Saturday, 3 March 2012

Infidelity and 'Forced Seduction' in Historical Romance Novels...

I decided to blog about character behaviour after reading a couple of items on the Heroes and Heartbreakers website- they came up on Twitter links; then today I was in my local Waterstones branch glancing through a couple of new romances, and one of them brought these articles to mind.

The issues of infidelity, and 'forced seduction' (so wrong, in so many ways) have more relevance to historical than contemporary romance fiction. And perhaps mostly related to books produced for the US romance market.

A romance novel doesn't have to have a sex scene- or more than one of them- to make a good story with believable characters. But some of those characters will do it- it's part of who they are and it would be daft to deny it.

Personally I consider it's up to the individual  author whether they show that aspects of their characters. In my stories, sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. My characters are usually quite clear about that point in their developing relationship.

Women today have freedoms and advantages that their sisters in earlier centuries didn't; so I don't feel it's right to apply modern day thinking to stories set in the past.

So let's start with Infidelity.

Here's Limecello's piece on the H&H website: 'When Going Strange...Isn’t: Adultery in Romance'.

Read any social history of the aristocracy covering 200-300 years ago and you'll quickly discover that infidelity was accepted if it was carried out discreetly. A number of  younger aristocratic children were actually fathered by other men- not the man whose surname they carried through life.

The ideal is fidelity within marriage- I believe in that myself. 

But in the circumstances of the two novels mentioned in the article, I could understand and agree it's not infidelity- when both partners know and agree to the situation for their own reasons.

Yes it goes against my personal view, but I can't impose my morality on another writer's characters/story.
If a storyline offends me, or just doesn't appeal, then I won't buy the book.

'Forced Seduction' is another thing entirely... It truly belongs in the past of the so called Bodice Rippers- horrid description.

Here's a list on Amazon that gives you an idea of some of the titles from the last thirty years- and yes I can confirm that over the years I've read a few of them- especially those by Johanna Lindsey...

Sexual violence against any woman is wrong. Sexual coercion is wrong. Seduction is not coercion.

( I'm not including erotica, bondage and associated preferences in this category, as it's legal and it's between consenting adults.)

I have to say that the line between coercion and seduction can be very thin for some writers. As I saw today when I was looking through the improved romance section in my local Waterstones.

I picked up a book by a US author whose name I recognised (but her stories have not appealed to me previously) and after reading the blurb on the back of the book, I did my standard routine of opening the book a couple of times at random pages and reading on.

Unfortunately I found myself on part of the story where this very thin line between coercion and seduction was on show. Perhaps it was tied up with the author's word choices in that scene, but I decided not to buy it.

Fortunately there are still a lot of good books from both the UK and US on the romance shelves that don't see the need to walk that fine line...

3 comments:

  1. A very interesting post, Carol that brought up some interesting points. Writing should always be natural and not seem forced.

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  2. Excellent post, Carol. I agree that it's up to the author how far they portray sexual relationships and for me it all depends what I'm writing, but force is walking too thin a line.

    I took the decision to keep my young Regency heroine pure the whole way through Dangerous Deceit - her feelings are awakening for Marcus Sheldon, but he is also honourable!

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  3. Thanks for commenting Jennifer.

    As a writer I've discovered you have to go with your characters, but not rein them in too much-or let them run wild and do just what they want!

    Thank you, Rosemary.
    Your book is a good example of the characters being true to themselves and the conventions of their time and class.

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