Saturday, January 1, 2011

Burning Alive by Shannon Butcher

I did it, I read a romance novel. No one can say I haven't given the genre a chance now. It is not an experience I care to repeat!

This is not a G rated review, because it is about an adult book.

Burning Alive is a fantasy/romance story set in modern America. It might have given a year and a city that I failed to notice, even. It follows Helen, a woman who has had a vision her entire life of burning alive while a tall, dark and handsome man observes and smiles. When she sees this man, Drake, he turns out to be one of a dying race of super-powerful, ancient, beefy demon-hunters. Turns out, earth is the battlefield on which these beefcakes and demons are waging a war. Drake and Helen have all kinds of brain orgasms when he touches her, and he goes into convulsions or something when she pulls away so he drags her around for a while until they solve that problem. Of course, they are both instantly irresistibly attracted to one another despite Helen's fear and physical and mental deficiencies. That's about enough of that plot.

I don't know if this is normal in romance stories, but I was a little weirded out by it. The men in the story were domineering and overbearing, and pretty much did what they wanted to the female objects of their affection. Which the women liked. I take issue with the idea that women want to be controlled and basically forced into things, even if the ultimate goal is all kinds of explosive orgasms. Drake was literally dragging Helen around for most of the book and throwing her onto beds or holding her in place BY HER THROAT! How is that ok??

My other problem with this book, which I actually think might be true of most romance stories, is the characterization of the main character. She was really, really weak. In all ways she was this feminine ideal of powerlessness, kindness, and hormones. Not exactly a role model. She kept needing rescued, kept screwing everything up because she freaked out. And woke up in Drake's strong, comforting arms, blah blah blah. I think she was written this way so that, in theory, the reader could insert herself emotionally into the story. Or maybe I am just a misogynistic cynic to think so poorly of my fellow lady readers!

I don't know if I should condemn all of the romance genre based on this one book (which, incidentally, I read because it was my Scifi/Fantasy book club's pick once) which may not be representative of the entire genre. There are probably better romance novels out there, maybe even ones with strong female characters and incontrovertibly consensual sex! I don't really like reading about sex though. I would rather read a good story that isn't obligated to talk about people's erections straining their jeans, or their nipples hardening every few pages. So I think that's it for me and romance!

I would be very interested to see a defense of the genre, or better yet this book from someone else who has read it. I just don't get it!


  1. I've actually been reading a romance novel myself recently, and as far as I can tell, yes, the genre is about beefcake dragging an object around doing whatever he wants to her, the leads being inexplicably attracted to one another for no reason, and lots of borderline rape where it isn't literal rape.

    I discussed this with the person who recommended it and she basically explained that while she doesn't like the idea of any of that happening in real life, it's that the fantasy is appealing. The idea of being swept away by a hot guy who is ridiculously obsessed with you, with a pinch (or a double handful) of danger thrown in to make it more intense. She explained that while actually being there would be terrifying, imagining one's self there is pleasant in some way.

    Also, in the romance novel I was reading, it seemed like the guy started off as such a jerk so that once he realized how badly he was hurting and scaring her that he would feel bad about it and it could be held against him later by the girl to get what she wanted from him. I don't know if that's always how it goes, though...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...