As a long-time soap viewer, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to hear a character on General Hospital declare that, “Sonny is a good man.” They could record that line and just play it back as needed — and if I had a dollar for every utterance, I could retire in Fiji. But, while early retirement sounds nice, the problem is that Sonny Corinthos is not a good man. He’s a flawed man, a broken man, stubborn and selfish and violent. He’s abusive to women, a bully and an asshat. No amount of telling us “he’s a good man” changes what we’ve seen him do onscreen. You know what does? Other stuff he does onscreen, without fanfare or a Greek Chorus pointing out how awesome he is. Sitting by Stone’s bedside, helping Connie when Trey was dying, having sane conversations about his kids with his ex-wife — that’s what explains to the viewer that this guy is worth keeping around.
It’s the basic rule of writing: Show, don’t tell.
“You asked for a soul,” vampire Angel points out to his protégé, Spike in season five of his eponymous series. “I didn’t. It almost killed me. I spend a hundred years trying to come to terms with infinite remorse. You spent three weeks moaning in a basement, and then you were fine. What’s fair about that?” Not much, that’s for sure! Especially since Spike’s reappearance on Angel undercuts his genuine self-sacrifice in the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer — the ending Spike earned, after nabbing his soul didn’t really work out.
Truly effective redemption arcs happen without incentive, without characters spelling it out for the reader or viewer and waiting for the redeemed at the finish line with a gold medal. They aren’t quick fixes.
[Spoilers for Game of Thrones and Once Upon a Time below the jump]
I’ve been attending conventions and conferences since I was a teenager. I’ve been to fan cons, to professional conferences, to spaces where men dominated and to ones where women empowered each other and created unforgettable bonds. Coming back from the 2013 RT Booklovers Convention, at which I worked as a representative of RT Book Reviews magazine, I have a lot of Thoughts about gender dynamics and safe spaces. (I can’t promise I’ll articulate any of them adequately!)
RT gals–me, Regina, Elissa, Elisa, Liz and Donna–all dressed up!
I have never felt safer at a convention than when I’m at one for women’s media. It’s such a sisterhood. A shared joy. A meeting of minds and passions. Be it soaps or romance, that is when you’ll see me at my most Me. (Assuming I’m not sleep-deprived and/or hysterical from nerves.)
And I can tell you exactly when I begin to feel diminished: when a man, SO aware of his Mighty Thunderstick, holds court and treats me like a silly little girl. I go from being a competent writer and editor, and proud published author, to an interloper in a boys’ club. I hear my voice get higher in response. I feel dumber. I feel naked. I feel like someone just took my safe space, and my brain, away from me. It’s pretty awful.
Author John Scalzi*, whom RT honored with a Reviewers’ Choice award for his science fiction novel Redshirts, was not part of a boys’ club. Neither was writer Andrew Shaffer. They were allies; they acted as part of the greater community, happy to be included in a group of women, not to rule it. They may be controversy magnets on the Internet (and who isn’t?) but, in person, they couldn’t be more welcoming and welcomed. It was just really cool to have them there. Not as men, not as dudes, but as people. Like the rest of us.
I definitely made up for the meager hauls of previous months, finding a LOT of gems in my 2013 TBR pile for April!
Beauty and the Blacksmith, by Tessa Dare (historical romance, e-novella)
Big Boy, by Ruthie Knox (contemporary romance, e-novella)
Flirting With Disaster, by Ruthie Knox (out 6/10, contemporary romance, e-book)
It Happened One Midnight, by Julie Anne Long (out 6/25, historical romance)
Thank You For Riding, by Meg Maguire (contemporary romance, e-novella)
Undercover Texas, by Robin Perini (out 6/1, Harlequin Intrigue)
Play With Me, by Alisha Rai (erotic romance, e-novella)
Portrait of a Crossroads, by Kelly Rand (out 5/20, contemporary LGBT romance, e-short)
Heartbeat, by Elizabeth Scott (out 8/27, YA romance/coming-of-age)
Freefall, by Jill Sorenson (out 5/28, romantic suspense)
On deck for May is Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls and anything I might pick up at the RT Booklovers Convention in Kansas City, MO, this week.
Previous months’ posts:
March’s Hot Reads
February’s Hot Reads
Ah, the ‘70s and ‘80s bodice ripper era…when men were men and women were raped. The romance community likes to filter it through a rose-colored rearview mirror, chased by alternating mild chagrin and feminist horror. But more than 30 years later, those misogynist underpinnings of forced seduction romance — mostly overpinnings, if we’re being honest — are alive and well. Be it the sheikhs and tycoons that populate the Harlequin Presents line, J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, the plethora of motorcycle club contemporary romance and club-owning Dom BDSM erotica or your Christian Greys and Gideon Crosses, the controlling alpha-male asshole protagonist hasn’t gone anywhere.
The argument one could make, of course, is that female characters have sexual agency in all of these books. They like being treated poorly (i.e. “challenged”) and told what to do as long as they get off and get their Happy Ever After. But that’s no different from old-school forced-seduction, than the sexual revolution happening on the page long before Kristen Ashley starting burning up the Amazon charts. It didn’t matter if a heroine got roofied and locked in a trunk or kidnapped and tied up in a wigwam, she always had an orgasm. The highly questionable, but tried-and-true, “No, no, no…yes!”
March was rife with riveting reads! Here’s what made my hot list:
Wicked as She Wants, by Delilah S. Dawson (out 4/30, fantasy/paranormal romance)
A Woman Entangled, by Cecilia Grant (out 6/25, historical romance)
Dare You To, by Katie McGarry (out 5/28, YA coming-of-age/romance)
After Hours, by Cara McKenna (out 4/16, erotic romance, e-book)
Heart of Iron, by Bec McMaster (out 5/7, steampunk/paranormal romance)
Beyond Control, by Kit Rocha (erotic romance, e-book)
In terms of my 2012 backlog, I finally got around to The Diviners, by Libba Bray, and I loved it! Can’t wait for the next book. The same goes for Cinder by Marissa Mayer, which was also a page-turner! I have to track down Scarlet ASAP.
What did I read in February…? For a short month, I had a decent haul and, luckily, a lot of those books were awesome!
Bomber’s Moon, by Alex Beecroft (paperback out 3/5, paranormal/fantasy)
Dogfighters, by Alex Beecroft (paperback out 4/2, paranormal/fantasy)
Written in Red, by Anne Bishop (out 3/5, urban fantasy)
Any Duchess Will Do, by Tessa Dare (out 5/28, historical romance)
Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline (out 4/2, mainstream fiction)
I finally burned through The Gathering and The Calling by Kelley Armstrong, which were excellent! I cannot wait for April’s The Rising. I also went a little old school, reading Laura Kinsale’s The Shadow and the Star and finishing my reread of Secret Fire, by Johanna Lindsey.
A whole new year means a whole new slate of freshly baked books to devour! Here’s what stuck with me during the first month of 2013!
That Scandalous Summer, by Meredith Duran (historical romance)
A Duke Never Yields, by Juliana Gray (out 2/5, historical romance)
How to Misbehave, by Ruthie Knox (contemporary romance, e-novella)
Along Came Trouble, by Ruthie Knox (out 3/11, contemporary romance, e-book)
Garden of Stones, by Sophie Littlefield (out 2/26, mainstream fiction)
The Best of All Possible Worlds, by Karen Lord (out 2/12, sci-fi romance)
Making Him Sweat, by Meg Maguire (out 2/19, contemporary romance, Harlequin Blaze)
Hard Way, by Katie Porter (out 4/9, erotic romance, e-book)
Bungalow Nights, by Christie Ridgway (out 2/26, contemporary romance)
There’s a lot to keep up with in the coming months, including new releases by two of my historical romance favorites, Tessa Dare and Cecilia Grant. Here’s hoping I can swan-dive into a big ol’ pile of books!
December 2012′s top reads.
November 2012′s top reads.