A Rant

After all the hullabaloo my opinion of rape romances caused on the Amazon Romance forum years ago, I swore I’d never let loose with a particularly contrary and passionate opinion in public again, but here I am tonight. Maybe because it’s late and I’m tired, more probably because four years of that much self-control is all I’m good for, but I just slammed my Kindle shut on another romance at the 60% mark and will be deleting it shortly, and I need to rant somewhere, so cyberspace is it.

Years ago I read a poem that really struck me (and if any of you recognize it and can give me the title or author, I’d love to read it again and see how much my memory has distorted it). What I recall is that star-crossed lovers make a suicide pact. She carries through, and he doesn’t. Since suicide is such a great sin, she ends up in hell, and her reaction as I remember it is to tell the Devil, “I’ve been tricked. I’ve been lied to. I will not stay.” And she doesn’t.

That’s my kind of heroine. I hope once she returned from hell, she beat the bejesus out of her former lover, but I don’t think the poem covered that part.

So this romance I was reading tonight is the third one I’ve started where the heroine is tricked into marriage by the “hero.” Not oops we’ve been caught in a compromising position and have to marry and have to make the best of it, but a deliberate set-her-up so she has to marry him because what he wants is so damn important that lying, cheating, and leaving someone no options is perfectly acceptable. After all he’s handsome and good in bed. Heck, that makes it romantic, right?

So they get married. She has a temper tantrum about being lied to and cheated out of the future she wanted. And after a few hours or few days of that she realizes she can’t resist how gorgeous he is (wasn’t Ted Bundy pretty good looking?), and after all he meant well (one of my mother’s favorite sayings was that one about the road to hell being paved with good intentions), and she forgives him. (Admittedly I quit the last 2 of these stories before we got to forgiving the creep part, but I know that’s what happened as well as if I’d read every word twice.)

None of the kernels for future stories that I have worked out deals with this kind of story, but if I ever get the time I’m going to write one. In mine, the heroine is going to have her pitiful little temper tantrum and only pretend to get over it. If he’s already tricked her into marriage, she’ll find a way to make herself a widow without consequences, and if she’s only compromised so that she supposedly has to marry him, she’ll act docile until they get to the church and then make a scene to end all scenes. After that she’ll take off on her own in spite of it being “impossible” for a female, make her own way, and find a decent guy. There may be an epilog where she encounters the s.o.b. again long enough for him to realize she’s the one who bankrupted him, caused him to be jailed and convicted of something that will have him in prison until he’s old and gray, or maybe just spit in his eye.

End of rant.

~ Ellen

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34 Responses to A Rant

  1. Maddy Barone says:

    Write it! Start your story 15 years later, when the innocent dupe has become a strong woman running her ranch with an iron fist. I would love to read about what kind of man could worm his way into her heart and make her trust again. I can imagine you writing that kind of story.

  2. Ina M. Ish says:

    Rant on Ellen!! I for one, am very turned off by the amount of sex and lust that has appeared in print of late.

  3. June says:

    I agree with both Ina and Maddy.

  4. Rosheen says:

    Agree with Maddy, Ina and June :). This is why we really like reading your stories they are not run of the mill, they have some real (for fiction), plausible but unpredictable (as in you don’t read the first two chapters and know they entire story) story lines and writing. Yep the difficultly with Ereaders can’t safely chuck them across the room in discussed frustration! I once had a 1/2 grown puppy (Australian working dog cross) who, when I was at work, singularly pulled a paperback (that I had jammed/thrown in my book self in discussed) out of my book self and shredded it into confetti. This was her only destructive act as a puppy, well apart from managing to herd the mother duck and her 12 baby duckling through the dog flap, through the house into the Carpeted dining room with two entrances and keeping them there as a surprise for me when I got home (yep don’t think that she planned the inevitable consequences of ducks and carpet). Any way safely rant on you are not alone . Cheers have a good weekend

  5. Thanks for the sympathy, everyone. Offending book is gone, but I’m still feeling cranky over it.

    Rosheen, that’s a terrific story about the ducks, although I’m sure it’s one of those that’s funny years later but not much so at the time when you had to clean up the mess.

    As to the shredded book – have I ever mentioned here one of my more embarrassing moments? I checked a book on dog training out of the library. The dog I needed to figure out how to train got hold of it, and I had to take it back with the toothmarks all over the cover and explain what happened. It was a hard cover, and I rescued it before real destruction but was surprised they put it back on the shelf looking like that and didn’t fine me.

    ~Ellen

  6. Mindy says:

    You write that book! Duped heroines forgive too easily, in my opinion. We need stronger female leads. I’m a mom of 3 daughters. I want my girls to see strong women. I want them to see men who are strong, but not overbearing. I’ve read hundreds of romances, and Cord Bennett is my favorite hero. I love he is so threatening to everyone, but Anne sees the other side of him. He’s just an amazingly complex character.

  7. Thanks, Mindy. I’ll admit my feelings are stronger than most. While I agree many heroines in romances forgive too easily, I also think some of them forgive things that should be unforgivable and cause them to move on. Things that can be forgiven should be with an apology and whatever attempt to make amends is possible. I don’t much care for the concept of groveling although I realize that’s just the romancelandia word for it.

    You are with the large majority in your feelings about Cord Bennett. I do get emails and see reviews from readers who prefer one of the other books and heroes, but Cord is the favorite by a pretty big margin. At the time I wrote Eyes, he was my idea of the perfect guy, but as I’ve said here before, I fall in love with each hero as I write that story, and I think Matt Slade and Trey Van Cleve would be easier guys to be married to.

    ~ Ellen

  8. McD says:

    I really want to know the title of that book, Ellen. 🙂

    As to your heroes, I’d take any of them! Cord seems to be the most popular, but I would give my eyeteeth to be Katherine. For me, Gaetan is just such a hero. Especially since he becomes the protector and lover of Katherine and the very person he never wants to be! I’ve read Dancing on Coals many, many times…my favorite of yours.

  9. As you probably remember, McD, I’m a sloppy reader who doesn’t keep track, so I can’t give you titles and authors. It isn’t a single book that inspired the rant either. I bet I’ve read (started – they were all DNF for me) half a dozen of them in the last months.

    The 2 most egregious that stick in my mind are a Regency and a “classic” western. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a thread discussing the Regency on AAR or somewhere, so I’m not the only one it struck particularly. The heroine is of course penniless and without friends or family to run to, which is why the hero chose her. He sweeps her off her feet, marries her, and she can’t figure out why he doesn’t consummate. When he gets her to his place, she finds out that’s because if she got p.g. it would ruin all his plans – which are that she pretend to be p.g. and pretend his sister’s bastard is hers so that the sister, who has ruined herself and is p.g., will be saved.

    In the western, she’s a mail order bride. Again, he chose her specifically because she’s alone in the world. She gets there, marries him, and her takes her to what he’s led her to believe is his ranch. Except it’s a hole in the ground. He’s dirt poor and admits he deliberately did this to her because he needs her labor. Refuses to take her back to the last town, etc.

    In both cases after some initial fuss, the women decide to put up with it and make the best of it – and of course fall in love with the bastard. I didn’t read that far in any of them but skimmed enough to know. I realize in historical context women in situations like that would have to make the best of it, but the whole fall in the love with the bastard instead of lying in wait, finding a way to murder him and inherit everything he ever had infuriates me. It’s why the concept of groveling in romances just makes me mad. As if anything can and should be forgiven if the guy is handsome enough and says he’s sorry on his knees or whatever.

    Maybe I’m an unnatural female, but I believe more things than cheating are unforgivable. My sister is so important it’s all right to ruin your life to fix hers is one. You are such a nothing you had to offer yourself in marriage to a man you’d never seen, so I’m entitled to lie to you and force you into a life of my choosing is another.

    You see? Even thinking about it weeks later makes me mad all over again.

    ~Ellen

  10. McD says:

    Oh, I agree entirely. Firstly, men like that aren’t heroes in my book….or any book I want to read. To me it seems that it’s part of their character, rather than just a one-off ‘mistake’ to treat women, esp the heroine, so badly.

    And secondly, I dislike reading romances where the heroine forgives and forgets too easily. Have a bit of self-respect and grit!

    I think this is why so many of us love your novels. The H’s and h’s are exactly that!

  11. Robin Roeschlein says:

    You are not an unnatural female. 🙂 I happen to have read the book you are referring to. I did not read the reviews before I read it because I have read this authors books before and enjoyed them. However, the reviewers were just as disappointed in the premise of the book as we are. I am among the many who have a special place in my heart for Cord and Anne. It is one of my all time favorite books. Although all your books have been a pleasure to read.

    As for my hero all I have to do is look at my husband. 🙂

  12. McD – I agree about things that aren’t mistakes but basic character flaws. Also that whatever else happens a hero needs to be heroic, and I don’t mean that in the winning fights way, but in the being decent at the core way. Even in historicals. No matter what was commonly accepted in a given historical era, there were always those who refused to toe the line. When slavery flourished, there were abolitionists. So my hero is never going to be the slave owner who considers it the natural order and himself superior – although Beau Taney…. Never mind.

    Robin – Thanks. Real life heroes are always the best.

    ~Ellen

  13. Mary says:

    I have to agree with your rant and it is not surprising that you feel this way given your hero and heroines. As for Beau Taney – yes he does fall into the category you mention but he is a damaged individual and given his friendship and interactions with the lovely Matt Slade is perhaps redeemable given the right woman and circumstances. Ditto Roddy.

    I re read Luke’s Eyes recently and wondered are you still planning the set of Eyes stories? Also, do we have any more WHR to look forward to.

    Best, Mary

  14. Yes, Mary, I am planning to write several more follow-ups to Eyes. I have the next one, Robert’s Eyes (Anne’s brother Rob), outlined and ready to write. After that will come Pete’s Eyes (Luke’s cousin Pete Bennett) and Eyes of Stone (Anne and Cord dealing with the Stones again).

    Speaking of redeemable, a couple years ago a reader emailed me and asked if I’d do a story for Rob, and I said no, that I couldn’t imagine a story for him after what he’d done. So time has passed, and here I am planning on what I didn’t think I’d ever want to do.

    IMO Roddy and Beau are pieces of cake in the redemption department compared to Rob, which is good. Roddy’s story will be the next full length novel. I meant to do Roddy and Beau sooner, right after Words, but Words was put off when the Suttons popped up and demanded attention.

    And when it comes to changing my mind, well, I need to do a post about what I’ve decided about those Eyes novellas.

    ~Ellen

  15. June says:

    That’s brilliant news Ellen. I am really really looking forward to anything you write.

  16. Mary says:

    Sounds fantastic – great news – am waiting with baited breath for both reads. As for Rob, I can see that he would be problematic but as Anne forgave him in the end…

  17. Maddy Barone says:

    I’m very excited to read more in the Eyes “neighborhood”. Of all your books, my fave is a toss up between Eyes and Beautiful Bad Man. I just love Cal!

  18. Vera says:

    I just found your book Without Words on kindle unlimited and read it straight through, I LOVED it, I cried, I laughed and I sighed. What a great story. I plan to read all of the other books. I want to thank you for allowing this book on kindle unlimited as it allows those of us on limited incomes to find and read authors we could not otherwise. I also agree with your rant about hero’s and heroines, those type of stories are predictable I loose interest quickly.

  19. Jane says:

    Forgive me if you’ve been asked this in the past Ellen, but what books/ authors do you enjoy? I’m in a funk, I’ve read all yours multiple times and you’ve just spoiled me ( in GOOD way) . Also speaking of novellas, maybe I’m just imagining it but was there a little crack in the door for one about Belle’s sister in ” Without Words”? I can just guess what Will Sterling did to the poor girl and would love to see her have a happily ever after.

  20. Jane says:

    P.S. If any of of you other ladies have recommendations, I’d love to hear them too! Thanks in advance and happy reading 🙂

  21. Maddy Barone says:

    Personally, I enjoy Maggie Osborne. The Promise of Jenny Jones and The Best Man are two of my favorites. Also I Do, I Do, I Do and Silver Lining. What I like about them are the heroines. These are strong women. Not all of them realize how strong they are. I’d be interested in other, more recent books too. I like to read western American romance, but so many are on the bland side, with under-developed characters that I don’t care about. That’s what I particularly enjoy in Ellen’s books. Her characters are multi-layered, and by the middle of the book I feel like I *know* these people. I really care about them.

  22. Jane, I’ve been asked before and haven’t answered. When I first published, I saw so many accusations of indies trading reviews, etc., I decided I wouldn’t review, not that I ever did much anyway. Then I went and mentioned a specific book here, not intending it as anything but a comment, certainly not a review, and bingo there were all sorts of hits on the blog where the search terms were “Ellen O’Connell review of _________.”

    So then I decided I wasn’t mentioning other writers’ books here at all. I’ve kind of bent that rule a little here and there, but generally I stick to it.

    What I can tell you is I have as much trouble finding romances as the rest of you, and that’s not just Westerns, but romances in general. Like Maddy I’m a fan of Maggie Osborne and I also liked all but one of the Lorraine Heath westerns I read, but Osborne is retired and Heath isn’t writing westerns any more. Of current historical Western romance writers, I’d say Jo Goodman tops my list.

    After Goodman, my favorite is Mary Balogh, although she writes Regencies, and since I’ve admitted it here before I’ll say my favorite romance is “A Summer to Remember.” However, the last Balogh I bought was one of her old ones just brought out for Kindle and it was a DNF for me. There are others of hers I’d never reread.

    I’ve been reading some Georgette Heyer lately. Surely I read some of her books years ago, but I don’t remember, so I’m interspersing hers with other things. I read some non-Western romances by Erin Satie and Rose Lerner not too long ago that I liked.

    I’ve read every one of Julie Ann Long’s Pennyroyal Green series, liked some, not thought much of others, but I know I’ll read the next one, which I think is supposed to be the last of the series.

    If I read nothing but romance I’d be in desperate straights for reading material, but I like classic Westerns (a small genre where it’s even harder to find good ones than in Western romance). Two books set on a steamboat traveling up the Missouri river really held my attention recently. They’re by David Unruh. The people who don’t like Eyes because the writing isn’t up to their standards would definitely not like these stories, but they fascinated me because the setting is unusual. They had a small thread of romance in them, but aren’t really very romantic. It was the unfamiliar setting and peek at a facet of the Old West I hadn’t had before that got me.

    I downloaded and read every one of Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Mysteries, proof positive a KU subscriber will spend oodles to buy books she likes (there are 17 of them so far, and I’ll buy the new one when it comes out). They’re historical mysteries and book by book there is a romance between the midwife heroine and a cop.

    I read several Jojo Moyes novels. Here I go mentioning titles again – only “One Plus One” would qualify as a romance (of the ones I read, there may be others). Any time you need your tear ducts thoroughly flushed out, I think “Me Before You” will do it.

    C.S. Harris’s series featuring Sebastian St. Cyr is one of my pre-order favorites. She used to write romance as Candace Proctor, but these are historical mysteries with a strong romantic thread. To give you an idea of how much I like them, I managed to overlook things as stupid as a dog in labor having sweaty flanks. (If you’re not a dog person and wondering, dogs don’t sweat on their bodies. They pant. Their inefficient cooling system is part of the reason leaving a dog in a car even when the temps aren’t that high can be fatal.) I can’t believe anyone who ever had a dog wrote that, and I can’t believe any editor worth his/her salt let it get by. There are a few other things like that, but as I said, I like the stories so much I’m able to shrug them off. Oh, dear, was that a review? Shoot.

    Now that Dick Francis and Tony Hillerman are gone, I’d say my favorite mysteries are those by Craig Johnson (Walt Longmire the protagonist), and a lot of others agree with me – it’s a television series now, but I haven’t seen any of it. I also pre-order Robert Crais, C.J. Box, and Nevada Barr. Used to pre-order Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak books, but her last one, which ended on a stupid been-there, done-that-before cliffhanger cured me. I’ll be waiting to see reader reviews of her next one before committing.

    Don’t know if any of that helps, but there it is.

    ~Ellen

  23. Oh, p.s., yes I think I could do a short featuring Caroline, the sister of the hero in Without Words, and her guy, but actually getting to it is down the list quite a ways. ~Ellen

  24. Mary says:

    Vera you are a lucky girl just starting out on your travels with Ellen’s books. They are all fantastic – it’s difficult to put a pin prick between them – and on re reading they just get better.

  25. Mary says:

    Thank you Ellen for your thoughts on authors you like. I devoured Georgette Heyer as a teenager and have re read her since. It’s good to go back to an old friend even if you look at them in a different light as time passes. My mother gave me Gone With the Wind to read when I was 14 and I thought it was the best book ever. It still holds a place in my heart as it was her favourite book and I think I would still like it today but probably in a different way – seen through different eyes so to speak.

    I’m glad you like Jo Goodman – her Bitter Creek stories are just fab. apart from the romance they are so witty, and I especially like Finn and Rabbit. Another WR I’ve really enjoyed is Desperate Hearts by Alexis Harrington.

    I’m glad you might do a short on Caroline – she was so nice to Hassie and I thought the scene between the gorgeous Bret and Simon Fenton was great. I was so pleased you referred to them at the end of the story.

    As you said – sort of – good WR is not always easy to find but I think that good detective/suspense is not always easy to find these days either. A lot of it is too graphic or too samey. A good and different one I read recently was Snowdrops by A D Miller. Jo Jo Moyes Me Before You gets a thumbs up and on a totally different note a must read isThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Can’t recommend that too much.

    Looking forward to more Ellen O’Connell – she’s a must read. 🙂

  26. Mary says:

    ps – I’m in the UK so it’s not I.25pm here.

  27. Gypsy says:

    On a different note, I just read reviewer profiles in All About Romance email for April. The reviewers Mary and Dabney listed “Sing My Name” as favorite American Western Historicals. Way to Go. That made me smile.

  28. Anonymous says:

    This is why I love your books. Too many of the “romance” novels I have read have involved the heroine giving up essentially her spirit to the alpha male. Yet your novels demonstrate a partnership. The women all retain themselves within the relationship, without completely submitting. It made it much more real and has prevented me from tossing my kindle across the room. I hope some of that made sense.

  29. Anonymous says:

    So glad to hear Beau and Roddy are in the near future. (I’m getting older, you need to hurry, LOL)
    You are, without a doubt, my favorite author and going back to your rant regarding “rape romances”, I have no doubt you could be the one to write that book. You do so well creating complex characters and would love to read this book. (after Roddy and Beau, LOL)

  30. Thanks, Mary. I’m going to look up some of the books you mentioned. Haven’t even heard of some of them.

    Gypsy, how do you get an AAR email? I’ve been an AAR fan for quite some time, but I never saw anything about an email from them before. Thanks for letting me know Sing got a mention.

    First Anon – that’s because I’m not a fan of real life lopsided relationships. I know some work, but I wouldn’t want to be part of one, which is to say they don’t seem romantic to me.

    Second Anon – I hear you about time passing. I do have a kernel of an idea about a heroine who says “I’ve been lied to. I won’t stay.” Since there are quite a few stories more developed in my mind that will come ahead of that, I’ll have a lot of time to think about it. 🙂

    ~Ellen

  31. Jane says:

    Mary, I loved Rabbit and Fin too. I think I would have read the series almost just for those two. I think like Ellen’s books they are a good example of how interesting secondary characters can really add to the whole story. I appreciate an author taking the time to do that instead of just using cardboard secondary characters to just serve a minimal purpose. I miss Maggie Osborne, and Pamela Moisi (may be spelled wrong, sorry) seems have left the historical romance for more modern settings. Thanks for recommendations all, something to keep me busy!

  32. Mary says:

    Agree with your first two points Jane – there are lots of good secondary characters in Ellen’s books not least Gunner – his relationship wit Bret…well. Have yet to discover the other two writers. Of the two bother books I mentioned Snowdrops isn’t romance but it’s good and Achilles is but is totally different. A western I forgot to mention which is more traditional but a fantastic read is St Agnes’s Stand by Thomas Eidson. It’s one of my favourite books and if you like a witty and modern detective series try the Jackson Brodie series by Kate Atkinson starting with Case Histories – they will keep you well entertained.

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