I blame Twilight. Closely followed by its fan fic, 50 Shades. But lately, it seems that everywhere I look I see romance novels populated by stalkers and abusers, general alpha-holes, who wouldn’t make it past my front door. These are guys who won’t take “no” for an answer, even—or especially—when they profess to love the speaker. Many of them are billionaires, for some reason. Or bikers. In fact, so many of them that I am willing to add both Billionaires and Bikers to my list of TICAs, at least for the moment.
It was easier with Twilight. At least there you weren’t dealing with a human. I mean, I think we can all agree that a human male who sneaks into a girl’s bedroom and watches her sleep needs intense therapy at the very least, right? If not jail time? Maybe social mores among vampires are different.
But what about Mr. Grey? Ana tells him “I don’t want to see you” and he repeatedly shows up. That’s called stalking. It’s against the law. And the other crap he does to her (and no, I am not talking about the sex, I am talking about separating her from family and friends, controlling her life, etc.) are textbook abuser behaviors. And yet, supposedly, all of this is ok because of his traumatic past.
Or take Kristen Ashley’s Motorcycle Man, which begins post-coitus with the hero telling the heroine, his new office manager and one night stand, to leave her number when she leaves. Then their first actual interaction basically begins with him speaking these words to her:
“I do not work with bitches who have had my dick in their mouths.”
And then he goes on to dissect their sexual encounter.
Right. Because that’s the kind of “hero” we’re all looking for nowadays. I mentioned to a friend of mine that right there Ashley lost me and she said “oh, but he’s the hero, you know there’s a reason he’s acting that way and that we’ll find out what it is.”
Well, but here’s the thing. I don’t care why he’s acting that way. I don’t care how horrible his childhood was. I don’t care if only the love of a good woman can save him. I’ve known men like that and if they reach his age and still act that way, they’re done. That’s who they are. My suspension of disbelief will stretch only so far, and that’s about a mile past the marker.
Now, that’s not to say I don’t love a good Alpha hero. Even a bossy, slightly overbearing hero. Probably my very favorite of this type at the moment is Cara McKenna’s Kelly Robak from After Hours. The guy has plenty of baggage and he likes to have his way. But he’s not an asshole. And he’s up front about everything. He’s a grown up. He’s learned to deal with his own issues and to explain. He pushes some of the heroine’s boundaries, and she gets in his face, and that’s okay. Although I did at one or two points find myself going “well, that’s the wrong way to handle something, Bud,” I never thought “wow, you’re a complete shit.” And there’s a big difference.
There are lots of ridiculous tropes I love. The Marriage of Convenience, for example, which, since I don’t really read historicals, is hard to find. (Now that same sex marriage is legal in many states, I know an editor looking for same-sex marriage of convenience stories…if you have one, holler!) A good contemporary MoC story will grab me every time. Just like a good Best Friend’s Little Sister story. And I know there are plenty of people who hate both.
So what are your TICAs?