Lines I Will Not Cross


police line

I will read just about anything, but there are lines I will not cross. If you had asked me what those lines were a week ago, I would have waffled a bit.

Not now.

A few days ago, I visited a used book store near my house and found some old romances in the clearance section. One of the books was written by an author I used to love — I’ve read twenty or more of her books, and some of them are my all time favorites. A couple of them pushed the envelope, but I didn’t actually dislike them. I really hated this book.

The author is dead, but even so, in deference to the many books of hers that I read and loved, I’m not mentioning any names here. This subject has been on my mind recently, because others have talked about it, too. Many romance readers my age (not young) started with Kathleen Woodiwiss’ books, as I did.

Those books aren’t considered very PC today, but I dearly loved them back in the day. Attitudes have changed and the books written today have different sensibilities. I didn’t used to have very strong feelings about this — I just figured we had evolved, and the books with us.

The book that inspired this blog was written about fifteen years ago — not really old, but certainly not new. The writing wasn’t bad — this was an experienced author — but the hero was not today’s Alpha. No, he was a violent, jealous prick. Excuse my language, but I found that I do have lines that I will not cross, and the hero of this book crossed them.

When a hero manhandles the heroine by choking her to the point she passes out, has a ring of bruises around her throat and can barely speak for days, do not expect me to forgive this creep, no matter what his provocation was. I don’t want to see the heroine coming over all understanding and forgiving — I have two words for her: Balls. Off.

I was so upset when I finished this book (and yes, I did push through to the end), I very nearly threw it against the wall. I usually pass on books I’ve read (except the favorites), but I am reluctant to do so with this one.

Do I really want to inflict this hero on an unsuspecting friend, thereby becoming a sort of enabler? Or do I break a lifetime of treasuring books and actually throw it out? (I am stumbling over the words, they so go against everything I believe — but still . . .)

What about you? What lines won’t you cross when it comes to romance, erotica, romantic suspense or paranormal? Or any book, for that matter? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this tricky topic.

About anyadavis

Anya Davis writes in the real world, on a slightly tilted axis. Faux angels, humans with the genes of gods . . . and wolves. Dark suspense and wickedly erotic paranormals: reality, reimagined. Anya is a member of the Ohio Valley chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is unpublished, but working hard.

22 responses »

  1. Throw it out!

    I know it is hard. During Banned Books Week it is harder, but there are too many excellent books.

    Remember–you are making room for a great book on your TBR shelf.

    ps. I do want to know the author!

  2. [[Balls. Off.]]

    LOL! Amen, sister.

    I read an erotic romance (and I use the term loosely) that is a recent release, that pushed similar buttons for me. Again, no names or titles, but suffice to say the hero spent 90 percent of the book alternately calling the heroine a whore, then scr3wing her blind any way he could get her. Than call her a whore again. Rinse, repeat. The heroine hung in there because – all together now! – she was convinced her love would change him.

    In the last chapter said hero-creep had an epiphany and All Was Well, but the book it the wall and left a bad taste in my mouth for days.

  3. Mary – I think it’s partly because of the Banned Books issue that this is really bugging me. I am totally against censoring reading materials, but I really don’t want to pass on this book.

    Carolan – I don’t think I’ve read that book, or I’d remember it. I was thinking about paranormals – in a lot of those, there is violence from the heroes, but usually the heroine is equally strong and able to hold her own. In this book, that didn’t happen.

    I know too many women who’ve suffered abuse of different kinds for this to sit well with me. I know for some of my friends, forgiving a cheater is even harder. I guess we each have our own hot buttons.

  4. Paranormals – exactly, I agree with you. Either the hero doesn’t direct his violence at the heroine (unless he’s a vampire biting her neck. lol), or the heroine is strong enough to kick his…er… balls off if he dared try anything.

    No, was a straight contemporary. The hero had “issues” (obviously) but nothing that would justify his treatment of the heroine.

    Having said that, the author is a very good writer and I’ve enjoyed her other books. She pushed the envelope on this particular book, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing; for me personally, it didn’t work.

  5. The worst book I ever read was when the hero repeatedly cheated on the heroine… who he was married to. She was distant and wouldn’t have sex with him… She’d just had a frigging baby die!!!
    It was awful. She found out about the affair and left him. Suddenly he “comes to his senses.”
    It was awful.
    I can understand writing a book where the heroine & hero are actually seperated and have it happen. I like books to be real and men are not celibate creatures. But when you’re married and together?!?!?!?!?!
    I hated the hero, who in my opinion, was no hero at all.

  6. I wonder if these authors were working out demons from their own past, and just needed to get it out of their system. Scary thought, if they’d been victimized and were rationalizing it, though.

    Crystal-Rain, you’ve just reminded me of another book that drove me crazy. This was another book by an author whose other work I absolutely LOVE, so I will never mention names. But it was a book with a baby involved, and the hero couldn’t accept the child and . . . I just found it really upsetting.

    Another hot button, I guess. Considering the huge number of books I read, the fact that this happens to me very rarely is an indication of how many authors get it right. But when it’s wrong — or wrong for me, anyway — it’s so frustrating!

  7. The only author I’ve read that had a cheating husband as a hero and pulled it off successfully was Kathleen Eagle in “Reason to Believe.”

    I think what made it work was that when the story starts, the actual affair is in the past and the hero has undergone treatment for alcoholism, and counseling so he owns up to his mistakes.

    It’s really a beautiful story. 🙂

  8. I agree with everyone above. I hate the cheating, abusive barbarian and the heroine who’s too stupid to live. Anya, you know what I write and I’ve talked to you about what I like to read. Do you remember me mentioning a really gross erotic romance I read about a month ago involving oral sex and menstration? UGH! ’nuff or too much said I think, but can you believe it? I don’t get that at all. Yes, it was a futuristic/paranormal but UGH again. I’d rather see a shape shifting roach or something–wait no–that’s too gross, too. 😛

    I don’t really care for the swapping whoever’s available for sex stories–where supposedly the H/H are wildly in love, bonded for life and nothing will tear them apart, but it’s perfectly normal for the hero to “do or be done by” his (male) best friend while his mate’s getting it on with the other guy’s wife/mate. It confuses me.

    Love the topic and you know I’m gonna bug you about the book you’re talking about!

  9. I haven’t read that one but I think there would be a big eek factor for me, too.

    Carolan, I love Kathleen Eagle, but I don’t think I’ve read that one – I’ll have to check it out.

    I’m really very open to possibilities with books, and I like it when authors try new things. I guess this book just brought it home to me that, as open as I try to be, there are still things that are just more than I can take.

  10. I could have went the rest of my life without knowing about the oral sex/menustration thing. Ugh. Eck. (shudder). Seriously, what is wrong with the people who think that up? Ew.

    I read a really good book where the hero had a relationship with another woman while seperated from his wife for years. I loved the book, because let’s face it. It’s REAL. Men are not celibate creatures by nature. I can deal with the sex-with-another-woman-while-seperated-from-wife-for-several-years thing as long as it stops immediately when they get back together (in the case of this book, I believe that other relationship had ended prior to them getting back together, but whatever. BTW, it’s “The Tie That Binds” by Laura Gale). And, of course, it’s all in the execution.

  11. Thanks for sharing the books where the author tried something a little iffy and made it work well — you have to give those authors credit for pulling off a difficult job!

    Thanks also for NOT mentioning the names of the books/authors that crossed the line. Let’s talk about what drove us nuts without naming names or book titles.

  12. And as an unpublished author, I am so in awe of those who are published, I would NEVER diss anyone. For one thing, it takes guts to put yourself out there. It may be a cliche to compare writing to giving birth, but it’s true. Criticizing a book is like telling someone their baby is ugly, and that’s not something I’m ever going to do.

    On the other hand, it’s interesting to note the topics or twists that we, as readers, find squicky. And, of course, one woman’s grossed out “Squee!” might be another reader’s squeal of delight!

  13. “Criticizing a book is like telling someone their baby is ugly, and that’s not something I’m ever going to do.”

    I love that!

    Yes, that’s part of why I will never mention a name or book title unless I’m giving praise. I’m well aware that no matter what I write someone is not going to like it (that’s just reality) and I can accept that but… I’d rather they keep it to themselves. LOL!

  14. Hello! *waves her hand* Found this through Twitter – what an interesting topic and conversation!

    I mostly agree with what everyone has said so far, so I don’t have too much to add. I’m not a huge reader of the romance genre, but I like books with romance in them – does that make sense? (I’m more of a urban fantasy, fantasy, sci-fi type myself.)

    Personally, my line is drawn at rape of any type, whether physical or emotional. It’s very, very hard for me to read, even in a book that is otherwise fantastic. I usually manage when it is used to create a certain horrific reality to the book, like death and other extreme situations, and it treats it like the horrible act that it is, making it something that a heroine (or hero!*) needs to deal with. But when it’s in a book where the heroine acts like “everything is okay”, that just infuriates me, and I have a hard time not throwing it at the wall too!

    *I actually read a book once where the situations were reversed from the stereotype. The protagonist was a guy caught by powerful women, who then trapped him and essentially raped him. Then the book itself treated it like it was no big deal, and the man even forgave them. Then it started heading towards a romance between him and one of the women! I couldn’t finish the book.

    On the issue of passing it on vs. Banned Books week – Banned Books week is about not allowing others to make their own choice on whether to read a book or not. That’s terrible, everyone has the right to choose for themselves, even if they’re still in their teens (IMO). However, if you think it’s terrible, why should you pass it on and suggest it? You’re not preventing others from reading it, you’re just not recommending it yourself. 🙂

    (So apparently, I had tons to say! Hehe.)

  15. Paige – I wondered if anyone would bring up rape. I remember an author for Harlequin who wrote a mainstream where the hero had been accused of rape by the heroine, and jailed for it. At the time the book starts, he has served his term and evidence comes out that someone else committed the rape. It was very hard to read, and even though it was well-written, I found it hard to connect with either the hero or the heroine. I like tortured heroes, but I couldn’t handle this one.

    Sometimes I can read about a rape and stay back a step, emotionally. Other times that’s hard to do, but it doesn’t necessarily stop me from liking the book. Charlaine Harris’s Shakespeare series — mystery, not romance — features a heroine who is recovering from a particularly brutal rape by changing her life. It’s hard to read in parts, but I was cheering on the heroine’s strength and determination right through each book, and I kept coming back for more.

    I’m not sure where I draw the line when it comes to reading about rape. What about the rest of you?

  16. Paige – I hear you about Banned Books week. I had set the book aside, but now my critique partner wants to check it out to see if it affects her the same way. I guess we can consider it a kind of study guide!

  17. My first published book, The Fire Still Burns, features a heroine that had been raped. It’s her backstory, something she’s kept from the hero and everyone else. The story shows her journey of finally confiding in someone and finally coming to terms with it.

    I have no problems with stories that involve rape along those terms. It’s when the hero is raping the heroine and then they just “get over it” and fall in love that I think a lot of readers object to, and I think we can all understand why.

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