I read The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan because it was free, and all of you wonderful crazies are in love with it and with her in general, and also because it’s super short and let’s be honest about my cannonballing skills here–if I make it, it will be by the skin of my teeth, and because of novellas like this.
I picked up Be My Love by Lucy Kevin because it was free, and it’s set in the Pacific Northwest (where I used to live and where my HEART STILL WANDERS) (not really, my heart loves sunshine, so we’re happy here, too), and I wanted to give the romance genre another try after experiencing Milan, the unanimous best of the romance writers, for comparison purposes.
There are similarities: in both, the Man is totally married to his job to the extent that, in both, part of the reason why IT CAN NEVER BE (this is a thing that happens in like 97% of romance novels, right? The Man and the Woman are totally hot for each other but there has to be a reason why IT CAN NEVER BE to create some lovely sexual tension, right?) is because he’s just too much of a workaholic, and he loves her too much to have her be married to a workaholic, so that’s that, because change and compromises don’t exist. UNTIL THEY DO, and then they Man whole-heartedly quits the job that he secretly hated all along, freeing him up to marry the Woman and move to the beach with her.
Is not this the same lame trope applied to women in many romantic comedies? That the Woman is just too focused on her career to be in love, because she doesn’t have time for that silliness, and we, the audience, are meant to believe that she just needs to let down her hair and relax a little and give love a chance? And she usually doesn’t even like her job anyway? And we hate that trope, right?
I propose that this is a bullshit storyline for men or women. “Yeah, I had a bitchin’ career I was super good at… but then I fell for a hottie, and you can’t be in love and have a demanding job at the same time, so. Now I’m a painter or something.”
Perhaps I am not romantic enough for romance novels. I did go in to work today, even though it was supposed to be my day off. Am I married to my job? Fuck, am I in a romantic comedy right now? That probably means I’m the Other Woman and my boyfriend is about to be stolen away/liberated by some adorable free spirit and they’re going to move to the mountains and become apple farmers. Fuck fuck fuck.
Another similarity was that both stories had a bit of a darker side: one deals with the aftermath of a (off-page) rape, and the other explores the rippling effects of a (off-page) family suicide. I must say that Milan commits to exploring the feelings involved a lot more than Kevin does, though I felt that both of them employed a bit of vague, “It’s okay because of reasons” hand-waving.
But apparently I’m not romantic enough for this shit, so maybe I’m prone to focus on the negative, which is clearly why I deserve to lose my boyfriend to a sprite-like nymph who never wears shoes.
Other similarity, and one that I may be reaching for because I’m a little sensitive to it right now, and I feel like I need to list three of these bastards to justify calling this a review: both books view marriage as some sort of solution to a problem. In Milan’s case, the solution was arguably not ideal (which honestly seemed a little gimmicky to me, like, “FORCED INTO MARRYING this person that I am totally attracted to. And we really ought to bone also, FOR LEGAL REASONS, and not all because we’re both super hot for each other.” I’m sorry, Cannonballers. I know you hate me now), but in Kevin’s, the marriage practically solved sixty years of community strife and everyone (EVERYONE) lived happily ever after, and it was a little bit ridiculous. The characters themselves called it a perfect ending to their story, never mind that they’ve only been hanging out for a few weeks and marriage is most definitely NOT the end of their story by any means.
My feelings on marriage are a bit cyclical, but somewhat on the “against” side–the warmest, fuzziest thoughts I have are that being married might be fine, but other times, especially when someone is pressing me on the issue, I feel like everyone is trying to force me into this weird social and religious construct that I don’t really understand. I don’t give a shit if other people do or don’t get married, so why do people seem to give so many shits about me? It gives me stress nightmares, and I feel like that’s very weird. “Getting married” dreams are stereotypically supposed to be a girl’s favorite thing, right?
I don’t know where that trait places me in a romance plot. Am I the damaged flower that needs to be coaxed into love? Am I the heartless shrew whom men escape from? I know this is no fun, but I take comfort in the fact that most romances are pretty *whispers* unrealistic. (But if I turn out to be the Other Woman over here, I’m going to be pissed.)
Important: the biggest difference between these books is that all the sex in Be My Love happens off-page. Make of that what you will. For my part, I was a little bored in that section of the story, and I was ready to “see” some dick, so I felt a little robbed, but the story picked up soon afterward, so it turned out fine.
Ultimately, I’m glad I read both these books. I mostly enjoyed both, even though I rolled my eyes more than a few times. IT CAN NEVER BE. Unless I solve a sort of minor problem. SOLVED. YAY, NOW IT CAN BE. But seriously. I had fun. And I’ll read more. 🙂