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.