I kept putting off these reviews because I wanted to get more in-depth about an issue that kept popping up in them – around consent and authors drawing lines in the sand that they then continuously cross over – but my brain cannot manage to do those thoughts any more justice than what I’ve got here, so I’m just going to go with it at this point.
This review is technically about three books, a set I grabbed for free off of Amazon a couple of months ago, all of which revolve around some guys in an elite military squad and their own specific individual romantic lives. The stories were, for the most part, okay – Not the best romantic suspense I’ve ever read, or the worst, but the third story was both compelling and included a character self-sabotaging in such a realistic way that I wanted to cringe a lot, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They were fine stories, really, on the whole. BUT, in the first book, the story I’m mostly discussing here, there’s more than one point in my notes where I ask “why would the author make the point that a character can’t consent and then go back on it? Why not just…skip the whole issue by never putting it in question in the first place?’ I talked about this in a previous review, I know, but I feel like I’m just reading so many things lately where it Keeps. Coming. Up. and it’s so goddamn frustrating that I cannot understand it.
First, Matt, the hero thinks:
Not that he didn’t want her. He did – hell, he’d thought of little else since he’d seen her in the salon today – but he couldn’t take her. Not now. Not like this. Then, it had been a challenge… Now? Now she was confused and vulnerable and taking advantage of her feelings was wrong. He wanted her to want him because she couldn’t deny the chemistry between them, not because Jimmy Thibodeaux had pulled a knife on her and she was feeling vulnerable and mixed up.
All he had to do was let it happen. But his conscience had grown a whole damn lot in the last ten years. He swallowed the lump in his throat. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”
I want to, Evie. Desperately. But there’s too much history between us, and I won’t take advantage of you again.
He felt like a jerk. An idiot. “It’s a common reaction to be attracted to someone who rescues you.” … Once she’d offered him her body and he’d practically tripped over his tongue saying yes. Now, however, he was trying to be noble. And aching in all the wrong places because of it. “But I can’t. It’s not professional.”
But then later he winds up saying:
I can’t say no, Evie. I should, but I can’t.
And he couldn’t deny her, not when it was something he wanted too.
If he were a good man, a decent man, he’d pull the covers up and tuck her in, tell her to sleep now. He’d give her time to rest, time to be certain no-strings sex was what she wanted. He was anything but good.
and still later:
“Tell me you’re still okay with this.” He sounded hoarse and uncertain as she pulled his head down to kiss him. She needed—needed—to feel him inside her. It was the only thing that made any sense right now. “Please, Matt. Don’t you dare stop. Don’t you dare get some stupid idea about nobility.” His laugh was rusty. “I left nobility in the dust a few miles back. But I’ll stop if you want me to.” She arched into him. “Hell no.”
This is the thing I don’t get; in books people have these codes, these ethical lines marked DO NOT CROSS. but then some situation arises in which it’s ok to them to cross them? And I guess I just don’t get it when it comes to things like consent… there may be a lot of gray areas? But eventually you come to the black and white of it and still… you can make the wrong choice? I just .., if the author is going to make such a HUGE deal out of what uncrossable lines these are (in this case sleeping w/someone who has been traumatized as recently as an hour ago), then they can’t then have their characters cross those lines and have it be no big deal? It can’t be situational, I guess is what I’m trying to say.
Because that last quote makes it seem as if the female character is completely capable of consenting (and I know I said “later”, but I’m not talking a whole story later, I’m talking within the same chapter or within the next two chapters later), but a few pages back, her ex-boyfriend was murdered; her mother assaulted and hospitalized; her sister is kidnapped AND STILL MISSING AS THIS IS HAPPENING, and the author goes to great pains to show that this is all traumatizing and horrible and renders her incapable of consenting. This is not a case of me, as the reader second guessing whether or not a character is capable of consent under these circumstances… the author has said it, has had the hero think it. Then she went back on it and played it off like he was being silly and overprotective to think she couldn’t consent. You can’t have it both ways, is what I’m saying. Either she’s a grown woman who knows what she wants and is capable of choosing, no matter the emotional turmoil she’s under – and he’s a good guy who respects that – OR she’s not capable of consent, and he’s not a good guy, but a guy who changes his mind about what she’s capable of consenting to, given how much HE wants to proceed, which makes him not a hero, and not a guy I’m interested in reading about??
I don’t know if I managed to make that make any more sense here than I am in my head, but it’s a Thing. That has been bothering me for a while, and I hope it made at least some sense to you. Because I just don’t get it.
Aside from the questionable heroic-nature of the first hero (and a pushy heroine in the second story, but not to the same extent or in the same context), the books were fine. I did enjoy the third book, which also makes me want to go for one of the sequels, but I’m not going to try right now, with this issue fresh in my mind. Maybe I’ll come back to this author again, but for now, I’m going to pass.