17 October 2011
Post 437: Eat Your Heart Out
Romance is so hard to write. There seem to be two ways you can really write romantic interactions: completely silly or totally serious. The first one is hard to do without making it too silly, and the second is hard to do without making it too silly AND serious. Without balance, neither one really rings true, but I would venture to say that the ones with a bit of silliness are a little more accurate. Dayna Ingram has managed to find that balance, at least as far as her character Devin is concerned.
So yes, having Devin accidentally break Renni's nose within hours of meeting her is borderline silly, and so is rolling around in the mud in a field of zombies, but hey, there are zombies and how sane do you suppose your romantic responses would be when faced with the living dead? So in this way Devin's response seems far more true to me based on the circumstances than a straight-laced takes-itself-too-seriously romance novel-esque version of the same situation. Having been in situations of mental crises, I can guarantee you that I have not made the greatest choices, which is not to say that the romantic pairing in this novel is a bad choice, but perhaps the timing is not so awesome. But dammit, we're human, we fuck at inopportune moments and get involved with people when we probably shouldn't because sometimes we just have to think with our hormones. And as a result, hilarious things happen.
Flirtations bomb or are a little over the top, there are tentative moments, sometimes there are ass slaps that seem to come from nowhere, and then there's the dumb and slack jawed staring, because that totally happens sometimes. And you know what, it's a hell of a lot more fun, and sometimes even more appealing, than the calling-Heathcliff-from-the-moors kind of "romance."
For one thing, the nervous/giddy nature of initial flirting acts as a kind of boundary testing. Is it okay if I touch this person's arm? Is it okay if I comment on how they look? Someone who is good at gauging another person's response will take the cues and respond accordingly, which eventually increases the level of comfort and leads to further permissions being granted as the couple gets to know each other. Meanwhile the straight-laced romances seem to bypass this or use a sort of kick in the door approach, usually via Stockholm syndrome or one character pretty much forcing another character into a stressful situation in which they bicker with each other until there is that breaking moment where all of a sudden the forced character (usually female, gee...) submits to the one doing the forcing. While it is not (usually) outright rape, it is manipulative as hell and I'll take the sexy playful, overly awkward, and flirtation heavy romance Dayna* has provided over bodice ripping any day.
My review can be found on Goodreads, and I so added that book to the catalog. Because I have magical powers.
LibsNote: Review copy provided by the most awesome person in the world. I mean the author. I mean Dayna Ingram. She is my secret girlfriend. (Well, she would be if I weren't straight. Stupid biology.)
*Also see any of Gail Carriger's novels. I'm sure there are other examples, but I can't think of them off the top of my head. Katniss and Peeta in Hunger Games also come to mind.