“Random” is my daughter’s favorite all-purpose word. And a few random observations is all I can manage for a post right now. But I have reached the point where I think I’m going to pull off Christmas once again.
This comment by Georgia Woods on a review of Kristen Ashley’s Motorcycle Man gave me a little epiphany about why “crackalicious” books don’t appeal to me. Among other things, she says:
[I]t is hard to understand how these stories that push my limits seem to . . . make me love them. I think the reason we love these stories is because there’s no doubt ever that the guy is worthy of the leadership role. Most men we know nowadays aren’t worthy of being the captain of our ships – we know the men come and go, and we can’t trust them to put our needs, needs we may not even recognize, first . . . .
I think the secret is that any man worth his salt might be alpha-holeish at times, but that aggression and control are not used against the woman, but on her behalf.
I think Woods is right on about the appeal of these books, but I am so not part of the “we” she describes. Nothing about this description of men appeals to me or matches my experience. I do not want someone else having a leadership position in my life, don’t want a man captaining my ship, don’t think any man worth his salt is sometimes aggressive or an asshole, don’t like the idea of a man who knows my needs better than I do. This isn’t a criticism of people who feel like this. I just don’t. So I might find such a book interesting, but I don’t think I would ever experience it as emotional, can’t-put-it-down “crack” because too much of it would distance me or put me off.
My first response to that comment was “I’ll captain my own damn ship!” And I can, but on second thought, doing so isn’t my ideal vision of life or romance. That involves a rowboat (which seems like a more manageable image of life than a ship), and it comes from Little Women:
Amy had been dabbling her hand in the water during the little pause that fell between them, and when she looked up, Laurie was leaning on his oars, with an expression in his eyes that made her say hastily,–merely for the sake of saying something,– *
“You must be tired,–rest a little, and let me row; it will do me good, for since you came I have been altogether lazy and luxurious.”
“I’m not tired, but you may take an oar if you like. There’s room enough, though I have to sit nearly in the middle, else the boat won’t trim,” returned Laurie, as if he rather liked the arrangement.
Feeling she had not mended matters much, Amy took the offered third of a seat, shook her hair over her face, and accepted an oar. She rowed as well as she did many other things; and, though she used both hands, and Laurie but one, the oars kept time, and the boat went smoothly through the water.
“How well we pull together, don’t we?” said Amy, who objected to silence just then.
“So well, that I wish we might always pull in the same boat. Will you, Amy?” very tenderly.
“Yes, Laurie!” very low.
I identified like crazy with Jo, of course, but in this scene Amy made complete sense to me (maybe because she’s shy). Every one of the many times I read the book, it gave me that little thrill in the pit of my stomach that is part of why I read romance. And though it now seems kind of saccharine, it still thrills me. Amy and Laurie do things differently, but they complement each other; they don’t need each other, but they’re better together. I believe that in their future life, neither one will be the captain: this rowboat is a democracy. My favorite romances are those where I really believe in the couple as partners.
Recent Reading: The Importance of Being Wicked
I loved Miranda Neville’s Confessions from an Arranged Marriage because of the way Blake and Minerva learn to be partners and to support each other. Neville is great at showing her couples being affectionate friends as well as passionate lovers; I like the way they complement each other’s strengths.
I just read her latest book, The Importance of Being Wicked, and while it won’t bump Confessions from the top of my Neville list, it shared those qualities. I can’t write a proper review because 1) I’m so random right now, as my daughter would say, and 2) I shouldn’t have read the book yet: I’m not in a romance mood. I admired a lot about it, but wasn’t moved by it (until the end), and I think that was me. I broke my romance hiatus for a favorite author, but I should have brought my best to her. I’ll have to read it again (what a hardship!). I loved this joint review at Dear Author.
What I’m Not Reading
My Twitter feed is abuzz about some books I want to read: two Christmas novellas, Ruthie Knox’s Room at the Inn (in the Naughty and Nice anthology) and Anne Calhoun’s Breath on Embers, and Courtney Milan’s new novel The Duchess War. Lesson learned, though. I’ll wait until I’m really in the mood for romance so I have a fair shot at fully enjoying them. I haven’t even bought any of these yet so I won’t be tempted by the discussions into breaking my fast.
What I Am Reading
On audio, Lloyd Alexander’s The High King, last of the Chronicles of Prydain fantasy series. Revisiting these childhood favorites over the course of the year has been a joy. Like Little Women, they still speak to me, probably because they shaped me in some way.
Philip Hensher’s King of the Badgers. The back cover (yes, I bought a paper copy) calls this “a modern-day Middlemarch,” which comparison seems to be de rigueur for any novel dealing with the broad social canvas of an English community. But it also describes Hensher’s book as “darkly hilarious,” which are not words I’d apply to Middlemarch. The dark part is definitely true. Hensher’s narrator utterly lacks (well, I don’t think he’s aiming for) Eliot’s sympathy for her characters; their nastiness, of one sort and another, is exposed to the reader by a pitiless eye. Privacy and exposure are themes of the novel, and arguably it’s asking questions about the way fiction strips privacy from characters–if that even makes sense, since they aren’t real people. I’m not sure I’d say I’m enjoying the book, but I’m interested, and unsurprisingly I find the contrasts with Eliot’s narrative ethos fascinating.
Now, if I can just figure out what we’re eating for Christmas dinner . . . .
*Oh, 19th-century punctuation, how excessive you are!