A Romance or a Reiteration of Women’s Role?

I get in these moods every so often for a good smut book.   You know, otherwise known as a romance novel.   I’m rather picky when it comes to my selections, but I thought I had found the perfect book when I saw the cover of a woman dressed in knight’s mail.  I mean, come on, a woman kicking ass, but also having some hot sex – what’s not to like?

Oh, let me tell you.

The Angel and the Prince by Laurel O’Donnell (yes, a woman wrote this) gave me everything I wanted in the first hundred pages.   A strong female lead that couldn’t be defeated by anyone in battle who just happens to have some sex with the #1 enemy warrior on the other side when he’s her captive.   As her brother stated, “You want him, then take him.”   And she did.   Ah, a breath of fresh air!

If only I’d  stopped there.

Let’s just jump down to how this book ends.   Strong female lead becomes imprisoned by the other side and suddenly becomes”¦ well, motherly.   Yup, that’s right.   She begins teaching the enemy’s country how to cook, helps them with their problems, and so on.   And sure, I suppose you can be a superb killer, but also a really swell gal, so I can perhaps let that go.

But in the end, she decides to stay with her #1 enemy warrior lover in his homeland, giving up her family, her home, and most importantly here, her status as a warrior.   She’ll just be his wife now, happy to watch her honey go off to kill her people, since she’d, naturally, feel weird about helping with that.

Because, of course, it’s the woman that has to give up everything for her man.

“Here, sweetie, I made you some muffins.   Have fun killing off my kin and people!   I’ll knit you a sweater while you’re gone!”

Ugh.   UGH, I say.


  1. Mecha says

    Something like that always seems to come really close between the line of ‘domestic fantasy’ and ‘propaganda’. Or maybe the writers like that are playing to a base of women who actually bought into the settling down thing and want a little jolt before they’re reassured. A little danger, and a little moralizing that setting down and showing people a stereotypical woman’s touch is okay. Hmm.

    Weird thoughts for the middle of the day, I suppose.


  2. Ifritah says

    It makes me wonder what the percentage of women who like this kind of message is. I mean, it must be somewhat large for there to be a base for authors to write for.

    *Shudders at the thought*

  3. Jennifer Kesler says

    Well, that’s the very question that prompted me to start this site: are they “giving the audience what they want to see” or propagandizing us? I saw a lot of demographic info get ignored when it didn’t support the standard party line, and that’s what disillusioned me.

  4. Gategrrl says

    Wow. That sounds despiscable. I have thrown the book across the room and then dumped it into the recycle bin. I did that once with a vampire romance book I bought that came highly recced (I was also reading a series of werewolf romance novels at the time, by Susan Krinard). The word “Gold” featured prominently in the all the titles of that vampire series. And it was just as despicable as the book you just described.

  5. scarlett says

    This is why I read Gone With the Wind and Scarlett over and over rather than finding myself a new piece of fiction.

  6. Ifritah says

    To be honest, I did throw the book across the room. *Cough*

    What was the vampire romance? There’s a good chance I’ve read it.

  7. Gategrrl says

    I wish I could remember. They came out sometime in the early ninties, I think. The main storyline was how this vampire would save a woman (it was a series) and she’d become this utterly spineless thing attached to him, and he wouldn’t tell her anything, and she was totally helpless, and — yuck. I blocked the title of the book from my mind.

  8. sbg says

    It does make you wonder why they even bother making the female character strong in the first place if all they’re really trying to say is women should be at home in the kitchen. And barefoot. Preferably pregnant.

    It’s as (if not more) demeaning to strip a character of her strength as it is to never give it to her in the first place.

    The last romance novel I tried to read was one of those “Dude’s an abuser who forces himself upon the woman, who struggles at first but then realizes she wuvs him so very much and he’s just misunderstood” kinds that are quite abhorrent in their own right.

  9. scarlett says

    I think the point to making women strong and then reducing the to a ‘barefoot in the kitchen’ steroetype is a male fantasy/social conditioning that women might SAY they want to be strong and independant, but really they want to be taken care of.

  10. Jennifer Kesler says

    That’s exactly it: it’s a redemption arc, which is much more powerful than just showing a character who’s “right” to start with. Compare story about a character who’s got religion to a story about a drug addict who gets religion and changes his life. Which one is more likely to suggest to your mind that religion is a good thing we should all embrace?

    When a strong woman gradually realizes she needs to cling to a man and lose her identity to gain happiness, that teaches us that women can be redeemed from their humanist/feminist ways and welcomed into the fold.

    And, wow, are women falling for it. They seem to think feminism failed because 40-50 years of women having semi-equal access to education and career choice hasn’t fully balanced out centuries of women being legally and morally regarded as property. Personally, I say give it a bit more time.

  11. SunlessNick says

    I can’t really add anything substantive, but I wanted to chime in and agree with what’s been said. Especially what Scarlett said. Oh, and “ugh.”

  12. Gategrrl says

    Men write romance novels with female pseudonyms – it’s possible this book was written under one of those monikers. Not that a woman couldn’t write this kind of pap (see the Pern books), but it’s a possibility.

  13. Ifritah says

    Men write romance novels with female pseudonyms – it’s possible this book was written under one of those monikers. Not that a woman couldn’t write this kind of pap (see the Pern books), but it’s a possibility.

    Gategrrl: That’s a good point. Though I wonder how far that goes. When I first read the book, I researched a touch for just that reason. As far as google is concerned, she has a husband and three children. *Shrug* Not to say that with a fake name you can’t have a fake life, but…

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