In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Mad-Eye Moody taught Harry and his classmates about the Unforgivable Curses. There was the Cruciatus Curse for torture, the Imperius Curse for mind control and the Killing Curse for, uh, killing. The use of these curses without proper authorization by the Ministry of Magic was strictly forbidden and the wielder could end up sentenced to Azkaban for life. Holy Dementor, Batman! Yes, they meant business.
Like Harry’s world has those Unforgivable Curses that will wreck a life, there are certain Unforgivable Sins that a hero or heroine can do in a book that seriously wrecks the entire book for me. Wreck it like a swinging, iron ball just slammed right into it. Wreck it like a backhoe came and bulldozed it down. Wreck it like red velvet cake on a Weight Watchers diet.
Unforgivable #1: I read a book where a hero slept with another woman after he’d met and bonded with the heroine. The author made a good argument why, and logically, I understood…but that romantic, fidelity-above-all-else-I-feel-you-Lorena-Bobbitt heart of mine did not. And the hero lost his integrity and even his attractiveness in my eyes. I couldn’t get past the fact that he’d given himself to another woman. He’d dirtied not just his body but his hero’s soul. And I couldn’t finish the book. I felt betrayed by him, even if the heroine apparently did not. Unforgivable.
Unforgivable #2: As I’ve mentioned before, one of my absolute favorite books is Son of the Morning by Linda Howard. One of the many reasons is the worthiness of the heroine. That sounds so chauvinistic, doesn’t it? But I can’t put it any other way. Niall was this hard, strong, sensual warrior forged in the fires of battle and betrayal. He was loyal and faithful to the core—tender yet merciless. Grace was a scholar, an archeologist academic. Yet there existed in her a tireless core of strength and justice that drove her to lengths that would have cracked most people. She didn’t have the physical power of Niall, but the heart and spirit—she was more than a match. What’s unforgivable for me is when a heroine or hero proves themselves unworthy or unredeemable. That doesn’t sound possible, right? If they weren’t redeemable, they would be the villain. But not true. I read a novel where the heroine spewed so much ignorant, bigoted rhetoric, that by half way through the book, I detested her. I understood that her views came out of a place of ignorance and hurt, but I didn’t care. Especially since the hero received a good portion of that stupidity. She was not worthy of the hero, who was sensitive, patient and kind. To me, she had a brain but didn’t use it. Had a heart but didn’t listen to it. She had a soul but didn’t recognize it in another. And by the time she did, I frankly didn’t care. Unforgivable.
Unforgivable #3: I speak of characters as if they’re real people instead of just made-up figments of imagination on a page—or eReader. Well to me, they are. And the qualities I find irritating in people, annoy the stank out of me in heroes and heroines. Weakness. It’s ironic, because a guaranteed sell for me is if a heroine is soft-spoken or kind of introverted…in the beginning of the book. I love reading about women who have suffered something that has shaken their self-confidence. Traveling that journey with them as they discover their voice again is a joy of mine. *Let me add here, that even though these women may be cowed, they’re not broken and are spiritual giants for coming through their battles!* But a heroine who just takes crap shoveled out to her by the heroine or a scorned lover, or the hero’s scorned lover is unforgivable to me. Grow a backbone! Grab some cajones quick! Weakness is not romantic. It’s not admirable. A person can be soft-spoken and still have a spine of steel. She can be quiet and possess a wealth of self-respect. If not…unforgivable!
Do you have any unpardonable sins that just makes you want to deck a hero or heroine? Share ‘em! Let’s dish!
#IShipIt with Rachel Bailey
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