Thursday, July 19, 2007

God Dag, Lars! -- or -- Stockholm Syndrome, Schmockholm Syndrome

So, like, to celebrate surviving RWA, I've tossed back a couple great books since I've been back in Minnie.

Two of them involve heroines who are held captive by heroes who need the chicks for information or services only the babes can provide.

I'm tellin my girl -- our girl, really -- Bella amyskf about them this afternoon and here's how the exchange goes:

Me: Yeah, this book is so great. The hero needs this info from the heroine, so he kidnaps her and locks her up.
Ames: [screeching, nay, squeeing at the top of her lungs] OMG! I can't stand it!

Now, she means she can't stand it as in "that's so frikkin hawt and it'll be romantic in the end when he ends up her captive in oh, so many ways."

She does not, however mean, "I can't stand it when romance writers force our Second Wave selves to endure the systematic literary rape of gender power dynamics in a way that'll make bunny-slipper-wearing, category-devouring Midwestern housewives out of even the the smarty-pansiest of us before you can say 'Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem Love Swedish Fish on Bicycles.'"

As for me, I like the conflict of the heroine who falls in love with her captor and knows it should feel wrong, but feels oh, so right. And I like giving other women who dig it permission to love it, too, damn the Romance Police torpedoes and full-frikkin-fantasy ahead.

Now, this morning I was reading a Harlequin Presents in which the hero was grasping the heroine's shoulders in a way that hurt her, in anger, digging in his fingers till she was sure he'd leave bruises. He's also sort of held her captive, gave her the "you're pregnant with my child and I own you" bastard alpha speech. The bruising thing didn't turn me on.

But I started to think that for some woman reader who's comfort level doesn't allow her to read erotica or erotic romance that deals in bondage or spanking, etc., hell, the "finger digging" could be her ball gag and mask, no?

See what I'm sayin? It can't be ok to explore pain or discomfort fantasy in sophisticated erotica/erom, and not in more accessible romance. And, frankly, my dear, I don't care whether the heroine said, "yes, I give you my considered permission as a woman who knows her worth and value." Maybe that'll be her arc, learning she likes a little pain when she trusts the guy.

Dunno. But for what it's worth, I'm wonderin': Do you dig a romance in which the heroine is captured, kidnapped, held against her will by the hero? How about one when it's the heroine holding the hero? What are some of your favorites?

See, Bellas? You ask for a fresh blog, you're gonna get one.

Encore! Well, you know Stellan Skarsgard (above left), whom I had a big crush on when he was much younger. Not so much when he's all barnacled up in "Pirates." And Peter Skarsgaard (above right). Don't know if he's really Swedish -- though I've seen him in pix w/ Maggie Gyllenhaal. So that makes him Swedish, no? And I loved him in a kinda wild/freaky movie called, I think, "Center of the Universe." And finally, below and to the left of Peter is a former Mr. Sweden. I don't know anything about the contest, but for as hot as Scandanavian guys are, there were few to be found on a cursory Swedish Hot Guy Webrowse.

Encore due!
t a little more Dallas: As I was leaving the RITA ceremony Sat night, a woman approached me, telling me my gown was the same as on the front of her latest H'Quin Next novel, "Prime Time." Well, the woman is Hank Phillipi Ryan, not just an acclaimed author, but a flippin icon in investigative journalism in Boston (WHDH-TV 7/NBC).

So, here's she's like, asking to take my photo, and I'm, like, OMG! When I tell my MIL this, she's gonna die! Of course, it's bette
r to have HPR after you to take a gander at your couture than have her on you for a story, cause she's considered one of the best and most tenacious journalists around.

She was kind enough to send me the photos, and I thought I'd show you the cover of her latest novel (she's got a new one in the Fall). No. I do not believe for a second I look anything from the back like the woman on the cover. That's all's I'm saying. But this was a very cool moment.


Kati said...

Ummm...well...I haven't brought it up in a while so I'll say, do you know which romance features a captive heroine????


the windflower.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

I'm sorry, MK. Did you say something?

Kati said...

Oooh! I thought of another 'bout WARPRIZE by Elizabeth Vaughan? That's an awesome captive heroine story!!

And...shut it Michelle.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Whuh? Whuddid I say?

Man, you go away to RWA for a week, and ya start to understand just where you stand.

First it's all "oh, you're so wonderful, Michelle, kisskisskiss, we love how you give us a place we can talk freely, yet supportively."

Then the cyberpoop hits the fan and it degrades real fast to, "write us a new blog soon, be(lla)yotch, or we're gonna tell you what we really think of all your sighin and moaning about Fabio Cannavaro and hot, wet Italians."

Vivi Anna said...

I loved Warprize. HAWT!

Kati said...

Hi Vivi! How are you, doll??

Unknown said...

warprize was fab :D *grins*

stacey the new york bookseller

Vivi Anna said...

I'm good MK. Busy as hell. Deadline killing me.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

hi, Stacey! You wrote me a terrific note a while ago -- congrats on the PW interview -- and I think I wrote back? My mailbox is so stuffed with notes I absolutely will write. It was you, right?

Vivs! We were laughing today about you having a friend, Kimberly, who actually can make you blush. Lawd a' mercy! Hope the writing's goin well. Totally missed you in Dallas, and really looking forward to seeing you in San Fran if not before.

Stacy~ said...

Michelle, Bella, you sure shine in that red dress. I can imagine you walking the catwalk...pivot. What a glam girl you is.

I just read Anne Stuart's "Black Ice" and found it interesting that the (anti)hero insisted the heroine was a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome, and I thought it was hot. Now I wanna read Warprize real bad.

"The Windflower"? What's this? I don't think I've heard of this book. Does anyone know what it's about?

Playground Monitor said...

The only book I can remember of this ilk was an older Silhouette Intimate Moments where the hero was really like a DEA agent who had joined up with some bad guys. The heroine's car breaks down and she stumbles into the midst of this gang. The hero "stakes his claim" to her and to make the other bad guys think he's havin' his way with her, he bangs the headboard against the wall and then pinches her to make her scream.

It worked within the constraints of category romance. And of course, they fall in love and live happily ever after.

I'm not into bruising either -- whether she's preggers with his baby or not. I'm not a huge fan of Presents anyways because I really dislike the uber-alpha a$$hole jerk hero. That's not a hero to me.

Was Hank Phillip Ryan not just the most poised, sophisticated woman you ever saw??? Well... she was second in line to you, Queen Bella.


Stacy~ said...

Oh, Marilyn reminded me of a book I read years ago by Claudia Dain called "Tell Me Lies", about a pirate captain who claims the heroine as his own, despite the fact that she's considered "booty" to the whole crew and they normally splits the winnings, yet the captain takes her as his share instead of any of the gold or other prizes they've claimed. I can't believe I forgot this one.

Portia Da Costa said...

I've read the 'semi kidnap' scenario in category romances many a time, and enjoyed it when the writing is good, esp. the characterisation of the hero and his motives. When you can *believe* in his reasons for doing what he does, it works, but not when he's one of those written by numbers uber-alpha swines that Marilyn describes.

Can't think of any specific titles though...

Not sure about the grabbing til it bruises scenario... although it's a way of indicating how high the passionate emotions are rising.

ps. how cool about your gorgeous read dress being on that cover, Michelle! It really is an elegant design... the epitome of classy sexiness.

ev said...

My brain is too fried right now to think of titles, but there have been some where there is a great sense of humor running through them. Such as when the Herione is such a pain in the butt the H just wants to give her back. I can't think of them though.

I have to go work a split today and get ready for the Ball tonite. I will be glad when this is over, so I can sit and read my danged book. I hope no one comes in tonight and spoils the ending for me or any one else. I may throw them over the balcony if they do.

Michell- quit putting your self down for gawds sake. I am sure many of us wish we could wear a beautiful dress like that AND have it look as good as it does on you!!

Cinthia Hamer said...

Good morning, Michelle and the rest of you Bellisima Bellas. :) Have just a quick minute before I run out the door.

What I love about the whole "captive" plot is that in the end, the heroine is figuratively holding the hero captive...the roles have been reversed b/c against his will, HE has fallen in love with his victim. Hence, SHE has all the power.

It's very sexy, indeed and I love it, in a historical or a contemporary romance.

Okay, gotta go take a class this morning. Ya'll don't have TOO much fun without me! ;)

Portia Da Costa said...

the roles have been reversed b/c against his will, HE has fallen in love with his victim. Hence, SHE has all the power.

I really like that... :)

There's a bit of that dynamic in Dark Lover, I think. Wrath comes on with this big, dominating, take charge thing... for her own good, of course... but Beth is a match for him.

Anonymous said...

Michelle, that red dress is gorgeous, but it's the woman wearing it who really shines.

The captive plot is a tricky one to pull off. Portia, I agree that there's a bit of it in Dark Lover, but Beth is well able to handle Wrath.

I must admit, I have a bit of the captor/captive dynamic in my August release, Dark Prince. I didn't actually choose to plot it that way; the book just sort of evolved in that direction.

Of course, the classic The Flame and The Flower had that dynamic, and also The Wolf and The Dove. More recent reads...Tara Janzen's Crazy Wild, though the hero is holding her in custody because he believes she's a criminal (but the captor/captive flavor is still there).

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Gorgeous red dress, Michelle. I can't think of any books off hand lately where the hero kidnaps the heroine, but I think that Wulfgar in the late Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Wolf and the Dove, the heroine is chained to a bed by the hero.

flip said...

I love the forcible seduction and the captive scenario. Apparently, I am not alone in this passion. Since I grew up in the midst of the bodice ripper, there were plenty of forcible seductions and rape scenes. However, I never liked rape scenes, humiliation or degradation of any character, far less the heroine. The forcible seduction is not a rape. Personally, I have always thought it a metaphor for the female orgasm.

Think about it. In these stories, the hero is hot and very attractive to the heroine. He overwhelms the heroine. She loses control and it is all very, very pleasureable. Sounds like an orgasm to me.

You will never have a beta hero involved in a forcible seduction or kidnapping. We are talking ALPHA men. These men are aggresive and sexually demanding. They pursue the female. Their libidos are always at full throttle (Pause while I wipe the sweat off my brow) and it is always directed at the heroine.

It is my opinion that I like this scenario because it is my sexuality. When I was a little kid, I would always wander over the sci-fi section, where the John Norman covers featured captive females. I thought it was sexy. I think the forcible seduction scene taps into some very basis part of human sexuality.

Jessica Barksdale Inclan said...

Michelle--You are so sexy in that red dress!!

Violence scares me in general. I don't like being held tightly or bruised or held down. It makes me feel pretty bad.

As a metaphor, though, violence works in literature, I suppose, but it might be tricky to convey it as metaphor and not as literal action. Maybe in a dream?

I think there are different strokes for different strokes, and I have only a few caveats in terms of sexuality:

1. It is consensual.

2. Of the same species.

3. Both people are alive.

4. Both people are of age.

And if people want to read it and write it, then go for it! We can pick what we read, I do believe.


Jessica Barksdale Inclan said...

that was supposed to be folks! and strokes, etc.

Anonymous said...

The Windflower is widely considered one of the best historical romances ever written. Authors are the amazing Tom and Sharon Curtis, who are legendary. The book is in a class by itself, and labeling it as a "captive heroine" story is like calling a cruise ship a row boat, LOL. Find yourself a keeper copy. Also other Curtis standard-bearers: Sunshine and Shadows, a big contemporary romance, plus they wrote Regencies and series romances. All their books are classics.

Unknown said...

Ok does anyone else know how hard it is to do an interview when you’re trying to make sure your not drooling? Crap now I might actually have to dress for work. This guy was so hot! He was about 6’1” trim, blond with soft blue eyes, and a smile that makes you…. God I don’t even know. OK my system way needs to cool down now.

I can’t think of the titles right now but Samantha James has a few books where that fall into this category. One where a princess gets kidnapped and then is forced to marry her kidnaper by the king of England and so on. And of course they finally admit their undying love in the end. Yeah I sighed at the end of that one.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Deb writes: The Windflower is widely considered one of theel best historical romances ever written.

Oh, God, Deb. No. No, no, NOOOOO! Now you've gone and done it. Our Marykate will be impossible to live with from this moment on. Unbearably impossible.

I, myself had to search and search and pay much coin for a copy of Breezy Flora book. It's a tattered copy, but it'll do. Oh, for a high-seas romance with an androgynous pirate cap'n, a pretty boy/pirate lad, and a virgin heroine held in thrall by a virile aristocrat/pirate. Love the scene where he almost takes her in the cabin -- she's on his lap -- and he hands her off to Kindly Pirate Lad.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Leeann? Did you have a job interview or something? No, I never drool in my interviews, but -- and not that they're not all sexy in their own rights -- but I only get to interview chicks. How'd it go aside from the uncontrollable salivating?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

flip, kidnapping as metaphor for orgasm. Works (well) for me. I know I think the scenario works for many women who feared their sexualities and the only way they could let go in fantasy was to have to give over to a man. I like your reasoning, actually, that you took time to tell us about your idea.

W&D, absolutely Elizabeth. But in the end, who ends up the captive, right? But even w/out that, I still think it was ok for women then and now to dig the ravishing medieval warlord deal (and not just because it's one of my fave fantasies.

God, I feel so lucky to have this place to actually share with other romance lovers my medieval warlord fantasy. Just wish I could get my husband to dress up in the armor and tie me to the bed as I pretend to be a fearful-but-strong healer/virgin.

Um. TMI?

Julie in Ohio said...

Leeann is having lustful feelings about a potential boss?
Hmmm, sounds like she needs to read Portia's "Entertaining Mr. Stone". :wicked grin:

Kati said...

The Windflower is widely considered one of the best historical romances ever written. Authors are the amazing Tom and Sharon Curtis, who are legendary. The book is in a class by itself, and labeling it as a "captive heroine" story is like calling a cruise ship a row boat, LOL. Find yourself a keeper copy.

Reeeeeaaaaallllllly????? deb, clearly you and I were separated at birth. Clearly.

*shoots smug grin at Michelle*

You can sit next to me.

Don't know if you hang here often deb, so welcome! The Bellas can tell you that I can tie pretty much anything that's good about romance to THE WINDFLOWER. It literally comes up about once a week here -- and that's because I bring it up.

I have two copies, one that I lend out and one that never, ever, ever leaves my house. It's re-read at least twice a year.

Anonymous said...

Ohhh, I love the dress Michelle! And I know exactly what you mean about Hank Phillipi Ryan. She is GREAT.

Now about the books with a captive heroine. I have one word "PERFECT" by Judith McNaught. I love that book, and actually don't know why I haven't searched for more like it. Any suggestions would be great. I don't know why but it is very interesting when you have someone kidnap the heroine and have her fall for her kidnapper. LOL!!

Julie in Ohio said...

I enjoy reading a little dominance so captivity is fine by me. However the key phrase is "reading about". I don't think I'd take it well if dh would get all high and mighty on me. Then again.....

Michelle-- That cover does resemble you a bit. Hmmm, I wonder what that says about the handcuffs.

Unknown said...

OK sorry I was too flustered when I wrote my post. I sit in on the interviews when my boss is looking to hire some one new for our department and then give my input and we decide who we want to bring on board. So this guy was a potential candidate. I wish I had a boss that looked like that! I was just laughing to myself when I went down to the lobby and though oh please let him be the hot one which they never are but this time he was.

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Bellas,
I empathize with all of you who had to use this week to regroup and recuperate from Nationals. I think I'm finally over the jet-lag ... So fun to have met a few of the Bellas ... Eve, Playground ...

As for captive heroines - I definitely can get into them IF (a big if for me) they don't lose their brains in the process. I have a fellow author up here who always writes strong, smart women until they meet their alpha hero who's always into the bondage, overbearing thing. Then our girl turns completely stupid. We're always at odds over the heroine's brain power - which does make for some great discussions, I do admit!

BTW - I was watching when the red dress pics were taken, Michelle. It truly was a "sigh..." moment. If you didn't see her, Michelle was even more stunning in person. Which is why those of us for whom three of the the little red dresses would have had to be sewn together to fit us watched a while, left quietly, and headed for the dessert line...

ev said...

lizees- that's what I was saying about the red dress. Save me a place in line.

Kati said...

Evenin' Bellas. I just opened my Entertainment Weekly (the one with the Simpsons on the cover), and totally SQUEE'D when I got to the book section. Positive, glowing even mini-reviews of four romances. No snark in sight.


Anonymous said...

Michelle, you are one gorgeous, GORGEOUS creature, and the dress only showcases what's already there.

With that said, I'm now salivating for the dress... A gal can dream, right? ;)

"Kingdom of Dreams" by Judith McNaught (and yes, "Perfect" is awesome!). There are others there, but I really, really, like KoD. And then there're "The Maiden Bride," "A Dove at Midnight" and "The Rose of Blacksword" by Rexanne Becnel. Oh, and "A Game of Chance" by Linda Howard.

Hmmm... there are a few others that I read way back when (Johanna Lindsay comes to mind...) but they don't hold up to a re read so many years later. (IMO--YMMV, of course).

I'm sure there are more...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the starter list azteclady. BTW are any of the suggested titles contemporary???

Anonymous said...

Perfect and A Game of Chance are contemporaries.

I have this niggling feeling that I have more like these in my bookshelves, but can't come up with more names right now. If/when I remember, I'll post them.