Friday, March 30, 2007

You Know She Wanted It, Part, The Second

"Claiming the Courtesan" Author Anna Campbell GuestBlogs
Wed, April 25!

Bella MK -- who apparently pushes more books here than she does papers at her job -- says, "you've gotta read "Claiming the Courtesan," by Anna Campbell, cause it's got the whole 'is it forced seduction or is it flat-out rape thing goin." Well, if you know me, you know more irresistible words cannot reach these ears, or eyes, since it was by e-mail. Cause I loves me some forced seduction, yet I feel the FS/Rape debate is fascinating and important.

Anyway, "CtheC's" hero's Kyleborne, the most powerful duke in England, cold, gorgeous, lean -- but big in all ways that count -- and obsessed with his mistress of one year, the incomparable Saraya. It took him 6 years to earn her from her other protectors, and he's been enjoying her for a year when she cuts line, runs away w/out a word to live an anonymous life.

So Saraya -- aka Verity, country lass forced to prostitute herself when her parents died and left her to care for her two younger siblings (see? yummy and classic?) , hies herself away, finally achieving the physical autonomy that matched the emotional self-possession she'd kept locked away w/in her as she played the part of England's most renown courtesan.

But Kyleborn spends three, long, irate, celibate months tracking Verity. And when he finds her? He kidnaps her, drags her to the wilds of Scotland, where he attempts to break her spirit, so angry is he that she left him and took with her the only peace he's known.

But being a big, nasty bonehead, he goes about it all wrong. And because Campbell is an outrageously great writer who's just layered "CtheC" with psychodynamics evolved within mores of the day, there is a scene that could be read by the uninitiated romance fiction reader as flat-out rape.

Yet the novel's terrifically sensual. Campbell is gonna become a must-read for many, I'm guessin.

Yet the beauty of Campbell's "CtheC" is that the reader gets to use her brain when reading the book, and also call on her understanding of those things that make an historical romance historically accurate in all ways.

I think "CtheC" is an example of a the concept suggested by Ann Christopher a while back in her GuestBlog, "Sexify Their Love," when she wondered whether the classics, romances, Gothics, etc., wouldn't be better if we knew what went on after the "fade to black."
Now, "Veiled Desires," by Tracy MacNish, is an example of a wonderful historical novel that's very romantic and sensual and uplifting because of the choices the heroine makes with the help of a dashing Irish (again, delicious) hero. And there's no confusion over whether seduction is forced or consented to.

You see, Emeline has been repeatedly raped and abused by her step-father, then won in a card game by his best friend to become what amounts to that man's (another duke) sex slave. Nothing romantic about that. And Emaline can't run, because the price of freedom is too dear.

The duke's nephew, Rogan, travels to London because he's become the duke's heir. Rogan discovers the heroine behind the locked door to the room in which his uncle imprisons her, and begins a kind of blind friendship. Which works great, cause Emaline seems to have qualities and a face that inspire lust in men.

Does that imply Emaline deserves what she gets? Hardly. The message in this novel is clear: Emaline has been a victim, but she becomes what we'd today call a survivor. Does Rogan save her? No. MacNish is so talented, she resists the urge to have Rogan be the one who heals Emaline. She lets Emaline make all the choices, and does it so realistically and intelligently, we watch Emaline come alive emotionally and sensually.

In which case, Emaline gets exactly what she deserves.
What kind of learning curve did you have to experience before you understood the nuances of historical romance? What are some of the things you learned? Do you agree/disagree that what we call forced seduction is irresponsible?
Encore! Grazie Tom Irwin for taking our advice like a man, and for visiting yesterday. Congratulations and best wishes to you and your fiancee on your upcoming nuptuals!
Encore due! caroline linden, you've won a copy of Tom's book, "I Want a Girl!" Please send me your snail mail at Congratulazione!


Playground Monitor said...

Since I've only read one (Eloisa's PFP) I'm still waaaay at the bottom of that curve. But I have the other 3 books in that series that maybe I'll get read over the summer plus these treatises of yours are making me desirous to read me some other historicals. Ask me again next year.

I'm still not sure what "forced seduction" is so I'll have to read everyone's replies and see if I can figure this out. But it'll have to be Monday cuz I'm leaving for the weekend in a bit.


Kati said...

Holy crap you read that fast Michelle! I sent her the note yesterday morning, Bellas. Course, that's one of the (many) perks of being Michelle, she just goes and looks in a box to find the book, I had to wait until my lunch hour to run to B&N to buy the book. So, I'm only about 50 pages in, but YOWZA is this book fascinating. It features one of those delicious dynamics that seems really fun in a romance, but if we had to live with it, we'd kill the guy. But these two play major psychological games with each other. So far, it's all a power struggle. I'm captivated!

And Michelle is totally correct, Campbell's writing is scrumptious! I had to look up a word or two, but hey, see, advancing my mind WHILE reading romance. I like it! LOL!

Marilyn - Forced seduction, if done correctly, can be pretty interesting. It's the "No! No! Yes!" theory. Some authors execute it very, very well, others? Not so much. Michelle is our resident expert on the topic, so she can probably give you some pretty good ideas of books that feature it. Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught is one of the grand-daddies of the theme.

Julie in Ohio said...

Good Morning, Bellas!

Michelle- What a profound question to ask on a Friday morning! I wish I was more articulate when it comes to my thoughts on the matter but unfortunately I'm not. I cut my true romance teeth on historicals so FS is not a scenerio that I shy away from. It's never bothered me because FS may start out as, well, forced but ends with all being pleasured. I guess that would be the difference.
I had heard the debate about "Claiming the Courtesean" and have to admit it only made me want to read it. I haven't gotten it yet but it's on my TBB list.

Angel said...

Both of these books sound awesome!!! I'll definitely have to add them to the top of my TBR pile.

As a teenager I read everything I could find by Woodiwiss and other historical writers who used the forced scenarios, but I didn't understand the implications until much later. For me, now, it all depends on how the writer handles it. Does she make the reactions and consequences believable enough for me to still care about the characters?

Sounds like these books certainly fulfill that criteria.

Anonymous said...

Buongiorno, Michelle and Bellas all!

Michelle, I hope you are feeling better, and better each day!

Before blurting my thoughts on the matter, I would really love to read Michelle's previous posts (and guest bloggers's as well) on the topic. Dates? links? Help a newbie Bella out, please?

Kati said...

azteclady: December 19, 2006 was the first post re: this. Regarding Woodiwiss' The Flame and the Flower.


Anonymous said...

Grazie, MK!!! *off to the archives*

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amy kennedy said...

Liek Julie and Angel, I too started my romance reading with historicals--Woodiwiss, for me too Angel. So part of the forced seduction for me was, I thought appropriate (?) for the time period.

Maybe a weird thought, but I was young too and like Angel didn't completely understand the implications--I knew the Heroine was raped in The Flame and the Flower, but I also knew the Hero didn't see it that way--so while I understood the terror for the Heroine, I also understood (to a certain extent) why the Hero felt he should be able to have sex with her.


That being said, MK and Michelle are so right when they say in the right hands it is something to behold.

PS--on someones heartfelt words, I picked-up Trish MacNishe's book--haven't started it yet...

Unknown said...

What kind of learning curve did you have to experience before you understood the nuances of historical romance?

Not sure what you mean by "the nuances" (and I read historicals almost exclusively). For me, rape is certainly not a nuance. And "forced seduction" = rape. I HATED the "bodice rippers" of the 80s. One Johanna Lindsey book in 1986 was enough to turn me off romance for more than a decade. And clearly there are many women out there who honestly believe that rape was totally ok/normal “in the past” (I am not one of them). I got asked at my very first RWA convention (by a couple of nurses who were in Reno for their own convention) how I could “bear to write the rape scenes?”. My jaw dropped. When I told them I don’t write rape scenes, they looked equally flabbergasted. “Then how does she lose her virginity?” As though rape was the only option “historically”. ARGH!

I haven’t read Anna’s book yet, so I can’t comment on the rape/forced seduction readers are finding in it.

Kati said...

Kalen- I certainly know that lots of romance readers feel as you do.

I think that your opinion speaks to Michelle's mantra of "I'm OK, You're OK" with romance. That is to say that I certainly mean NO when I say no IRL, but in romance, forced seduction isn't a hot button for me. But believe me-you that I'd be horrified to experience it in real life. That being said, one of my HUGE hot buttons is romance predicated on a lie. It's why Eloisa Jame's romance, The Taming of the Duke didn't work for me on any level. Because Rafe lied, almost throughout the whole book. I can't abide it. And it's something that will immediately get me to stop reading.

It's funny how our hot buttons color our reading perception, isn't it?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hey, Bellas! Checking in between appointments. The reason I'm enamored of this discussion is that I would have reacted in the rape is rape is rape camp about ten years ago. I make no secret of my experience with sexual abuse in the same way I share my ardent feminism. Romance reading has allowed me to explore both, and I thank God I began reading it, because it's helped me become a woman who understands her sexuality and enjoys expressing it.

Abusers take that away from the abused, and examining that in a realistic way is what drew me to the MacNish.

All that said, I stringently put forth the I'm OK/You're OK Maxim of Romance: B(u)y the Book (say it with me, Bellas): Don't matter what floats your fantasy boat. Embrace it, and don't let anybody question your right to it.

And that said, a) I wouldn't encourage my 15 year old daughter or son to read CtheC w/out my having a discussion of the power dynamic w/in; b)I've already discussed with my 9 year old son the "No never means yes in real life" maxim, as well as the "no sometimes means yes in FICTION but never never in real life," and c) folks who've never read romance say a lot of dumb things about them like they're porn for chicks (clearly, they've never seen porn) or filled with rape scenes. The best we can do, the right thing to do is to calmly explain why that's not the case. 9 times out of 10, folks can be won over to our understanding, if not to reading our books.

What I mean by nuances doesn't refer to forced seduction specifically, but to understanding men's attitudes toward women, especially in this case women they've paid and for all intents and purposes own.

I also meant that it takes a couple historicals to understand who Prinny is, what it a mantua maker, the Lakes District, gauntlets, braes, Richard Couer de Leon, Hessians, bamming, yada yada yada.

But these are the sides of the issue that make it an important one to discuss. As women who are protective of our sisters, who want to help battered women as we did when the fund raiser anthology writers appeared a couple weeks ago, we wonder whether it's ok to read what we like.

Ah, but sometimes no one can be harder on women than other women. See the sticky wicket here?

Mona said...

Hi Michelle,

I missed lots of writers the past few days :(... you've got an interesting topic today... I think it doesn’t take long to understand the nuances of historicals. I'd say it took like two books cause the rules are the same for every historical though I'd say Anna Campbell has added extras to the normal historical we're used to. Some of the things I learned… When a man wants to get married he supposed to look for heiresses. women are supposed to be pretty, wealthy and being not intelligent is a bonus in order to get married. They're not allowed to run their own business but their husbands do that for them. You'd have to stick to some strong rules if you'd like to maintain your place in the society and not get caught by gossip but you can do whatever you like when no one's looking. Gossip can really ruined the future of a girl.
I agree forced seduction is irresistible in books when it's done by a good writer.

Anonymous said...

I hate blogger. I had a good comment (really, I swear!) and it ATE it!!!

*off to cry in a corner until I can calm down and type it again*

Maureen said...

To me historical romance is a fantasy about going back in time so the forced seduction can work in that setting when a talented author does it.

Unknown said...

Growing up a history junkie and a reenactor, I didn't have a steep learning curve when I started to read romance. I did--and still do--have the opposite problem, however: so many errors; so many misconceptions; so many mistakes when it comes to the details.

And I simply can't believe in "love" predicated and built upon rape. I also don't buy into "love" where the power dynamic is strongly unbalanced. There is no HEA in this scenario. Stockholm syndrome, yes. Love, no. Or at least not a deep, true, abiding, HEALTHY love.

I'm not saying don't read/write whatever does it for you. I'm simply stating that these kind of setups do not work for me. Never have. Never will.

Ann Christopher said...

Hi, everyone--

Michelle, I saw this book 2 days ago in Target, picked it up, put it down thinking, "Nah. My TBR pile is high enough already," then picked it up again and bought it.

I think it was the hero taking her to the wilds of Scotland that did it for me.

In real life, no means NO. Period. End of story.

But in the fantasy of romance novels, I wonder if the thrill of forced seduction comes from a strong heroine finally meeting her match--the Scarlett/Rhett thing?

Just a theory I'm working on...


Unknown said...

Thought of something else I should have said . . . the issue of unbalanced power dynamics is also why the romances where the Mary Sue ingenue tames the dark, brooding hero don't work for me. I don't buy it. I mostly think he'd strangle her within days of the marriage. I can't see the "ever after" portion of the HEA really working.

amy kennedy said...

Ann, work on that theory--sounds interresting. I don't think I've never thought of it like that...

Kalen, once again in my early days of reading romance, read Rosemary Rogers and...who was the guy who wrote romance, Tom something I think he wrote under the last name Wilde--ring any bells. Anyhow, read a couple of those authors' books and finally had the sense to stop--they were horrific and such an imbalance of power dynamics which you so described. Those were terrifying books and absolutely filled with violence toward women.

This was back in the mid-seventies--I actually quit reading romance for a long time. Don't know where my comment is going now. Just wanted you to know that I understand your sentiment.

Anonymous said...

Great topic, and one I'm sure will get a lot of responses. I'm also a reader whose ears perk up when I hear mention of a forced seduction (my favorites are probably Dodd's A WELL-PLEASURED LADY, MJD's "Love's Prisoner", and Liz Carlyle's THE DEVIL YOU KNOW.)

I'm a long, long, long time reader of romance novels, and I've no doubt that the first scene, especially, was out-and-out rape.

I don't think we have to sugarcoat it with "historical accuracy" (Anna does a fantastic job of outlining the limited choices that a woman had, and Kylemore's sense of entitlement) -- but it's just as accurate that men DID NOT rape women. The surrounding circumstances may have been accurate, but it doesn't make rape any less heinous, and it doesn't make it a 'forced seduction' just because it's in a historical.

And I think it remarkable that Anna manages to create a romance out of such a dirty, and really awful act, layering it, as you mention, with a compelling story and look into these characters.

But there aren't any nuances there. It was rape. And calling it anything else seems to take away a lot of the story.

Meljean :)

Anonymous said...

I think I have a problem with the title of the post, particularly given the content of the post. The idea of
"You Know She Wanted It" in conjunction with the statement

"there is a scene that could be read by the uninitiated romance fiction reader as flat-out rape."

In my opinion, it was rape, no matter the intention of the hero in this book. It was a powerful scene and displayed the greater idea of insanity of the hero.

But let's not condone the idea of rape simply because it may be historically accurate.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. That was Liz Carlyle's THE DEVIL TO PAY.

Need more coffee,
Meljean :)

Kati said...

meljean & jane - Thanks for joining us! Meljean, your book is in my TBR stack - I've heard such wonderful things about it.

I've just finished reading the scene where the duke rapes Verity. Oh yeah, that was rape. She was very, very clear in her declination. At the same time, I find myself intrigued enough to keep reading just to find out how she redeems the act for the couple. IMHO, some MAJOR groveling is in order. I hope that's what happens.

Jane - I'm interested in your assertion that the hero is insane. Do think that because he rapes her? Like I said, I haven't finished the book, but I haven't discerned any insanity in his behavior, just a whole lotta jacka$$.

I also find the author endorsements on the cover interesting: Stephanie Laurens says, "Regency noir- different and intriguing" and Lorraine Heath says: "Anna Campbell is an amazing, daring, new voice in romance." Only time will tell how this book will be received, but I wonder, does anyone else think that this is a rejuvenation of "Ye Old Bodice Ripper." And if, what does everyone think of that?

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with people who find forced seduction or Romance rape an appealing construct. But arguing that those constructs are "historically accurate" as a basis for justifying them makes me feel like my head will explode.

Rape is historically accurate at every point in history. So is breathing. So is homicide. So would we countenance a Romance hero who committed serial murders at the same time as the Boston Strangler because it's "historically accurate"?

That men have always raped women is obvious. But here's the thing that seems inconsistent to me, logically, at least: if you argue that forced seduction is a fantasy within the genre and totally separate from real life, how can you then talk about historical accuracy? Because it seems to me that the whole point of the fantasy in Romance is that it's NOT about historical reality, which is why readers can find it romantic at all.

Anonymous said...

Hi MaryKate -- I hope you enjoy it! :)

At the same time, I find myself intrigued enough to keep reading just to find out how she redeems the act for the couple.

This is what makes it work for me -- Anna is a writer who keeps me reading after that, because her characters and the setup are so compelling. And I wonder -- how on earth is she going to make a successful romance out of this?

It won't work for everyone, but it did for me. It wasn't a *comfortable* read, by any stretch of the imagination, but in the end I was glad I stuck it out. I don't think it's a return to the bodice ripper, however (and I'm glad of it) the heroine is nothing like the virginal heroines of the old-time bodice rippers. But if it means a move to slightly darker, more complex characters? I'm up for that, as long as I still have the lighter ones to read, too.

Meljean :)

Anonymous said...


if you argue that forced seduction is a fantasy within the genre and totally separate from real life, how can you then talk about historical accuracy?

Great point. And I wonder if this is also why I find the forced seduction fantasy never as appealing in a contemporary novel -- it rarely, rarely works for me (I think MJD's novella being the exception, but the paranormal element might have influenced it.) I wonder if that historical (and paranormal) adds just enough 'fantasy' to remove it one more step from reality, and so makes it more palatable?

Anonymous said...

And I wonder if this is also why I find the forced seduction fantasy never as appealing in a contemporary novel -- it rarely, rarely works for me (I think MJD's novella being the exception, but the paranormal element might have influenced it.) I wonder if that historical (and paranormal) adds just enough 'fantasy' to remove it one more step from reality, and so makes it more palatable?

I think a lot of readers are ambivalent about enjoying this particular fantasy, and so the historical aspect adds one more layer of psychological protection for the reader who wants to enjoy the construct.

From an individual reader's perspective, I understand this. But I think it's somewhat dangerous to rely on historical accuracy to justify the *presence* of rape or forced seduction in Romance, because I think it counters the entire point of the fantasy to begin with. And I think it also provides a very skewed and narrow version of historicity for readers who want "accurate" or "authentic" historical Romance. As Eileen Dreyer said in an article on this subject, lots of stuff is historically accurate (i.e. lice and open sewers), but we don't steep Romance in them because they aren't romantic. IMO we can't have it both ways. FS and rape in Romance ARE fantasies and they are about the consent of either the heroine OR the reader. At the point it is only the reader who consciously consents, I think we need to remove that from the realm of the "real," because it's not realistic, even if it's a completely legitimate fantasy.

Phoebe Belsley said...

Hmm, reading some of the comments makes me think I still don't understand all the nuances of historical romance.

I can't think of a forced seduction scene where the hero didn't have an overwhelming advantage over the heroine in some way (station, power, money), and that imbalance (aside from any FS) always makes me squirm. I like the characters to be equal, or have their strengths and weaknesses balance each other. I want to believe they can stand up to each other and respect each other long after the story ends. Sometimes the FS is a part of that, sometimes not. I haven't read the Anna Campbell book.

One thing I thought interesting about Veiled Desires (which is terribly romantic, imo) was that people called it an 'old school' type of romance, but as Michelle says, the heroine saves herself. The main 'old school' thing I noticed about the book was that it was the heroine, not the hero, who had the very tortured history. Nowadays the rage is for the hero to be tortured, with a terrible past, where 30 years ago the heroines were usually more abused while the men were more the 'masters of the universe' type. Other than that, I thought Veiled Desires was a very modern romance, because the heroine is very much a survivor, you know that she doesn't NEED the hero to rescue her, although he is the catalyst to her ultimate battle for her soul. They're very equal, which wasn't really the case in many bodice rippers.

Anonymous said...

I'm always fascinated by "forced seduction" discussions. It's such a coat of white paint..... if the woman had to be forced, it wasn't much of a seduction.

I agree with the I'm OK/you're OK assessment, but please-that blog title is very offensive. Forced seduction may be fictional, but that's the excuse the sorry bastards use in reality.

Courtney Milan said...

I think there is a difference between forced seduction and rape. Forced seduction is basically the No, no, no, YES! reaction. Forced seduction makes sense, because it's sex without responsibility. Ultimately, though, you know that if the woman said no at the crucial moment, the hero would pull back.

CtheC has rape. It's not just rape for the uninitiated. It's rape all the way. She says no. She says no. She says no. He says too bad. Afterwards, she curls into a ball and cries. This is not sex without responsibility; it is sex without control. And it's quite explicitly sex for punishment, not for love or even for sexual gratification (although that comes along with it).

This is far beyond the line of forced seduction. It's rape. It's so clearly rape that it's not even funny, and I think that in some ways it belittles the psychological aspects of the book to gloss over it and call it "forced seduction."

Anonymous said...

This is far beyond the line of forced seduction. It's rape. It's so clearly rape that it's not even funny, and I think that in some ways it belittles the psychological aspects of the book to gloss over it and call it "forced seduction."

I agree. Rarely do I think about authorial intent with a book, but it seems crystal clear to me that Campbell was treating Kylemore's actions with a lot of gravity -- no titillation there for either the reader or Verity.

On an intellectual level I am extremely interested in this whole Romance rape/forced seduction discussion, because the genre seems absolutely steeped in these constructs. At some level, I think the tropes are about subversion and about women reclaiming something. But emotionally, it takes a very *thoughtful* book to make them work for me. Campbell seemed definitely to be thinking about them, and I feel very strongly that Justin's actions toward Verity are not supposed to be romantic or sexually enticing for the reader AT ALL. Campbell just made Verity's refusal too clear and her trauma too obvious, IMO.

Stacy~ said...

I put a lot of thought into my feelings on this post, because I believe that forced seduction and rape are two extremely different concepts. One works for me, the other does not.

The main reasons, but not the only reasons, I read romance are these: to escape and dream, and also to read about the many fantasies women have, some of which I share, knowing and believing that it's okay to want to read about something that I wouldn't necessarily want to experience in RL. Historical accuracy is not that important to me unless I am reading a different type of a book.

I agree that rape is rape. It's not romantic or sexy or justifiable. Having seen excerpts about this particular scene, it comes across as rape to this initiated reader. If I were to read Campbell's book, it would be because I was convinced that she managed to write the rest of the book in such a way that I believed the h/h could be together, convincingly.

Forced seduction is a fantasy. It has the forbidden aspect to it that works in the romances I like to read because sometimes "you know she wanted it" because she really, really did - that's her (or the reader's) fantasy. I don't categorize this as rape, and I know a lot of women who have this fantasy, and I don't see anything wrong with it. Again, I'm stressing that I believe this is a fantasy, and not all fantasies have to be personally enacted to work for the reader.

Obviously there are certain things I don't want to read about in my books that others just adore. We all have our hot buttons for whatever reasons. By reading about them doesn't mean we act on them in our personal lives. Agreeing or disagreeing doesn't mean I think it's any less valid to someone else.

"Veiled Desires" sounds like an amazing story about a woman who survives and empowers herself. That one I've added to my list.

Anonymous said...

Would class it as a fantasy rather than romance book but has anyone read Patricia Briggs 'Steal the Dragon'? Her dealing with the culture/acceptability is good.

The character Rialla is basically an escaped slave whose been persuaded to return to that role to work undercover. There is a scene where the (evil) master's son takes her to bed.

Nothing graphic, that's not Brigg's style but it was interesting because although he was to all extends a really nice/gentle boy and considerate towards her rather than forceful; in fact other slaves fancied themselves in love with him. It was always very clear that it was rape. He'd selected her for the night rather than woed her and she had no say in the matter.

Clearly by culture his behaviour was acceptable and he was acctual being 'pleasant' but rape is never acceptable and I liked the way that point was made. Believe she told him what for later in the book, but it's been a while since I read it.

I've read a number of older Mills&Boon (I think that's the UK Silhouette/Harlequin) and thrown them away in disgust declaring the man should be locked up and preferably castrated rather than married. For some reason my g.aunt stopped lending me her books on stayovers ;) but that in itself speaks of a generational difference.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Oooh, Belllllaaas! See why I love this discussion? Been sick as a dawg since Fri am, and am just checking in for a few minutes.

I appreciate your thoughtful opinions and considerations. Anna Campbell's novel is exceptional, and does what good writing should. Does romance have to be thoughtful, thought provoking to be good? Heck, no! But it's very cool that this novel has come along and given us something real to chew on. Even though I stand firmly in the ranks of "romance novels can be great tools in helping women deal with issues of sexual/physical abuse, learn about their strengths and healthy relationships, etc." I don't believe their writers are obligated to make them so.

Now, i don't defend my writing style, but, please, hullo? My title -- the second time I've used it, hence, part the second -- is, say it with me writers and readers, ironic. as in: Unabridged (v 1.1) -
i·ro·ny1 /ˈaɪrəni, ˈaɪər-/[ahy-ruh-nee, ahy-er-] –noun, plural -nies.
1. the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.

When you spend more time here at RBtheBook/Blog, and I hope you will, you'll understand that I live to nudge, to get all types of readers thinking about and expanding and delineating their viewpoints about all types and aspects of romance and erotica. No one's opinion is unacceptable or unexceptional.

We just adore when it's given with a smile, as it were.

Anne said...

The thing that works in the book is that Kylemore is a man shaken out of his usual control -- not by lust -- but by love --though he doesn't recognize it as that. And fear and desperation and anger that he's lost her.
He's a man in love, who has no idea of love and no experience of it and he utterly & desperately loves her and will do anything he can to make her stay with him.
The heroine is also utterly in love with him, though she is in too rigid a mindset to accept that it's possible to be happy with him in the way she wants -- she wants the whole apple or none at all.
It's a completely compelling story of desperation and love...

Anonymous said...

Annie's right. In Claiming the Courtesan, his behavior stems from Kylemore's inability to understand or express his love in a normal way because he's never been loved or experienced love before. To me, it is clear that Verity is in love with him from the start, so this talk of Stockholm Syndrome doesn't wash at all, IMO.

Anonymous said...

It's a completely compelling story of desperation and love...

If that is love, then your definition of the word must be much broader than mine. And broader than the Merriam-Webster dictionary's definition, too.

As for rape in Romance, my personal rubric is this. If a story's hero exhibits the psychology or behavior of one of the perps on Special Victim's Unit or Criminal Minds, then I want the story to end the same way an episode does: with the son of a bastard in prison and his victim free to find what healing she can.

Though this vile thing may be common, and historically accurate as all hell, there is no forgiveness for it, in my opinion. No amount of groveling, or change, or apology. Once a man rapes a woman, the only happy ending is the man's incarceration or death.

I understand that not everyone feels the way I do, and I can accept that. But I wish people wouldn't couch their perfectly acceptable kink in apologetic terms -- it isn't necessary, and it brings a level of dishonesty into the whole process that's doubly offensive because it co-opts the explanations actual, RL criminals use. I.E. "I did it because I loved her!" and suchlike.

Kristina Lloyd said...

A friend of mine recently introduced me to her husband by saying, ‘Kristina writes about gang rape then has to make it consensual.’ We laughed at this (we’re British, if that helps) but basically, it’s true.

Rape is a very emotive word. I can understand people being uncomfortable applying it to scenarios designed to arouse but personally, I don’t mind what we call this stuff. To quibble about semantics seems to miss the point because, however you phrase it, the underpinning dynamic is the same: he made her do it.

I’ll raise my hand: I find this hot. I’m also very adept at distinguishing fantasy from reality. I started to work out the difference about the time I was learning nursery rhymes. Rape fantasy in no way, shape or form condones rape. Already I feel I’ve said too much on this. We’re adults, right?

I write erotic romance for Black Lace. One of the reasons I make my scenarios consensual is that, contractually, I’m obliged to. There has to be implied consent in everything so while my heroine might be crying ‘no, no, stop’, deep down inside, she will at some point think ‘yeah, okay then, give it to me, big boy.’

Robin wrote: I think a lot of readers are ambivalent about enjoying this particular fantasy, and so the historical aspect adds one more layer of psychological protection for the reader who wants to enjoy the construct.

I think this is very true and a great point. I’m very much in favour of women trying to get comfortable with rape fantasy, and escapist scenarios help us do this. But sometimes, I also like to see it for what it is. The first erotic book I wrote for BL, Darker Than Love, was historical and trad romance (but *much* dirtier). I have a nasty bastard, Lord Marldon, who kidnaps his reluctant bride-to-be and puts her through the mill. BL used to have quite a lot of restrictions about what you could and couldn’t write. After DTL was published they relaxed their guidelines and I wrote contemporary which is where I’m most comfortable. I really wanted to address the issues of rape/FS that, in DTL, were smudged by gaslight, big frocks and socio-economic inequalities.

So I wrote Asking for Trouble, and, yes the title is a deliberate nod at the phrase ‘asking for it’ (see Michelle on irony if this is a problem). In Asking for Trouble, we have Beth, a smart, sexually-aware, independent 30-something woman who embarks on an intense psychosexual relationship with a mysterious stranger, Ilya. She nervously admits she is turned on by rape fantasy. ‘One day I’ll rape you,’ replies Ilya. The book is about two equal people acting out their fantasies but as the story progresses, fantasy and reality start to blur and it gets a little scary.

I’ve taken some flak for this book. It is quite raw and clear-eyed. Some people love it, some people hate it. I will always stand by it, and I do actually think it’s a romance, albeit a very dark, twisted, unconventional romance. I learnt a lot through writing it and through thinking about issues I was once uncomfortable with. If you’re interested in any of this generally, you might like to take a look at an article I wrote on Lust Bites about women’s fantasies of submission and rape, about where this stuff comes from and what we do with it. We learn to enjoy it is my main conclusion. The article also looks at sex with dogs but perhaps that’s best saved for another day.

Damn, this is such a smart blog and a great topic. Sorry I turned up so late and I’m also sorry if this reads as a long shameless ramble about my smut rather than my considered opinion on rape/FS. I’m afraid I struggle to separate them out. Plus, I'm fairly shameless. Thanks for airing this one, Michelle. It's a subject close to my heart (and, um, my groin).

E. M. Selinger said...

Hi, Michelle! I'm late to the discussion here (better late than never?), but I wanted to let you know that I've sent up the Bella Signal over at Teach Me Tonight where a long academic discussion of forced seduction / rape material is underway.

Seemed to me the voice that wasn't heard yet was the voice of the readers who really liked the books and scenes in question, and who could tell us more about why they do. If you have a minute--you Michelle, or you Bellas--swing by and fill us in!

Leslie Dicken said...

Wow, well I've posted on my own blog about this topic and wish I had come here to read the many comments made here first! While I haven't read the book in question, I am interested in the topic of rape and forced seduction in romances (historical mainly). Since I write historicals, I work hard to be historically accurate. But I've always seen (and written) rape from a villain -never as something the hero would do.

I just wanted to thank all of you for the lively discussion and very thought-provoking comments.