Thursday, May 12, 2005

My Mouth Says "No!" But My Actions Say "Yes!"

Last night I finished Black Ice by Anne Stuart. Took me two days. Not a record, by any means, but it's the first time in a long while that I've been inspired to push aside pretty much everything to read.

Oddly enough, this book answered Larissa Ione's call yesterday in her RTB column for books to contain more of what she coins the Grit Factor. Specifically, Larissa is looking for stories where the people don't abstain from violence or other un-PC acts when the time period or the nature of their jobs would realistically require it. Gunslingers in the old west who hang or shoot the bad guys rather than just tying them up and sending them off to some off-scene jail. Operatives who kill with ease when their lives are in danger and heroines who understand such a need even if they abhor all violence. In general, characters who do stuff that in the real world would send us all crying in outrage but really is justifiable given their circumstances.

In Black Ice, the hero, Bastien, is some undefined special operative. Basically, he's a Jason Bourne-ish spy-like dude who has been trained to do the unspeakable and whose heart has been sufficiently hardened that he is not stopped by the idea that killing is always a bad thing. And within the scope of the story, we do see Bastien kill people.

Oh, I should warn you - SPOILERS.

He kills both bad guys and people who are supposed to be good guys. He threatens the heroine, Chloe, on more than one occasion, telling her repeatedly that if she proves to be too much trouble, he'll kill her without a second thought. The guy is a first class assassin, and he acts like one.

There's a heapin' helpin' of true grit in this story. Lots of blood. Lots of slashed throats and gunfire. Some torture and a forced seduction. No pc backpedaling or peace-loving-war-hating anti-violence themes in this one.

But this level of violence is what the story calls for. The story is about a woman who finds herself in a horrible situation, caught in the crossfire between illegal arms smugglers and the undercover agents who are working to destroy the cartel. If there wasn't any violence, the book would have been plain stupid. Kind of like watching Gladiator with the swords replaced with foam boppers. Just not the same level of realism, there.

I know many are turned off by dark heroes - or heroines, for that matter - that kill or otherwise do things the rest of us wouldn't dream of in our wildest imaginations. That's cool. The romance novel world is ripe with offerings that are very tame in the violence/darkness catagory.

I myself do enjoy the books that lean toward the darker side. I like a tortured hero, one who walks a thin line between hero and villain. You've all read my raves about anti-heroes, and in certain ways, Bastien fit the role perfectly. To know the man - to hear his thoughts and know his past - one wouldn't think of him as a hero. But in the way that he treats the heroine despite everything that he has been trained to believe and despite his very nature shows him to be a hero.

This is the kind of man who intrigues me most. Perhaps it's because when he finally demonstrates these hero qualities, I've come to see that only a very special woman could bring them out in him. I can believe that his feelings for her must run deep and true because they are strong enough to change him.

I think maybe this is why Mr. Impossible's Rupert Carsington left me kind of cold as a hero. As I said before, he was a great guy. Really, nothing at all wrong with him. He exhibited all the things I normally love in a hero. But the passion between Rupert and heroine Daphne didn't stir me the way the tension between Bastien and Chloe did.

Every word out of Bastien's mouth said that he had no feelings for Chloe. Even his thoughts repeatedly reminded him and the readers that he viewed Chloe as disposable, a nuisance, and not his responsibility. But every action Bastien took screamed otherwise. Time and again he ignored his spy-sense that told him to leave her to the fates and returned to pull her out of the jaws of death. Seems to me like maybe he doth protest too much.

Whereas with Rupert, he never denied his feelings for Daphne. Rather, he was confused by them, and when finally he figured out that what he felt was love, he was very accepting of the idea. All along he'd known that he liked her. His actions and his feelings were in complete harmony. Very nice, but not as exciting, IMO.

Just in time, my first shipment from Amazon arrived this morning. I could kick myself (once again) because I realized when I opened the box (way too late) that I ordered Sandra Brown's Slow Heat In Heaven, a book I had picked up at a USB two months ago when I was visiting my mother. I now have a battered copy and a pristine copy. I guess this is good in that Sandra Brown will get her full payment due, and I'm never wanting to deny a writer some hard earned cash.

1 comment:

meljean brook said...

I just read this book last night :) I really loved the darkness of it -- my only real trouble with it was that it almost was too short; I'm not convinced that these two are actually going to be able to live HEA. He's SO much: an adrenaline junkie, a ruthless killer (Stuart did a great job with this) that I'm not sure, two months down the road when Chloe is no longer in danger if he'll still be around. And I can't even imagine what life would be like for him -- eating apple pie for the rest of his life? I just dunno.