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Raising the Bar: Romance Has the Right to a Better Attorney

25 Apr

Is Dean Strang the new face of romance? Maybe. But let’s find a sensitive way to tell him that.

By Alexa Day

I have not been a huge fan of the lawyer as romance hero. Part of my resistance comes from reality, I imagine. As an attorney, I spent a great deal of time around other attorneys, and nothing cures an infatuation with lawyers faster than constant proximity to them. No offense meant, of course, to any members of the bar who might be hanging out here with me.

A larger part of the problem is that romance is generally fixated on the wealthiest fraction of the legal profession. I get that part of the allure of the super-rich hero is the comfort and security of money. But the world is filled with women who have their own comfort and security. And way too many of romance’s bumper crop of well-to-do heroes are … well … domineering jackasses.

They’re trying to impress people. They think the money makes them important. Money might not buy them love, but it’s always good for securing obedience and deference, and they’re willing to settle.

There’s a suggestion that the billionaire hero is on his way out, which is fine by me. I won’t miss them terribly, and they can take their alpha lawyer friends with them. But there’s an opportunity to reform the lawyer hero. If reality drove me away from lawyers in romance, then it makes sense in this great circle of life that reality would bring me back to the bar.

The last 18 months or so have been very good for the real life lawyer hero. Last winter’s film Loving featured two of them, bright-eyed ACLU crusaders who went to the wall to defend Richard and Mildred Loving’s right to be married. 13th and Time: The Kalief Browder Story introduce a few more, good people motivated primarily by the need to set things right. Off screen, the bold men and women of the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center are enjoying a moment in the sun, garnered under dark circumstances. The lawyers on the front lines here are not rolling in cash. One has to borrow an office. Another seems to be working in a windowless room just large enough for his desk and two chairs. Filmmakers make it a point to describe public defenders as hard-working, talented practitioners facing an impossible workload. Social media outlets emphasize that good lawyers are a bright light in a dark world.

They’re passionate. They’re tenacious. They know everything about the troubles that keep their clients awake at night, and they’re willing to shoulder as much of that weight as they can. They consider it their duty to ease fears, inspire confidence, and keep moving forward. They inspire that most blessed of feelings: Everything is going to be all right now.

And the legal industry is filled with attorneys just like this. Shouldn’t there be more of them in romance?

Of course, as an erotic romance author, I have to mention the delightful fiction potential presented by the rules preventing lawyers from sleeping with their clients. So no matter how attracted we might be to one another, nothing can happen without some fairly dire consequences. Except for impure thoughts. Impure thoughts about the forbidden can always happen. That’s great news for romance fiction, honestly — who doesn’t love a hearty struggle with impure thoughts? Even under extreme pressure, it’s hard to avoid an impure thought or three for the person who can create the feeling that everything will be all right now.

Two things, and then I’ll leave you to consider where the good lawyers of romance are (or to tell me where they are).

Why haven’t I mentioned the lawyer heroine?

My experience is that we already expect the lawyer heroine to take on this nurturing role. I don’t think we have nearly as many rich, hard-charging female attorneys as we have family lawyers, guardians ad litem, and the like. On the one hand, it’s good to see so many characters in these important lines of work, but on the other, it’s always reminded me of the days when heroines could only be schoolteachers and nurses. The iron ladies of the law deserve love, too.

Finally, I imagine some of you are wondering how I’ve gone on for this long without mentioning Dean Strang. I haven’t forgotten Dean. I just think he deserves his own space.

Dean Strang appeared on the worldwide stage in the Netflix documentary series, Making a Murderer. He and his partner, Jerry Buting, take up the defense of Steven Avery in a murder case most charitably described as a giant clusterfuck. Dean is exactly the sort of lawyer the romance genre needs.

By the time he appears in the third episode, Dean is a reassuring presence. He’s not a physically imposing figure at all. He looks out at the world through big glasses, and his fashion choices made waves on social media for being ultranormal. (In fairness, he can successfully wear the color popularly known as buttercup. That deserves a nod from social media.)

As soon as Dean shows up, he understands what’s happening to his client and to the case immediately, and as a result, we feel safer, almost without knowing why. We learn that local law enforcement regards Dean with a respect that approaches apprehension. He is quick to call prosecutors out on missteps, and his attention to Avery’s alleged accomplice, a teenager who is not his client, is heartwarming.

The purity of Dean’s devotion to the justice system is untainted by any trace of naivete. He knows how things actually work and how they’re supposed to work. He believes in the highest possible standard but knows that he’s working in an imperfect world. To watch Dean work is to watch someone capable of deep love for a system that cannot love him back if it’s going to function the way he needs it to. He is intense and magnetic, and he has everyone leaning forward, just by doing his job.

He throws everything he has at the idea that the justice system should function effectively and that it’s his job to make sure that it does. His quiet fury, directed at those who are trying hard to subvert the system to protect themselves, makes the series work. Before long, viewers are showing up for Dean. The world seems a little hollow when he’s gone because we’re not so sure that everything will be all right.

Dean is surprised he has groupies. I’m not. I’m not surprised at all.

Romance doesn’t need more lawyer heroes. It needs better lawyer heroes.

It needs the man completely, but not blindly, devoted to justice. It needs the man who’s comfortable shouldering a client’s burden. It needs the man who has sacrificed wealth and comfort for limited funds and an imposing workload because his job saves lives.

It needs the sort of man who is surprised to find he has groupies.

Does this guy already practice in Romancelandia? Call him out in the comments and I’ll sit corrected.

In the meantime, follow Lady Smut.

Did you maybe bend the rule and touch your attorney? It’s okay. You can tell us.

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Billionaire Romance Will Never Die

24 Mar

by Elizabeth SaFleur

Let me be Captain Obvious. The rich aren’t like us. So it tracks that we’d be fascinated by these super rich creatures, right? Who wouldn’t want to live in that world, albeit virtually and vicariously, through romance stories? The “economic one percent” make problems disappear with the swipe of a credit card. They board private jets when the mood strikes for sushi but only from that little place they discovered in Japan. They buy all the shoes, books and enemy’s businesses they want, whenever they want.

Who wouldn’t want to read about these people?

A bunch of hands just went up in the room, as in “Me! Me! Stop with the billionaire romance already!” Apparently, a tribe of billionaire-hating readers who have a strong disdain for such reads exists! I discovered this on Facebook — the authority on all things true and accurate, right? written with extreme sarcasm. Direct quotes include:

“If I never read another billionaire romance life would be so grand.”

“Can we just have the billionaire thing over already?”

“Oh, yay. Another billionaire romance. Retch.”

I’m shocked, I tell you. SHOCKED.

Then I remembered hearing a panel at last year’s RT Booklovers Convention (forgive me for not remembering the details) where someone said Millennial’s reading tastes are vastly different from older generation’s. The younger generation wants–shudder–reality, as in romance books set in the real-world with characters who were authentic, i.e. not rich, not glamorous, not billionaires. In short, they wanted to read about people like them.

The same RT panelist said the older generations were more apt to want escapism romance. And, sorry to break it to the world, but at some point in the not too distant future the younger generation will become the older generation. So we authors need to care what these youngin’s think–today.

(Side note: Have you heard about the rich kids of Instagram? Well, lest you think everyone young is rolling pennies at night, take a gander at THIS.)

Back to our blog post at hand. Do these predictions mean tales of the wealthy whisking away the innocent virgin to unimaginable pleasures and private islands will go away? Is the billionaire erotic romance market, gulp, fading?

Nope. Not. Even. Close. So say, I, and not because I publish a billionaire erotic romance series. Scout’s honor.

Google images return results when you ask for “billionaire romance.” Thousands! Millions!

 

The Guardian recently published an article on this very topic, triggered by the recent Fifty Shades movie. (Read about my and Madeline Iva’s opinion on the movie here). How could anyone NOT click on an article with the headline, Filthy rich: our tortured love affair with wealth porn.

Wealth porn means accepting that someone is more interesting after seeing their stock portfolio. Kind of like being a virtual gold digger (guilty!). After all, many have said if Christian Grey lived in a trailer, he’d be considered an abuser. The fact he has a penthouse in Seattle’s most expensive building makes his, ahem, viewpoints and behavior around kink okay.

Back to the topic at hand. Forget that in real life millionaires and billionaires rarely have time for Saturday strolls with the family in the park, let alone time to jet off to Japan for sushi. Unless one has inherited a fortune, it takes an obscene amount of office face time to purchase luxury living. But in books, they have oodles of time to lavish attention and resources on their heroines. Thank goodness. I get enough reality in, well, real life.

Below are my super-non-scientific reasons why the super rich will grace our book’s pages for years to come and readers will love it–even the Millennials.

Billionaire romance can be aspirational. A girl’s gotta have a dream, so why not fill your head with visions of full-time maid service and a full-time cook (my ultimate dream)? But more than that, if you believe in the power of manifestation, what you imagine becomes closer to reality. Deep down, I wonder if this is what makes billionaire romance reading so appealing. I read at night and know my dream state is affected by this activity. I have to believe others feel the same.

Reality fatigue is real.  If you seek a break from the negative news filling our airwaves and headlines these days (who isn’t?), romance is perfect for such an escape. Reading about the super-rich takes this diversion to a new level. As for that RT panel that said Millennials don’t want reality? Remember that was before the recent U.S. presidential election, although we were deep in it. Just not as profoundly as we are now. Now we’re so entrenched in absurdity and negativity, we’re like pigs in slop (except pigs like slop).

Billionaire romance features the good guys. Lordy knows, we need some honest-to-God heroes right now, and will for decades to come to get over what’s happening in real life. In reality, the mega rich don’t have the best reputation, especially in today’s times. In romance novels, these wealthy heroes may be flawed, but they sure are heroic and deep down good. Heck, in books even the villains are usually redeemed. Or, if an unethical rich person is cast in a romance novel, they “get theirs” or at least are so obviously bad we know what we’re dealing with. That’s not always the case in real-life. That makes romance novels appeal to the better angels of our nature.

Note: In real life you’d be hard-pressed to find a billionaire who looks like Jamie Dornan. Just sayin’. 

No office pallor here!

Oddly, rich heroes and heroines make me feel normal. When reading, provided it’s not dark erotica or romance, my problems fade for a little bit. In fact, my problems don’t even show up in billionaire romance, even though the characters may be going through the same jealousy, insecurity, emotional vulnerability thing that I might be going through. But it always works out in romance, so I know it will be all right in the end. And if someone with a bank account the size of Fort Knox is worried about being loved, well, dammit, I’m not so strange after all.

In the end, romance has a time-tested appeal that taps into our human nature of wanting love to conquer all. In billionaire romance, we get to tap into that AND our desire for freedom and achievement — ultimately to not be at the behest of others.

Why do YOU love the billionaire romance? Or not?

And while you’re here, sign up for the LadySmut newsletter. We bring you all the smexy things to ponder.

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Coming to the RT Booklovers Convention in Atlanta this May? Join the Ladysmut.com bloggers for a very special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever — and win crowns, toys, books and more. (Ooo, and we’ll have brownies….) Goodybags (with fun stuff!) to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Add this event to your RT Personal Agenda here.

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Elizabeth SaFleur writes contemporary erotic romance and she’s not afraid to get graphic about it  — “it” being the sex, the BDSM or Washington, DC society, which she regularly features in her series, the Elite Doms of Washington. Join her Sexy, Saucy, Sometimes Naughty exclusive reader’s group or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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