I’m not going to throw out a cliché about what a “long strange trip it’s been,” but it has been a trip nonetheless, folks. I started in the comforting arms of Loretta Chase and the incredibly fun Rupert Carsington in the book Mr. Impossible. From there, I took a walk on the dark side of romance and read Meljean Brook’s Demon Moon. Both surprised me.
Where I was initially expecting some sort of bastardization of a Lisa Frank notebook, a Lifetime Movie, and just a dash of sexy-time thrown in, I found interesting stories with equally charming characters and plots that tended to suck me in. Then I was handed my contemporary romance, and I found yet another layer to Romance.
This time around the incomparable Myretta Robens handed a copy of Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Cruise. I’m going to level with you, folks. I did not like any of the characters. They bothered me, irritated me even. I just
screamed wanted to yell at the book ’til Sophie, Amy, Phin, and the rest heard me. As though I’m some sort of armchair quarterback to Ms. Cruise’s coaching of the Jets. The only one I liked was Phin’s daughter, and the main reason I did was that I would probably be a heartless asshole for not liking a girl that cute.
But I subscribe to the idea that any book that can inspire some sort of feeling for its characters, be they positive or negative, is a good book. I mean really, odds are if you can spend more than an hour talking about how mad you got at a particular character, then the author is doing something right in my book. But this isn’t what I want to talk about, even though I can go on at length about how stupid everyone involved is, except maybe Davie—haven’t figured what part of him is an act and what part is sincere.
No, the most important aspect of Welcome to Temptation I want to discuss is how smart it is. You may have checked out Megan Mulry’s awesome article about this very book. But I just want to build on it.
There is enough substance and commentary on sexuality and gender roles stuffed into the 400-odd pages of this book to make any lit major happy. Even now, I’m not sure the exact extent of the idea that the town of Temptation is really just high school round II for the characters. Or the reader, for that matter. Because I know that I disliked Phin in a way that I haven’t felt since I last dealt with a “popular” kid. There is simply way more to this one than just a straightforward read about a city girl falling for a small-town guy. Even if it is, it’s still better than anything Reese Witherspoon has starred in.
To wrap up, I feel that I have only begun to scratch the surface of this whole genre. I appreciate everyone’s patience while I talk about things I’m sure all of you are already well aware of—you have probably been reading these articles on the verge of an eye-roll followed by “duh, dummy." The fans of romance catch a lot of flack and I think it’s largely undeserved. My primary genre is Sci-Fi/Fantasy and that genre’s reputation of being misogynistic is way more deserved (though both are making large strides in that department) than anything Romance has gotten, at least in my incredibly limited experience.
But for the most part I don’t understand the snobbery my fellow males throw Romance’s way. There are good books that happen to have a bit—okay, in some cases, a lot—of sex involved. And any guy that says no to that needs his man card revoked.
At this point I’m probably going to read something easy on the sex and heavy on the dragon killin’/gun-fighting. But I am certainly going to return. Any thoughts on where I go after contemporary?
Christopher Morgan works for CriminalElement.com and HeroesandHeartbreakers.com. He lives in New York City, and may not be a romance virgin anymore...but he’ll always remember his first. Follow him on Google Plus.