Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Don't mess with my romance heroes

Have you heard of or seen the video on Inside Edition where they talk about rewriting romances or writing new romances with heroes that are less alpha and more sensitive and understanding? Where they advocate covering up the male models to make them more politically correct (okay, I get where this might be in response to a certain ebook retailer's policies). There are also articles written on the topic that you can read about here, here, here, and here and how they related to the current social justice movement. Author Elizabeth York writes a response to the articles and the Inside Edition video here about why she will not conform to the current wave of political correctness sweeping through the romance industry.

Woman with megaphone

After reading the articles, I have thoughts and opinions, and honestly, the whole thing kind of bothers me. Not because I do not support the movement, not because I do not believe in equality and empowerment, not because I don't believe in agency. I believe in all that and support it because I've been harrassed, suffered abuse and been afraid in my life and it's not pleasant. My heart goes out to all the women who have suffered. I'm not marginalizing them at all. Don't ever think that. But, and there's a big but, reading romance is my entertainment and my escape. The heroes in those stories are fantasy. I do not want that changed. I know it's not real life and real men are not like that. But I like my fantasy. I want to keep my fantasy.

I know there's criticism of the alpha hole hero. The asshole. The womanizer. The dickhead. The one who gets reformed by the right woman. It's common in Regency historical romances in the form of the incorrigible rake. In contemporary, you have the billionaire playboys, as an example. But there's the thing. You don't need to go back and rewrite existing novels. Leave them be. Let them be an example of the time and era they were written in, like the bodice rippers of the 70s and 80s. I would not ask for those to be rewritten. I want them to be a showcase of what used to be. It was popular once, it's not now, and that's okay. Similarly today, just don't write assholes. The men can be alpha and tender without being jerks. Besides, I don't like assholes and jerks anyway and I tend not to read them. But there are other people who do like them and want to read them. Remember, this is escape. This is fantasy.

My Royal Temptation by Riley Pine  Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught

So here's me as a reader saying: Don't mess with my romance, my heroes, and my reading. And if you're going to inject social mores and political issues into a book because it's your platform to be heard, please be subtle about it. I do not want it to jump out at me, throw me out the story, or grab me by the throat. I don't want to be reading a passage in a book and suddenly the flow stops because I'm thinking "oh, here's an example of where the author is using this situation to advocate female agency", or " here's an example of the author beating me over the head about consent". I'm all for equality, empowerment, and consent, but when it interferes with my reading experience, then it's too much.

And don't water down the stories and the heroes. I still want my heroes to be men of action, decisiveness, and authority. I like alpha heroes. I like them taking charge, saving the day and being the man I can depend on. I still want them to be sexy, commanding, powerful. I'm not going to read Ben From Accounting, Rex from HR, and Dane from Tech Support (or maybe I will just to see how ridiculous it gets - I'm trying to keep an open mind). It's not sexy. They are not the kind of heroes I want to read about. I want my heroes to be heroic. Larger than life. Not your average Joe next door. And while this is all about equalizing the balance of power in popular romance tropes, I think it waters down the trope so it no longer works. Call me conservative, traditionalist, not a feminist, or even submissive, it's the power dynamic that makes the trope sexy and fun to read for me. I want to see the powerful lord fall for the lowly governess. I want to see the dominating billionaire fall for his secretary. I want to see the prince fall for the commoner. They are a popular trope for a reason. They appeal to a woman's fantasies. The unattainable is suddenly attainable in this fantasy, this escape from reality, this book.

Ben From Accounting by Sophie Stern  Rex from HR by Sophie Stern

Just because the hero is originally unapproachable or alpha does not make him a Trump supporter. And that's one perspective. What about the person who likes a Trump supporter? Does that make her wrong because as an author you don't think you can write and care about such a character? And isn't that a very myopic view of one kind of person? Especially considering people whatever their political leanings come in all shapes and sizes? How about writing a character you can care about and cheer for without weakening him? How about thinking about what readers want? All the articles I've read havefocused on what authors think and what authors want to write based on their social and political leanings. Have you thought about asking a reader what she thinks? What does she wants to read? Before shoving your beliefs down their throats in the form of the books you write?

Hero Trump supporter
Source: www.vox.com

I recently read a book where these things jumped out at me. I do not know if I was reacting to the articles I've read and the movement, or if the author intended it that way, but the hero's hesitation and the heroine's actions threw me out of the story. It was too obvious to me. While I mostly enjoyed the story, I didn't appreciate it jumping out at me and making me think about whether the author intended what she wrote to be taken the way I did or not. I didn't appreciate being thrown out of the story to ponder over the social justice and political implications the author put into the actions and dialogue of the characters. Instead of enjoying the story, I'm wondering about the author's motivations and intended message. That's not what I want out of my reading experience. I get enough of that from the new and my Facebook feed. And you know what else is sad? It's now made me suspicious of new books I pick up to read.

Girl reading

I get this might not be a popular opinion. Some people might even say I do not care about the social justice and political issues. That's not true. I do care. I just don't want it coloring my escape from reality. Reality is tough enough with all that's going on around the world right now. Why would you take away my enjoyment and escape from those harsh realities that bring me a brief few hours of pleasure?

As it is the authors' perogative to write what they want and inject what they want into their stories, it is also my perogative to take my money and spend it elsewhere. Rest assured, if I find out an author is beating particularly hard on a certain drum, I won't be buying and reading their books. And it doesn't matter if you're an author I've always wanted to try, an author I've enjoyed or a new-to-me author. Whether through social media posts, articles you are quoted in, or reading your latest works, if there's drum banging, my money is going elsewhere. And as an author, you can say, what do you care? I'm one reader. And that's perfectly fine. But multiply that by all the other readers who feel the same way (I've talked to friends and fellow bloggers about this and the consensus on how the feel is pretty uniform) and that might be something to consider.

On the flip side, this might be a new trend in romance. So many trends come and go constantly. Stepbrothers. Motorcycle clubs. Reverse harems.  Maybe there are readers out there who do not like the way romances are written today and who won't read them for that reason. Maybe this will open up a new audience for those authors? Who am I to judge what other people want to read, but for this, I will not be one of them, not intentionally anyway.

So what do you think? Watering down your romance heroes. Yay or nay?

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  1. I like my romance heroes the way they are and honestly there are already so many choices for every type of hero you want to read isn't there. That is one thing I love so much about romance books is that the choice is amazing if a reader can't find a book that suits them they probably don't enjoy romance anyway :)

    Have Fun


    1. You are right. There are so many heroes out there. There's someone for everyone. It's all a matter of taste but I do love my alpha heroes.

  2. Yes sure, I like betas, nerds and such, but do not take my rakes from me! I need them too. I love them.

    What I do not need are those 80s and 70s books filled with rape and the hero slapping her. Shudders. An alphahole is not like that

    1. Can't say I'm a fan of the alphahole. They were fun for a minute but that was it. Ultimately, I love an alpha hero who is also a nice guy. The books of the 70s and 80s can stay in the 70s and 80s. They are a result of the era.

  3. I agree. Don't water down the alpha heroes, I like them most of all most times. There's a way to do it right and there's a way to do it wrong. The guys who are out right asses and abusive, sure I don't like them but I don't really see many of them in the hero category either. I like the alpha guys and don't want them watered down. Like you said, this is fantasy.

    1. I love my alpha heroes. I particularly love when they are alpha and badass and get things done, but they are sweet and tender to the heroine.