Tag Archives: anne stuart

no means yes: part I

I’ve just read the first two of Anne Stuart‘s House of Rohan trilogy, and it’s been a weird, tug-o-war experience.

Her writing is compulsively readable. She writes destitution to perfection, and her heroes are tortured and depraved without us ever seeing them do anything too awful. Except to their heroines, that is.

And here’s the the crux of my dilemma. These heroes know their heroines’ minds better than their heroines do – knowing that they mean yes when they say no, for example.

They run their heroines down like prey and seduce them out of their virginal dishonesty (“I don’t want you”). They’re sadistic and manipulative and they call their heroines poppet, child, precious. These books read like psychological thrillers, and the heroines’ will is worn away piece by piece until the endings resound with a hollow, Stockholm-sydrome happy ending. It’s terrifying.

The more so because the heroines are written as tough. They will try anything they can to escape.

This is my secondary beef with the books – the characters are so inconsistent they sometimes drive me to a controlled rage. They’re desperately in love with their hero – and they’re desperate to escape him. They will never sell themselves, even if it’s the difference between starving and living – they will do anything to survive, even if it means giving up their honour.

You get the idea. Rage.

This lack of integrity is what allows her heroes to get away with it. Charlotte quite definitely tells Adrian no, but he decides to turn that into a yes. At the end of the book, when she’s acquitting him of blame, she says, “I never told you no.” Er, yes, she did. But by having the characters able to yoyo between extreme frames of mind, Anne Stuart can tell us they accept something, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Except scream “Run!” in the confines of our own minds.

In my last post I wrote about men being able to stand up to women and say “You’re being dishonest. This is not how I deserve to be treated”. This is the other side of that fine line.

books and Brad Pitt

two things about my Easter weekend away:

1. My godmother, who we were staying with, also reads romance. A lot of romance. She let me rifle through the boxes of books she’s finished with, and take whatever I fancied. She is, officially, a champion.

The books:

I took home 32 books. But seriously, what would you have done?

There were many I’ve already read and wanted for my collection but couldn’t justify buying right now. I got the whole of Eloisa James‘s Essex Sisters quartet, and Meredith Duran‘s entire backlist.

I also picked up a few I’ve been meaning to try, but haven’t gotten around to reading, like Nalini Singh‘s Psy/Changeling series and Anne Stuart‘s House of Rohan trilogy.

2. Then there was Legends of the Fall. It was revoltingly appropriate that we rewatched this Brad Pitt classic, because we watched it together too many times to be healthy as teens. This is Brad back in the day when he still had more than a whiff of tv soap about him and his grin was of the cocky “I’m hot and I know it” variety.

I had the same sensation watching it as I had last year when I listened to Alanis Morisette’s album Jagged Little Pill and realised I knew the words to every song.

I had a groundless sense of fear or premonition at apparently harmless moments, just before tragedy fell. Certain images were so familiar to my senses, that I must have stared for hours at posters of them, freeze-framed on my bedroom wall.

My memory was correct at least in this: Julia Ormond cries more or less the whole way through the film.

It also clicked that this was why all my heroes used to be called Tristan.

Here’s the funny thing, though: Watching this movie as an adult, I couldn’t help thinking that Tristan (Brad Pitt) is exactly the kind of character who incites my rage – and the last person you would want to fall in love with.

He is, as per the voice-over, the rock that all the people who love him break themselves against.

He is the man who would leave those who love and depend on him to answer the call of his inner beast. He is unhaveable and wild and wildly selfish.

He’s a flake.

I couldn’t help thinking, as well, that Susannah (Julia Ormond) is the antithesis of a romantic heroine. The tragedy of that appealed to my teen sensibilities and just irritates the hell out of my adult ones.