My CP gave me a copy of The Flame and The Flower to commemorate our first in-real-life meeting. (I, being a total doofus, did nothing for her. I’m ashamed.) I’d heard of this book before but never read it. Since TF&TF was such a favorite of so many people, I sat down to read it with great expectations.
Heroine in a bad situation—great.
Heroine’s situation gets worse—excellent.
Heroine shows some spunk in getting out of worse situation—very good.
Heroine gets in another bad situation that takes her to the hero—I’m there.
Hero is quite alpha—woohoo.
Hero rapes Heroine multiple times even as he's shocked to find her a virgin---WHOA, back the truck up. Are you kidding me? WTF?
I thought this was a romance! Hel-lo, kind of hard for me to like a hero who not only rapes the heroine, but shows little, if any, remorse for the act. The heroine, who is forced to marry the hero when she turns up pregnant, spends much of the first half of the book scared to death of him. Yet they fall in love and live happily-ever-after.
I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the book. Oddly enough, I did. It’s just not what I’d expect to pick up off the shelf and call a romance. Rape seems like a bad thing to build a relationship on.
Now TF&TF is the same age I am—thirty-three. And, for me, it’s a prime example of how much romance has changed over the years. I wonder if this book would fly with readers today (if it wasn’t already a “classic”)?
I grew up reading steamy historicals—Bertrice Small, Johanna Lindsey, Julie Garwood, Judith McNaught—and there are plenty of rather forceful seductions in those. Call me a hypocrite, but I have to draw the line somewhere. Seductions—okay. Rape—not okay.
It would be an interesting sociological project to look at how romance has changed as women’s roles in society have changed. How did the same women who put TF&TF on the bestseller list also change the view of a woman’s “place” and raise daughters who wouldn’t put up with that kind of crap for any reason? The same women who liked their heroines virginal and timid now want heroines who show some spunk and fight back—and they don’t have to be virgins when the hero enters the picture, either.
Literature changes as society changes. The style of writing changes (compare the fabu Jane Austen with any modern author—literary or commercial), but the characters and content change as well. Books get dated very easily when changes in reader expectation occur. I wonder what tastes will be like 30 years from now. Maybe the heroes will have to be virgins :-).
My mom, after listening to my mini-rant, wants to re-read TF&TF. I’ll be interested to hear what she thinks. I’m also eyeballing my keeper shelf wondering what I’d see if I picked up some of those books I adored as a teenager.
My CP hoped I’d enjoy the book—and I did, really. But it gave me a lot to think about and sparked some interesting discussions, which is also good. So I thank her for two things.
Have you ever gone back and re-read a favorite only to find that it’s just not as good as you remembered for whatever reason?