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.

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.

Military Romance

gi-jane

GI Jane – not my favourite sort of romance heroine!

RT Magazine had an article recently, about US military romance. It featured interviews with some authors whose books I’ve enjoyed.

However, the tone of the article really annoyed me.

I said for a long time that romantic suspense was my favourite subgenre, but I probably have more fingers than I need to count the suspense books I’ve read in the past few years. The main reason for that is because I can’t identify with the gun-toting, smart-talking, superhero women in recent books.

I read a lot of blurbs – even of books I get for free – before deciding against reading them.

This article was all about how bad romantic suspense books are when the heroine isn’t at least as big and tough and rough as the hero.

And I’m sorry, but I disagree.

Once again, we’ve gone down the route of mistaking gun skills and punching people with gender equality. A woman doesn’t have to BECOME a man in order to be strong. And too many authors in this genre seem to think that is the case.

I don’t want my heroines to spend the whole book flopping around uselessly and waiting to be rescued, but I would like a little bit more balance. There are too many romantic suspense heroines today who terrify me!

The reason I loved this genre so much was for the Suzanne Brockmanns of a decade or more ago. Sure, the men might have had the physical advantage, but that didn’t make the heroines weak, and it didn’t mean they weren’t stronger in other ways. In fact, one of the best things about those books was that even though the heroine often lacked the training the men had, she rose to the occasion.

Her appeal to the hero was that she was stronger than he could have believed she was.

Military heroines can be done brilliantly. Case in point: Kaylea Cross. But they can also be so “cool” that I start to dislike them. You don’t need to be good with guns to be a strong person.

I might be alone in feeling this way, but everything I’ve read has said romantic suspense has gone out of fashion in the past few years, so surely I’m not. Even some of my old favourites are now writing exclusively GI Jane heroines, and I no longer read what they write.

Does every heroine really have to be in the Special Forces? Because a lot of those heroines might have the credentials, but I often discover they’re the weakest and wimpiest characters in the end. In fact, one of the books in the article is one I gave a scathing review to because of the superficially “tough” but actually wimpy, weak and useless heroine. She was allegedly a military superhero, and it didn’t make her strong!

Is it really such a crime if just occasionally it’s the hero, rather than the heroine, who does something heroic? Just once every so often?

The only place you can still find the romantic suspense of a decade ago is in Harlequin/Mills and Boon, it seems. I’ve actually seen authors there who comment that their editors told them they’d made the hero too weak and let the heroine save the day on her own, and please don’t do that!

I don’t always agree with how conservative category romance is. However, surely there’s a balance between the two extremes. That’s what I want to read.

The Week: 20th – 26th April

Sunset Gowrie Tuggeranong Canberra Australia 20th April 2015 sonya Heaney.

Monday’s Canberra sunset.

Well, this was not the best few days.

Someone I grew up with was murdered this week, which was the most awful, surreal thing. Because it was such a dramatic thing, and her murderer’s attempted escape captured on camera, it made national headlines. The flippant way the media is discussing her is disgusting. It has disgusted me in the past with other victims, the way they attach catchphrases to their stories instead of treating the people as human beings, and it’s doubly disgusting to me now.

Anzac Day 25th April 2015 Christopher Heaney Australian War Memorial Canberra

Yesterday was Anzac Day and a hundred years since the Gallipoli landings that set it all off. It’s Australia and New Zealand’s biggest military commemoration. We dragged my father to the Australian War Memorial here in Canberra. A lot of war veterans allow their military pasts to take over their lives, but my father is the opposite and always plays it down.

More than a year after Russia invaded Ukraine, US soldiers are welcomed in the country as they come to help Ukrainians. 19th April 2015

There is very little in the way of good news coming from Ukraine, but pictures are starting to emerge of US soldiers in the country. It’s better than nothing. It’s a start…

With Putin’s planned Victory Day attacks in Ukraine only days away, Russia is intensifying its internet spamming and harassment in a way they haven’t since they invaded Crimea more than a year ago. I’m being targeted again, which was something I thought was over and done with. Apparently not.

Here I am being attacked by yet another Serbian/Russian propagandist on my personal Instagram account yesterday afternoon.

attacked by a russian serb april 20152

(“Novorossia” is what the Russians are calling the parts of Ukraine they’ve invaded – saying it’s a new country that isn’t Ukraine!)

Every morning when I wake up, I know I’ll have an inbox full of abuse like this. I have written multiple posts on this blog trying to explain why the romance writing community’s relentless romanticisation of Russia upsets me.

Imagine having dozens of Russian propagandists attack you on your personal accounts Every Day

Cover Love

Ravishing in Red by Madeline Hunter German Cover

Some Advice for Authors

Customers in the Book Department at Selfridge's department store in London during 1942.

Outlander 1×11

– or the episode where they conveniently had a witch trial years after Scotland stopped trying and burning witches.

Outlander 1x11 Claire and Jamie Sonya Heaney

My review of Running Fire by Lindsay McKenna

Running Fire by Lindsay McKenna

My review of A Stranger’s Secret by Laurie Alice Eakes

A Stranger's Secret by Laurie Alice Eakes

My review of Craving Her Enemy’s Touch by Rachael Thomas

Craving Her Enemy's Touch by Rachael Thomas

My review of Since Drew by J. Nathan

Since Drew by J. Nathan

Running Fire by Lindsay McKenna

 Running Fire by Lindsay McKenna

He was a haven in the midst of Hell…

Temporarily assigned to the Shadow Squadron in a troubled region of Afghanistan, Chief Warrant Officer and pilot Leah Mackenzie is no stranger to conflict—even if most of her physical and emotional scars are courtesy of her vicious ex. Still, she’s got a bad feeling about picking up a team of stranded SEALs. A feeling that’s all too justified once enemy fire hits their helicopter and all hell breaks loose…

SEAL Kell Ballard’s goal was to get the injured pilot out of harm’s way and find shelter deep in the labyrinth of caves. It’s a place of dark intimacy, where Leah finds unexpected safety in a man’s arms. Where prohibited attraction burns brightly. And where they’ll hide until the time comes to face the enemy outside…and the enemy within their ranks.

Running Fire by Lindsay McKenna

Here’s the thing about Lindsay McKenna: she can write military suspense like nobody’s business. I get sucked in every time I pick up one of her books because she really, really knows her stuff (a career in the US Navy will do that to a person!), and she creates some really exciting scenarios.

But here’s the other thing: the suspense is usually only the first chapter or two of her books, and then it’s straight romance. And that romance always (or at least in every book I’ve read by her) includes a heroine who has been brutalised. Every heroine of hers I’ve read has suffered at least one brutal rape, or in the case of this heroine, three years of brutal rape and physical assault from her ex-husband.

I really, really find the level of brutality in this series disturbing. The vast majority of this book takes place with our hero and heroine trapped in a cave in a warzone, but a very small amount of military work is actually mentioned. Mostly, the heroine tries to hide her pointy nipples, the hero tries to hide his erection while trying to puzzle out why she’s so traumatised, and then she spends a lot of time talking in great detail about her sexual assaults.

The heroine also lost her brother and mother close together at a young age, was ignored by her father, and doesn’t know what an orgasm is (until the hero gives her one while simply kissing her) because her life has been so hard without her mum…

And the hero spends time thinking about his friend’s sister, who is not even a part of the book, and we hear about this non-character’s beating, rape and the fact she needed surgery to put her genitals back together(?!) in far more detail than was needed.

All of this while there’re terrorists surrounding them.

None of this had to be in there. The focus could and should be on the action in the present. These people have only just met each other, and he has just dragged her from the wreckage of a helicopter crash. They’re surrounded by Taliban. There’s so much going on in the present. So. Much.

Once again this talented author has strayed from what she does best in order to obsess over horrific abuse of women.

I thought I’d give McKenna another chance, after the last two books focused on the same woman and went into great detail about the rape and torture and assault she suffered. I thought: new heroine, fresh start.

Unfortunately, instead this series continues to create (melo)drama with overly tragic backstories.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Private Affair by Rebecca York

Private Affair (Rockfort Security #3) by Rebecca York

Model Olivia Winters comes home to escape her job in New York City, and finds herself compelled to investigate the suspicious suicide of a former high school classmate. She enlists the help of private investigator Max Lyon, an ex-detective from a troubled family. Posing as husband and wife, the pair uncovers a grisly trail of murder, and the danger propels them into each other’s arms.

With a murderer on the loose, Max and Olivia realise they’re in too deep, too late. They’re getting close to the truth—and to each other’s secrets.

Private Affair (Rockfort Security #3) by Rebecca York

There will be spoilers in this review.

I’ve always enjoyed the romantic suspense genre, and so have spent a lot of time defending it against people who accuse it of brutality. Yes, some books feature a great deal of violence against women – sexual or otherwise – but if you take a look at contemporary romance targeted at the under-25s these days you’ll see at least as much of it there.

However, there’re some authors who have been around in the RS genre for a long time now, prolific authors with a huge backlist, and I find I can’t defend their outdated writing with their blasé attitudes to rape. It has nothing to do with the authors’ ages (just look at some of the newer people writing New Adult books!) and everything to do with ignorance.

Lindsay McKenna is one such author I’ve been annoyed by in the past year, and it turns out Rebecca York is another.

It wasn’t just the bizarre turn of events in the last ten percent of the story; I also found the writing to be emotionally unengaging. Too much tell and next to no show. I felt like I was reading a summary of events rather than the actual story.

Nowhere was this clearer than the end, where rape is used as nothing more than a convenient way to distract a captor. It is handled appallingly – I’d have expected a great deal more emotion and reaction even for a much less serious crime.

“You’d better put on your pants before we go up.”

“Pants. Yeah, right. And my front.”

She pulled her bra down over her breasts and seated them in the cups, then reached for her panties and slacks, pulled them on and then put on her shoes.

Only hours after this occurs, the book concludes with hero and heroine having sex. Recovery from rape took, like, a minute.

“I told Fisher I was raped in high school by Masters and raped again yesterday.”

Some authors throw in rape to up the drama in their books (such as the truly repulsive scene in Maya Banks’ Shades of Gray), but even that didn’t seem to be the case here. It was dealt with with so little fuss it felt more like filler to make up the word count than even an attempt to brutalise a woman for entertainment.

I didn’t get it. And I didn’t get this book.

It was a huge disappointment.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 23rd – 29th June

 Ice Skating in Canberra Australia 21st June 2014 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney

The outdoor ice rink in Canberra last weekend.

TheBorgiasLucreziaFindsHerLoverMurderedAdjustedSonyaHeaney

I actually watched a lot of television episodes this week, and didn’t read as much. I watched one and a half seasons of The Borgias, which I was avoiding for years because of the pathetic levels of historical accuracy and serious miscasting in the other show it is compared to: The Tudors.

There’s definitely too much sex in The Borgias, but it’s a gorgeous production with a great cast, and I’m really enjoying it. Historical liberties and everything… I could do without all the negativity directed towards France, however. But I’m not letting it ruin a hugely entertaining show.

 EU-SUMMIT-UKRAINE-POROSHENKO

Ukraine signed the trade deal with the European Union on Friday. This is especially significant because the Russian-oriented former president refused to do it, which is was caused the protests and resulted in Russia’s invasion and war.

What a waste, all for something that could have been signed last year, sparing Ukraine all of this death.

My review of Blind Fury by Gwen Hernandez

Blind Fury (Men of Steele, Book 1) by Gwen Hernandez

My review of The Promise by Robyn Carr

The Promise by Robyn Carr

My review of Wild Iris Ridge by RaeAnne Thayne

Wild Iris Ridge by RaeAnne Thayne

My review of Never Surrender by Lindsay McKenna

Never Surrender by Lindsay McKenna

My review of Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

My review of Last Rake Standing by Jayne Fresina

Last Rake Standing by Jayne Fresina

Never Surrender by Lindsay McKenna

 Never Surrender by Lindsay McKenna

From Shadow Warrior…to hostage

Despite her sweet nature, Navy medic Bay Thorn’s will is unbreakable. It has earned her not only the respect of her team, but also the love of Navy SEAL Gabe Griffin. And as soon as she wraps up the final six months of Operation Shadow Warriors in Afghanistan, she’ll have her happily ever after…

Until her deployment goes horribly wrong.

Bay’s medical expertise is needed by the Taliban, and she is taken hostage. Her captor is ruthless and cruel, and Bay isn’t exempt from his evil intents. All that’s left now is her resolve and the too-distant memory of Gabe—her last and only hope for rescue. And to pull Bay from hell, this SEAL will have to break every rule in the book. But will Gabe find the woman he loves… or a woman broken beyond recognition?

Never Surrender by Lindsay McKenna

While I was reading this one I kept thinking that fans of Maya Banks’ writing will love this one. Much like her KGI series, though this book is packaged as romantic suspense there’s a much heavier focus on home and healing and family.

Never Surrender is basically divided up into three sections. The lovey dovey stuff in the first quarter, the horrible attack on the heroine in the second, and then the second half is all about family stuff and love stuff and the marriage and babylogue. I wouldn’t call this a suspense book.

This couple, Gabe and Bay, they’re a very mushy pair! In fact, all the Special Forces men involved in this book (and I’m guessing quite a few of them were the stars of earlier books in the series) are happily married. In real life, few Navy SEALs manage to keep a healthy marriage going, so just buy into the fantasy!

This author clearly knows her military stuff. There’s a lot of detail that can only come from experience (or the kind of exhaustive research conducted by Kaylea Cross). However, would a SEAL really be rushed overseas to personally rescue his fiancée from the Taliban?

I’m going to say this outright, because I think some readers would like to know in advance: Bay is not just badly hurt, but also raped in this book. The actual rape is not covered in detail, but the aftermath is. This is not your usual sweetened, prettied-up military romance.

A couple of things I didn’t love: Gabe’s grammar! Crazy thing to mention, maybe, but the way that guy spoke was shocking!

My other issue was that sometimes there was too much detail. For example, when Bay finally goes home from the hospital, the first page includes all of these sentences:

Glad he was wearing a black t-shirt, olive green cargo pants and boots.

Bay looked down at herself. She’d chosen a dark orange tee, jeans and some comfortable sandals to wear.

Poppy was just as tall as her daughter. She wore a short-sleeved simple white blouse, a dark blue skirt that fell to her ankles. He saw that she was barefoot.

I sure hope that’s not the kind of thing people would care about in such an emotional, difficult situation!

I also wasn’t so sure about Gabe’s precognitive dreams about Bay. It’s becoming really common, but I’m not a fan of surprise supernatural elements in military romances.

Never Surrender was a bit old-fashioned, from love scenes with lines like “allowed himself to spill into her cauldron depths, fire racing through his body” to the **SPOILER**heroine who is pregnant with twins at the end**SPOILER**. This series seems to have quite a few fans, so I have no doubt I’m preaching to the converted by reviewing book six.

When I pick up a military-themed book I prefer more emphasis on the suspense, but if you’re a fan of old-school romance writing, you will like this more than I did.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 28th April – 4th May

Canberra Australia Autumn 1st May 2014 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney

It’s definitely autumn in Canberra!

Weird week, and I’m not quite sure why. Russia revived their Soviet-era parades, and thousands of Communists marched in Red Square. Anybody worried yet? I’ve been reading Patricia Briggs’ urban fantasy books like a crazy person, and my obsession with them has stopped me reading in other genres for the time being! There goes my historical romance reading phase!

Russian Aggression in Ukraine

Even if the news is getting a little lazy reporting it, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has got much, much worse. Russians are spreading like a cancer in Ukraine, shooting down aircraft, shooting people, torturing people. They’re bussing in Russian “civilians” to do things like burn Ukrainian flags in town and city centres. They’re hacking all the Ukrainian news sites.

There’s a full-scale invasion coming, quite possibly on the 9th. And the world will probably still do nothing.

Russians in Romance

 The-Professionalby KresleyCole

 My review of Breaking Point by Lindsay McKenna

 Breaking Point by Lindsay McKenna

My review of The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride by Victoria Alexander

The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride by Victoria Alexander

My review of Seduced by Love by Louise Allen

 Seduced by Love by Louise Allen

My review of Romancing the Runaway by Wendy Soliman

Romancing the Runaway by Wendy Soliman

Breaking Point by Lindsay McKenna

Breaking Point by Lindsay McKenna

In the line of fire…

OPERATION SHADOW WARRIORS

An ongoing U.S. military experiment to test the integration of trained female military operatives in live combat scenarios…

The Alpha Platoon. A unit of Navy SEALs stationed in the unforgiving dryness of Afghanistan…who just learned that their newest team member is a woman. But Bay Thorn has a spine of steel—and the chops to prove it. Without a team to back her up, however, she’s dead in the water. And her only ally is Gabe Griffin, a lone SEAL who is lethal, dangerous and unbearably attractive….

Between the open hostility from her team and the harsh Al Qaeda territory, Gabe is a lifeline for Bay. But mutual respect quickly grows into mutual attraction. And with each day and every assignment, the longing only deepens.

They mustn’t speak of it. Mustn’t act on it. Because in this line of work, falling in love can get you killed…

Breaking Point by Lindsay McKenna

To start I’d like to mention something. I’ve seen some pretty heavy advertising for this book in various places, including RT Magazine, and they seem to have made a big mistake. They’re marketing it as a love story about two Navy SEALs named Gabe and Bay – and it totally sounds like it’s a gay romance.

This isn’t a gay romance – maybe the fairly conservative people in romance publishing didn’t even think of that when they made the ads…?!

This book is part of a series, and I read the one that comes after this before I read this one.

I regretted that decision at first, but now I’m glad I did, because if I’d read this first I wouldn’t have read the other one (spoilers later on).

Lindsay McKenna has been writing since the early bodice ripper days, and I think it shows. Some authors manage to evolve as the genre evolves, but this is a very old-fashioned book, with the world’s biggest Mary Sue as a heroine. Despite the very well-researched military aspect, these characters are not recognisable as twenty and thirty-somethings of today.

To be honest, I was expecting more suspense. It’s a brilliant concept for a series: gradually integrating women into America’s Special Forces. However, instead of focusing on the danger aspects, this is a sweet, sappy romance that just happens to take place in a military setting.

The whole book is basically Gabe admiring the perfection that is Bay. Right from the outset he has no issues whatsoever with using a female medic to help the SEALs out. He thinks she’s beautiful and wonderful and kind and perfect and he loves her and he wants her to have his babies. Even though she is a hillbilly of the highest order (think the hillbilly family in The Simpsons).

The first day she’s with them, the men challenge her to a shooting contest. Despite their intensive SEAL training, Bay beats the Navy SEAL SNIPERS in the contest.

And despite the fact many of the men object to her being there, they’re *all* won over two days later when she shares her mama’s cookies with them. Seriously. That’s all it takes and then they’re all best friends.

But even though she’s physically superior and better at all things military than the men in the Special Forces, soon after this Gabe finds her sitting in an orphanage, giving a bottle to a baby and surrounded by toddlers who love her so much they won’t leave her. He watches her, imagining her having his babies, and then walks over to her and says, “You look beautiful with a baby”.

If you’re not getting it yet, this isn’t a suspense book. It’s not a military romance as I’ve read before. This is granny romance for a different generation.

I think this author is about the same age as my mother, and I can’t imagine my mother liking this. I also can’t imagine other grandmother authors like Cindy Gerard writing like this (if you want excellent military romance, she is the author to read!). Some people move with the times, while others are stuck in the past. This book is thirty years out of date.

Now, I can go along with a bit of the sappy stuff, but another thing that was always in the back of my mind while I was reading was what is coming up in the next book. I don’t know why, but for some reason these characters get two books about them.

Here is where the spoilers start!

In the next book, Bay is kidnapped by the Taliban, where she is tortured for a few days and then raped so badly she is… bleeding profusely from various orifices… Then she is shot in the head, put in a coma and has amnesia.

It was beyond brutal and puts the relationship in this book in a different light. And while I’m okay with rape if it’s handled sensitively, in light of the theme of women trying to prove themselves against men, it seems a hell of a lot like punishment to “put women back in their place” and prove they have no business being in the Special Forces.

I was very lenient with reviewing the other book, but the more I think about it, the more upsetting it find it.

So, I really don’t think this is a good book. I think it’s a bad example of military romance, and I think it shows women in a terrible light.

Because, no matter how “perfect” Bay is when it comes to military things, in the end all she’s apparently good for is staying home and producing the hero’s babies.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.