The Girl Whose Daughter’s Husband’s Wife

Ugh, these stupid book titles!

It a trend that’s still happening – unfortunately – and one that has been written about (negatively) by women for years now.

A huge part of feminism and gender equality is about women not needing a man to define who they are. And yet we have a never-ending stream of books with titles like these:

The General's Daughter by Nelson DeMilleThe Madman's Daughter by Megan ShepherdThe Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy TanThe Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch

In fact, recently on a “how-to” romance writing blog, an article about titles (written by a woman) actually recommended authors follow this fad when coming up with names for their stories!

I suppose that if this trend continues and someone suddenly wants to write my biography, there are a few options for the title. Maybe The War Veteran’s Daughter.

A title like that says NOTHING about me, just as the real book titles tell you all about the men in the protagonist’s life, but nothing about her.

Another one I find frustrating is how it is so often“The Girl” in titles. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for example. The “girl” in that book is in her mid-twenties!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

You rarely see books with titles like The twenty-four-year-old Boy with the Daffodil Tattoo!

This trend takes the female protagonist and removes her own identity, and instead ties it to someone else. And under no circumstances should protagonists – even young adults – be referred to as “girls”!

It’s especially infuriating that the alleged “we celebrate women” genre of romance is encouraging this trend to continue.

Need some drama in my book? I’ll rape the heroine (or hero)!

Hidden Away (KGI #3) by Maya BanksRunning Fire by Lindsay McKenna

I WANT rape to be included in books. That’s not what I’m going to try and say here. I want it in there because it happens nonstop. Women are experiencing it right now. If romance authors can randomly blow up every military hero’s best friend to add some drama, or even randomly blow HIM up so he can return to Texas traumatised and with serious injuries and meet his wholesome hometown heroine, then we can have rape victims as heroines.

I become so frustrated with the type of romance reader who wants their head permanently buried in the sand. I’ve even got in trouble from romance authors and readers for saying I don’t like the way Disney sanitises fairy tales!

However, the way so many authors are dealing with rape and other trauma in their books is beyond disturbing.

There are a few authors whose books have been disturbing me recently. Maya Banks. Lindsay McKenna. Diana Gabaldon. Cindy Miles. Look, there are many, but I can’t write about them all.

I want to mention Maya Banks first, because it is her newest romantic suspense book, Darkest Before Dawn, that prompted this post.

Banks LOVES to rape her heroines. She almost destroys them through horrific experiences, in order for the Big Strong hero to come in and fix everything with his guns and his sex.

Darkest Before Dawn (KGI #10) by Maya Banks

Her latest book, which I have not yet read, but I have read excerpts and summaries of, involves a hero who HAS to turn the heroine over to terrorists in order for her to be tortured and raped and tortured and raped and raped and raped and raped and raped before she’s murdered. Why they won’t just murder her is anybody’s guess. The virginal heroine, named – of course – Honor – then decides she’d rather the hero screw her first, because Stockholm Syndrome rape is probably better than torture rape.

The author makes this about the hero’s man pain, with him saying things like this to her:

“And you think you don’t matter to me?” he roared. “Do you think I’m going to just hand you over to him and walk away knowing that he’ll repeatedly rape you, that his men will rape you? Whomever he wishes to reward will rape you. He’ll torture you just because he enjoys it. And then he’ll turn you over to ANE and every imaginable horror you can possibly imagine, they will do them to you. When and only when you are so near death that you can no longer withstand their constant brutality, they’ll kill you, but it won’t be merciful and it will not be swift. They’ll drag you into the middle of whatever village they occupy and they’ll inflict as many wounds as possible so that you die a slow, horrific death, and then they’ll leave your corpse to rot and decompose and no one will move you for fear they’ll be killed for interfering.”

Thanks to this blog for the excerpt.

Why in the holy flying hell would you SAY that to someone??!!

Shades of Gray by Maya Banks

Another horrifying Banks book is Shades of Gray, where the entire team of male superheroes suddenly screws up so the tough girl heroine gets captured. She then proceeds to be cut up with a knife and raped twice in a row (on the page) for no particular reason, while everyone listens in.

She had nothing, no buffers to what had happened. She’d been raped by two men and sliced open like some piece of meat.

For some reason, she waits until the second time she’s being raped before she uses the knife in her hand to put an end to it.

Over the Edge by Suzanne Brockmann

This scenario can be done, even in romance. Suzanne Brockmann handled something similar in Over the Edge because the way the story was structured made it seem inevitable, not gratuitous.

Much of the rest of Shades of Gray is devoted to the *hero’s* pain about what happened.

The book finishes with the heroine fighting off the baddies while totally naked. None of the men are.

“Okay, I’m naked,” she said coolly. “Let him go.” Brumley cast a glance in Cole’s direction. Cole’s expression was murderous. “And let him miss out on the fun?” Brumley asked. “What better satisfaction would it be than to fuck you right here while he watches?”

Never Surrender by Lindsay McKenna

Lindsay McKenna is an author whose current series involves all her heroines being victims of repeated rapes, as well as torture. She has a heroine who is raped by terrorists so badly they have to have surgery to put their genitals back together. At the same time she is in a coma because she’s also been shot in the head. She has heroines whose husbands beat and raped them for years.

Then she “fixes” these heroines with super sex and pregnancies.

Outlander Rape and Torture Obsession

I’m not getting into Diana Gabaldon’s obsession with rape in her Outlander series, but I DO want to say that her defenders saying it’s historically accurate are being ridiculous. An English officer “invading” Scotland (England was NOT invading Scotland in the 1740s, by the way – that’s the worst of all her historical mistakes), raping everything in sight, nailing a man’s hand to a table and raping him all night? I’m going to bet that never happened even once.

Stupid Girl by Cindy Miles

We have Cindy Miles’ Stupid Girl, where the heroine is drugged and raped right at the start of the book. But don’t worry! Her brother (in one of the romance genre’s most creepy and paternalistic acts) gives her a purity ring!

Then when we meet the hero, the first thing he does is sexually assault her. But don’t worry! When he finds out she has been raped not all that long ago, he says he would never have assaulted her if he’d known about it. But it’s just fine if she’s not a rape victim, it seems.

I get that people don’t want to read this sort of thing in their books. I don’t want to read this sort of thing either. This is not dealing with rape sensitively; it’s gratuitous and disturbing, and really worrying that female authors would use this sort of brutality as a plot device to make the heroes look strong and caring.

There are better ways to deal with serious issues than over the top brutalisation and degradation of the female (and male) characters.

PLEASE, authors. Write about rape. Write about assault. Write about serious issues instead of cupcake shops. But for God’s sake, use some sensitivity when you do it.

Your book is like a toaster.

Goodreads Logo Banner

Obviously, this is about SOME authors, not all authors.

There have been a few things that happened recently that have me flabbergasted. Of course there is no rulebook for how involved an author should get with readers and with review sites (however, review sites DO have rules!), but I would have thought common sense would fill the gap.

Author sites like Romance University dish out a lot of good advice, alongside some utterly WRONG advice. Sometimes I wonder if authors remember they are also readers, and were readers first. They need to think about the product they’re selling, and think how a customer would feel about their behaviour.

I’ve been coming across some truly appalling advice recently, and have also seen and experienced it in action.

For example:

Authors spamming Goodreads.

Multiple articles on author advice sites actually TELL authors to spam the site. They tell them to add their own books to every Listopia they can find, tell them to comment under reviews of their books, tell them to send private messages to people who review their books, and so on.

Uh, NO. Do Not do those things!

Readers don’t like being harassed and intimidated by the creator of the product they bought. And a book is a product the same way a toaster is a product. Once you buy that toaster you can do whatever you like with it and say whatever you want about it. No different to a book.

Listopias are the lists of books on Goodreads. “Best Romantic Suspense”. “Best Cover”. Once upon a time they were spammed by Twilight fangirls, who ruined every list by voting Twilight and every connected book to the top of it, even though the book didn’t fit the topic.

Now the lists have been ruined by authors. People go there for recommendations from other readers, not to be advertised at! Apparently the list function has become very unpopular recently, because authors actively encourage each other to spam them, and then make deals to vote each other’s books to the top.

Commenting under reviews (especially on Goodreads) might seem like a good idea, especially if you’re thanking someone for liking your book.

However, it is often intimidating, and readers can’t have an honest discussion about a book if Big Brother is watching over their shoulder. I’ve had so many conversations silenced by an author who just couldn’t help themselves.

What if I want to ask the reviewer something like: ‘I hear this book has homophobic comments in it. Is that true?’

How am I supposed to ask that when I know the author is following the discussion and likely to get angry about it?

What if I want to ask the reviewer if the book is as good as the first one in the series? How in the world is the reviewer supposed to answer that question when the author is hovering over her?

There are exceptions, and there are some authors I fell I “know” well enough that comments are fine. But to do drive-by comments under reviews really is a terrible idea.

Sending messages to reviewers.

Talk about making me flabbergasted! Who in their right mind thinks it’s a good idea to harass your customers via private messages?! Contacting people for a review is one thing, but that’s where the transaction ends. Randomly contacting people you don’t know is a little creepy.

I had one author last year who thought that me reviewing one of his books was the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship, and I was bombarded with private messages nonstop for weeks. Weird. Really, really weird.

Arguing our point in someone else’s review space.

This actually made me rethink some of my Goodreads friendships. If I point out I don’t like something, STAY OUT OF IT. Unless I’m accusing you of being a Nazi, you can’t come in and ‘splain to me why I’m wrong – or evil.

Two recent incidents:

I said in a status update I think the “Street Team” concept is an unethical way to get your books out there.

The author retaliated by attacking me personally (WHY was she reading my personal status updates?! We weren’t even “friends”), and then setting all her fangirls from the street team on me too.

Another time, I commenting that I’m sick and tired of Australian books being written with American terms and expressions we don’t use here.

The author jumped in on the discussion and said something to the effect that US English is better and really popular. Well, sure, if you want to think that I can’t stop you, but it’s also WRONG for a book set in another country!

This all sounds like common sense, right? But apparently it isn’t, because authors keep telling each other behaving like this with their customers is fine. Honestly, I don’t WANT to know what people are saying about my work. I don’t know why authors set themselves up for disappointment by reading everything on the internet.

If authors want advice on how to interact online, they should be listening to readers, not each other.

It might be a good idea to think of your book as a toaster, and act the way you would if that’s what you had to promote.

Best of 2015

2015 was a mixed bag. I read some really great books, and got excited about quite a few things.

However there were also lengthy periods of time where I was either feeling a little blah about my books or I was downright fed up with reading in general, and with the repetition brought on by genre fads.

I saved myself from my reading slumps both by rereading, and also by buying books instead of accepting as many review books as I might have other years.

Every year I post my best reads of the year. Many are 2015 releases, but some are not. Not all of them are the Greatest Read Ever, but every one of these stuck with me in some way, and that’s what counts the most when it comes to a book.

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

Ross Poldark (Poldark #1) by Winston Graham

Poldark_-_Ross_Poldark

His Wicked Reputation (Wicked Trilogy #1) by Madeline Hunter

His Wicked Reputation (Wicked Trilogy #1) by Madeline Hunter

Brown-Eyed Girl (Travis Family #4) by Lisa Kleypas

Brown-Eyed Girl (2015) (The fourth book in the Travis series) by Lisa Kleypas

Collateral Damage (Bagram Special Ops #5) by Kaylea Cross

Collateral Damage by Kaylea Cross

His Christmas Countess by Louise Allen

His Christmas Countess (Lords of Disgrace #2) by Louise Allen

Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Tall, Dark and Wicked (Wicked Trilogy #2) by Madeline Hunter

Tall, Dark, & Wicked by Madeline Hunter

This Book Will Change Your Life by Amanda Weaver

This Book Will Change Your Life by Amanda Weaver

Demelza (Poldark #2) by Winston Graham

Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Bared to You (Crossfire #1) by Sylvia Day

Bared to You by Sylvia Day

Danger Wears White (The Emperors of London #3) by Lynne Connolly

Danger Wears White (The Emperors of London #3) by Lynne Connolly

Reflected in You (Crossfire #2) by Sylvia Day

Reflected in You by Sylvia Day

To Love a Cop by Janice Kay Johnson

To Love a Cop by Janice Kay Johnson

Dead by Midnight (I-Team 7.5 An I-Team Christmas) by Pamela Clare

Dead by Midnight (I-Team 7.5 An I-Team Christmas) by Pamela Clare

The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters #3) by Anne Gracie

The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters #3) by Anne Gracie

Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas

Cold-Hearted Rake (2015) by Lisa Kleypas

His Housekeeper’s Christmas wish by Louise Allen

His Housekeeper's Christmas Wish by Louise Allen

In Debt to the Earl by Elizabeth Rolls

In Debt to the Earl by Elizabeth Rolls

The Lady Meets Her Match (Midnight Meetings #2) by Gina Conkle

The Lady Meets Her Match (Midnight Meetings #2) by Gina Conkle

How did 2015 go? Romantic Suspense.

Kaylea Cross Pamela Clare Cindy Gerard Romantic Suspense Book Covers

I have hardly read any romantic suspense for the past few years, so I don’t think I can really comment on whether or not my wishes came true this year.

What I do know is that book titles, blurbs and covers are much the same now as they were the year before, and the year before that.

Navy SEAL Romance Book Covers

Basically, I wished for some time off from seeing the words: Navy SEAL.

Did this happen? Of course not! Everyone in romantic suspense is a SEAL these days, including the women. It’s absurd, and I know I’ve probably missed a lot of great books because I just can’t stand the fad anymore!

There’s so much more to both the romantic suspense world AND the military world than a very particular group of Special Forces fighters from a particular part of the military from a particular country!

Variety is good, and the SEAL in romantic suspense is the same as the duke in historical romance. The guy just won’t take a break!

I wanted the subgenre to deal with real world issues, not made-up stuff.

A couple of people are attempting it, but mostly the genre is still about secret agencies of secret SEALs who do secret stuff to stop secret Really Evil Men from doing things that have no relation to the real world.

Half the world is at war at the moment, and there are a whole lot of regimes doing terrible things. The Soviet Union is in the process of being recreated. There’s so much material out there; no need to make stuff up!

Running Fire by Lindsay McKenna

I wanted authors to stop with the ridiculous and tragic backstories.

If your book is about people being chased by terrorists, then that’s what your book should be about. I sort of want to laugh when the author also heaps rapes and attempted murders and homelessness and abuse and the kitchen sink onto their heroes’ and heroines’ shoulders.

I’ve still been reading overly tragic backstories since making that request at the start of the year, but I haven’t read enough in the subgenre to know if any change is happening on this front.

I can’t report on a subgenre I hardly read in 2015, but I CAN report on the review books I saw coming my way. From what I can gather from them – books I decided against reading and reviewing – 2015 was a case of same again.

How did 2015 go? Contemporary Romance.

Sarah Mayberry Julie James Contemporary Romance Book Covers

How did my wishes for contemporary romance for 2015 match up with how contemporary romance in 2015 actually turned out?

My number one wish for contemporary romance for 2015 was for authors to stop being so bloody misogynistic.

Did they do this? Some are great, and I’ve been really happy with some series that celebrate the female characters at least as much as the male characters:

Win Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball Book 1) by Joan KilbyWoo Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball Book 2) by Karina BlissWait for Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball #3)  by Sarah Mayberry

But the subgenre as a whole? Nope, not really.

I read some books that were truly horrifying and made me disgusted with women writers for hating their own gender so much. Such as this one.

Something reading romance teaches you is exactly how many women are misogynists, and how many fantasise about bad things happening to other women. We’re not at war with each other, and if your male characters don’t act like this, the women sure don’t have to.

This needs to change.

Category Romance. No more home renovation. No more ageing parents going into homes. No more bakers. No more etc. etc. etc.

I was sick of the same themes and occupations over and over and wanted more variety.

Did I get it? Well, publishers themselves have been starting to put out calls for more variety. No more home renovation and no more ageing parents (why people in their twenties would be putting their parents into nursing homes is beyond me!). Publishers are tired of reading about bakers – and so am I.

PLEASE no more traumatised navy SEAL cowboys returning to small town Texas. PLEASE. I beg you!

Change doesn’t come fast though, but I have hope that this is something that IS changing. I’ve read some more modern and relevant contemporary romance this year. It’s just a matter of dumping the traditional Harlequin tropes and recognising the real world is a whole lot more interesting than that.

I wanted contemporary romance to tackle real world issues.

It’s utterly bizarre how contemporary romance tends to ignore reality. So much is going on in the world and there are so many places and issues that books could deal with. A lot of readers steer clear of contemporary romance because they find it too mundane.

It doesn’t have to be.

I think this might be changing gradually too.

I was sick of all the sex and wanted this amazing little thing called a PLOT to return.

This is a generalisation, and it depends on the author and the book. However, I know I’m not the only one who has said this recently. The sex-obsession has actually sent me in the direction of Christian fiction. I don’t want to be preached at or converted, but I also appreciate the time taken to develop a relationship before everyone jumps into bed.

Yes, I read some good contemporary romances in 2015, but I also didn’t read all that much of this subgenre this year. Hopefully I’ll do better next year, and hopefully I’ll discover that the issues I have are being changed!

How did 2015 go? Historical Romance.

Christmas Historical Romance Cover Art by Jon Paul Studios - Copy

I began the year hoping for a few things in the historical romance genre.

H.R.H. Duke Carl Theodor in Bavaria (1808-1888)

I wanted fewer dukes.

Yeah, that’s not happening, is it. Dukes are not just everywhere you look and in almost every book, but now they’re also super spies!

Unfortunately, until someone makes princes the new thing, I think dukes are here to stay.

I was happy to see that Lisa Kleypas’ new series – so far – does not include a single duke!

Historical Romance Fashions and Hairstyles Versus the Reality Victorian Era Portrait Book Cover

I wanted more historical accuracy and less anachronistic behaviour on display for the female characters.

The past is the past, and it’s more than a little insulting to imply your heroine is not worthwhile unless she acts like she’s from 2015.

Did I get my wish? Uh… I guess it depends entirely on which author you choose. Some authors do a great job, and some do not.

Second Chance Hero by Winnie Griggs

I thought some more variety with time periods and settings might be nice.

I have been reading quite a lot of Western historical romance this year, and enjoying the change. However, it’s not exactly a new and untapped setting!

I actually don’t mind so much with this point. Some locations and eras are popular for a reason, and I like to read about those.

Ass Donkey

I wanted authors to have their British characters using British English.

Uh, no change here. Authors: ARSE. Please learn the word – and use it! 🙂

2015 wasn’t that bad a year for historical romance, actually. I read some really good books. I did go through a few periods where I was bored out of my mind, but taking a break and reading something different usually fixed that.