is willing to kill to protect the one they love. It’s generally shown as flawed thinking (“revenge won’t really make you happy”), but as understandable and sometimes even tragically heroic.

    That’s not to say I necessarily want to know either of these people IRL. Yikes! I just didn’t read this particular book as “slutty woman” = bad, but “murderous male” = acceptable or more easily forgivable.

  71. Gennita Low
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 18:58:11

    Three quarters of the book was given to the heroine in Death Angel, so I wouldn’t say that Howard wasn’t giving the character enough attention or care. The heroine showed her selfishness by being exactly that–she thought of money for herself and her future. Her self-centeredness was such that being a mistress to a crime lord didn’t bother her at all. It was when he treated her less than what she thought she was that she started questioning herself. And made decisions. And changed.

    She demonstrated her smarts by the pains she took to steal the money. Again, the author, to me, cleverly shows that Drea was still selfish, still thinking of herself. But her journey had just begun.

    Linda Howard has always been willing to try something new and I’ve always gone along for the ride. Some of the books didn’t work for me, but Death Angel did. I read it as an allegory and as one, it contains quite a bit of Christian symbolism, from Simon’s last name, Goodnight (death) to Cross (redemption), Drea’s name change to Andie (a play on “and die”), and the use of so many other death imagery.

    I’d say that Simon Goodnight the Assassin did “kill” Drea Rousseau. Sex with him changed her and made her question her values. Then there was her literal death, the story’s slide into paranormal aspects. It didn’t bother me, even though I usually dislike this sort of “limbo” scene (I hated Meredith Grey’s little stay in the limbo emergency room with the heat of a thousand suns). Regardless whether Drea/Andie’s being a whore would have sent her to the “other place,” I took the experience as life-changing for the protagonist, as it should be, and she came out of it determined to be a different woman.

    I’d go on with analysis of Simon’s journey in Death Angel but don’t want to hog all the real estate here. ;-) The book didn’t fully satisfy me because I felt the ending was too rushed. There was very little pay-off with Salinas and it being a suspense, I wanted a little more danger. However, it was a classic Howard–a memorable heroine and a somewhat unlikeable but still somehow sexy hero.

  72. RfP
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 19:23:59

    Elizabeth: because people who consume lots of fiction tend to be more open-minded generally, they also tend to resent books that promote a, um, retro-shall we say?-morality.

    kirsten saell: It did strike me all through this thread, that if the book had been labeled something other than romance-even romantic suspense or whatever-the reactions of commentors might have been less resoundingly negative.

    Those points have nothing to do with my feelings on Linda Howard’s recent works. I know she’s “retro”; I expect that when I read her, and it’s even part of her attraction (in her earlier works, anyway). What I find unacceptable in her recent works is precisely what Meriam said:

    I thought it was poorly written; Howard seems to think reams of inane and repetitive internal monologue and description can pass for an entertaining read. It doesn't.

    O dog yes, the repetition. It’s like reading each paragraph several times over: everything is said, repeated, then told to someone else in dialogue five pages later.

    OTOH, MoJo said:

    Her take was that I required readers to assume the characters' values in order for the story to work. I had no rebuttal for that because, as a lifelong fiction reader, I've read all sorts of stuff that offended the hell out of me-but I still enjoyed myself.

    I’m a reader who actively seeks out different viewpoints, and frequently enjoys them. I also like imperfect, even unlikable, central characters. However, it IS possible for an author to assert her viewpoint so completely that it excludes the reader. This may not be what your reader meant at all, but for example, I felt that way about Megan Hart’s Broken: important elements of the story didn’t make sense unless the reader judged the hero in a particular way. It’s sloppy characterization and makes the book less accessible to those with divergent viewpoints. At any rate, *I* was confused.

    It’s also possible for a book to cross the line from presenting characters with a different viewpoint to the narrative tacitly approving/rewarding that viewpoint. It’s sometimes quite apparent (especially in Howard: she’s not subtle) that the storyline rewards or punishes characters for their beliefs and actions. It’s the more dramatic when that cause-and-effect seems unreflected on the author’s part. (F’rex in Broken, I don’t think Hart had any idea that someone might have a different perspective and not find Joe a loathsome hound, or she’d have fixed it–because it’s a major WTF in the story.)

  73. Jane
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 20:03:57

    I agree that quite a bit of the book is devoted to the heroine’s narrative but it isn’t quality narrative. It’s pedantic narrative, like a how to manual of how to rip off your mobster boyfriend and evade the feebs.

    Drea, though, had no control over the events in the story. She was awakened by the magic hoo haa of Simon into action. She was driven to her death because Simon hunted her down. She was given a second chance by someone (I guess her unborn son). She ultimately was saved by Simon carrying out one last assassination.

    Drea has little action in this story. She’s redeemed by her pure motherly love. What is Simon redeemed by? He doesn’t need redemption because he is a man.

  74. Jennie
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 20:07:34

    Actually, I thought it was poorly written; Howard seems to think reams of inane and repetitive internal monologue and description can pass for an entertaining read. It doesn't.

    I was judging it by previous Howards I’ve read, and I don’t think I found it much better or worse. She has a particular style; I wouldn’t call her a wordsmith, by any means, but I find her style readable enough.

  75. Jennie
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 20:16:07

    Judging by that and the rest of the post, you don't appear to have particularly liked the book. So why, then, would you say

    Because it was readable. It was an easy read. I didn’t dislike the characters…exactly. I mean, Simon was creepy, but I was more bothered by how his creepiness didn’t seem to keep him from being hero materials, whereas Drea had to jump through hoops to be “redeemed.”

    A lot of romances will get at least a B- from me for being quick reads, not being boring and not being dreadfully written, prose-wise.

  76. kirsten saell
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 20:20:53

    Barbara B said:

    I don't follow your logic. My understanding is that the negative comments on this thread are mainly due to the gender double standards, not the overall morality. Why would the genre or subgenre make a difference? If I was reading a thriller or suspense I would have the same response to the “slut shaming”.

    Romance is a genre where the main characters are supposed to be likable. You have to be able to believe some self-respecting human being could fall in love with them.

    If this book were suspense or literary fiction or what have you–well, speaking as someone who immensely enjoyed Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap series (where every MC was unlikable in some way, whether for weakness of character, ineffectuality, ruthless self-interest or simple sociopathic hatefulness), and George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (where most of the characters see human beings as cheap and plentiful and worth something less than a good horse)–well, I don’t require all my fiction to be of the feel-good variety.

    “Slut-shaming”, as you put it, while unpalatable, is one of the vagaries of our culture. It exists. The double standard exists. To show, in the context of something other than romance, that such a concept not only flourishes in our society, but affects the way a woman feels about herself, fair or not, isn’t irresponsible, IMO. Even within the context of romance, it’s workable–it all depends on the author’s treatment of it.

  77. Jennie
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 20:23:08

    As to mother-love being the purest…nah, that would be selfless love, or, as Christ said, “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (I'm sure He was talking about Himself, but well,that kind of sacrifical love, for friends, or anyone in danger….

    Well, exactly. I mean, I’m not trying to dis maternal love, it’s wonderful, but there’s this whole biological component and it’s not really selfless at all. And selfless love does seem to me like it would be the “purest”, simply in the sense that it isn’t motivated by self-interest.

    But I seriously don't get the current fascination with assassins and hit men. Maybe in a paranormal, where they're taking out demons and stuff, but in “real life”? Why is this cool, or hot, or good in any way? I think you would have to be a very cold, nasty person to take lives for a living, or even for a few grand, like the thugs on Dateline. I don't see them as worthy of a heroine's affections, or, seriously, an HEA (in a romance, unless there's some serious redemption-not “I'll just kill if they need killin'”). We glamorize this stuff so much-romantic outlaws, the Godfather movies, some rap songs and gangsta movies, Bonnie and Clyde. And there's that “bad boy” appeal, but I don't think we seriously understand how ugly that stuff is.

    Yeah, I can think of a few books with assassin heroes that I’ve enjoyed, but the glut of them is a little odd. What struck me with Death Angel was the sense that we were supposed to see Drea as degraded by her life choices, but that apparently taking other peoples’ lives was not seen as a degrading occupation. That is, to put it mildly, f-ed up, IMO.

  78. Gennita Low
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 20:26:55

    LOL. I think it was more Simon’s magic penis that woke her up, Jane. And I suppose, if you want to look at it that way, Simon was redeemed by Drea’s magic hooha.

    ;-)

    I agree about the manual-like “how to” narrative. Howard does that with various subjects, including surviving a plane crash in a snowy mountain.

  79. Jennie
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 20:30:59

    Re. Death Angel specifically, to quote from Meredith's post:

    it wasn't the sex for me, it was the fact that she was living off a man who was making money off the misery of others, and that she thought that was okay as long as “she” personally wasn't “involved” in the drug trade herself)

    That was what I saw as the majority of Drea's sin, too, but sex was also in the mix there somewhere too IMO, as can be seen from lines like the first one you quote (”But they had held her cheaply because she'd held herself cheaply”). I agree that there's a double standard operating here but because I know going into Howard's books that I'll get a worldview that is different from mine, I was able to enjoy the book despite it.

    I did realize that one could see Drea’s main sin as the fact that she was profiting from the drug trade, but the same was true for Simon, wasn’t it? But I do see that point – I just felt that Drea was still deserving of less judgment than she got from Howard (it feels weird to say that since Drea was her own creation, but that was how I felt).

  80. CrankyOtter
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 20:41:00

    Wow. And I’d heard such raves about this book I almost checked it out. But I think this whole male assassin=fine, but selfish woman=go-directly-to-hell would ruin the book for me. I loved a few of the McKenzie books, but was extremely irritated with a few parts of them. (Sunny should not have been a virgin, for one.) I tried reading some later books and didn’t like them as well. I stopped reading LH when I realized I hated Mr. Perfect – how can a heroine have a happy ending when three of her four best friends die horribly – especially since the last one was gratuitous, imho.

    Recently, I read the first Blair book and really enjoyed it. I keep meaning to check out the next one. And since I liked it, I picked up a copy of All the Queens Men in a swap. I got about 1/3 of the way through and was so irritated/bored by it, I don’t think I’ll ever pick it back up. So when people said, “With Death Angel, Linda Howard is back!” I thought it might be fun to try.

    But this double standard for her M/F characters has stood out SO strongly for me before, that I think I just won’t be reading any more of her work. I’ll just go back to Zane McKenzie and the short story with the snowed in cabin. Those were excellent.

    It’s not that I will read something I’m not comfortable with, either. I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I love stories that use them. I just don’t like reading about all the ways we can judge women so much more harshly than men.

    One more point, though, someone mentioned Vigilantes. Does it seem to you that there are a lot of mainstream fiction vigilantes out there these days? I assosciate them with a feeling of powerlessness in our daily lives. I find the state of our country fraught with powerlessness on the individual level in a way I never expected to feel. I don’t know if that’s making me see more vigilantes, or if there really more vigilante stories/movies being produced.

  81. Ann Somerville
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 20:45:25

    I don't require all my fiction to be of the feel-good variety.

    Regardless of the genre I read, I only enjoy the stories where I can connect with the characters in some way. I wouldn’t necessarily want to marry them, or date them, but I’d like to feel that having a coffee with them wouldn’t leave me wanting to soak my brain in bleach. I feel the same way about any entertainment medium. Life is full of ugliness. I don’t want my precious free time sullied by spending time with irredeemable psychopaths and bastards. Characters live in your head afterwards – if you wouldn’t invite them to dinner, why would you want them in your brain?

  82. Jennie
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 20:49:34

    But really, hating on a book because it's too conservative puts us in a place similar to people who hate on Harry Potter for promoting devil worship and lack of respect for authority. I mean, it's FICTION. You shouldn't HAVE to agree with it. And believe me, I know some of it is WAAY out there-I read that “Left Behind” series for giggles one summer.

    Hmm. I’m trying to think if I agree. I mean, I read fiction to be entertained, occasionally to be uplifted (if I’m lucky). I don’t like to think of myself as close-minded (who does?). Fiction that makes me think of things from a different perspective is good, I think. Fiction that reinforces tired old double standards doesn’t entertain or uplift me. I think the “Left Behind” books would probably just piss me off.

    That said, I think it's the author's job to make their wacko reality palatable-or at least comprehensible, or interesting, or whatever-to their readership. And it's not like we're talking JK Rowling reaching out to the evangelicals, here. This is a romance author writing for a romance audience. That's the way in which, for me, this book was a borderline failure. Idea: interesting. Execution: not interesting.

    But in a way, I think that’s what bugged me so much – that it was a book that reinforced certain stereotypes that romance readers are familiar with and, in some cases, comfortable with. It almost seemed to take that masochistic tendency found in earlier bodice-rippers – of slapping the label “hero” on the male protagonist regardless of how unheroic his behavior was – to the nth degree. I mean, does anyone who read the book disagree that Simon was written with classic psychopathic characteristics?

  83. Jennie
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 20:58:11

    (I apologize for posting so much in a row and perhaps covering stuff that’s already been discussed – I was without internet access today and I’m trying to catch up and respond to comments as I read them.)

    I do not understand looking for real life lessons in a fiction book… it's an imaginary tale…and if a romance author has a job it's to write something with a different perspective or ‘take' and I think Linda Howard did that.

    I don’t look for life lessons in fiction, but I think I have to some degree the requirement that the author and I are in the same ballpark on certain moral issues. I wouldn’t enjoy reading a book with, say, a Nazi hero; I couldn’t just say, “it’s imaginary”. I’m going to have an opinion on the worldview the author presents. If her view of morality is very different from mine (as may be the case with Howard), then it’s going to bother me at least a little or a lot, depending on the subject matter and how it’s presented. I’ve read and enjoyed Howard books before, and been bothered not at all, or less, at least, by the morality depicted in the story. It just so happens that in Death Angel there was a very, IMO, in-your-face juxtaposition of two characters that ended up really annoying me.

  84. Jennie
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 21:03:00

    While reading romance I often have to remind myself that the book was written by a woman. It's really disheartening. Romance is touted as by women for women but it's rare that the female protag is allowed the full range of human emotions that the male lead is afforded. I found this quite shocking when I first started visiting romance forums. The comments are frequently virulently anti-woman and regressive. I guess in fiction as well as real life there are always women willing to socially police and restrict other women.

    Yes. I’ve been aware of some of the conservatism in romance pretty much as long as I’ve been reading it; it tends to bother me some times more than others. Even outside of romance, there are examples everywhere of how hard women are on other women. It’s depressing to me. (And I realize, by saying the above…I’m being hard on women and making generalizations about them. But I really do see way too much of it. We don’t all have to be “sisterhood is powerful” all the time, but could we at least not be harder on each other than we are on men?)

  85. GrowlyCub
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 21:09:09

    Characters live in your head afterwards – if you wouldn't invite them to dinner, why would you want them in your brain?

    Indeed. Ginny and Steve Morgan are still in my head 20 years later and I really wish they weren’t. Talk about dysfunctional!

    I’m curious, what work is Simon going to be doing in that foreign land they escaped to (minor curiosity about how they are going to get work visas, grin)? And what about Drea? Is she going to work? If not, do they get married and if she doesn’t work, is it then okay that he ‘provides’ for her or if they just live together like she did with the drug lord? And why would it be less ‘whorish’ to let your assassin husband/boyfriend support you completely rather than a drug lord?

    I actually find the assessment of her as a whore, just because she’s letting a guy (even as sleazy as this one) pay the bills for her in exchange for sex and she’s selfish a very interesting cultural concept. If we apply that standard, I see lots and lots of whores around me and I kinda think they’d object to that label.

  86. Jennie
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 21:33:02

    Gosh – I liked this book. Generally, I have like most of the books she's written. I didn't all tied up in “who's sin is worse”. I just read it without judgment and enjoyed her storytelling.

    I’m not trying to pick on this comment in particular, but this is one of several that made me think a bit. I think some people believe that they can enjoy a good story without moral judgment, but…really? Would you enjoy a well-written story with a pedophile hero?

    I’m not trying to call anyone out. I just have the feeling that when some people say they can enjoy a story without judgment about the characters, or without requiring that the characters share their belief system, they maybe mean “within limits” (and maybe that goes without saying, and I am the one who needs clarification). So then we’re not talking about reading with judgment v. without judgment, but simply where the judgment begins.

    I think I can read books about characters that don’t share my values – earlier this year I read “A Confederacy of Dunces”, and if anyone had told me that I would have loved a book that featured such an utterly grotesque protagonist, I wouldn’t have believed it (the frequency of grotesque elements being one of the reasons I am leery about a lot of modern lit fiction). I do think I’m a little more rigid when it comes to romance, even non-traditional romantic suspense, and a hero that seemed constitutionally incapable of empathy probably wasn’t ever going to work for me. Juxtapose him with the heroine in the way I felt that they were juxtaposed (obviously, some other readers disagree), and, voila! a rant is born.

  87. RfP
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 21:42:22

    Romance is a genre where the main characters are supposed to be likable. You have to be able to believe some self-respecting human being could fall in love with them.

    I don’t agree that *I* have to find the characters likable to believe in the romance. May be not completely irredeemable characters, but I don’t object to reading about characters I don’t necessarily like. I do object to reading about characters who are too perfect, especially as the characters’ positive attributes are so often predictable. (A self-sacrificing woman always deserves love, don’tcha know.)

    I want an author to convince me of one character’s feelings for another, instead of relying on my feelings for the other character. If it’s all about my tastes, why read romances unless the female characters are like my friends, and the men fit my “type”? I love it when I can believe in a romance between people different from me. The point is that they find something extraordinary in each other; that’s what makes a romance, not that some third party finds them both doable.

  88. azteclady
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 21:42:50

    I don’t know whether I can say that I withheld judgement, Jennie. I can say that I didn’t see a lot of what you saw, and that even in those things we both see, we disagree as to interpretation.

    For example, on Drea’s death experience. Why does not belonging in the happy place automatically mean sending her to Hell? My catechism is rusty, but isn’t there this other place called purgatory?

  89. MoJo
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 21:42:56

    earlier this year I read “A Confederacy of Dunces”

    I’m reading that right now.

    Would you enjoy a well-written story with a pedophile hero?…So then we're not talking about reading with judgment v. without judgment, but simply where the judgment begins.

    You may be right about that boundaries thing, but I have to tell you, the minute I read that, I thought of Dexter. No, not a pedophile, but there are a lot of people (grown women) in my world squeeing over a serial killer protagonist. (I haven’t seen this, BTW; I find the premise interesting, but by and large, I don’t watch TV.)

  90. azteclady
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 21:44:58

    Or what RfP just said:

    I love it when I can believe in a romance between people different from me. The point is that they find something extraordinary in each other; that's what makes a romance, not that some third party finds them both doable.

    In this case, I can believe in Drea and Simon’s romance.

  91. Janine
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 21:52:29

    I don't agree that *I* have to find the characters likable to believe in the romance. May be not completely irredeemable characters, but I don't object to reading about characters I don't necessarily like. I do object to reading about characters who are too perfect, especially as the characters' positive attributes are so often predictable.

    :: claps hands::

    Thank you RfP! I couldn’t agree more.

    I want an author to convince me of one character's feelings for another, instead of relying on my feelings for the other character. If it's all about my tastes, why read romances unless the female characters are like my friends, and the men fit my “type”? I love it when I can believe in a romance between people different from me. The point is that they find something extraordinary in each other; that's what makes a romance, not that some third party finds them both doable.

    Agreed again.

  92. Janine
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 21:53:34

    I'll just go back to Zane McKenzie and the short story with the snowed in cabin. Those were excellent.

    May I recommend Midnight Rainbow and Diamond Bay? Two of my favorites.

  93. Robin
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 21:54:47

    You may be right about that boundaries thing, but I have to tell you, the minute I read that, I thought of Dexter. No, not a pedophile, but there are a lot of people (grown women) in my world squeeing over a serial killer protagonist.

    Do you think the series would be as well-received if Dexter was a female character?

    It’s interesting that Jennie’s piece ran today, because I just finished reading a review for a new book on young maleness, Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men, by sociologist Michael Kimmel. Kimmel’s thesis seems to be that our cultural tendency to excuse certain destructive behaviors as “boys being boys” has created a very damaging concept of masculinity into which young men are being inculcated without question. And it struck me that we Romance readers can sometimes be similarly careless about endorsing certain behaviors and beliefs among Romance heroes, uncritically accepting that a greater good or larger justice is being served by some really extreme, even anti-social, behavior. I don’t know; I just think it bears thinking about, especially in the way that Romance seems to reflect larger cultural issues and trends.

  94. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 21:58:47

    I liked the book, but thought the ending was a little off, but the problem with some setups is that there is no way to write a believable truly happy ending. That was the case with this one. I read it when it first came out, so my memory might not be all it should.

    As for Simon, I thought he was textbook Linda Howard hero. Forceful, absolute, and had little use for the traditional mores of society. Somehow her heroes (to me) always seem to live in their own world that they create. I like reading assassin heroes if only to see how the author makes them heroic.

    For Drea, I didn’t get the whole whore-bad, I deserve to die vibe, but I was pretty engrossed in what she was doing to disappear, and wasn’t following the character journey much. I would suspect that Drea was the one that had some sort of mental issues, depression, or something, because she seemed “beaten” to me.

    What I did enjoy with this book was how much time was spent on the romance between Drea and Simon, as opposed to the suspense. The last few LH’s I had read were heavier on the suspense, and the romance felt lightweight as compared to this one. YMMV, as obviously it did .

    To CrankyOtter regarding the plethora of vigilantes you’ve seen recently, I actually think the vigilante hero is as much a stock-character as the virginal heroine and is as commonplace. It’s a bad boy who doesn’t follow the rules, but in their vigilantism, they’re given an honorable motivation, so that don’t seem unheroic. If anything, because they’re willing to break laws and societies expectations to do what they believe is right, they are given even more “noble” qualities in the reader’s eyes. Clint Eastwood has played a vigilante for forever, IMHO.

  95. MoJo
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 22:08:01

    Do you think the series would be as well-received if Dexter was a female character?

    Not sure. Well, probably not, but I can think of a couple of hooks that could get it there. I would hope so. I’d make an effort to watch that.

  96. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 22:14:22

    Regarding Dexter, we’ve been watching the first season, and I think it’s been fascinating. There’s a certain innocence about Dexter which is juxtaposed against his killer nature. He is a sociopath in the truth sense of word, with no understanding of the human emotional condition, but he’s been taught to believe that he should ‘fake it.’ So he spends his time learning about the world like a child does, and still not getting it because he can’t, but he wants to, which makes you feel sorry for him.

    And the other piece that works as well: his killing side doesn’t manifest itself in outbursts of violence, but he plots and schemes and (back to vigilantes), kills only those that he believes are deserving to die (at least in the episodes we’ve seen so far).

    I’m of the firm belief that any character, the Nazi, the pedophile (Lolita anyone?) can be made to work or not work. All people are inherently good and bad. The trick in writing is to showcase the good before you flash out the bad.

  97. Jennie
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 22:23:50

    The point is that they find something extraordinary in each other; that's what makes a romance, not that some third party finds them both doable.

    I agree, though I need to understand it or believe it, at least. I didn’t really understand what Simon and Drea saw in each other, nor did I see any evidence of love between them.

  98. Robin
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 22:26:09

    As for Simon, I thought he was textbook Linda Howard hero. Forceful, absolute, and had little use for the traditional mores of society. Somehow her heroes (to me) always seem to live in their own world that they create.

    I think the vigilante hero is where we see the evolution and adaptation of a type. Namely, the hero of Classical Comedy, who, along with the heroine, fights against and triumphs over an old, outdated, often repressive social order, with their marriage at the end symbolizing fecundity, both literal and social (for a *new* and more just social order).

    So in a way, the vigilante is an extreme version of the comic hero who represents the new and improved social order. But he also possesses some anarchic tendencies, too, making him as reactionary as he is progressive.

    Because he is such an accepted type, albeit farther along the gamut, perhaps, I think he exists largely unexamined in the genre, on faith, so to speak, that he will not abuse his self-appointed power.

  99. Jennie
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 22:30:34

    I’ve only watched bits of Dexter, but I do have qualms about the show and the character. I find the concept of a serial killer who only kills people who “deserve it” – vigilantism, basically – kind of morally suspect. I mean, it presupposes that you agree some people deserve to be butchered, that you believe that the protagonist may never make a mistake and kill the wrong target, and that you are comfortable cheering for someone who enjoys butchering people. This is just my take on it, again, having only seen a few minutes of the show here and there. I’m sure it may be more complex in reality (well, TV reality) than it is in my mind. But it hits a couple of my buttons right off of the bat.

    I *like* to think I’m comfortable with moral ambiguity. But I’m probably more comfortable with it in some guises than others.

  100. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 22:37:58

    Jennie,

    I understand the qualms. At my deepest, darkest heart, I’m a very bent person. So far, (and again, I’ve seen about five episodes) the victims are painted VERY BLACK and EVIL. Now, I would hazard a guess that later on, he does end up killing the wrong person (I’m guessing), because it’s too good of a plot opportunity to miss, because he is so absolute in his moral certainty.

    And yes, I do believe it’s morally suspect. I think I’m looking at this from a purely emotionally, touch the viewer impact, rather than ‘divorce yourself from the cute kitten and realize that it’s in reality a monster that will devour the earth.’ There was an article in Newsweek (Time?) about how much people rationalize their logic with their emotions, and it’s very true.

  101. Jennie
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 22:44:39

    I'm of the firm belief that any character, the Nazi, the pedophile (Lolita anyone?) can be made to work or not work. All people are inherently good and bad. The trick in writing is to showcase the good before you flash out the bad.

    I agree. To go back to A Confederacy of Dunces – Ignatius is just a gross character – physically disgusting and not a nice person. And yet I somehow loved him. Go figure.

    I hesitate to say that the rules *should* be different for romance, but I will say that I think traditionally they are. It’s always struck me that the protagonists of romances are labeled “hero” and “heroine” – their behavior is not always heroic, but I think most romance readers expect that (in a traditional romance, at least), egregiously bad behavior will be repented by the end of the book. We want HEAs, and generally we want HEAs for likable characters. That doesn’t mean they can’t be flawed, complex – I would hope not! – but I don’t think a traditional romance rewrite of Lolita where Humbert and Lo rode off into the sunset together would work for most romance readers.

    Getting back to my misogyny rant for a moment, though – I think I might have liked it better if Drea hadn’t reformed, if Simon wasn’t going to. I mean, maybe she could’ve slept with Salinas one last time to trick him out of more money, and then she and Simon could’ve had their HEA. But I think *that* ending would’ve pissed off a lot of romance readers.

  102. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 22:48:05

    Oh, Robin, that’s some cool shizzum. Creating a better social order than what we have? Hoohoo! I’ve never actually considered the idea that the characters believe that their way is superior, but you know, I suppose it does make sense. But I think the books/movies where vigilanteism does work is where the social order is messed up. Justice denied and all that. If you look at Death Angel, the social order in that book is messed up. A drug deal has tons of money and controls Drea’s world. He is the ruler of that social order. But, in my imagination, I do separate my world from the character’s world, so when I think about them believe there way is superior, I believe it is superior, because the drug-guy is a worse evil than Simon. Simplistic, yes, but it satisfies my sense of balance or world order, or something….

    Am I understanding you correctly?

  103. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 22:57:05

    ROFL, Jennie. Gives new meaning to The British Tycoon’s Virgin Schoolgirl Bride.

    As for Drea’s reformation (and remember, I read this book more than five minutes ago, so my memory is fuzzy), I got the impression that she was simply ready to walk away from that life, that it was beating her up and she didn’t want it, less than a true Road to Damascus reformation, at least to me, but again, I read this book awhile ago and I could be remembering what I think my impressions were, rather than what they actually were.

    I think I’ll have to dig out the book and reread the last half and see if I should be more pissed off. :)

  104. GrowlyCub
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 22:59:52

    I’m really unclear on how Simon is better than the drug lord. He kills people for money and he does not even have the vigilante excuse, because he’s just doing it for the dirty mammon given to him by the drug lord.

    Do we really consider him better because he’s been decreed the hero of the book by the author and because he gives the ‘heroine’ orgasms?

    I think that’s where suspension of disbelief was broken for many readers and then you juxtapose that with Drea having to repent and having to get a second chance for taking the easy way out in life and folks just couldn’t or didn’t want to follow.

  105. Robin
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 23:14:51

    Am I understanding you correctly?

    Yeah, you actually took a step or two beyond what I was saying. Since genre Romance is related to (descended from) Classical Comedy, I was pointing out the way in which the vigilante is sort of an extreme type of comic hero (Comedy = hero and heroine fight repressive social order via some antagonist, fall in love, get married at the end of the story). You went beyond that to discuss the way in which as a reader you measure and evaluate the world of the novel, which pushes us beyond Comedy (which is intended most often as social critique) and IMO even beyond what genre Romance expects of us as readers (since Romance is not, IMO, social critique in the same sense, and the emphasis is more directly on love rather than on social reformation to begin with).

    I think genre Romance basically asks us to root for the *love* of the hero and heroine, even though it also so often contains aspects of social challenge (marriage for love rather than money, rebelling against the family, rich guy poor girl, etc.). So I guess I’d push your point one step farther and ask you what the cost is in accepting the vigilante’s worldview as superior, especially as it impacts the heroine.

  106. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 23:26:03

    Growly, you are being logical and rational, doncha know? I went back and reread the opening to figure out where I got this impression. In the very beginning, we saw the drug guy in a test of wills with Simon at the very beginning, two alphas fighting over the female. Rafael lost. Simon mated with the female. Ergo, we as readers were to conclude that Simon was the superior, or more alpha, male. When the brain starts making instant judgment calls on very little info, biology trumps most everything, I think.

    I’m not saying that I believe an assassin is a more honorable profession than a drug lord. I’m only saying that in the book, Simon is crafted to be the superior male. Rafael is given the unmanly habits. Vanity, not steadfast, etc. Simon is a rock. Very sure of his place.

    I think I mean an emotional superiority, rather than a logical superiority, if that makes any sense at all…

  107. GrowlyCub
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 23:39:59

    Thanks, Kathleen. I was really curious and you kind of confirm what I suspected: the reader is lead to believe Simon’s superior aka the hero because they are told by the author that it is so via the very structure of the intro and through genre expectations.

    What I noticed most about Simon on this thread is his requesting Drea’s services in lieu of monetary reward and that’s so not what I expect of a romance hero and then telling her ‘once was enough’. My immediate thought was swell guy, TSTL heroine if she wants anything to do with him.

    I’ve loved some Howard heroes which make other readers break out in hives and I find it utterly fascinating to try to pinpoint what makes a book work and not work for readers and why.

    One thing I find so intriguing about DA reviews is that they are so analytical. Very often I look at the reviews and go, ‘I had no idea this bit bothered me too’ or that I liked a certain plot/character point. I am much more visceral in my reactions, so it tickles me no end that I’m too logical in this discussion, grin.

  108. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 23:47:09

    Oh, it’s late, and you’re making me think, Robin. Tres unfair. But okay, I’m in. I have zero cost in accepting the vigilante’s worldview as superior. When I close the book, my worldview is only my own, and not Simon’s. I don’t feel that I betray my own moral compass by living in this world for a bit.

    Now, as for the heroine, you’re asking me to do something that I usually don’t do, imagine beyond the last page, but okay, I’m in. Drea was in a bad relationship with Rafael. It was destructive to her, and the man treated her badly. Now, I think Simon did some bad things to her as well — before she died. But then, aha, we get Simon’s “reformation” which didn’t affect his worldview, but his treatment and attitude toward Drea. He changed from killer to protector. So, for her, this is a positive change in her world. She has a man who now respects her (and yes, I think he does), and supports her, and protects her. As for his career choices, I think this is what I was referring to in my very first post. When you have a hero (or heroine), who is outside the realms of society, it’s tough to have a solid happy ending. Being isolated from the world is never a good thing for most people, John Grisham endings aside. I don’t get a lot of satisfaction from that ending, because you want to see people merge into the world, not out of it, IMHO. But because Drea started at such a bad place, I think it could be considered superior, meaning, not morally superior, but merely, a happier life for her. I think. Maybe. :)

    Would she be better alone? I don’t know the answer to that one. From a logical standpoint, yes, but an emotional standpoint (at least to her), no. So, I think Ms. Howard wrote the best ending she could for this book, given the constraints she set up. If that makes sense.

  109. Janine
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 23:49:40

    I'm of the firm belief that any character, the Nazi, the pedophile (Lolita anyone?) can be made to work or not work.

    I agree (look at the way Shakespeare makes us understand his villains), but Lolita, specifically, didn’t work for me. After the sex happened I could not read further.

  110. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 00:02:09

    Growly, I shall start calling you Spock :)

    There’s a lot of basic sociology and anthropology and probably some other ology that I can’t recall that takes place in fiction, and especially romance (but honestly, any story that deals with emotion and reader reaction). What sounds like “genre expectations” is a lot more primitive than that. If you play out that opening scenario from this book to a television audience, and then ask them to pick who they like better, they’ll pick Simon. I don’t think of it as much “telling” as manipulating the reader’s brains by knowing which buttons to push and when.

    You said, “swell guy, TSTL heroine” but if you think about it, okay, ridicule aside, it’s an open-ended question now how this book will play out. Are these people REALLY going to get together? I mean, if he wasn’t so jerky, if he was cooler, and she was a little nicer, then isn’t the journey a little more predictable? Now, the flipside to this is that the author needs to make sure that the reader will want to finish the book as oppose to fling it against a wall. :) But the more a reader wonders at the beginning, how are these people going to get together, the faster they turn the pages.

    My $.02, which is what it’s worth, and that’s in Lehman Bros cents, too.

  111. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 00:05:51

    Janine, I got that far as well and then quit. I love the prose, understand why it’s a classic, but there are places I can’t go. Not a lot, but apparently that is one. But enough readers have revered the book that obviously Nabokov pulled it off with them.

    Now, if Shakespeare had done a pedophile…. who knows….

  112. Ann Somerville
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 00:07:03

    if Shakespeare had done a pedophile

    Technically he did – Romeo and Juliet, anyone?

  113. Robin
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 00:20:25

    Would she be better alone? I don't know the answer to that one. From a logical standpoint, yes, but an emotional standpoint (at least to her), no. So, I think Ms. Howard wrote the best ending she could for this book, given the constraints she set up.

    I rarely think of these questions as an alone v. as it’s written type of dichotomy; I tend to focus on the “constraints she set up” aspect of things. Of course there’s a difference between following a story as written and wanting to rewrite it according to your own views, and I’m not suggesting the second as an option here.

    I guess what I’m trying to get at is that basic issue that Jennie raised: in what ways is Drea’s life circumscribed by Simon’s vigilantism? Does she really end up in a place where she’s not isolated, and how has Howard fashioned her life choices leading up to hooking her wagon to Simon? My experience of Howard is that she tries to show that these guys are brought low by love, that they may be physical alphas, but emotionally they’re enslaved by their women, and that somehow the tradeoff empowers both partners. I think we can argue endlessly about whether that’s the case, but here you have the added bonus of the above the law aspect to the story, which makes me want to step back and figure out how Howard sets up the terms on which her characters move through the novel. In other words, even if it makes sense, even if there are no other options given the way it’s written, what about the way it’s written to begin with? What premises do I have to accept to accept the outcome, and are they really acceptable? As a general example, I have a hard time accepting that the heroine must be a virgin and have sex only with the hero for her to be a proper object of virtue (not arguing about DA, obviously). So it doesn’t matter how happy the heroine is, how in love she is with the hero, how much better she imagines her life with him (how much better I imagine her life will be with him) — if her sexual experience becomes a sign of her virtue, of her worthiness to be loved, then that is a cost I have to factor in as a reader at the end of the book. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I wanted the story to proceed otherwise; only that I wonder why it proceeded the way it did and why sexual value is tied to personal value to begin with.

    I’m probably rambling terribly now, but all I’m trying to get at is a basic differentiation between following a story progress as it’s constructed within its constraints and thinking about the meaning of those constraints to begin with. I think those are two different kinds of analysis, and as a reader, I tend to do both, which makes my response in many cases decidedly mixed, lol, if not downright incoherent.

  114. Marianne McA
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 02:54:06

    Marianne, there is not a jot of evidence that the poster used the word ‘gay' in a positive sense. Yes, ‘gay' has non-negative meanings, and doesn't always mean homosexual either – but that is not how teenagers use or this poster was using it.

    I would appreciate you not giving more credence to the idea that using ‘gay' in the sense of 'stupid' or ‘bad' as the poster clearly was, is not as offensive as all hell. It's an ignorant, homophobic, nasty usage, and all decent people – and I do mean that exactly as it sounds – should expunge it from their vocabulary.

    Ann, I’m not suggesting ‘gay’ in this context doesn’t have a negative meaning. I’ve seen it suggested that it means ‘lame’.

    Sarah’s argument works perfectly well with that word too. To misquote portions of her argument:

    The only reason “That's so lame” can mean “That's dumb/stupid” is because of the meaning of lame that has everything to do with physical disability…

    So, using the phrase “That's so lame” is a ridiculous shorthand that insults anyone with that physical disability and means that you don't think through the meaning of your words.

    And that just seems true. But at the same time, if I use the phrase ‘that’s a lame excuse’, I don’t (didn’t before this discussion at any rate) feel it’s a nasty or ignorant usage.

    I don’t know where I’m going with this: that’s as far as I got in my thinking last night.

  115. Ann Somerville
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 03:05:36

    I’ve never seen a disabled person complain about ‘lame’, though it’s not a word I like or use. However, I vehemently object to the use of ‘retarded’ with the same meaning.

    I know the use of ‘gay’ as a pejorative is deeply insulting and hurtful to gay people, including my good friend Sparky who’s commented here. I’m asking you, and other posters, to consider the impact of its use on a much maligned and discriminated against community. Making excuses for it, does not obviate the offence, any more than saying black people use ‘nigger’ so that makes it okay for white people to use it, or some women call themselves bitches, so it’s okay for men to call them that.

    Basically it’s hate speech, even if hate’s not behind it. I would hope no one commenting here would consider that okay.

  116. Sparky
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 07:16:17

    On the book and morality of the characters – see I don’t MIND characters that have vastly different ideals to me. If it was just Drea thinking “I’m a worthless person because I’m a kept woman” then I’d want to wake her up a little but it wouldn’t annoy me – same as if they were both of the opinion that Simon running around murdering folks was fine – I don’t mind the flawed characters with world views that differ rapidly from my own.

    What got me was the (apparent or implied) validation of ANGELIC/DIVINE forces saying (to paraphrase) “bad selfish whore! To hell with ye! HELLL! Unless you change your slutty ways!” One is characters having different world views that I can identify with – another is presenting an objective moral certainty (quite literally the word from on high) which I find far more unpleasant and squickifying.

    Ann:
    Agreed, as ever (like there’s any doubt :)). It made me cringe to read it. Every time someone uses the word “gay” in a perjorative sense – whether that’s as an insult or just to say an item is broken/flawed then they are saying that being gay is bad, broken, flawed etc and otherwise unpleasant and it contributes to the societal stigma that still persists.

  117. cecilia
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 07:44:31

    Marianne, I think there’s a key difference between the words “gay” and “lame,” which is that lame has nearly completely gone out of popular usage to denote a physical disability. I’d bet money that if I used it to indicate that, my students would think I was just insulting someone, not referring to a physical condition. Unlike “gay,” I don’t think there’s as clear a reference to a particular group of people.

  118. Robin
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 11:04:38

    Making excuses for it, does not obviate the offence, any more than saying black people use ‘nigger' so that makes it okay for white people to use it, or some women call themselves bitches, so it's okay for men to call them that.

    I think Marianne’s point was just that gay is a word that has changed in meaning, and one of its original meanings was not negative or even associated with homosexuality (like “fag,” for example). And that there are still some people of a certain generation who might use it that way, not even knowing it’s a slur now. Which makes it unlike the N-word (reappropriation or reclamation is a different thing, IMO), or a word like “gypped” which has no positive association AND is an ethnic slur. I’m very wary of “heebie jeebies,” too, even though there is argument about whether the term originally meant to echo the anti-Semitic term “hebe.” So I completely agree with you that the original poster was clearly not using it in positive or even neutral terms, but I also see Marianne’s point that the word is likely used that way within some generational and literary contexts. I didn’t get the sense that she was trying to minimize or excuse anything, especially not the original poster’s use of the word.

  119. Moth
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 11:28:20

    Technically he did – Romeo and Juliet, anyone?

    I’m pretty sure Romeo’s in the 16 to 18 range. Juliet’s 13 going on 14, AND it was normal for a girl to get married around 14 to 16. So calling Romeo a pedophile seems a bit harsh.

    Unless you mean Paris. I’m totally with you on Paris.

  120. azteclady
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 11:36:54

    I'm pretty sure Romeo's in the 16 to 18 range. Juliet's 13 going on 14, AND it was normal for a girl to get married around 14 to 16. So calling Romeo a pedophile seems a bit harsh.

    Isn’t rather futile to judge works written centuries ago by modern standards?

  121. FanLit
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 11:39:58

    Many of you seem to think that Simon was somehow redeemed or at least judged less harshly. I disagree. If you re-read the ending of DA, it’s clear that Simon wasn’t redeemed. Drea has a vision that he will be redeemed at some point in the future, but he hasn’t achieved that state yet. Also, I believe another point that was missed in this discussion is that Drea died and Simon didn’t. I don’t think LH was saying there was a moral equivocacy between Drea’s sins and Simon’s – it’s just that Drea died and had to acknowledge her sins. Since those sins weren’t heinous, she was given a second-chance. If Simon had died, I think we all know where he would have ended up. With his list of killings, I doubt there would have been a second chance. That said, it’s true that LK does leave the impression that Simon will do something in the future that may earn him redemption. The reader just doesn’t know what that act is.

  122. Moth
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 11:54:06

    Ann S. said:

    if Shakespeare had done a pedophile

    Technically he did – Romeo and Juliet, anyone?

    azteclady said:

    Isn't rather futile to judge works written centuries ago by modern standards?

    azteclady, my comment was in response to Ann’s. Also I was half-joking.

    I do think it’s a bit harsh to call someone a pedophile for falling in love with someone who’s only 2 to 4 years younger. Especially when, back then, there was an expectation that 14 year old girls would be married, sexual creatures. As opposed to now when they should still be playing with barbies or something.

    Thread-jack over. Sorry.

  123. Robin
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 12:00:45

    Redemption in Romance is really a fascinating concept, IMO, because it can have so many overtones. For example, it can be almost religious in nature; it can be a matter of grace or good works. It can be effective through True Love, a gift offered by the beloved. Or it can be entirely secular, won by groveling and serious behavior modification. For me, anyway, the terms of the redemption can make the difference between acceptance and rejection of the outcome. For example, if I feel that redemption is won by, say, no longer being a “whore,” that doesn’t work for me, because I’m not a big fan of earning love through adherence to socially imposed moral standards. I tend to be in the love is a gift camp and individual character is about more than the state of one’s vagina (or, in the case of a hero, it’s about more than just loving the heroine and having a 9-12 inch penis).

  124. Janine
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 12:48:21

    That said, it's true that LK does leave the impression that Simon will do something in the future that may earn him redemption. The reader just doesn't know what that act is.

    I felt there was a strong implication through what Drea told Simon that love can equal redemption, as her love of her son did for her, and that it was Simon’s love for Drea that would save him from going to hell. When I read that passage, I felt that it was in place to reassure me, the reader, that Simon wasn’t going to be punished. Since he was the hero, the reader doesn’t really want to see him go to hell. YMMV, but that was how I read it.

    We’ve all been talking about the gender double standard but I wonder if there isn’t another double standard at work here — the fact that as a society we have a lot more tolerance for violence in our popular culture than for sex.

    So I wonder if the book isn’t also easier on Simon than on Drea not just because he is a man but because there is an assumption (and it is correct, IMO) that most of us readers secretly get a thrill from Simon’s ability to dispense violence (which we associate with strength and masculinity). And so we don’t want to see him punished for that.

    Whereas Drea living as Salinas’ arm candy doesn’t give most of us a similar thrill, so we don’t have the same need to see her remain unchanged to some degree.

  125. Elle
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 12:48:40

    Great, thought-provoking post, Jennie!

    If you re-read the ending of DA, it's clear that Simon wasn't redeemed. Drea has a vision that he will be redeemed at some point in the future, but he hasn't achieved that state yet. Also, I believe another point that was missed in this discussion is that Drea died and Simon didn't. I don't think LH was saying there was a moral equivocacy between Drea's sins and Simon's – it's just that Drea died and had to acknowledge her sins.

    This is true, up to a point, but Simon came as close to a near-death experience as possible without having one himself. He saw that Drea was Definitely Dead after the crash, so he knows that the fact that she is subsequently alive indicates that there is something more than earthly life out there. I found it interesting that LH did not feel the need to redeem him during the course of the story, particularly when this was such a strong theme of the book for Drea’s character. Perhaps she felt that it would seem too facile to have an amoral assassin reform completely and repent his previous ways. Perhaps she wanted to leave the ending edgier and more ambiguous. In any case, a little, teensy bit of remorse for his past would have sat a lot better with me, particularly when Drea was beating herself up and wearing a hair shirt to atone for the sin of being lazy and living off blood money. Which, by the way, she will still be doing in the future if they live off the money that Simon made from killing people.

  126. Mariana
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 13:13:20

    2 more cents ;)

    I think the difference in how Ms. Howard handled the characters is that the characters had different reactions to the near-death of Drea. Drea’s reaction had to do with the impact her son had on her and how she wanted to please him and be able to see him in the future (after life). Simon didn’t/doesn’t have that. For him it was enough that he have a present with Drea. He has no expectation of an after-life, or a need to be in a good place. Good/bad/indifferent, Simon just didn’t care what happens after death.

  127. Janine
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 13:26:41

    Simon didn't/doesn't have that. For him it was enough that he have a present with Drea. He has no expectation of an after-life, or a need to be in a good place. Good/bad/indifferent, Simon just didn't care what happens after death.

    I thought during that scene in the hospital chapel he realized there was an afterlife, and that he later told Drea his feelings for her had changed because she was a walking miracle and proof of the existence of a higher power. So I did see him as affected by the thought of an afterlife, and he did stop killing at that point (but then that changed when Drea was threatened). IMO he did care what happened to him after death.

  128. Mariana
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 14:03:25

    For me it was more that it affected his present, but it was all tied in Drea. He reminded me of Amara from Hostage to Pleasure (N. Singh), where only one person can affect/effect them. To me, Simon was affected by Drea and was willing to change for Drea, but not for himself or to save himself.

  129. Ann Somerville
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 15:51:56

    I think Marianne's point was just that gay is a word that has changed in meaning, and one of its original meanings was not negative or even associated with homosexuality (like “fag,” for example). And that there are still some people of a certain generation who might use it that way, not even knowing it's a slur now.

    ‘Gay’ is *not* a slur though. If someone say ‘oh my curtains look so gay and bright’ it’s obvious they mean the other sense. The offensiveness comes entirely from usage, unlike ‘n*gger’ or ‘tard’ (‘retard’ as a noun has always been an insult. So it’s a straw man to say ‘but it has another unoffensive meaning.’ Of course it does, and ‘gay’ meaning homosexual is not a slur either. It’s purely the usage as the poster here intended that hurts and is intended to equate homosexuality with stupidity.

    Isn't rather futile to judge works written centuries ago by modern standards?

    Yes. Hence my use of the word ‘technically’. However, Juliet was only 13, and considered too young to marry within the play, let alone within the society in which it was performed. So *technically* Romeo would be considered a paedophile even by the standards of the time – marrying a girl of Juliet’s age was not acceptable to Elizabethans.

    I don’t actually mean Shakespeare wrote a truly paedophilic character – I was being flippant.

  130. Robin
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 16:34:30

    If someone say ‘oh my curtains look so gay and bright' it's obvious they mean the other sense. The offensiveness comes entirely from usage,

    But I think this is *exactly* the point Marianne was making.

    'retard' as a noun has always been an insult. So it's a straw man to say ‘but it has another unoffensive meaning.'

    Well, technically, retard, as a verb, is a neutral word, and mental retardation was used quite officially before it evolved into a slur. But I don’t really think we’re on different pages here, any of us, in terms of the way the original poster was using the term “gay” (i.e. as derogatory).

    More generally, that the word is not a slur as it describes homosexuality without any judgment attached, doesn’t, IMO, mean it can’t be used as a slur, that is, in a way that insults both gay people and the person to which it is directed when it’s being used to insult (thus violating the word itself, gay people, and the person the speaker wants to insult). That’s what I meant when I referred to it as a slur.

  131. REVIEW: Faceless by Debra Webb | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Sep 18, 2008 @ 14:05:00

    […] woman’s character vis a vis the male character to make his misdeeds more palatable as Jennie talked about in her rant the other day. The hero has to be made likeable and in this story, he has to be made likeable […]

  132. Jennie
    Sep 18, 2008 @ 16:15:58

    For me it was more that it affected his present, but it was all tied in Drea. He reminded me of Amara from Hostage to Pleasure (N. Singh), where only one person can affect/effect them. To me, Simon was affected by Drea and was willing to change for Drea, but not for himself or to save himself.

    That’s interesting. I recently read Hostage to Pleasure, and though I didn’t love it, I found Amara an intriguing character. It would be hard to imagine her as a romance heroine though. I do see the similarities to Simon – in both cases, you have characters who really seem to have something organically wrong with them psychologically. I suppose since the Singh books are futuristic, the possibility exists that she could somehow be reformed through medication or some sort of treatment. Simon exists in our world, so to speak. So I’m not sure how much could be done for him. I just find the idea of him as a hero rather creepy. I guess part of it is that it bothers me that it doesn’t bother others more (sorry for the convoluted phrase) that Simon essentially doesn’t care about anyone but Drea. I can understand in some ways the appeal of that fantasy, but Simon was realistically remorseless and consciousless, and I just don’t get the draw there. I think mentally ill characters need to be treated with more responsibility than Howard treated Simon with.

  133. Jennie
    Sep 18, 2008 @ 16:39:20

    Many of you seem to think that Simon was somehow redeemed or at least judged less harshly. I disagree. If you re-read the ending of DA, it's clear that Simon wasn't redeemed. Drea has a vision that he will be redeemed at some point in the future, but he hasn't achieved that state yet. Also, I believe another point that was missed in this discussion is that Drea died and Simon didn't. I don't think LH was saying there was a moral equivocacy between Drea's sins and Simon's – it's just that Drea died and had to acknowledge her sins. Since those sins weren't heinous, she was given a second-chance. If Simon had died, I think we all know where he would have ended up. With his list of killings, I doubt there would have been a second chance. That said, it's true that LK does leave the impression that Simon will do something in the future that may earn him redemption. The reader just doesn't know what that act is.

    You may be right. But that just makes me get on my feminist high horse again and say, “Can you imagine a romance where the heroine is completely unredeemed of horrible behavior at the end of the book, and yet the reader is supposed to accept the HEA with the idea that she may be redeemed at some point in the future?”

  134. Jennie
    Sep 18, 2008 @ 16:43:56

    Redemption in Romance is really a fascinating concept, IMO, because it can have so many overtones. For example, it can be almost religious in nature; it can be a matter of grace or good works. It can be effective through True Love, a gift offered by the beloved. Or it can be entirely secular, won by groveling and serious behavior modification. For me, anyway, the terms of the redemption can make the difference between acceptance and rejection of the outcome. For example, if I feel that redemption is won by, say, no longer being a “whore,” that doesn’t work for me, because I’m not a big fan of earning love through adherence to socially imposed moral standards. I tend to be in the love is a gift camp and individual character is about more than the state of one’s vagina (or, in the case of a hero, it’s about more than just loving the heroine and having a 9-12 inch penis).

    To be fair, I suppose one could argue that Drea’s redemption was more about valuing and respecting herself, which precluded the behavior she had been indulging in before. I don’t necessarily believe Howard saw it that way, but my issue wasn’t about so much about Drea being redeemed, per se. It was all the other stuff that went around it.

  135. Meredith
    Sep 18, 2008 @ 19:01:08

    I had no idea my one comment was going to get everyone so up at arms. I’m sorry if I offended anyone. In my sad defense, having grown up surrounded by gay culture (among other things, both of my primary father figures are a gay couple who have been together for 20 plus years) no one has ever called me out on the use of this term in this way. Maybe they’re more forgiving because they know me. Maybe they all secretly hate me. Maybe they all think me an idiot. Wasn’t my intention to start a firestorm.

    Meredith (who will probably refrain from commenting from now on because clearly she is more intelligent in person than in print)

  136. Morpho Ophelia
    Sep 19, 2008 @ 06:12:14

    I had no idea my one comment was going to get everyone so up at arms. I’m sorry if I offended anyone. In my sad defense, having grown up surrounded by gay culture (among other things, both of my primary father figures are a gay couple who have been together for 20 plus years) no one has ever called me out on the use of this term in this way. Maybe they’re more forgiving because they know me. Maybe they all secretly hate me. Maybe they all think me an idiot. Wasn’t my intention to start a firestorm.

    Meredith, for the record, I’d like to write that you did nothing wrong, and you don’t have anything to apologize for. Firestorms, like this, are common on online forums. But just think how interesting the comments developed in this thread. I am always amazed at how we can be discussing *sex and death* one moment and then move to Shakespeare writing paedophilic characters, even if it was only flippant. And then we have the defense of gay people.

    When you think about your comments in context with what the actual discussion was about, assassins and drug lords, women struggling to live in such a world, well,….hmm, the word that comes to my mind is IRONIC.

  137. Ann Somerville
    Sep 19, 2008 @ 06:21:25

    you did nothing wrong, and you don't have anything to apologize for

    Holy fucking crap, that’s a stupid thing to say.

    Yes, she did, and yes she does, which she did.

    move to Shakespeare writing paedophilic characters, even if it was only flippant

    You have a problem with conversations roving freely over topics? Are you new to the internet or something?

    And then we have the defense of gay people.

    I know, I know ::sigh:: We should just let those nasty homos suffer. God knows they deserve to.

    the word that comes to my mind is IRONIC.

    Funny, the word that comes to my mind ends in ‘RONIC’ too.

    Are you really this stupid and mean-minded, or are you trolling?

    Meredith’s ill-considered remark left me staggered. You, on the other hand, just made me furious. How dare you tell someone it’s okay to be homophobic? You probably cosy up to racists and tell them that people just look for ways to be offended too.

    Meredith isn’t being criticised for being a bad woman. She’s being criticised for using ‘gay’ as a pejorative. Which is unequivocally bad, and not to be encouraged in anyone, male or female. Don’t do a Palin – it’s not even working for her any more.

  138. Jane
    Sep 19, 2008 @ 10:49:12

    Please don’t make me shut down the comments here too. I think the issues revolving around the use of “gay” have been beaten into the ground.

  139. Janine
    Sep 19, 2008 @ 12:10:35

    I think the issues revolving around the use of “gay” have been beaten into the ground.

    I second that, but I would like the thread to stay open in case more people want to comment on the original topic.

  140. Jennie
    Sep 19, 2008 @ 12:22:01

    We've all been talking about the gender double standard but I wonder if there isn't another double standard at work here -‘ the fact that as a society we have a lot more tolerance for violence in our popular culture than for sex.

    Yes – I’m not sure I made that point as much as I meant to (I got sidetracked ranting about the gender double standard), but that was sort of what I wasn thinking of with the “sex and death” title. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, it’s bizarre to me that Drea is viewed as having degraded herself by being a semi-prostitute, but I think few people would apply the word “degrading” to Simon’s profession. But what could be more degrading, dehumanizing and soul-killing than murder for profit?

    So I wonder if the book isn't also easier on Simon than on Drea not just because he is a man but because there is an assumption (and it is correct, IMO) that most of us readers secretly get a thrill from Simon's ability to dispense violence (which we associate with strength and masculinity). And so we don't want to see him punished for that.

    That’s kind of why the trend of assassin heroes bugs me. Soft men hold no real appeal for me, but the push toward ultra-masculinity and ultra-alphaness in a lot of the books I’ve read lately is kind of turning me off. It seems like such a narrow definition of masculinity – violence and killing people. I just looked at my book log, and (partly because I’ve read a bunch of Nalini Singhs in a row), it’s been quite a while (like, months and months) since I’ve read a straight romance in which the hero wasn’t a killer. They weren’t all straight assassins, but they were all definitely men who had killed, and not just in war. It’s kind of strange to me.

  141. Janine
    Sep 19, 2008 @ 12:49:31

    As I mentioned in an earlier comment, it's bizarre to me that Drea is viewed as having degraded herself by being a semi-prostitute,

    I actually understand this part. Having sex regularly with someone you don’t find attractive and don’t enjoy being with has to be kind of degrading or at least, damaging to the soul for a lot of women, because it’s a kind of betrayal of oneself. Actually doing anything that goes against what you truly want can be degrading if you do it often enough, but sex is such an intimate thing that I can see how for many women it would intensify the feeling of being degraded, at least when those feelings finally caught up with them. I felt that was partly why sex with Simon was so shattering to Drea — it made her feelings about sex with Salinas catch up with her.

    but I think few people would apply the word “degrading” to Simon's profession. But what could be more degrading, dehumanizing and soul-killing than murder for profit?

    Well, yeah, that’s very true for most human beings. And that was one of the reasons why I loved Stuart’s Black Ice, and loved Robin’s observation that Chloe was the mirror of Bastien’s degraded soul. The fabulousness of that book was that the hero was an assassin but he was starting to break down because it was so hard for him to remain one.

    I would have loved it if Howard had approached it that way, but I’ve observed that Howard’s heroes are usually kind of superhuman. Howard had a book with an assassin heroine who goes off the reservation, Kiss Me While I Sleep. I remember that at the end of that book, the heroine starts seeing a therapist. And I remember feeling that that was the double standard at work, because Howard’s assassin heroes (like Simon, or John Medina from All the Queen’s Men) somehow don’t need therapy.

    But I also think that we romance readers are culpable in this; many of us don’t want the hero to be someone who is in need of therapy. We look for strength in a hero. It’s like what Kathleen O’Reilly said before about how if you compare Salinas and Simon, most people will prefer Simon because he was a rock. Strength is attractive to people, and especially to women. I think there’s some kind of primtive pull to the notion of a man who can protect us, who can stand between us and danger, or who won’t falter even when we do. Of course, it’s a fantasy. But it sure is attractive to view men this way because it makes it safer for us to falter sometimes.

    I really enjoy reading about assassin heroes. I prefer the ones who face a stronger internal conflict about killing, like Bastien in Black Ice or Charles in Patricia Briggs’ new series, because I love romances that deal with moral issues. But I can enjoy assassins as heroes even when that’s not the case, and I think it’s because (A) I don’t take it anywhere as seriously as I would in real life, and (B) in real life, I hate violence but reading about it allows me to enjoy it vicariously.

    I think human beings have these dark impulses, and so, we get these illicit thrills from reading or watching movies about men who kill. Not a comforting thought, but there you have it.

  142. MB
    Sep 19, 2008 @ 17:46:25

    I guess I just assumed when reading that Simon was a sociopath. Again, my assumption is that an assassin would be likely to “be” one. (After all aren’t 4% +/- of the population supposed to be sociopaths???)

    I just assumed this was an odd “romance” in a similar way that Silence of the Lambs is a kind of a “romance”. I know that Hannibal Lector and Clarice were never a “couple”, nor did they have a HEA, but he did grow to respect her and come as close to empathy with her as he was able to do within his own self.

    I see Simon and Drea’s relationship as a similar type of thing. Simon does grow to have feelings toward and is protective of Drea. So when I used the word “redemption” that change in his persona was partially what I was referring to.

    Boy, this has been a super interesting discussion!

  143. Elle
    Sep 19, 2008 @ 21:17:41

    I just assumed this was an odd “romance” in a similar way that Silence of the Lambs is a kind of a “romance”. I know that Hannibal Lector and Clarice were never a “couple”, nor did they have a HEA, but he did grow to respect her and come as close to empathy with her as he was able to do within his own self.

    Actually, SPOILER FOR “HANNIBAL” TO FOLLOW,

    Clarice and Hannibal *do* become a couple and have a quasi-HEA in the sequel, “Hannibal”. And it is just *wrong* in every way, IMHO.

  144. Janine
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 00:29:51

    Actually, SPOILER FOR “HANNIBAL” TO FOLLOW,

    Clarice and Hannibal *do* become a couple and have a quasi-HEA in the sequel, “Hannibal”. And it is just *wrong* in every way, IMHO.

    That was why I never read Hannibal, even though I had read and loved both Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, and had been waiting years for the next book to come out. But when I got a whiff of what happens there, I just couldn’t imagine the Clarice I had loved in The Silence of the Lambs making such a choice.

  145. Book Genres, Preferences, And Reading (Part 3) « Books and Games
    Sep 21, 2008 @ 10:12:42

    […] of this post were already written when I read Jennie’s post Sex and Death – A Rant and its comments on Dear Author. I won’t go into the specific discussion there, but there was […]

  146. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 13:12:00

    Janine,

    I like reading books about twisted people because they are not boring. Thinking about this story, I think Drea was the more interesting character than Simon, at least to me. I did think Simon very much fit a traditional Linda Howard hero role, which is a combination of almost vile brutality mixed with god-like sexuality that somehow works. I don’t know how, and since that’s not a hero I gravitate toward writing, I’m not going to analyze what she does that makes it work. I think it’s the Presents hero as well.

    I didn’t read Hannibal, either. That’s just so, so wrong in so many ways.

  147. Janine
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 15:40:14

    Kathleen,

    Drea was more interesting than Simon to me as well, perhaps because she was more vulnerable? Linda Howard’s heroes always get so much attention but I often find her heroines at least as compelling.

    I also like reading about twisted people because they’re not boring. Then again I also agree with Jennie that most of the time, I’d rather not read about a pedophile or a serial killer as the hero of a romance. And I think my tolerance for flawed characters is very high.

  148. Jennie
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 18:57:32

    Well, I realize that some people will think I’m overstepping my bounds by saying so, but I think one of the problems for me with this book is that I don’t know that Howard saw Simon as twisted. She seemed so much more focussed on Drea’s “flaws”, and I felt that Simons flaws (like, you know, the killing people thing) were actually secretly supposed to be virtues. I understand the appeal of silent and emotionally unavailable hero, but Simon was taking it several leagues too far, IMO.

  149. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 19:06:07

    Jennie,
    “…I don’t know that Howard saw Simon as twisted.”
    ROFL. I don’t know why that tickles me, but somehow it does.

    Janine,

    Vulnerable, yes! Interesting, but I buy it.

    I think Ms. Howard has done some interesting things with her heroines in the past few years than before. They’re as complexly constructed as heroes and I seem to remember so many of her earlier heroes rather than the heroines, but now I think they’re equally memorable (for whatever reasons )

  150. Lleeo
    Sep 24, 2008 @ 01:36:05

    Okay, I don’t have anything coherent to say at the moment because school is killing me, but you guys are amazing. I love that this kind of provocative, analytical discussion is happening in the romance genre. And Linda Howard is one of my (problematic) favourite authors.

    I can’t wait until romance novels are studied formally in academia. Laura Vinvanco (sp?) is one of my biggest heroes for endeavouring to do this.

  151. Review: Death Angel, Linda Howard « Racy Romance Reviews
    Oct 01, 2008 @ 20:28:26

    […] Jennie at Dear Author has written what I consider to be the best take on this book. […]

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