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Liz Carlyle's Tempted All Night is basically an ok romance -- good prose, good main characters, interesting interactions between them, some really skanky sex issues. Yet Another Sexual Depravity Plot, but at least this time there was a motivating purpose to some of it, rather than random hellfireyness. The miracle TWINS for "barren" heroine at the end were eye-rolling. I can see why so many reviewers are giving it A-level reviews, even if I don't agree.

Except -- there's the heroine's Dark Secret. Which is a forced abortion at six months. WTF? That's the about latest that you can do an abortion now except for health reasons; it's the end of the second trimester, the baby is nearly viable (now, maybe not then), and this really just freaks me out.

And...the implications of this are not handled well. Actually, not really handled at all. Her sad history makes the heroine a little crazy obsessed with finding the prostitute mother of her illegitimate niece, and she thinks of herself as Bad and Wanton for getting pregnant in the first place, but -- that's it.

She still gets along with the aunt who did this to her (she doesn't go to the aunt's annual picnic! oh noes! but the aunt is beloved still). She doesn't blame the elder brother who sent her off with the aunt (it's not explicit that he didn't know what would happen). She never tells her mother (well, that I can understand, but she also continues to live with her). She continues to protect the younger brother, whose 23-year-old friend not-raped her when she was 15 and whose first wife commit treason, from his continued careless behavior, because he has a promising career in politics. This would be ok if she were presented as crazy, but the narrative presents her as a special snowflake of intelligence and maturity.

This is glossed over in the text so much that I finished the book thinking, Well, the babies at the end were dumb and the skanky sex issues were skanky, but the book was basically -- WHAT THE HELL?

I'd figured out early on that the heroine thinks she's barren and wanton because of an unmarried pregnancy that went wrong, though it takes forever for the author to actually get to that. Ok, whatever, it's a classic Issue for a romance: one I'm rather tired of, but not a dealbreaker for me. However, the "went wrong" part is being packed off to France with her aunt, she thinks to have the baby in secret, and then the surprise abortion? And then not seriously dealing with that in the text? This is not "secret baby with extra traumasauce!" It's just not. It's such a profound violation that I can't figure out words. I do not think abortion is murder per se. I think this might be. Like I said, no words.

It's particularly upsetting because Carlyle is clearly trying to be sex-positive (within acceptable romance-genre limitations) and so on, and it doesn't work. I don't know whether she is pro- or anti-choice, but I think her book favors the anti-choice narrative in a number of creepy ways.

I can also do without the grasping-whore-who-doesn't-want-her-child-or-deserve-happiness plot, and the helpless-sex-slaves plot, and the "people are all helpless before sexual arousal" stuff. But I am pretty used to this in the genre.

Which is I suppose the saddest part. Romance genre, why do you suck so bad?
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pocketgarden

May 2012

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