Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Unforgivable Sins

SinIn 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 No cheatingapparently 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!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

You Got to Have a J-O-B

W 2My six-year-old daughter came to me last Friday and asked me how old she had to be before she could get married. My first response was 65! But I caught myself at the last minute and explained that there wasn’t a specific age, but there were certain criteria she and her prospective spouse had to meet before they could marry. As I hit third gear in my dissertation she interrupted and told me she “couldn’t remember all that”. Chagrined—because there were some serious nuggets of wisdom in there!—we broke it down to four things she must have without fail before she became someone’s wife: GLEE


After I explained to her that education is what she learns in school, not a song she heard a lady sing on TV (don’t ask, I have no clue what she meant by that or where she got it), we had the acronym down. It’s a very simplified equation because, of course, there are waaaay more variables. But I figure the ones like, Check out his father and see what he will look like in twenty years, or Make sure he has good credit, or even, Have your cousin the cop run a criminal background check should wait for when she’s older.

In writing romance novels, unless it’s an inspirational, we don’t tend to have God as a central feature of the story (the screams of Oh God! Oh God! don’t count!). But the other three…most definitely. Especially employment. For me, a hero’s job factors in to whether I’ll pick up a book or not. It tells me a lot about the character without even opening the book. My personal taste runs toward alpha men, not beta. So I’ll read a book about a wounded Marine quicker than a story with a professor as the hero—unless he’s really a kick-ass Marine masquerading as a professor to infiltrate the university whose Humanities Department happens to be a stealth training ground for terrorists with evil ambitions of ruling the world! *Evil cackle* Okay…got carried away.

For instance, a multi-millionaire businessman would have to possess an element of ruthlessness along with his scary intelligence. And if he’s a bachelor—in a romance novel of course he is!—he would also be cynical and careful not to wear his heart on his sleeve because there are people and women who would use him for what he has instead of love and accept him for the man he is. Or another favorite of mine is the artist. I love a musician, a painter—or tattoo artist—or an author. They cansexy highland warrior be broody, dominant, single-minded, talented, focused. And see-xxx-yy. To be a success in such competitive fields requires determination and grit. But there’s also the innate sensitivity that makes them who they are—that enables them to create beauty. And what about the warrior. Sigh. Whether he’s wrapped in a kilt, clothed in leather or has the Molotov Cocktail of human and leopard DNA, a warrior is a J-O-B that screams confidence, sacrifice, strength, mercilessness, protective.

So those are just a few of my favorite W-2 earners…well the warrior doesn’t have one but he should! What are some of yours?