I’m listening to the audiobook Reckless Pleasures, a Harlequin Blaze “Pleasure Seekers” book by Tori Carrington (narrated by Lauren Fortgang). I’m fascinated by Tori Carrington for (at least) two reasons.
The first is that Tori Carrington is a husband-wife writing team. I’d like to write a novel with my husband. We could combine his incredible powers of observation and keen mind for historical detail with my various plotting and character-development talents, and voila! Fame and fortune!
I suggested we write a World War II romance. He was all for it. He jumped right in with, “As the elliptical wing of his Mark II Supermarine Spitfire sliced through the 88mm flak over Germany, he thought about…” then turned to me and said, “OK. Your turn.”
(Later, he said, “I might have gotten the year wrong on the Spitfire. And it might not have had the range to fly over Germany.” I rest my case about the pairing of our talents.)
The second reason I’m fascinated by Tori Carrington is that–
I’m having a small amount of pronoun anxiety here.
–that they? that she–
that she frequently includes instances of infidelity in her plots. In Reckless Pleasures, the heroine, Megan, gets horny while her boyfriend is fighting in Waziristan and sleeps with his best friend. I have a few things to say about this. One is that I am never going to forgive Megan and I am never going to trust her again, and I think Darius (the hero) is a dumbass if he does–which means that for all intents and purposes, it’s going to be really hard to convince me that Megan and Darius can have a Happily Ever After. But I also have an enormous amount of respect for Tori & Tori, because I think infidelity is the realest and worst thing you can throw at a relationship, and the way that a couple deals with it is the truest crucible for what loves means to them. I’m not sure how many more T.C. books I’ll seek out, because I’m just way too much of a HEA-seeking sap, but I’m going to be thinking about this one for weeks if not months, and that’s a lot of weight-pulling for a skinny category book.
To get all academic here for a moment, Reckless Pleasures made me start thinking at a theoretical level about infidelity, justice, and HEAs. We think that all we want from our HEAs is for the hero and heroine to end up together. But we actually want something else, too. We want anyone who breaks the rules to be punished (that’s why we expect the villain who stands in the path of true love to get what s/he deserves). And the rules of romance are that true, monogamous, married love is sacred. So the problem is, you can’t have both. You can’t serve the unfaithful hero or heroine with true justice–the loss of love–while also delivering them a happy ending–the winning of love. That’s why books where a hero or heroine commits infidelity are so unsettling for romance readers. Even if we don’t recognize it, we want two things that can’t co-exist. And not just any two things. Love and justice, which are the two strongest driving forces in narrative, the stakes that matter most. I guess what I’m saying is that Tori Carrington is a little bit revolutionary, and in appreciation we should invent a new pronoun for them.