Waiter, There’s a Fly in My Fantasy

Romance, I’m firmly convinced, is all about the fantasy. What the fantasy is, however, very much depends on each individual reader. And what that fantasy isn’t, is equally idiosyncratic.

For me, some stuff I don’t like in real life I like even less in escapist fiction. There was a time in the early nineties, when every romance I picked up had a scene where the hero gently held the heroine and stroked her hair as she tossed her cookies into the nearest chamber pot. Aie! Now there’s something I would not want to do in front of a man, ever, if I could help it. And reading about someone else doing it doesn’t make it any more romantic.

Conversely, some stuff I have no problem with in real life also gets the thumbs down. For example, I’m happily married to a man five-foot-nine in height and I think he is The Hotness. Yet when I read romances, I’m noticeably less interested in heroes who are noticeably under six feet tall. (And if that makes me shallower than a dinner plate, well, so be it.)

All those, however, are small annoyances. You wanna know what’s the equivalent of a fallen tree across the my personal fantasy highway as I’m barreling down at hundred miles an hour?

Last Friday I bought a reissue of a fave author’s first published book. The book had been out of print for many years and I’d never read it. So I eagerly sank my teeth into it, only to bite into a derailing, stopping-me-dead fly.

The following is a snippet from the book, it’s the heroine addressing the hero as they are in the middle of their affair:

“I wish I could be more sure of how you felt. You know you never give me more than bits and pieces of yourself. And you leave me alone a great deal of the time. For card games. For God knows what else. Why do you never tell me you love me?”

Argh. Major, major fantasy tenet violation. Unless there is a gun held to the heroine’s head and someone is threatening to burn the world’s sole remaining copy of Pride and Prejudice, she is never, ever to ask questions that smack of desperation and helplessness, questions that would make a man justifiably run for the hills.

I will forgive just about everything else—Machiavellian deceit? Okay. Pain-in-the-ass arrogance? Go on. Prior promiscuity? None of my business—but to have my backing, a heroine absolutely, absolutely cannot be weak.

She cannot be weak on absolute terms. And she cannot be weak on relative terms. I hate those Gorilla-and-the-Flea pairs—borrowing a term from figure skating–where the man can save the world in the morning, cook a kick-ass dinner in the evening, and make stupendous love all night long, and all the heroine has going for her are Bambi eyes, T&A, and a heart of gold.

Now the heroine can have all kinds of insecurities, and the hero can catch all kinds of glimpses into her vulnerabilities: she is strong not because she doesn’t have fears, but because she deals with them.

But please, please, save me from heroines who go around begging for affection.

Side note: I worked on a publicity Q&A from my publisher this weekend. And the questionnaire asked if my blog is interactive. I laughed at the question and said yes anyway. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate those of you who take the trouble to leave comments, and such nice ones too. I promise to interact the moment I have my degree in hand, toward the end of next August.

Next Tuesday, Live from New York, Anatomy Lessons

5 thoughts on “Waiter, There’s a Fly in My Fantasy

  1. *G* I know the book you mentioned and honestly, that made me cringe a bit, but not as much as it made you. I wouldn’t say she was weak, but that she was uncertain and she felt comfortable enough with the hero to share her uncertainty. Granted, “why do you never tell me you love me” wasn’t the best way to share that uncertainty to a skittish man, but she went straight to the point, and I respected her for that. I also really liked the way Ivory handled the scene and the hero’s reaction.

  2. I don’t know the book, and I agree with the sentiment you express, that the heroine shouldn’t be needy and whiny and desperate and insecure. But, to play devil’s advocate, can it not also be a sign of strength for the heroine to ask flat out for what she wants? Taken out of context, the paragraph cited here could be read that way. I get frustrated with couples who are so blinded by the Big Misunderstanding that the conflict rages on unnecessarily for pages and pages and pages when if someone had had the courage to just say what they really felt, all would have been resolved in a much more mature and admirable way.

  3. But if she were asking for what she wanted, wouldn’t she say “Stop leaving me to go to your stupid card games and it wouldn’t hurt if you said ‘I love you’ every once in a while.”

    This bugs me too – it reminds me of Jr. High when your friends would say “are you mad at me?” 😉

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