When I was in elementary school, I would borrow romance novels from the shelves and shelves of them at Jessica's house, and read them. Not knowing much of how the real world worked, and being a complete and utter retard in social situations, I would see those novels as a gateway to the love, passion, relationships and acceptance missing from my life.
As a 12 year old, what did I know about any of these things?
If you read enough of these books (where, if you're an adult, that number is 2, if you're 12, that number is more like 12), you begin to see patterns: poor helpless woman with some particular flaw, strong silent man with some hot body, bizarre situation that throws the two of them together, electricity between the two. Usually at this point, the stories diverge into "whoo hoo! let's get it on!" or "no no, I can't" for some random reason, internal or external, to introduce some conflict into the story, because really, the first 80 pages were all setup. The good part is in the last 20 (because, yeah, they really are that short).
Reality really, really, really doesn't work this way in the real world.
Men cannot just read women's minds (and if they could, they'd probably become very confused very quickly, because, no, those jeans do not make your ass look fat, why would you even thing such a stupid thing?). Those "electric sparks" at the beginning of a relationship are hormones raging, and when the effect wears off, you're left with the person who may or may not be good, may or may not be good enough, tall enough, smart enough, rich enough, whatever enough for the relationship to sustain itself.
There are hundreds of books and tonnes of research on the phases of love. Given that first phase is so addictive, it's unsurprising that want to hit the infinite repeat on that part, and want to fall in love over and over and over again, that this, whatever "this" is, isn't enough.
At some point, and I have to admit my realization of these facts was during the time of my parents' divorcing and my mother's remarrying, I gave up on the whole notion of romance. The way it's portrayed in fiction books and movies is just so full of bunk that I called bullshit on the whole thing and became nominally anti-romance.
When assigned to taking care of the romance section at the bookstores I worked in during high school, I balked. Why would I _want_ to get to know the authors of this crap? Give me the science fiction section, please.
When pulled out of the suspension of disbelief required to enjoy the movie or book by any type of romantically odd behaviour, I immediately launch into my ridicule mode, which, to my relief, seems to humour both Kris and Andy. I can think of several of those moments offhand, with one of the most memorable being the end of Castaway when the love of Helen Hunt's character's live returns and she chooses not to go to him. WHAT FUCKING BULLSHIT IS THIS? The LOVE of her LIFE. I'm sorry, but that's bunk. The love of your life, you give him more than a kiss and a goodbye in the rain.
Anyway. I can't stand romance novels.
So, I've been really enjoying the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (thanks, Heather!). No, no, that's an understatement. I've been reading, rereading, listening and relistening to the Dresden Files as close to my only (fiction) books for the last five months. Now, while I recognize there are many other great books out, I haven't had any desire to read them, choosing to start over with Storm Front, having already reread books 8-11. I've bought several copies for other friends, and hooked Dad on the series, too. It's probably a bit obsessive, okay, more than a bit obsessive, but I like the tone of the writing, I like the humour, I like the (nominal) consistency of the world that's been built up. I like the progression of the character, as he struggles, learns, and grows.
Given how much I enjoy the Dresden Files, and the number of copies of each of the Dresden Files I've bought (book, kindle and audio), Amazon recommended a book by Jim Butcher's wife.
I bought the least expensive version of the book (yay Homer!), Burning Alive, realizing that it was a science fiction based romance. Rolling my eyes and figuring, eh, what the hell, I started reading it, hoping that, oh please, oh please, oh please, be just half as good as the Dresden Files, and I can overlook any mushy romance crap. Please?
At this point, if you want to read the book, stop reading now.
Or continue reading, right?
Weren't going to read the book anyway, eh?
Right... So, about that romance.
The book isn't sci-fi romance. It's sci-fi porn.
Here's the basic plot: Helen had a vision. We don't know exactly when she had it, but some time as a young kid, before her mom, who didn't believe it was anything but a nightmare, died in a fire. Helen's previous two places burned in mysterious fires. She's terrified of fires, because in her vision, she's burning alive, while a guy watches her burn, some smirk on his face.
Sitting in a diner, she sees the man. Rather than, oh, I don't know, fleeing, RUNNING AWAY, she tried to avoid seeing the guy, which catches his attention, he comes over to see what's up with this woman he can't stop staring at, and finds himself unbelievably attracted to her. Now, this guy is living in a lot of pain, but, hey, when he touches Helen, it all goes away. WOW! SHE'S A KEEPER!
Turns out, the guy is a human-looking non-human, sworn to protect humans and the gateway to another world, which happens to be his homeworld. He, and all men of this human-looking non-human race, can absorb the incidental energy around him, the random energy around him from the heat of the earth or static charges that build up, though why he doesn't explode from absorbing sunlight when he goes outside, we don't know. Absorbing this much energy without releasing it is, apparently, fucking painful, but that's okay, because they've had centuries to deal with handling the pain.
Joy. THAT sounds like fun.
The women of this race can use the power from compatible men (of course, only the ones compatible, right?), drawing it from them, and, oh boy, relieving them from the nearly unbearable pain of absorbing beyond capacity. The catch in all of this? Nearly all of the human-looking non-human women were slaughtered two centuries before, we don't know why or how or who was involved. There are two women left, though, one a couple millennium old, the other who looks like an eight year old girl.
But wait. Helen is a new one. Hot damn! Freedom!
Except she's a pansy. Afraid of this. Afraid of that. Broken since birth. Okay, fine, whatever. No, wait, she's afraid of just fire, which she needs to be able to conjure in order to help the guy from her visions. There's your conflict. Internal. Man overcomes self.
Or, more succinctly, the summary on Amazon:
Butcher's absorbing series opener successfully fuses an urban fantasy premise with characters designed to appeal to romance readers. Helen Day encounters a man in a diner and is dismayed to realize she recognizes him from nightmares where he watches her burn to death. Drake, an ancient member of a dying race devoted to protecting humanity, feels a powerful attraction to Helen, which she returns despite her fear that the nightmare will come true. After demons attack them, Drake's determination to keep Helen safe is at odds with her haunting vision, leaving her wondering which to believe.
I figured the book was a romance when I read the link, but, come on, not porn. Why did I not realize it was going to be porn BEFORE I started reading the book?
While most of the romance books I read as a kid had very sweeping generalizations about sex, fingers down backs and lips touching, with this one there are no generalizations here. Sure, there's no 'penis' in there, but there are erections, slick heat, nipples and erections cutting glass, slippery (a favorite word in this book) and hot under his tongue, two fingers inside her where she's slick (another favorite, overused word) and perfect, and various blunt tips going inside.
I struggled with a lot of the overuse of some words and some of the plot. I mean, three big strapping guys kidnap two women and take them back to the house of one of them, then two of them take one of the women into the back room, AND SHE DOESN'T FIGHT? Come ON! That means rape in pretty much every scenario I know about in this world. Suspension of disbelief? Gone.
The continual use of the word "bottom" instead of ass or butt also kinda annoyed me, as in "he continued to clutch her bottom." Geez, if you're going to talk erections, at least you can say ass or butt. Bottom? If you can write "The friction of the denim against her clitoris made her body tighten and her nerves sizzle" in a book, you can write "The clutched her ass." Sheesh, why be embarrassed about your ass?
And that Helen switches from "I must stay away from this guy" to "Can you make me come?" and back is rather annoying. "I just met this guy yesterday when he kidnapped me" struggles with moans and clutching and "can't think" crap. Most people I know would shut down if confronted with supposedly horrific scenes she had just seen, but that's okay, "she wanted him all right. More than she'd ever wanted any man in her life," let's go.
Oh, and Drake's best friend dies and the next day he's just fine. He's crushed, and then the next thought later, he's JUST FINE. Pro died a month ago, AND I STILL CRY EVERY DAY. Good fucking lord, he was "just" a friend. If my best friend died, I'D BE CRYING FOR A YEAR. Probably more, I don't care how much pain you're used to dealing with in a lifetime, that one is going to hurt.
In book time, the plot spans three days. In those three days, we go from a sniveling incompetent weenie to a power wielding hotass, with a lot of fight, f--k, fight, f--k, fight in between. Honestly, why didn't anyone have to crap during this book? Or even pee? Maybe sleep? How about a little sleep? Just a little? Please?
I don't know maybe I'm still cynical with the whole romance thing. I mean, okay, fine, having mind-numbing, skin-tingling, breath-catching, multi-orgasmic sex every day would be great, but, really, would you have to become inconsistent and stupid to get it?
I guess maybe if I had known I was going to be reading porn, er, erotica, I wouldn't have been so put off. Maybe I wouldn't have been as annoyed by the spacing and pacing of the book if I had known. I mean, it sure as hell had more plot than Twilight did, even if you count the screwing scenes. Right now, though, I'll stick with real life sex and romance with Kris, and Jim's books for plot.