I decided to blog using the Smart Bitches' methodology to analyze this old favorite, racking points for every "forced kiss - and she likes it" scene. I planned to ask you, Dear Reader, to play this parlor game with me. We would all be snarky New Skool romance fans together, bemoaning chained to the bed/hearth/ship's wheel/dirigible scenes, competing to rewrite overly modified sentences and rework similes beaten into "limp exhaustion," pointing out spears of manhood and other sexual euphemisms for our intellectual titillation.
[I]t was well-nigh de rigeur for the heroine to be raped by the hero in those novels. The rape would be justified in any number of ways with the framework of the story ... Sometimes, the heroine was the spoils of war, so clearly, it was acceptable to rape her. Other times, the hero would assume the heroine was sexually experienced, and as we all know, rape counts only if the rapist knows the victim is a virgin.
I found the book box easily. The 1974 copyright date and $2.25 cover price dovetailed with my expectations. Filled with smugness and caffeine, I began to read and take notes, eager to line up this stereotypical Old Skool romance with the Beyond Heaving Bosoms flowchart.
I stumbled. Some bad guy named Ragnor, not the hero Wulfgar, is the one who rapes her (although, Candy and Sarah were correct in that Kathleen Woodiwiss contrived to have Aislinn and the villain consume sleeping herbs so in fact no actual bad guy rape occurred, thus the heroine was a technical albeit unaware virgin for the hero).
Sure, I found several forced kisses, such as page 40 where she slaps him, in front of his men, for mocking her and his retribution is ... "Without word or warning Wulfgar's hands were upon her like slaves' armlets." May I say, that is powerful writing? Read it out loud. Not an extra modifier lurking in that line. The repeated "w" sounds like a whip, doesn't it? Oh, the rhythm. It takes me hours to write like that.
Oops, it was her Saxon fiance chained to the hearth for trying to stab Wulfgar, who spares the poor guy and eventually elevates him to Sheriff. That's kind of progressive in 1066, isn't it? I am totally failing at snarkiness and remembering why I loved this book twenty years ago.
The Smart Bitches claim "most of these Old Skool romances were written solely or mostly from the heroine's viewpoint." But Woodiwiss does a fair amount of head-hopping, regularly giving Wulfgar his own point of view, such as this man-angst:
Was this to be his lot? To find her ever close at hand yet never know again the privacy with her that had been before. Was this marriage? To have a babe more oft between them than finding a moment to share long suffering passions? He sighed and turned his stare to the fire. Winter comes, he thought. And the nights are long.Who among us is married with children and doesn't feel that? Woodiwiss wrote the thesis for Michael Lewis' new book Home Game when that dude still had baby teeth. The Wolf and the Dove is thirty-five years old, but it stills rocks and I feel ashamed at my pathetic intent.
I must apologize to the spirit of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss for assuming I could dismiss and mock a book that was already in its thirty-second printing twenty years ago, and remains in print and even ebook. I must apologize to my sixteen, seventeen and eighteen-year old selves for doubting their taste and judgment in reading material. And I must apologize for thinking I could convince you to play along with a petty game.
Let's try something nicer instead. I liked that paragraph from Wulf's point of view. Can you post a pre-1986 or so hero POV scene that you like? Something from the '70s or early '80s that reminds us all why we like those books (despite the arm-gripping). Brave your own scary basement, find a hero you've lugged around for longer than your favorite jeans, and put it up here.