Which is a high-falutin’ (Latin) way of saying “let the buyer beware.”
There is a certain genre of books that are called “bodice rippers” for a reason. The heroines may or may not be “girlie,” “spunky” and/or “kickass” and may or may not have an unpleasant/traumatic/triggering past history. The heroes are overburdened with muscles, steeped in testosterone, have the sex drive of an 18-wheeler, and are toxically masculine — but only just a little bit. There is a lot of heavy breathing, groping, throbbing, and pulsing going on. Ditto angst, stürm und drang. In short, these are essentially rape fantasies with their faces washed and their hair combed that are pretending not to be one.
There is a subgenre of this which is called “paranormal romance” where either the hero or heroine, or both (but usually just the hero), is some sort of paranormal being — a were-animal or a vampire — which throws an extra helping of hand-wringing and angst into the plot. Yeah. Twilight.
An awful lot of this whole genre is written in first person (as though the main character is telling you the tale — I did this, I felt this, etc., rather than third person, he, she did thus and so. ) All of these particular books were. I hate “first person narrators.” These all read like “first person shooter” games for girls.
They are usually pretty easy books to judge by their covers. I ran across a series of them on Amazon looking for something else. They were cheap. I was bored. Yeah, you get what you pay for. They were poorly written, poorly edited, and poorly proof-read (revision crumbs — where you revise text but don’t remove all the bits of the text you changed, words left out, words used incorrectly). And stuff like “identic” (eidetic) memory. Really? Neither one of the authors knew how to use the word “deign.” Get a clue, girls! “Deign” is an intransitive verb that is typically followed by the infinitive of whatever it was you did or didn’t deign to do.
Wrong: “I didn’t deign him an answer.” (direct quote)
Right: “I didn’t deign to answer him.”
They also committed the unpardonable one that makes me scream: “in the meanwhile!” It’s either “in the meantime,” or “meanwhile.” AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHH! Evidently their target audience slept through English class, too.
Those kinds of books are not usually my cup of tea, but I have identified some authors who have a firm grip, not only on the mechanics of English, but on how to tell a paranormally ripping yarn. Patricia Briggs is one who comes to mind.
Right after I finished wading through the above-mentioned hot mess, I read “Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance,” by Lois McMaster Bujold. It was like going from a pot-holed, washboard of a dirt road to a recently-paved four-lane divided highway. There’s a reason she’s won 7 Hugos and 3 Nebulas. She writes “space opera” (the Vorkosigan books) — where the emphasis is on well-fleshed-out characters and the predicaments they get themselves into and out of . She also writes fantasy (Chalion, Penric’s Demon). She’s one of those like C. J. Cherryh and husband/wife team Sharon Lee and Steve Miller whose characters seem like they could step right off the page (and if they did, you’d invite them to pull up a chair and ask them what they’ll have to drink).
“Mouse and Dragon” by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller addressed many of the same issues of emotional, physical and sexual abuse that one of the above noted “bodice clawer-offers” raised, but in a much less heavy-handed, more sympathetic, and way less triggering way. (Aelliana and Daav are my two most favorite of their many great characters.) But if you’re interested, “Mouse and Dragon” is part of a series and the best place to start it is with “The Crystal Variation” which is a nice, thick omnibus edition that contains the first three books in the series (“Crystal Soldier,” “Crystal Dragon” and “Balance of Trade”) at a really good price. The first two books are real page turners which detail how M. Jela, soldier, and Cantra yos’Phelium, pilot, got together to found Clan Korval. And if you’ve read one of the other Clan Korval Liaden books and want to know what the deal is with the tree, “Crystal Soldier” is the book you need to read next. Hmmm. It may be time for a reread.
2 thoughts on “Caveat Emptor”
This post cracked me up. It’s only been a couple of days since a friend and I had this conversation and actually used the term “bodice-ripper.” As I recall, “heaving bosoms” might have been mentioned, too. The genre in any of its forms isn’t my choice, but I got a kick out of your post. Poor editing seems to be a thing just now, even in WaPo and such.
You got me smiling on a morning when I didn’t feel like it.