Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Drawing the line

There's been some interesting posts on various blogs the last few days. My poor cold-befuddled brain keeps going 'wow' and then overloading, because there's more than it's currently capable of thinking about. Rosario's post on RTB about heroes, scoundrels, and where we draw the line, was the latest one I read, so it hasn't got totally lost in the murkiness of my brain yet. I posted a comment over there, but it got me thinking about my attitudes in reading, and also in writing.

I like reality in my romances - while I read for pleasure and enjoyment and a break from work, I don't read to 'escape' my world - I want to see the good things in it affirmed. So, my preference is not for 'fantasy' characters. Okay, so they can be slightly larger-than-life, but I want them real. And to me, the fundamental basis of any lasting relationship has to be respect, so if I can't respect a character - hero or heroine - for at least something, I can't believe that they're capable of giving respect and loving.

And because of that, I find it very hard to accept any hero or heroine who knowingly commits violence against the other. There'd have to be a damn good reason for me not to throw the book at the wall. Maybe it's because I spent too many years working in youth and women's refuges, but yes, I'm fussy about violence and particularly sexual violence.

One of the biggest, most damaging myths about sex is that sometimes a man can't control himself. I draw the line there and refuse to perpetrate it in contemporary romance. A man always has the choice, and if he chooses to override a woman's concern, then he has already dehumanised her in his mind and there is nothing of respect or romance or love involved.

That doesn't mean everything has to be prissy-prissy sweet. Gaargh. I said I like reality, and my reality is fairly gritty. But I do have a problem with the way the whole 'redemption' notion is handled sometimes - almost as though these bastard characters realise their wrongs, and miraculously with the heroine's love, change overnight into better human beings. Yeah, sure. Watch out for those low-flying pigs.

Don't get me wrong - I like heros who are hard, tough, on the edge. I'm currently writing a hero who is, in some ways, something of a bastard. He's fiercely tough, bitter, a loner, an ex-con who's had to literally fight for survival at times, and he's more than capable of violence. He's also, with regard to a couple of issues, walking a fine line morally - some might think, immorally. Will he be 'redeemed'? Uh, no. He's done the things he's done for good reasons in the circumstances, and given the same circumstances he'd do them again. But he respects those worthy of it, and he respects the fiery cop who is the heroine right from the beginning, even though he distrusts cops. And that respect comes before (okay, not long before ;-) ) the attraction that flares between them, so the attraction is not simply physical, which makes it all the more powerful - and dangerous. Their first sex scenes are pure raw passion and need; nothing polite or tender or gentle. But even though he has all this violence and anger bubbling inside, it's not at Kris personally, and he makes damn sure he doesn't take it out on her.

I mean, let's be honest about these really, really tough guys - if they're tough enough to face down violent crims and survive the life they have, they're sure strong enough to control their sexual urges if necessary, and to control the violence within. That's what makes them heroic, in my mind.

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