Are There Limits to the Darkness?

Romances have a strict adherence to the Happy Ever After ending. In order to get to that point, you can put your MCs through a lot of really bad things. But how much is too much?

The uproar around 50 Shades of Gray includes the fact that no woman should be treated the way the FMC is, even with her consent. What happened in her life to make her feel that treatment was sexy and wonderful should never have happened. And making a movie glorifying it, not to mention a book series, is too much. But it’s not really a Romance.

Outside of sexual preferences, the world has lots of violence aimed at women, and a difference of any kind can amplify the violence. If you haven’t heard of Cynthia Bond, you will soon. Her book, Ruby, has been chosen by Oprah Winfry’s book club, and for good reason. I heard about it on NPR’s Morning Edition program. The writing quoted from the first page of the book is poetic, wonderful, and also carries the promise of some edgy events to come. Ms. Bond’s inspiration for the story came from a beloved aunt, a beautiful woman (much like Ms. Bond herself) who was murdered because she had a white lover. Her murderers were never brought to trial. Again, this book is in the category of Woman’s Fiction, not Romance.

I write Romances. I have a heroine in my Regency Banquet series, Main Course – Pure Captivation who was raped. The story takes place in a war in Europe in the early 1800s. I can’t imagine a woman in Maryse’s position would have been able to avoid rape. And so one day as I talked to her in my head, she revealed what happened. It makes the story poignant, and gives the two main characters a way to really bond to each other. They will have their HEA ending.

The last book in the series, Dessert – Pure Indulgence, has evolved while I have been writing the first two stories. At my local chapter meeting of Romance Writers of America, I really began to think about the character of Cousin Mellie, the heroine in the last book. She has a strong personality, and always knew that she wanted to marry her cousin Roland. In a flash of insight, I realized that she has been desperate to get away from her stepfather, who has touched her inappropriately. I wondered if things had gone farther, if she, too had been raped. But Dessert is supposed to be a light and satisfying story, not as heavy as Main Course. Incest is a dark, ugly act, but like the rape in the second story, something that happened in more cases than would ever or will ever be told.

No, at this time, I am going to keep the situation lighter, but it’s the perfect motivation for my heroine. And the perfect motivation for the gentleman who will want to rescue her.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.

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