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Violence

What Janine is Reading 8/21/11-9/4/11

What Janine is Reading 8/21/11-9/4/11

In the reading world I’m more of a turtle than a greyhound. During the past two weeks, I read two books. Here’s a recap:

Archangel’s Consort by Nalini Singh

I picked up this third novel in Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series in preparation for book four, Archangel’s Blade, which I had committed myself to reviewing. Since Jane has reviewed Archangel’s Consort I won’t regurgitate the plot. Suffice to say that though I liked the book less than Jane did, it wasn’t a bad way to pass the time.

As others have said, the ongoing conflict between Raphael and Elena was somewhat repetitive. Those parts of the book didn’t engage me as much as others. Also, I find some of the graphic violence in this series very hard to read, but I thought that in this book it wasn’t quite as gruesome and disturbing as in book two,Archangel’s Kiss.

What I liked a lot was the conflict between Elena and her father, Jeffrey. Their scenes together have riveted me since book one. There are times I wish that complex family dynamics got a little more attention in the romance genre so I was pleased to see that was the case in this book. I also love the vivid descriptions of the angels in these books, and the aerial love scene was something. Still, Angels’ Blood (#1 in the series) remains my favorite of the Elena/Raphael books.

Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh

Who would have thought that I could come to care so much about Dmitri? He’s been a complete jerk to Elena for three books, but as soon as Honor St. Nicholas showed up on his turf, I was 110% engaged with this dark and sometimes painful story, and couldn’t put it down.

Ultimately, though it wasn’t perfect, I ended up liking Archangel’s Blade a whole lot more than Archangel’s Kiss or Archangel’s Consort. It’s probably my favorite of all the Guild Hunter books thus far. This may be partly because I prefer books that introduce me to a new couple and resolve their romance in one book to books that drag a relationship out for multiple installments. But another part is simply that this story was deeply emotional – even haunting and touching.

Since I have a review of the book in the pipeline, I will endeavor not to repeat my thoughts, but I did want to discuss something that interests me about my own emotional response to this series. As in Archangel’s Kiss (#2, my least favorite) there is quite a bit of violence here – including brutal violence against children. I won’t say that this aspect of Archangel’s Blade didn’t disturb me, but I was able to tolerate it much better than I did in Archangels’ Kiss.

Perhaps my greater ability to bear it was because the nature of the violence against children was less gruesome, though no less horrific. I felt there was somewhat less focus on the physical details, and much of the impact came from the emotional effects of these acts on the characters. But it may also have been due to my being more caught up in this story, more interested in Dmitri and Honor than I had been in Raphael and Elena by their second book.

What about you, readers? What have you been reading lately? Have you read Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series and if so, what are your thoughts on these books? Do you ever find reading about violence, in this series or elsewhere, disturbing? Do you ever tolerate equally strong violence more in one book than another? Why or why not?

The Vigilante Fantasy (or why sex is more wrong than violence)

The Vigilante Fantasy (or why sex is more wrong than violence)

Notice: the comments below discuss rape and rape fantasies.

In Lisa Kleypas’ “Blue Eyed Devil”, Haven is brutalized by her husband.  He rapes her, beats her, and throws her out of the home.  When Haven confesses of her past to her new love, Hardy, he responds that he’d go after her ex and “when I finish, there won’t be enough left of him to fill a fucking matchbox.”  Haven responds that her ex isn’t worth going to jail for and Hardy replies:

“I don’t know about that.” Hardy stared at me for a moment, registering my uneasiness. His expression deliberately softened. “The way I was brought up, ‘he needed killing’ is an airtight legal defense.”

I love this contemporary trilogy of Kleypas.  Her tender macho men really do it for me and whenever I’m feeling in a reading rut, I pull out the trilogy for a re-read (I start with Sugar Daddy but at the point where Carrington is riding the zip line across the backyard which leads to a confrontation between Gage and Liberty because the Liberty + Hardy stuff always adversely affects my enjoyment of Blue Eyed Devil).  So I don’t mean to point out her books as being alone or iconic of this statement, it’s just that it is a line that has stuck with me.

In Creation in Death by J.D. Robb, Eve Dallas engaged in an action of vigilante justice. This bothered me because I always felt that Eve was the conscience of the books and her stance had always been to catch criminals and deliver justice within the confines of the law.  It may be that I overlayed my own personal fantasy (that the system always works) onto the books.  What I hadn’t worked out in my mind at the time was this concept of vigilante justice and how easily it is accepted by us readers.

In fiction, everyone is sure; everyone is certain. It’s how we can read the vigilante fantasy story over and over again without any twinge of remorse or discomfort.

When I was a young lawyer, the ABA Journal profiled Ronald Cotton (the entire article can be read here), a man who was convicted of raping a woman. It was the victim’s own eye witness testimony that put the rapist away. Only the man didn’t rape the woman. Indeed, after the OJ Simpson trial, the imprisoned man learned of DNA evidence and contacted a lawyer claiming that DNA evidence would prove the man innocent. Another inmate in the same prison had bragged about doing the crime as well. The evidence in the nine year old case had been preserved and the DNA testing came back and showed him to be innocent. He was released.

The rape victim felt horribly guilty about this. She was so sure that the man had been this rapist, sure enough to pick him out of a line up. Sure enough to testify against him under oath.  “Studies show that 75 percent of all wrongful convictions that are later cleared by DNA evidence are based on eyewitness mistakes.” (Source: Innocence Project).

There is no surety of guilt in real life.  But, isn’t that the glory of fiction?  The bad guys get caught and justice is served; whether it is at the hands of the criminal justice system or at the hands of someone in the book.  Indeed, if there is a villain and his wrongs do not get redressed, who doesn’t feel let down?  I felt that way in a recent Harlequin Superromance I read.

But the vigilante fantasy is embraced with unashamed verve.  Is there any among us who would really be reluctant to admit to a good vigilante fantasy?  That we don’t inwardly clap with glee with the bad guy gets his?  Killing is often treated with a certain blitheness.  The heroes enact the mantra “he needed killing” without any psychological remorse. *

Why am I bringing this up?  Because I’ve seen more than one person pass judgment on another for enjoying the rape fantasy stories or for enjoying the forced seduction stories.  How many of us who would be unashamed of our love for the vigilante justice stories be just as open and embracing of rape fantasy stories?  How many of those around us would be non judgmental of those readers who enjoy the rape fantasy book?  Women who enjoy the rape fantasy books are sick, right? or glorifying something terrible.  Yet would those people judgmental of the women who enjoy the rape fantasy story be as critical of a woman who enjoyed reading a story about a villain getting killed or the hero or heroine getting revenge?

Why is the rape fantasy judged by a different metric than the vigilante fantasy?  After all, neither exist in real life and both are true fantasies.  On the page, the rape is not real and the person doing the killing knows without a doubt that the bad man “needed killing.”

*This isn’t always true.   In one historical romance (the name of which I cannot recall) the hero is set on a course of revenge and it is slowly eroding his soul.  He truly cannot kill another man and still live with himself; yet, his thirst for revenge is so great that he feels guilty for even a moment of happiness.  Obviously, he is really effed up.