Saturday, July 18, 2009

Don't Tempt Me

Loretta Chase is one of my favorite romance authors because of the wit, historical detail, and high quality of her writing. Her latest, Don't Tempt Me (2009), is a quick, fun read, but I don't think it's going to go on my list of all-time favorites. (Mr. Impossible, Lord of Scoundrels, The Devil's Delilah)

The heroine of Don't Tempt Me is a young English lady who was stolen as a child traveling with her parents in Egypt and spent 12 years in a harem. She's a fun heroine because she's forgotten enough of her original culture (or was too young when she was abducted to understand it) to have an outsider's perspective on the familiar "high society in 1818" setting. But I had a few problems with her characterization, too, that kept this book from joining my list of Chase favorites. She seems to get over the trauma of her captivity very quickly. Also, she's one of my least favorite romance cliches: the virgin widow. (She was given to a pasha's son in hopes she could cure his impotence, and she couldn't.) I understand how the virgin widow got started. With a widowed heroine in a historical romance, you can have an older heroine--25 or 30 instead of 18 or 20, say--and one who has more freedom and autonomy than a young, unmarried girl. And by making her a virgin, you still have the common reader fantasy of the hero as her one-and-only, and you don't have to deal with children of a previous marriage, or, conversely, a heroine grieving dead children or miscarriages or dealing with infertility. Still. I don't like it. I'm fine with both innocent and experienced romance heroines, but innocent ones who should be experienced just make me roll my eyes. If you want to write a virgin, find a way to get around (or work within) the social constraints on never-been-married women in your chosen historical era. And if your heroine is a widow, either have her deal with the trauma of a bad experience or, if her marriage was happy, have her (and your readers) accept that it's possible to have more than one great love!

Anyway. With that caveat, Don't Tempt Me is still a fun book. If I managed to finish a book featuring a virgin widow from a harem, the writing must've been strong!

4 comments:

Shako said...

Well, I can't find it. You're the person with the Duke of Wellington obsession, am I right?

NAPOLEON!

Susan Wilbanks said...

Yes, that's me.

Shako said...

I'm an Italian Cossack. There's no such thing, but I'm the very first. I am too loyal to Napoleon...
Pleased to meet you. Do you write books as well as read them? Because I do.

Susan Wilbanks said...

Yes, I'm a writer, though I haven't published any fiction yet.