Friday, March 20, 2009

Caught in the act!

I can't remember how many books I've read where the hero (usually!) is caught someplace where he's not supposed to be and he declares, "Now honey, this isn't what it looks like!" At which point, the heroine stomps off into the sunset. There are a couple hundred pages of misunderstandings and in the last chapter, the heroine finally listens to the hero's explanation. Ta-da! They live happily ever after.

I should stop here and say... this is a valid romance archetype. I don't mind it in the least when it's well done. Especially if the author creates a really unusual reason for her hero/heroine to fail to get back together for a while.

The ones that tick me off are the stories where the entire misunderstanding could be cleared up in about three sentences--and that's usually about how long it takes in the last chapter. Or the ones where the guilty party is REALLY guilty and she takes him back anyway because he's learned his lesson. Uh, no.

At some publishers the misunderstanding is compounded by a secret baby. I have four children of my own and I can tell you there was nothing secret about the process. The guy would have to be deaf, dumb and blind while simultaneously living on a deserted island in order to miss the obvious signs in most of these books. And when the baby is not one, but twins then that stretches my credulity past the breaking point.

I suppose the woman could go to the deserted island, but then you have the difficulty of a) no prenatal care and b) no help delivering the baby. Perhaps that isn't important to either the writers or the readers. I would have a hard time dealing with those issues.

I also find it tough to swallow the story lines where the guy is a secret agent who is a mild mannered Clark Kent type when he's home, but a wild and wooly agent when he's on a mission... and the woman never wonders about him.

Author's note: Mary Stewart wrote one, Airs Above the Ground, but even in that one, the wife suspected something was not quite right.

Perhaps that's why I enjoyed True Lies so much. The wife was really putting him through his paces. I mean, wouldn't you wonder how your husband acquired bullet wounds when he was supposed to be selling insurance in Iowa? And why is it always Iowa? Do they have a particularly high death rate in Iowa? Why not Miami, Florida? Or New York City?

See, I would like to see one of those plots where the wife takes a trip to New York City and just happens to see the husband a couple thousand miles from where he was supposed to be with a grungy lowlife type in a compromising situation. Then let him explain his way out of that! But so far, I haven't read one like that.

Ah, well. It's a sturdy plot device that's been a workhorse in the romance field for good reason. It works. And everyone likes a happy ending.



  1. And yes, I thought 'True Lies' was a weak story. Different tastes mean different book styles and movies plots

  2. I read one once where the 'misunderstanding' would have taken only the slightest amount of thought on the heroine's part to see through. Did she think at all? No. Did she ask the hero to explain? Of course not, even though it wasn't anything he did. I just wanted to strangle her.

    This was the second romance I read--It's amazing it didn't put me off the complete genre. No wonder romance has a bad reputation.

  3. I loved Airs Above Ground and True Lies. I bet you read Stewart's Merlin Series didn't you? Wasn't that awesome?

  4. I have every Mary Stewart written and loved them all--especially the Merlin Series!

  5. Those type of books make me want to jump into the pages and slap the characters silly, or lock them in a room so they will LISTEN to each other!

  6. I've gotten chewed out by an editor (not the one we share) for letting the misunderstanding resolve itself "too easily" and not be part of the conflict. Pfffft. Hate it when the characters are stupid.

  7. One of my favorite Ellora's Cave books is one where the heroine says to herself, "OK, I could be really upset by this, but maybe I could just trust the guy and talk to him about it like an intelligent person."

    I was so grateful! And it didn't detract from the story at all. It's in my re-read lineup.

  8. You have the greatest pictures on your blog, Anny!

    The "misunderstanding" can really work or it can be really bad. Depends on the book.