Friday, December 26, 2008

I am a defective woman.

If stereotypes are to be believed, I should like romance novels. It's like porn for girls, right? So I guess if I was a guy, I wouldn't like porn, because I'm totally not getting into the paranormal romance genre. I've tried. Honestly I have. I've read a whole... three novels that might count as paranormal romance. Plus one entire series that sits somewhere between paranormal romance and normal modern fantasy. The series I can handle, but the honest-to-goodness romance stuff just annoys me on several levels.

I spent Christmas Eve reading Sherrilyn Kenyon's Seize the Night. It was a Comic Con give-away, so I decided I'd read it and review it for Collector Times. After writing a three-page review (which will be available on January 1st), I realized that I hadn't managed to complain about everything that annoyed me about it, so it's spilling over into this little rant.

So you don't feel lost, here's a capsule review: Seize the Night is a book in the middle of a series about a bunch of immortal demon/vampire hunters called the Dark-Hunters, who work under the auspices of the Greek goddess Artemis. This particular volume concerns a 2000 year old Roman general, and the 20-or-30-something human vampire hunter who are complete opposites but fall in luuuuuurve anyway, while kind of sort of maybe worrying about killing some demon/vampires that want to kill her twin sister, who is married to one of his old enemies.

I addressed a lot of my problems with the book in specific and the genre in general in the review, so I won't rehash them here, but here are a few more that I came up with:

1: Seriously people, learn how to portray gods. This was the second book I've read where the author comes up with a depiction of a goddess that I completely disagree with. I'm not an expert, per se, but I have studied a bit of mythology in my time, and the two goddesses in specific are ones I've read up quite a bit on: The Morrigan and Artemis. The former is a crow goddess of death and the battlefield. She wasn't a very nice lady. She forced Cu Cuchlain into a situation where he had to choose to break one or the other of his two geases, leading to his death. Yet Nora Roberts somehow manages to portray her as some sweet, beautiful, nature-loving, vampire-hating goddess. And then there's Artemis, who's considered indifferent at best to men, if not a man-hater and/or lesbian. She was a capable huntress and was later syncretized with a fellow moon-goddess, Hecate, the goddess of crossroads, who is also often associated with magic. How do you take that and turn it into a woman who keeps a stable of incredibly sexy men as her person demon/vampire hunters? And who, when we finally actually see her in the book, spends her time ineffectively dithering about what to do to avoid upsetting the oh-so-sexy and mysterious uber-character? She comes across like a schoolgirl who's freaking out because she put a scratch on her crush's sports car. Ugh.

I understand that in many mythologies, the gods were seen merely as more powerful reflections of ourselves, with all the foibles of humanity writ large. But I'd still like to see a god or goddess written in a way that suggests that they should actually inspire awe and worship in mortals. At the very least, having lived for thousands of years should give them some level of wisdom and maturity beyond that of the average human.

2: And while we're talking about wisdom and maturity... how about men who have lived for thousands of years, entering into relationships with women in their 20s or 30s? Talk about robbing the cradle! When discussing age differences of 10 years or so, people often bring up the difficulty of differing life experiences, relationship expectations, and lifestyles. How much worse is it going to be for someone who has seen empires rise and fall, living with someone who can count the number of presidential terms they lived through on their fingers?

Then, of course, the immortal has to either accept the fact that their loved one will die after a few decades, while they live on for many centuries. Or they have to somehow give up their immortality, so they can live out a single lifetime with their lover. Let me tell you, my husband and I have had to deal with fights over the minor sacrifices we've made for each other. Can you imagine having THAT thrown in your face every time you have a fight? "Oh yeah? I gave up ETERNITY for you! I don't think asking you to do the dishes is such a big deal compared to that." Plus, what if the mortal love dies suddenly and unexpectedly, mere weeks after you've sacrificed your immortality? I doubt the gods are just going to give it back to you, because you ask nicely. Now there's a book I want to read.

Or perhaps, in some fairy tale endings, the mortal love is granted immortality. Well snap. You get to spend eternity with your lover. Hope it works out for you. Hope you don't mind watching every single other person you love grow old and die. Hope you're prepared to deal with changing your identity every few decades to avoid suspicion. Hope that your kids are immortal, too. No parent should have to outlive all of their children.

3: Three words for you: whirlwind freakin' courtships. Yes, people can know almost from the start of a relationship that they want to spend the rest of their lives together. But I have a hard time suspending my belief when, within a matter of *days* two characters go from hating each other to not just hopping into the sack, but declaring their love for each other. And then within weeks or months, they're married. Awww. How sweet. Right. That totally happens in real life.

4: Do Romans taste better than those who are not? (bonus points if you catch the song reference) Several times during the course of Seize the Night, the female lead "moans at the taste of her Roman" (or general). Does his nationality really affect his flavor? And can he really be called "her general" the first freakin' time she kisses him? Does a single kiss immediately confer ownership? Perhaps that's how vampire hunters mark their territory. I suppose it's better than my cat's method, but it has to be really weird, watching her walk through the store and smooch everything before she buys it.

5: Unquestioning acceptance of flaws and shady past. If my husband of eight years, whom I already love very much, confessed to me some dark secret from his youth, I would probably be able to forgive him. If some guy that I just met less than a week ago had done horrible things, and my family already hated him, and I didn't find out from him, but from some god who thought I should know what I was getting into, I wouldn't just shrug it all off and say "Oh, that's ok, he did the wrong things for the right reasons." I might still end up with the guy eventually, but I'd have to take at least a few days off from the relationship to think things through and ask myself if I could really live with a man who had, say, tortured people.

Then again, I suppose all of the mind-numbingly great sex that we'd been having over the past few days of knowing each other might cloud my judgement a bit (I could say more on the subject of the sex, but I told Blogger that this blog didn't have adult content, so I don't want to get too detailed).

6: Deus Ex Machina. Ok, this is something I hate about any book in any genre, or any movie for that matter, who can't just let its main characters solve their problems. But really, what is the point of having two moderately powerful characters, and making me spend an entire book watching them fall in luuuuuurve, if in the end, they have so little to do with the climax of the story that they might as well not be there? Seriously, I thought I was finally going to see some action of the non-sexual sort, but instead I get some uber-character coming in and taking care of everything with little more than a flick of the wrist. Gee. That's exciting.

I suppose the worst part of all is that whenever I read a book that I don't like, I get really paranoid about my own writing and I have to go back over it and question whether I'm doing any of the things that bothered me about what I just read. But then again, if I find that my writing is too bad, I guess I can come up with reasons for my characters to have mind-numbingly good sex, add a few lines about burning groins, market it as paranormal romance, and become a best seller.

No, I'm not bitter.


Anonymous said...

My own knowledge of the genre is limited to what my wife writes in the field, but I'm sure that there are writers out there who don't commit the silliness that you describe here. I mean, besides my wife.

Susan de Guardiola said...

Wait, I've read this book! No, wait, it was a different book but had exactly the same problems! How dispiriting.

The only paranormals I've found consistently likeable - of even readable, for that matter - are those by Kelley Armstrong. If you look in the Books category on Rixo there are links to my thoughts on a couple of them.

AJ said...

Serge, would you be willing to tell me your wife's name and maybe even which of her books she'd recommend I start with in my search for non-ridiculous paranormal romance?

Susan, it IS dispiriting to discover that such problems seem to run rampant in the genre. I recall your positive reviews of Armstrong, so maybe I'll pick up one of her books, too, in my quest for a good guilty-pleasure sort of read.

Anonymous said...

So, you really didn't like that book.

AJ said...

Marilee, that would be the short version of my review, yes.

Anonymous said...

"Do Romans taste better than those who are not?"

It depends. Are they saltier, sweeter, more juicy or what?

Anonymous said...

AJ... Her name is Susan Krinard. As for which book you could try, I'd suggest Kinsman's Oath. You can find more about that book and about her others at If you find one you're interested in that might have gone out of print, just write to me.

AJ said...

Hey! I think my best friend who I dog-sat for has "The Forest Lord" on one of the bookcases in the guest room. Small world.

I'll look for Kinsman's Oath the next time I'm at the bookstore :)

Susan de Guardiola said...

Serge likes Susans. :)

JJJ said...

Just discovered your blog following links that started with Susan Cooper. Loved reading this (ahem) review. If you write novels, storys, etc anywhere as well as this review I'll look forward to reading it/them. JJJ