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Beta Me, Baby

26 Jun

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

By now, pretty much everyone on the planet with the slightest connection to me knows of my mad love for Wonder Woman the movie and Wonder Woman in general. Loud and proud, baby. Loud and proud.

 

The film has stuck with me for weeks. I saw it a second time with a friend for whom it was a first-time viewing, and found even more to love about it. Those Amazons. Strewth.

 

I’m currently caught on the marvel (heh) that is Steve Trevor, the beta male. Amongst all the awesome female kick-assedness of the film, Steve Trevor is not so quietly being equally awesome. I touched on this a bit in my blog about the movie.

Because Steve respects her and he is absolutely not at any moment ever made to feel less of a man by her or because of her. He also doesn’t hesitate to follow her, to have her back while acknowledging her leadership. Nor does he think she’s less due to her gender. He doesn’t have to make her little to feel big. There’s no proving to be done by either one of them. She has her part and he has his and they both go to do them, no matter the personal cost. They are fully partners. When Steve fights with the Amazons on the beach, he doesn’t try to protect them or underestimate them. He immediately assesses their skill and fights side by side with them. More, he learns from them and proves this later in the movie when he copies an Amazon move in order to help Diana during another battle, sure she’ll instantly know what he means because he’s aware of her skill and training and more, confident she can carry it out to fruition. And he loves her, fast and sure as happens in such movies, but he doesn’t love her expecting her to change or become someone else or to set aside what she believes in or must do because of that love. He loves her for who she is, and makes him better, makes him want to be better.

Any cursory scan of my blogging history shows my affinity for the alpha male, at least in print and TV/films. In real-life, I can put up with that bossy, tough guy BS for about half a second before the guy has to show me something more. A guy can be masculine and manly and not be a jackhole about it, alpha or no. And this, I’m begging to believe, is the core of the beta hero, of which Steve Trevor may be the perfect example.

You lead, I’ll follow

I texted with my best friend about Steve Trevor this week.

Her: I dig the beta hero, so I’m biased.

Me: A lot of women do and if they were all like Steve Trevor, I’d definitely go there. I think he’s a mix of  both [alpha and beta]. Goes to show that beta doesn’t automatically mean weak or not a leader of men.

Her: He’s absolutely both and definitely a good example of someone willing to share the load. Smart enough to take the reigns and give them back as the situation changes. He doesn’t constantly have to prove himself. And I think the beta part comes through in that he doesn’t try to change everyone’s opinions of [Diana]. He tries to keep her somewhat within the social boundaries so they can be effective (not because he feels those boundaries are good) but lets her prove her own worth to others. So, not take-charge in that way, but sexy because he knows it’s unnecessary.

My bestie is one super smart lady.

With Steve Trevor on the brain, I paid more attention to Mon-el in the TV show Supergirl.

Chris Wood as Mike/Mon-El and Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

I’m not a fan of Supergirl, or, more accurately, I don’t want to be a fan of Supergirl. I really don’t want to like this show for Reasons. Yet I find myself absently watching it, usually reruns and usually around 7 AM on weekdays when I’m doing my FitBit and lifting free weights and need the distraction. But Supergirl is girlie and feminist, empowering and a little campy. And in season two, it introduce a perfect beta male.

Mon-el starts out as a self-serving boy toy who isn’t so much interested in using his powers for good as is for using his powers to score. But as the season progresses (I’m guessing here a bit; I haven’t seen most of the season, only the first three and the back nine episodes. Don’t want to like it, remember?). Anyway, as the season progresses, and he and Kara, aka Supergirl, fall in love, he becomes less a dude bro and more the perfect beta male and partner for his super-powered woman.

Ah. Young, superpowered love.

Mon-el is not left with no role to play. His powers are different than Kara’s and so how he can help in their missions differs too. But he’s learning from her all the time, much like Steve Trevor learns from Diana and the Amazons. At the end of the season, again like Steve Trevor, Mon-el sacrifices himself and his and Kara’s happiness in order to save the world. Literally. He does this because he’s learned this kind of sacrificial service from Kara. And, again like Steve Trevor, he knows in making that sacrifice that he’s leaving the more powerful person behind to carry on.

I’m not of the belief that only beta males can be this layered and complex, this manly and yet not the primary in all things. Dyson of the Lost Girl series is unabashedly (and literally) an alpha wolf (and, admittedly, occasionally a bit of an emotional dumb ass). As he falls for the succubus Bo and as, episode by episode, they become partners in crime solving, he defers to her when the situation warrants it, none of which makes him any less alpha be it wolf or man. They save each other, time and again, not because one or the other is weak or incapable, but because they each have their own strengths and often, Bo’s is the greater one in the situation. (At least in season one. I’m still trying to ignore most of season two, all of season three, when the man-hating began in earnest, and the majority of seasons five and six.)

Above all, these “beta’ males are not de-fanged of their masculinity because of a powerful woman. Powerful in their own rights, be it as a super-powered alien from another planet or as a superior leader of men, a truly heroic person, who is as human as the guy next to him, or an outright alpha male who isn’t a bully or a jackhole, when partnered with a woman vastly more powerful than they are in physical capabilities, they are not made lesser–they do not feel lesser–which is super sexy.

We need more of these complex, empowered, layered, kinds of men in fiction today, because there are, I’m convinced, far many of them in real-life than media would lead us to believe. In which case, beta me, baby. Beta me.

Do you have a favorite book or TV beta boyfriend? Give him a shout out in the comments.

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Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is a finalist for InD’Tale Magazine’s prestigious RONE award! Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

 

Wonder Woman: Worth the 40 Year Wait

12 Jun

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I was five years old in 1977 when I jumped off my older sister’s canopy bed and sprained my arm. Hers was a tall bed, tall enough to house a trundle bed underneath, and was as high as I could get at just past 9 PM on a Friday evening. You see, I’d just seen another episode of Wonder Woman. And I knew, even then, that was who I wanted to be in life.

After that stunt, my parents tried to forbid me from watching the show. You can imagine how well that went over. But I did have to promise no more leaps from high places. When my mother tried to curb our Saturday morning cartoon watching, I wheedled my way into her acquiescing to only the SuperFriends and the Smurfs. The SuperFriends are probably the only reason I was ever willingly awake at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. That year or the next, a girl in my class (who I went to nursery school with and, as it turned out, every other school through to high school graduation) got a full Wonder Woman kit for her fifth or sixth birthday. I was insanely jealous and, at that age, completely incapable of hiding it. Somewhere, there’s a picture of me at her party dressed in her birthday present (sorry about that, Kimmie).

You see, from as far back as I can conjugate, I knew I was destined to be Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman was strong. She was never, ever bullied. Not for her looks, not for her size, not for anything. She rescued the underdog, the helpless and needy. She was respected by men–or at least by men worth of the title. She was honorable and righteous. She was kind and generous. She smiled big and knew how to have fun, but she never put herself above others, despite her power and strength and position. She could not only play with the boys, not only hold her own with them, but she could (and would) easily outpace their best efforts. She took care of those who depended on her and made sure they had what they needed, even at her own expense. She was a princess and a warrior. She was loved and lovable.

From a very early age, I longed to be all these things.

Wonder Woman didn’t get teased for her weight or her clothes. Wonder Woman didn’t get mocked for reading as she walked to and from grade school. Wonder Woman didn’t cry as she walked to junior high. Wonder Woman didn’t get ridiculed for reading romance novels because she needed to believe not only in romance and love, but that she herself was worthy of being loved. Wonder Woman didn’t worry about any of that shit. No one would dare.

So you can imagine my feelings to learn there was finally going to be a live-action Wonder Woman film. Or maybe not, because I’ve been trying for nearly ten days to figure them out, and I’m not all that much closer than when I walked out of the movie theatre.

For once, I did not learn every microcosm of information about the movie. I didn’t scan blogs or media sites, I didn’t haunt youtube videos of premieres around the world, I didn’t read or watch media blitzes and morning show spots and red carpet interviews.

I didn’t want the real world interfering with my life-long dream. A real, live Wonder Woman.

Some girls wanted a sparkly tiara. I always went a different route…

It’s been nearly 40 years since I was that young girl jumping off the bed. (Newsflash: that wasn’t my last jump.) Over time, my love for the Amazon princess has not abated. I have a Wonder Woman license plate frame. My best friend bought me Wonder Woman drinking glasses for Christmas. The Mother bought me Wonder Woman stud earrings (which I wore to the movie, natch). I had the Wonder Woman Underroos; as an adult, I have knickers and sleep shirts. I have Wonder Woman workout gear. I wore a different Wonder Woman shirt to the day job every day of the week the movie was released and still had another to wear Saturday when I went to see the film.

To say my expectations were high for this movie is to understate the emotional importance the film carried for me and that five and six and seven and fourteen and so on through the teenage years girl.

I’m here to say, it was absolutely, 100% worth the wait. It’s powerful, emotional, sweet, funny, sexy, emotional, and empowering.

“What one does when faced with the truth is harder than you think.” — Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Wonder Woman 2017

I’m not going to rehash every moment of the film or break down all the feminist principles or the (very few) places they went wrong. There are plenty of other places out there to read all of that. The nay sayers and trolls are making a lot of hay over the movie’s assertion that “love is the answer” as though the moral and theme of Wonder Woman can be summed up with a Beatles’ song. But it’s so much more than that.

“Be careful in the world of men, Diana, they do not deserve you.” Queen Hippolyta, Wonder Woman 2017

Diana’s strength isn’t in her weapons or her power. It’s in her heart where her true power lies. This is something our male superheroes struggle to convey and/or to capitalize on. They have honor and strength and commitment and sacrifice, but few have the courage to act solely from their hearts–from a place of love. Diana has so much love to give, her heart is so large, it can’t remain on an island sequestered from a world that needs her, however violent and cursed and male that world may be. She gives up the right to ever return to her home in order to go where she’s needed. Her mother, Hippolyta, reminds Diana that if she chooses to leave, she can never return. “How will I be if I stay?” Diana replies, to which Hippolyta has no reply.

Steve Trevor: I can’t let you do this…

Diana Prince: What I do is not up to you.

Wonder Woman 2017

That doesn’t mean she’s a pushover. She enters the outside world at a time when women’s suffrage had yet to happen and women were struggling for that very recognition. But Diana knows no world where she is not an equal. It doesn’t ever occur to her that she is less for any reason, but especially not because of her gender. Diana goes where she wants and does what she thinks is necessary and just no matter that all the men around her are telling her “no”. She is constantly being told “no” in this movie, and she just keeps on going. When Steve Trevor brings Diana with him to Parliament so he can update his boss, he tells her not to enter. He actually says “stay”. Diana ignores him and walks on in, bringing the entire room to a standstill because, good Lord, there’s a woman in the chambers of Parliament!

But to Diana, it is just another room and she rightly sees no reason why she shouldn’t be able to enter it. Later, she does the same thing with the war room. Why should she stay outside when the information she needs in in that room? Therefore, she must be in that room. She challenges the men because she doesn’t recognize their “superiority”. It never occurs to her that she’s anything but equal, or at the least, their superior. Not because she has a vagina, but because these worldly people, these men, have been corrupted by ambition or greed or war (there are a number of options offered in the movie) while Diana’s gaze remains clear and fixed. She knows the enemy and knows how to defeat him. She doesn’t accept “we can’t do that because of X or Y.” She knows what must be done and if the men aren’t going to step up and do it, then she is going to do it without them.

And here’s the thing: the men follow her.

Because Steve respects her and he is absolutely not at any moment ever made to feel less of a man by her or because of her. He also doesn’t hesitate to follow her, to have her back while acknowledging her leadership. Nor does he think she’s less due to her gender. He doesn’t have to make her little to feel big. There’s no proving to be done by either one of them. She has her part and he has his and they both go to do them, no matter the personal cost. They are fully partners. When Steve fights with the Amazons on the beach, he doesn’t try to protect them or underestimate them. He immediately assesses their skill and fights side by side with them. More, he learns from them and proves this later in the movie when he copies an Amazon move in order to help Diana during another battle, sure she’ll instantly know what he means because he’s aware of her skill and training and more, confident she can carry it out to fruition. And he loves her, fast and sure as happens in such movies, but he doesn’t love her expecting her to change or become someone else or to set aside what she believes in or must do because of that love. He loves her for who she is, and makes him better, makes him want to be better.

(For more on how great Steve Trevor is as a beta male who doesn’t lose his masculinity because he follows Diana, read this great post on Mary Sue, The Steve Trevor Factor: Wonder Woman Gives Us a Template for What Gender Equality Can Look Like. I could not say it better if I tried.)

Steve Trevor: “We can’t save everyone.”

Diana: “Maybe you can’t. But I’m going to.”

Wonder Woman 2017

Watching Wonder Woman, I thought of all the young girls experiencing Diana, Princess of Themyscira for the first time via this film, seeing and learning not that no matter what or who they want to be, they’ll always hear “no” and “don’t” and “no” again and “you can’t do that” or “women can’t do that,” but that they will be able to reply “maybe you can’t, but I’m going to.” That they too can be a wonder of a woman: Courageous. Kind. Wise. Loving. Beautiful. Strong. Undefeatable. That there’s not one of these elements they need to sacrifice to be any and all of the others.

Because Diana’s great capacity for love doesn’t make her a weakling. Oh no. She comes from far too heartier stock for that. The Amazons in Wonder Woman are feats to behold, fierce and fearsome, and more than one warrior’s cry brought chills to my spine–and an elated smile to my face. These are the ancestors of all the Black Widows and Supergirls and Buffys and Jean Greys and so on and so on. Every kick ass, bad ass woman hero or antihero, superhero or chosen one. They owe it all to the Amazons. And these are the women who raised and trained Diana to be all that is Wonder Woman, and to have Robin Wright, the Princess Bride herself, leading the charge, well, there are few greater ways to make the circle complete.

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I’ve written before about how romance novels taught me to be the heroine of my own story, how they continue to embolden women to reach for what makes them happy, to be that heroine. With the arrival of Wonder Woman, I’ve realized she started me on that journey. She’s the first to make me believe I could be more–that I was worth more

I’ve been trying to be Wonder Woman for 40 years. Strong. Giving. Honorable. Righteous. Kind. Compassionate. Forgiving. Sacrificial. Loving. Undefeatable Striving to achieve that destiny, to be that woman in a mortal, real-life existence. And I’ve failed, epically, far more than I’ve succeeded.

There’s been no magic bracelets despite my propensity for silver cuffs (gee, wonder where *that* came from?). No lasso of truth to discern who is lying to me and guide me to the truths of peoples hearts. No invisible jet to get to places quickly (though that bit I never got–what good is an invisible jet when everyone can see you through it anyway?). No superior strength or effervescent beauty. Just me being, well, me.

As it turns out, that’s been more than enough.

I am, as I’ve always been, a wonder of a woman. We all are. Heroines of our own wondrous stories.

Looks like that was my destiny after all.

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It’s theme week here at Lady Smut as we celebrate the release of our own Elizabeth Sa Fleur’s newest installment in the Elite Doms of Washington series, Lucky.

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Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is a finalist for InD’Tale Magazine’s prestigious RONE award! Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

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Red As Blood: Women & Gothic Romance

1 Jun

Lovely readers — I attended a panel at #WisCon that made me cry out with perverse desire.  It was called Red As Blood — a panel on women and the Gothic genre.  Loosely organized, it revolved around the interesting desires and situations that comprise Gothic joy and perversity.

“A young woman meets an interesting, mysterious man in a giant, lonely house.  It turns out he may have bad intentions.  Sometimes she wants him to have bad intentions.”–Emily Cataneo.

What I liked about this panel was that everyone on the panel–authors and fans alike, really obsessed over what I obsessed over, and had exactly the same attitudes that I had. Everyone on the panel was raving over Crimson Peak–especially Tom Hiddleston, especially the house and clothes — AND

Spoiler Alert!

…especially the end where two women fight it out with knives in bloody nightgowns.

Everyone didn’t care if there was no logical reasoning behind certain events in their favorite Gothic novels or movies.  Our love of Gothic is not about reason.

Then what is it about? It’s about a feeling of creeping doom, of impending horror.  But no ACTUAL horror, mind you.  If horror is that moment of curdling screams and blood splatter on the wall, then the gothic genre is about hearing that scream from a far distance and discovering the blood splatter on the wall by prying open a secret passage.  (Preferably 5 to 20 years after it got there.)

The gothic genre is about secrets.  About dread.  About creeping horror — yes! But it’s a psychological horror.

Notorious is supremely logical–but the sense of oppression is still intense.

Now let’s talk romance in these novels.  For my joys I hit the Goodreads best Gothic romances page. There you will find not only the old classic authors like Anne Radcliffe and Victoria Holt but also Gay Gothic Romances, and Gothic romances with witches!!!!

Now, when we turn to Gothic film, the problem is that they are often horror films and take things just a leeeetle too far for my taste. Sigh.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about gothic romantic films:

The Gothic romance film is a Gothic film with feminine appeal. Diane Waldman wrote in Cinema Journal that Gothic films in general “permitted the articulation of feminine fear, anger, and distrust of the patriarchal order” and that such films during World War II and afterward “place an unusual emphasis on the affirmation of feminine perception, interpretation, and lived experience”. Between 1940 and 1948, the Gothic romance film was prevalent in Hollywood, being produced by well-known directors and actors. The best-known films of the era were Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), and Gaslight (1944). Less well-known films were Undercurrent (1946) and Sleep, My Love (1948). Waldman describes these films’ Gothic rubric: “A young inexperienced woman meets a handsome older man to whom she is alternately attracted and repelled.”[1] Other films from the decade include The Enchanted Cottage (1945) and The Heiress (1949).[2]

The Gothic romance films from the 1940s often contain the “Bluebeard motif”, meaning that in the typical setting of the house, a certain part is either forbidden to be used or even closed off entirely.[3] In the films, the forbidden room is a metaphor for the heroine’s repressed experience, and opening the room is a cathartic moment in the film.[4] In addition, the layout of the house in such films (as well as Gothic novels) creates “spatial disorientation [that] causes fear and an uncanny restlessness”.[5]

In 2015, director Guillermo del Toro released the Gothic romance film Crimson Peak. He said past films had been “brilliantly written by women and then rendered into films by male directors who reduce the potency of the female characters”. For Crimson Peak, he sought to reverse this cinematic trope.[6]

And did he EVER! If you adored Crimson Peak then here are some treats for you.  Here’s my fun review of Crimson Peak for one, along with some other movie recommendations below.  First of all, I highly recommend Suspicion–a Cinderella story in which we and the heroine are gradually brought to realize that a) she’s no Cinderella and b) this is not a happily ever after.

But if you want to get your gothic horror movie on–here’s a list from Indiewire to check out.  Some of them are fabulous.  Rosemary’s Baby is excellent.  Picnic at Hanging Rock is really mysterious. It’s like the missing girls floated off into some alternative realm after enough feminine corset squeezing and hair braiding to last a lifetime.  Gaslight is excellent.  As I mentioned above, Suspicion is one of my all time favorites.  The Shining is fabulous — but something I’d put on while doing another task so I could walk away as needed…(I’d put the premise of The Shining this way: What’s the scariest monster of the 70’s? The absent dad figure suddenly returned to be a ‘part of the family’.  Shiver. Ugggggggh!) Les Diaboliques was good, Notorius is sublime.  This list also made me want to see The Haunted with Kate Beckinsale as well as The Tomb of Ligeia…

THE GOTHIC ANTI-HERO OF ALL TIME? It’s gotta be Micheal Fassbender.  As I’ve commented before, Fassy seems to be all alone in his films.  That alone-ness is exactly what we want in a gothic anything. In the latest-greatest remake of Jane Eyre, he is utterly riveting.  At once flesh and blood with his long mutton chop whiskers, he seems like a Victorian that doesn’t wash everyday, that sweats, that chews his food. There is something very real and authentic about him–especially when it comes to his presence around women. Nevertheless, for all that he still seems like a very quietly haunted man who will NEVER be happy.  What I realized watching his performance is that Jane Eyre is a tale of warning: don’t fall for the man you work for.  Don’t let him seduce you.  Don’t succumb to the temptations he leads you towards breadcrumb of attention by breadcrumb of attention.  He has bad intentions and nothing good for you will result.  Fassy’s breathtaking performance is a seduction: rather slow and tender, but also deliberate enough to make one realize how wrong it all is.  His inscrutable mind is clicking behind the command of his words, looks, and touches the entire time.

Tom Hiddleston is an incredibly close second for my all time fav goth anti-hero.  His charismatic flavor however, connotes the possibility of a happier ending. If Fassy is the haunted man in his giant spooky house at the beginning of the movie, then Hiddles represents that peek of sunshine, that thin slice of spring — expressed only by a few blades of grass and one lone daffodil at the end of the movie.  There is something a little softer and more pliant about Hiddles the lover. He represents hope and escape from psychological hell into some sunnier, more mild and quietly happy place.  Tom seems like a man who needs an other to pair with him.  While Fassy, a more coporeal lover in the moment of temptation, perhaps–seems to stand alone in his blank emptiness to the bitter end.

I see Tom as more of an HEA guy–even if the HEA is with his sister.

What do you think, readers? Sound out below in the comments section — and I’m all ears for good contemporary gothic romance reading rec’s.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

Fantasizing About The Hot Villain: Women as Hunters

20 Apr

by Madeline Iva

Who here sees a movie and winds up fantasizing later on about the hot villain? Raising my hand. WHY is my question. Why aren’t we fantasizing about the hot hero? (I mean, maybe we are. Sometimes.) Last week I talked about the hot villain being redeemed all the way into becoming an anti-hero. Here is another post about how we are bitten by the compulsion to use a hot villain as fantasy fodder.

How many Harry Potter fans found Snape a bit more interesting than all the other characters? Raising hand again. Of course, Malfoy fan fic is popular all across this great land. (Bonus points for those who add a queer element.)  But cold snobbiness is not so obviously a turn on–so what is?

THE VILLAIN AS ROMANTIC CHALLENGE:

Some women are hunters.

I loathe shopping, but I believe that some women shop as a form of hunting. They hunt down a bargain, they trap their sale item, and display their trophy at home. Myself, I love capturing a shy person at a party.  If I can get a shy guy or woman to crack open and talk about themselves, then I am so happy lapping at all that hidden goodness within.  Here’s my theory: if you are more comfortable at a party when you have something to do vs. just hanging out, I’m guessing you like to hunt a potential mate who presents some kind of challenge.

On the other hand, we need to respect the fact that some women like hunting men as an attention game for the sheer sport of it, whether they’re also looking for sex, romance, or a husband.  The idea of women hunting after men often used to have a really negative connotation.  But let’s face it, women really are socially very powerful.  For instance, there’s a Georgette Heyer book called AN INFAMOUS ARMY in which the heroine ‘Babs’ is in a mood, so she decides draw a man clear across the room to her with just one look.  She’s that kind of vixen.  Later on, she’s almost undone when she finally lands a guy she actually likes, because the vixen thing only works well when you don’t care, and by that point she cares a lot more than she wants to.

Spike is love’s bitch, and he’s man enough to admit it.

I decided to try a Babs-ian moment at one point in my life.  People were dancing and I was having some kind of crazy hormonal surge that left me feeling ridiculously full of confidence.  I spotted this guy on the other side of the dance floor–a blonde–and just BAM! Gave him one look.  It worked.  I watched with a bit of amused disbelief as he came across the crowded dance floor.  He turned out to be mega-cool and by the end of the night we had a thing going on.  (He dumped me a few months later.) On the other end of the spectrum, luring my Sweetie into a relationship was a much more subtle and drawn out process.  In those moments where I would entice him to yet another fun social event where we could bond, I was like a different person.  Kinda hunter-y, though that’s not how I’d put it at the time.  But definitely confident, goal-oriented, and–um–compelling.  Of course, I was an insecure mess the rest of the time, obsessed and anxious, desperate and yet still hoping.

My point is: the heart you have to conquer is the heart you’ve earned.  And when it comes to villains, they’re just not easy to conquer. Maybe they’re selfish, or mis-trusting.  Your above-average intellectual villain wouldn’t fall for you just because of your looks.  He’s probably more discriminating.

THE VILLAIN WHO HAS A HEART–though it’s “small and tiny, and he can’t remember the last time he used it.”

Your ideal hot villain cares for only one or two people–if that.  So in the fantasy, the villain who only has the capacity to love in the low single digits–loves you. You get to be within that circle of protection. You get to be one of the chosen few.

Even better–villains are often virgins of the heart when it comes to romantic feels.  He’s having new feelings he’s never had before, and this makes your encounter all the more scrumptious.

The fantasy about the villain is he can be so awful to others, but stops being simply awful to you.  He just can’t.  He may even be frustrated and unhappy that he can’t.  Being unable to act like an utter sh** the way he does to everyone else becomes proof that whether he wants to or not, he’s got the feels for you, and he’s got it bad.

THE VILLAIN AS COLD, ISOLATED MAN:

Fassy as Magnito in the Xmen franchise might as well be singing “Allllll by mysellllf”.   He’s an iceberg and you want to thaw him out. 

THE VILLAIN YOU PRACTICE YOUR SUPER-POWERS UPON, AKA THE PLOT OF EVERY DARK ROMANCE EVER WRITTEN:

 I love a Villain who does some bad stuff but also some good stuff and shows real anti-hero potential. In Dark Romance the villain/hero does a lot of bad stuff–even to the heroine.  Yet the heroine holds out a kind of hope:

  • if we can bond,
  • if I can show him I trust him,
  • if become one of the very few HE TRUSTS

…then I’ll be safe via some combo of my looks/personality/vulnerability/wits/social powers, and gift of persuasion…

…and therefore I survive and therefore I WIN.

Yeah—call this Stockholm Syndrome–sure, go ahead.

But Stockholm syndrome had a negative connotation of a kind of victim-hood, whereas what I’m talking about is slaying your skulking hottie villain with love-bonding.

This is less about being a victim and more about working raw survival skills when you’re at a complete disadvantage using only your powers of attraction and persuasion – which can feel like a sort of triumph and conquest. It’s like killing someone with one tiny piece of string.

SO WHY ARE WE LIKE THIS?

Why are we attracted to men with limited or negative qualities? Why aren’t we just wired to dive onto that sunny, friendly, honest good guy and not let go?  Welp.  I think it has something to do with The Warrior Gene problem.

THE WARRIOR GENE

There actually is a genetic variant that some humans (men) have which they call the warrior gene.  With this genetic variant you can get empathy, but it’s rather limited.  For instance, you can have soldiers who are efficient killing machines in battle, but still display love and caring for their family and children. This gene shows a middle ground between ‘normal’ people who really don’t like to hurt others, and sociopaths who have a hard time caring for anyone but themselves.

Okay, so here’s my whack theory: I hypothesize that there’s a counterpart to the Warrior Guy gene.

THE WARRIOR MATE GENE

Let’s call it the Warrior Mate gene.  The Warrior Mate gene (if it exists) would be a genetic variant that makes women highly attracted to Warrior Guys–even if Warrior Guy is sometimes a dick. I mean, in terms of evolution, Warrior Guy is the perfect mate waaaaaay back in the day, right? He won’t attack and abuse the children or you, but–and this is key–he will protect the family against ruthless, violent attacks. His lack of emotions in the moment of battle will give him an edge and he will be competent and unhesitating when it comes to killing.  Of course you’d be wired to look for this guy and to be attracted to him and draw him in close.

Further whack theory: this is why we women have evolved to process relationships to a much greater degree than men. (There’s science to back this up.) We need to sort through all the good and the bad when it comes to guys–sifting fine nuances in behavior–because sometimes the bad can work in our favor. I mean, look, if the Huns are on our doorstep we can’t go fight them all if we’ve got three knee-biters to look after. Right?

Do you revel in a good villain? Let me know in the comments section below.  Speaking of reveling:

We’re only two weeks away from our big event at RT.  Join LadySmut bloggers at the RT Booklovers Convention May 3-7, especially at our super special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever. Win crowns, fetish toys, books and more! Goodybags to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

Reasons To Bang The Bad Guy, Pt. 1

13 Apr

by Madeline Iva

Saranna DeWylde got me thinking yesterday about why we’re so attracted to awesome villains like Loki. Because we are. I am.  Before I unleash my perverse romantic side, let us be clear: I’d never go near an evil dude in real life.  (I can’t help thinking of this guy who said to me in college: Women only like assholes, never the good guys.  No, David, most of us like the good guys.) That said…here’s the break-down on why we are simply fascinated with depictions of excellent villains and their equally hot cousin, the anti-hero.

(What is an anti-hero but a villain who was so damn attractive he was morphed by popular demand into Super-Duper Flawed Guy.  Examples: Damon on Vampire Diaries, Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sawyer on Lost — I could go on and on and on…)

From a romance perspective, a great, charismatic villain provides hideous temptation to fantasize.Their are specific qualities that particularly tempt us.  Let’s explore them, shall we?

THE VILLAIN AS A FANTASY OBJECT OF REDEMPTION:

  1. We especially like a villain with teeny bit of good in him: Romance readers are always willing take a small nugget of goodness and blow it up into something mate-worthy–even heroically substantial. Readers feel this especially for good looking men.  Would that we were as kind to women*** Anyway, Jamie Dornan playing Paul Spector in THE FALL is a serial killer, but also a loving dad to his daughter–therefore, it hurts when his world is falling down around him at the end and he has to explain to his daughter that he’s not going to raise her anymore and probably not see her again. There’s not the usual feeling of satisfaction that he’d been caught for his evil deeds and is going away for forever.  (I think the point originally was to show the audience that he’s victimized his daughter as well–but there was such an intense depth of emotion to the scene that it mutated into something more complicated, intriguing, and relatable.)
  2. Villain as misunderstood– underneath his/her reprehensible actions, there’s a world of hurt in that villain.  The villain needs someone to kiss the boo-boos and make it better. Frankenstein’s monster just wants to give the little girl a flower. Is it his fault she passes out from fear and people mis-construe the way he carried her off? He’s just MISUNDERSTOOD PEOPLE!
  3. Villain as a fish out of water – Loki fits this — he’s a fish out of water in Valhalla.  He’s intelligent and incredibly powerful, but despite his talents he’s not the leader–he’s not even one of them. Despite his strong call to lead, he’ll never get the chance because he’s a cuckoo in the nest. He’s all twisted up from the git go cause of the lies and things that were hidden from him – none of which is his fault. And frankly, NO ONE CARES to make it right with him. All paranormal monsters are always a fish out of water when it comes to normality–even when normality is being an immortal god in a giant hall at the end of a rainbow.
  4. Villains as victims/victims of betrayal:  Sebastian Stan was cat nip as THE WINTER SOLDIER in the movie of the same name.  Inside that weird bromance-core was an understanding of Stan’s plight: He can’t HELP IT – it’s not his fault—he’s been brainwashed!!!!  And those lips, yi.  Meanwhile, James Franco in Spider-man loved his father, and was blinded to the truth by his father, because his best friend and father both lied to him. The ending of the first Spider Man is drenched in irony through Franco not realizing that his virtues (his loyalty to his father) means his best friend becomes his worst enemy. I remember watching the first movie long ago and liking Franco in his proto-villain phase far more than anyone else in the movie even before Franco became a big deal.

    James we hardly knew ye as Harry Osborn.

  5. Villain as vulnerable: we relate to flaws A LOT. A top-notch villain can is as much a prisoner of his past and deep psychological needs as anyone else.

    Kylo Ren is angsty, unstable–ready to crack open and bleed pain. Yum!

  6. For some villains, happiness is just so close–yet so far away! Show me a villain who has the chance to change and I’ll show you a riveted romance audience.  The best villains often have pain they cling to that goads them towards doing evil–and when there’s a chance the villain might back off from this emotional sticky point before the point of no return oh, we are in our happy place! That’s how you know romance audiences–we want happy endings for anyone we find interesting.

NEXT WEEK: VILLAINS & OUR FORBIDDEN DESIRES

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

***Women on the whole are a lot more unforgiving towards other women than they are towards men. I think with a romantic perspective and therefore believe that my readers view worthy, hot men as objects of romantic conquest/relationship projects. At the same time I believe almost all women are still socialized to be harshly judgmental when it comes to other women–especially those depicted in romance novels.

Is that statement upsetting? I would never want to accuse someone unjustly of sexism, but even I fall down when taking the quiz below–see how you do:

  • Name three women you know personally who sleep around a lot, but you DON’T think are sluts
  • Name 3 woman you know who doesn’t prioritize their kids but you don’t judge them as neglectful moms
  • Name three women you know who have some kind of authority over you or someone very close to you that you don’t think of as busybodies or annoying bitches.
  • If you read a romance novel about an unmarried woman, who is intensely focussed on her career, and doesn’t want kids, or to take care of the people around her–would you see her as a role model? Or would you think she’s too selfish and unlikeable for a romance heroine? Now if the character was switched to a romance hero, would you also think he was selfish and unlikeable?

 

 

Bang-able Villains

12 Apr

Hello Lovely Readers! Elizabeth Shore is away today. Instead, we have a happily edgy post from the amazing and kick-ass Saranna DeWylde here.  I asked Saranna to do a guest post after I saw this exchange on facebook:

Yes! Exactly!

So I asked Saranna to talk to us about why we women are sometimes (often?) a bit more interested in a really good villain than they are the hero.

I absolutely love a well-constructed villain. I don’t mean an anti-hero, I like them, but this post is all about the E-ville. Is that a misspelling? Not at all. Say it out loud, roll it around in your mouth. You’re not a good villain unless you have the mustache-twirling pronunciation. Maybe even a bit of goatee stroking. You know what I mean?

No, I didn’t. 

When I first think about favorite villains, Hannibal Lecter comes to mind, but he’s not really a villain anymore, is he? In the television show, he’s more of an anti-hero.

 

Is he??? I haven’t seen this show, but I’ve heard so much about it…Check out the preview above.

What especially interests me about villains and their bangability is societal reaction and what we deem acceptably attractive in people. No one thinks anything about me saying I’d like give Darth Vader a run for his money except to say that maybe his parts don’t work in that suit. I maintain he could probably give really great orgasms with The Force. A little breath play, and pretty much whatever else he wanted you to feel. (Is it getting hot in here, or is just me?)

Old Darth does it for Saranna, Kylo Ren is all tortured and interesting to a new generation.

If I say I thought Paul Spector was hot from The Fall, I’d be one of those twisted girls into serial killers. But I know real serial killers. I was a prison guard. I hung out with them for eight hours a day, sometimes sixteen. None of them look like Jamie Dornan. And none of them were ever the least bit attractive to me.

Which is not to suggest that because someone is physically handsome in real life he’s NOT a serial killer….Tiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha

(Incidentally, I didn’t crush on Jamie Dornan until The Fall.)

Fictional evil is attractive. There’s a nod to everything that’s not the ideal. That’s not a princess. That’s not perfect. And part of us wants them to win because that means we can too. A charismatic villain makes so much easier to acknowledge our own sins, see our own dark places, and we can empathize with him in fiction, because we don’t have to own our massive flaws for real.

I find when a hero holds up his virtues it’s much harder for me to say, yes…that’s me too. The writers of Luther posited through show dialogue that women specifically were attracted to evil men because we were able to claim some of their power for our own. There might be something to that.

While we’re at it, I kind of have a type. The Devil. Almost anyone can play The Devil, and that’s an insta-girl boner. Hell, this could probably comprise most of my list. Apologies to Tom Ellis in Lucifer, though. He’s hot, but he started out an antihero so he doesn’t make my list. So pretty, though.

Tom Ellis as Lucifer

With that said, let’s open our Slam Books to

Top Eleven Villains I’d Bang.

Not ten, because I’m being contrary in honor of our villains. (After, you better share yours, too, or I’m not going to share my slap bracelets.)

In no particular order:

Darth Vader– As I said before, he could do some crazy shit with The Force. I just keep thinking about that choke hold. Amirite?

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), American Psycho– That might actually be bad sex. I’m not so much down for the coat hanger and he’s so arrogant, he’s probably terrible in bed. I think I really just want to pet his shoulders and his hair after we eat at Dorsia.

Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), The Fall– Well, I mean. C’mon.

Paul Spector in The Fall, aka Jamie Dornan

Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek), From Dusk Till Dawn– Everyone wants to let her bite them. Everyone. She’s single-minded in her approach to food and any other pleasures. I support this wholeheartedly.

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), The Wolf of Wall Street– I’m not sure if it’s the part where he says, “the book, motherfucker) or if it’s because he’s unrepentant about what a piece of shit he is, and I don’t know if I’d think the real JB was attractive, because he did actually hurt people. But his characterization? Yeah, I’d hit that.

Lizzie Borden (Christian Ricci) Lizzie Borden series– Here’s a woman who isn’t taking shit from anyone. She knows what she wants, and isn’t afraid to take it. Whatever the cost.

Viggo Mortenson, The Prophecy– His portrayal of the Big D is one of the best ever. He’s not meant to be attractive, yet, somehow still is. He’s horrible, and awful and I love every second of it. “Little Tommy Daggett. How I loved listening to your sweet prayers every night. And then you would jump into bed, so afraid that I was under there. And I was!” Really, do you promise? Please?

Gabriel Byrne, End of Days– Gimme. (I also dug him as the priest in Stigmata, but he was sort of a hero there. Kinda. It doesn’t count.)

Mark Pellegrino, Supernatural– He’s almost an anti-hero. But not quite. Just enough… I love his character so much.

Sam Neil, The Omen Part 6400-I don’t know. I just can’t help myself.

Bradley James, The Omen TV series-He doesn’t want to be bad, he just is. And when he finally owns it? Boo yeah. Bring it, handsome!

Anyway, those are my eleven for the moment. My list is ever-changing, but I’d love to know which villains you’d like to lock in your bedroom. Tell me in the comments below.

Want more Saranna? Check her out on facebook, or sign up for her newsletter at her website. Tomorrow I’m responding more to Saranna’s post — check it out!

And follow us at Lady Smut where we’ll happily explore your dark side all night long.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

Heroines of Destiny!

23 Mar

You could go to college and get married — or you could be a brown fairy with wings instead! Choices, choices, choices.

by Madeline Iva

Go to college, have a career, get married, have children.  Is this the modern woman’s destiny? What if you don’t tick one of those boxes? I’m moderating a panel called HEROINES OF DESTINY on Saturday, 10AM at Virginia Festival of the Book, so I’ve been questioning the concept of destiny lately, especially for women who swim against the strong current of societal expectations.

The ancient Greeks thought of destiny as inescapable–your fate would find you no matter what.  Struggle as hard as you could against your destiny, the outcome would still be the same.  Cassandra is the ultimate heroine of destiny — Her inescapable fate was signed the moment she rejected Apollo’s advances, and that was that.  He cursed her with the gift of prophesy; no matter how often or how much she warned people of their fate, she was never believed. Yet she kept trying to over and over to change the outcome, only to watch events play out the way she foretold–even her own death.

Moving forward a thousand years or so, our panelists (including Pintip Dunn, NYTimes bestselling YA author) will discuss how their book’s heroines are fighting a certain destiny — whether it’s to marry and have children, to accept the loss of a lover, or to remain locked up in prison for a crime that hasn’t been committed yet.

I love the idea of a heroine who changes the course of her life because she’s fallen in love.  I see these works as feminist because the women go against the grain of their lives according to society’s expectations yet it all works out in the end.  Here are some of my fav fantasy examples:

THE LITTLE MERMAID: having fins while your loved one has legs is a pretty big romantic obstacle to overcome.  The Little Mermaid was very bold and plucky when it came to pursuing the object of her love–right down to changing her fundamental physical being–even though she had to pay a very large price.  Let all those considering plastic surgery and other gendered forms of modern torture beware.

STARTDUST: Yvaine is a star, who’s destiny is to twinkle in the sky and watch the doings of men from afar.  Yet she decides to abandon her place, and come down to the world of men to explore their hearts, as well as experience their joys and suffering.  I have some serious issues with parts of this novel/movie, but I appreciate the idea of a great and powerful star forging a new destiny for herself–with the man she loves.

Yvaine is a star who rocketed to earth and met her one true love.

Another way to think of HEROINES OF DESTINY is to think of powerful women who shape the lives and change the future of those around them.

THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD: Sybel is content with her own solitude and magical menagerie far from the world of men until fate brings her a baby and a flame haired hero.  Then she is drawn into the snarled paths of men’s destiny.  I love how McKillip shows Sybel, using her various powers to shape and thrust aside the male forces around her rather than become their pawn.  Sybel takes her time and sounds her own heart in her decisions about how to forge the future.  Though the world of men shakes and angers her, ultimately, she finds a way to shed their petty resentments, fear, and bitterness. She finds her way to true love by the end, yes, but more importantly she discovers the path back to the calm stillness of her heart that makes her serene and content.

Sooooo good!

And finally — by far and away my favorite:

MALEFICENT: A fairy creature (Maleficent) and a boy become friends–the first way in which Maleficent goes in a different direction from the other creatures in fairy land.  At one point Maleficent (now grown) is betrayed and loses her wings–a kind of symbolic fairy tale rape.  What happens after that is partly shaped by Maleficent’s determination to avenge herself, and partly shaped by her wounded heart.  The movie offers an unexpected twist at one point — wherein Maleficent, now the wise protector and leader of her land in times of crisi, can shed her identity as victim once and for all.  I LOVED THIS FILM SO HARD.  It really made me want to cheer.  Though it is not in a typical m/f  love story or romance, it provides that same kind of deep joy and overcoming of obstacles that make us romance peeps so very happy.

In my novel WICKED APPRENTICE, Zephyr averts disaster for the people and the land all around her once she becomes a powerful sorceress.  Meanwhile, her desires and magic work upon the hero until he goes from being a tortured, reclusive wizard into a magnificent hero who is the only one that can end a decades long war. She is most definitely a Heroine of Destiny — and if you haven’t read the book yet you should– it’s only .99!

Are you the heroine of your own destiny? What great heroines do you love –and how do they shape the the lives of those around them?

And follow us at Lady Smut–we’re fated to be together.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

The Enduring Romance of Beauty and the Beast

20 Mar

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I remember the first time I saw Beauty and the Beast in 1991. It was in the Berkeley Heights movie theater. Thursday nights were buy one, get one, but I went with my friends for a matinée. Funny, I can’t remember who I was with, but I distinctly remember that first moment when the curtain drew back (yes, it had a curtain across the screen) and the first image of the movie filled the frame.

I gasped. For real. I spent the first 90 seconds wavering back and forth between thinking it was real and believing it was a cartoon. The colors were so bright, the images so crisp, it was breathtaking, as in it literally took my breath away. Minutes later, the opening number “Belle” began and I was officially enraptured. The complexity of the song, the brilliance of the lyrics, the timing of the animation. This was revolutionary. It was pre-motion captured, when digital was only just becoming part of our vocabulary. There were no DVDs yet, CDs were only just becoming known, laser disks were still the premiere idea of home movies. The Little Mermaid had taken the world by storm barely a year earlier. But Beauty and the Beast was a wunderkind of animation never seen before. Its music was fresh and exciting. Its story took a well-known tale and infused it anew with adventure and romance.

And don’t even get me started on the ballroom scene.

A few days later, I took my sister to see it before I went back to college, and after she had to endure me going on and on about it. Within the first few minutes, she turned to me and whispered, “You were absolutely right.”

Last Friday, I saw the new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, not another retelling of the story, but the same 1991 animated film remade with live people as opposed to cartoons. I’ve been anticipating this movie but at the same time, had little expectation as to what it might turn out to be. Like looking forward to seeing a favorite book brought to the screen, there was bound to be new interpretations to the story that would tick me off (I’m a purist, I confess), but as I was coming off a long convalescence from surgery, I went to a matinée solo simply to enjoy seeing an old friend given new life.

It was, in a word, perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Was it flawless? No. That’s an impossibility. But as Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the Disney logo was replaced by the Beast’s enchanted castle and the familiar words of the prologue filled the air now in a female’s voice, I knew this was going to be the rare film that met the demands of its source material. Perhaps even exceeded it.

I’m not going to go over the particulars of the new movie as it’s enough to say it’s a near perfect match to its animated doppelgänger. OK, scratch that idea. A few quick thoughts: the new movie does address a few loopholes the animated film skipped over that have plague fans for years–or maybe that’s just me. Things like, why does no one in the village see the honking huge palace in the forest? Why is it beautiful autumn in the village and winter around the castle? How come no one seems to remember there was ever a prince in residence nearby? How the hell does wee Belle manage to get huge Beast up on Philippe the horse after Beast collapses following the wolf attack? Answers are finally found. Also, where I often loathe new music added to an established libretto (Phantom of the Opera, I’m looking at you), the new songs added to this version of Beauty and the Beast fit in perfectly. Oh and Luke Evans nearly steals the show as pitch-perfect Gaston. Finally, visually, it is a masterpiece. I don’t even want to know how it was done, which part is motion capture and which part is actual people, or where the animation begins or which pieces are on a set and which are in a proper 18th-century palace. It’s a sumptuous feast on par with the magnitude of its counterpart for its time. You will not be disappointed.

But what struck me as I teared up over the ending (and yea, I did sniffle, and applaud while the credits rolled) was how this well-known and beloved story still had the power to move me. Women are weened on romantic fantasy and Disney has made a killing exploiting that deeply ingrained expectation. But archetype stories like Beauty and the Beast endure because they resonate with truth that is better than any fantasy.

In both films, the key is that Belle must fall in love with a “hideous” beast in order to break the curse. But the prince’s outward beast is merely the reflection of the inner asshole that was hiding beneath his human pretty face. As he learns not only to love, but to be lovable, the core good person who yet lives beneath both beastly versions comes back to life. This is another aspect this film has the time and means to address. Mrs. Potts informs Belle of how the prince was warped by his cruel father after his mother’s death when the prince was but a boy. Adding the somewhat rout psychological element adds layers to the prince’s repulsive behavior prior to his beastliness being made manifest, which also explains why the staff remains so loyal to one who appeared to be so horrible in both guises.

Beast also learns the sacrificial aspect to love, that truly loving someone means putting their needs first and that sometimes can cause great agony for the lover. In the new film, when Beast releases Belle to go to her father, he watches her flee through the maze, her gold dress a beacon, and sings the beautiful, new, heart-wrenching song “Evermore”.

Sidebar: Holy cats, can Dan Stevens sing. Strewth.

In “Evermore,” Beast sings about how Belle has changed his life and how he knows he’ll now be haunted by her for the rest of his days. But even as he despairs over this and the expectation that he’ll never see her again, especially since, in this film, there is a very real threat to his and the others existence, (outside of Gaston and the mob, that is), Beast knows he’s forever been changed by falling in love with her. Whatever the future brings him, he will not be the same person, man or beast, because of Belle.

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she runs away
She will still torment me, calm me, hurt me
Move me, come what may

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she fades from view
She will still inspire me, be a part of
Everything I do

Wasting in my lonely tower
Waiting by an open door
I’ll fool myself she’ll walk right in
And as the long, long nights begin
I’ll think of all that might have been
Waiting here for evermore!

– “Evermorefrom Beauty and the Beast 2017 ©Disney

Poor Beastie. Fortunately, we know he’s not meant to waste away in his lonely tower without his Belle, but still! Sob.

In this live-action version of the story, as Belle and her prince dance through the final moments, she makes a cheeky request of him that makes it clear she actually prefers or at least misses his hairier visage, a request that makes the prince laugh because he knows exactly what she’s saying. She doesn’t love him more or less for now being human; she loves him period. But having fallen in love with his beastly component, she’s not adverse to his human self sporting a sartorial reminder. (And I think, for those of us who may know, there was a sly sexual component to her request as well.)

But it’s not only the Beast/Prince who is loved for himself. Belle too doesn’t fit in her environment. She’s thought to be odd and out-of-place because she reads and longs for a life far beyond that of a provincial village. In the original film, when Belle has her Sound of Music moment running up the hill while she sings “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand, to have someone understand. I want so much more than they’ve got planned…” my young heart swelled and I got chills. When Emma Watson did the same move and sang the same words in the live-action film, my battered, weary heart swelled and I got chills as I smiled and sang along.

So many of us were that girl, nose in a book, dreaming of more, maybe a prince or at least that one person who “got” us, who didn’t think we were weird because of who we are or what we like to do. Who wanted to be with us because of what others thought made us odd, not in spite of them. Who wanted us for us. Now, as women, some of us have been fortunate to have found that person. Some of us are still looking but remain hopeful. Meanwhile, we read and, in my case, write romances to keep that hope alive. Not because we’re entrenched in romantic fantasy, but because we know the truth that fantasy exploits: happily ever after isn’t just for fiction.

This is why Beauty and the Beast is such an enduring romance. And it’s why those of us who write romance continue to believe. Be it romantic suspense or epic fantasy or erotic romance or BDSM romance or Amish romance, whatever the genre or subgenre, whether we write about hot alpha heroes or handsome beta heroes or gorgeous women who’ve got it going on or ladies in search of their own kind of special who are the heroines of their own stories, at the core, we’re spinning relationships where the parties involved find the one who loves them for themselves, for who they are at the best and worst of times (thank you Victor Hugo), who love those moments when we’re all a unique beauty and more, when we show our inner beasts.

Women may be weened on romantic fantasy, but stories like Beauty and the Beast remind us that true love sees and loves all.

And that is no fantasy.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

NEVER SWEETER: The Sweet Darkness in Charlotte Stein’s Dark Obsessions Trilogy

9 Mar

This one is going into my “special” kindle folder. ; >

by Madeline Iva

We posted a fun excerpt from Charlotte Stein’s story NEVER BETTER last Sunday.  NEVER BETTER is the final book in her Dark Obsession trilogy, so of course, I read it first, and then worked my way backwards, cause I’m perverse like that. I gobbled down NEVER BETTER like a chocolate chip cookie and advise you to do the same.  Now I’d like to take you on a journey through the open-mouthed, kindle-clutching, eye-squeezing moments I had while reading NEVER SWEETER, the first book in the series.  How to do so without delivering any spoilers is gonna be hard, but here I go…

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE GOES TO THE DARK SIDE

What really keeps a man and a woman apart these days if they want to be together? Not much. After plundering the treasure chest of meet-cutes and other fabulously quirky ways to bring two people together and then keep them apart for two hundred odd pages, contemporary romance has gone to the dark side.

I personally blame paranormal romance.  Let’s face it–paranormal romance is just so much easier.  Look at the obstacles a heroine faces—Example: “He’s a vampire who’s killed THOUSANDS of people and he’s hundreds of years older than me.  How could we ever be together?” it’s a really messed up situation.

CRAZY-WRONG “I’D HAVE TO BE INSANE TO BE WITH SOMEONE AS EVIL AS YOU” SITUATION= STRONG ROMANTIC ROAD BLOCKS = LOTS OF ROMANCE FEELS & GREAT TENSION

After all, 50 Shades was based on a paranormal romance, wasn’t it?  E.L. James just fished around for a modern day ‘real’ equivalent for a evil-but-not-really, self-loathing, brooding hero.  She came up with a billionaire sadist, around the same time other authors were also plonking down flags into anti-hero territory. Do we want to blame 50 Shades for all the motorcycle clubs, hit-men, crime families, and other anti-hero-ish trappings that are so popular these days? No, but I think the E.L. James phenomenon illustrates a sweeping trend, and Charlotte Stein has taken some steps down the same path.

BUT CHARLOTTE STEIN ISN’T LIKE THAT! SHE’S SO SWEETLY DIRTY…

But maybe sometimes she isn’t. INTRUSION and some of her other works have strayed from abused heroines into more plum-colored territory. Which brings us to NEVER SWEETER.  Let’s look at the blurb:

Letty Carmichael can’t believe her eyes when she catches a glimpse of her high school tormenter, wrestling champ Tate Sullivan, on campus. College was supposed to be her escape from Tate’s constant ridicule. Now he’s in her classes again, just waiting for his chance to make her life hell.

skipping, skipping, skipping…

Loving him is impossible. Craving him is beyond all reason. So why can’t she stop?

Falling in love with your high school bully is messed up, peopleKids, don’t try this at home.

However, line by line Stein just sucks you in.  Great dialogue, great side-kick friend, very specific descriptions of torments she endured and then Tate — a classic Stein-i-an hero, just takes over.

What do we like about Tate? We like that he’s open, agreeable, and fast on his feet.  We like that he’s hotness plus, and can read people–especially the heroine–quickly.  We like that he’s a sexual beast wrapped up in a Nice Boy package–but is he really trustworthy?  It’s that last part that keeps readers furiously turning the pages and riding all the highs and shocking lows.

Why was he such a monumental dick? This is the big answer we need to know. Stein gives you answers, and then sweeps on by.  Do we believe these answers–ah! This is where she’s brilliant, because doubts may  linger, and she plays upon these same doubts later.

I just went through such a roller coaster of emotions with this book.  It really was so incredibly sweet at points–which is what I do look for from Stein–and so sweetly filthy at others–which is what I relish about Stein–and at other times it was kinda like a horror movie.  There’s a Carrie reference and it’s seriously well earned.

I think at one point I shouted “No!” in shock.  At another point I kinda cried, almost.  The whole time I felt as guilty as the heroine for being so sucked into a kind of situation that I would NEVER EVER EVER!!!! endorse in a million years in ‘real life’.

So go buy it already.

Meanwhile, I got the skinny from Charlotte Stein about RAW HEAT — her so good it hurts post-apocalyptic romance that’s out of print right now. Talk about bullying! It’s really unfair clobbering my friends and even total strangers over the head for not having read RAW HEAT if it’s not even in print. Stein has said she’s going to re-pub it in a collection with some of her other post-apocalyptic/paranormal stuff.  So happy about that. Soon none of you will have any excuse.

Okay, I’ve started going into Charlotte Stein withdrawal, so I’ll sign off for now.

Follow us at Lady Smut–if you want to.  It’s your own choice.  Really. We’d never bully you about it.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_low_res_500x750

 

Real Life Christian Grey Talks BDSM & Fifty Shades

15 Feb

Hello readers!  We have a guest post for you today from A.C. Rose–an interview republished TheThreeTomatoes.com. Find out more about A.C. Rose’s writing and her book about 50 Shades at her website. Check out her facebook group 50 Shades of Grey Fans.unnamed

Shades of Al Daltrey: Talking About BDSM with a Real Life Christian Grey

As “Fifty Shades Darker” plays in theaters around the world women are once again thinking of Christian Grey, BDSM and sexually dominant males. I felt it my journalistic duty to bring you an interview with a man who knows about it all, first hand.

Al Daltrey is a real life Dom who lives the lifestyle and also writes strong BDSM erotica. His books come with a warning label and are not traditional erotic romances, yet he has gained a following of female fans that appreciate his unapologetic peek into the world of BDSM. You might even say it brings some of them to their knees.

By day, Daltrey dons a suit and tie, and works in marketing. In 2014 he opened his laptop and somewhat accidentally launched a second career as an erotica author, penning his first book, Testing the Submissive. He admits it is “more extreme” than anything he would ever consider doing with a real life submissive, yet readers say the story makes them tingle in all the right places.

There is a line in that book that, to my mind, sums up why women love to read about powerful Alphas. “Experienced and mature dominants always have an understated confidence,” he writes. “There is no need to flaunt their power.” There is something very sexy about men, real and fictional, who own their power.

His second novel, A Condo With Two Views, is written from the point-of-view of both the Dom and the Sub. His most recent books are, Pain, Pleasure, and Purpose: Pleasure (Book One) Pleasure) and Pleasure, Pain or Purpose: Pain (Book Two).They tell the story of three best friends who help each other navigate life, loss and love…and lots of kinky sex. “I poured everything I had into this story,” says the author.

It’s not often you get to pull up a chair and talk to a real life, happily married, sexually dominant male, so we appreciate Al taking the time to answer some of our burning questions.

AC ROSE: What exactly is a male dominant?

AL DALTREY: First, let me say: definitions are not always universal.  Ask 25 people the difference between a liberal and a conservative and you will get 25 different answers. All my answers in this interview are my personal opinion based on my personal experiences. Others in the BDSM lifestyle may disagree, and that is fair.  For this question, I assume you mean a sexual dominant. The simple definition is: a person, male or female, who takes control during consensual sex. The submissive of course, relinquishes that control.

And what is exactly vanilla sex?

Vanilla sex is simply regular, normal, healthy non-BDSM sex.  Or, even more simply…non-kinky sex. It is a term that became popular within the BDSM lifestyle to describe sex between those who are not in the lifestyle.

So from your perspective, can a sexually dominant male enjoy both?

Absolutely.  Personally, I have always loved great vanilla sex. I may practice BDSM, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy vanilla sex too. BDSM became the icing on the cake.  In a good healthy sexual relationship, there are nights where a couple wants the lovemaking to be soft, tender and romantic.  Another night, for kinky fun, they might employ bondage and spanking.  The point is, it’s not all or none. There is room for both.

How did you find yourself on this path, personally? And are you currently in a power exchange relationship?

I was born with it. I know that for a fact. Growing up, the fantasies and inclinations were there. That said, for me, consent is key. I do not believe in force, and do not find force arousing in any way.  Today I am very happily married to my beautiful wife.

Female sexual submission is a controversial topic. Some see female submission as a weakness yet many women find role play satisfying and they obviously like reading about it too.

During my lifetime I’ve been lucky enough to meet my fair share of submissive women. And don’t for a minute think these women were weak. Outside the bedroom they were confident, opinionated, gregarious and self-assured. In fact, many of them were successful executives or professionals. At the workplace, they kicked butt. However, inside the bedroom (so to speak) they wanted to feel the strong firm hand of a dominant man taking complete control.

What got you started writing erotic books?

I started writing because of an interest in BDSM, not because of an interest in writing. One day, I flipped open my laptop and starting writing a kinky BDSM story, not really thinking about where it would lead. Soon I had 20 pages, then 40, then 60 and I knew I was on my way to my first novel.  I heard about self-publishing, so cleaned it up and uploaded it onto Amazon. The reaction seemed positive, and soon I had a Street Team on Facebook helping me promote the book.

Erotic romance is a huge now. Do you find as many readers who just want to read about kinky sex for arousal?

In my view, the market for erotic romance novels is far bigger than the “kinky sex for arousal” market.  The latter market scours the internet for sites such as Literotica to get their fix.  There are exceptions of course.  Some novels do well.  But generally, I believe the kinky sex market is remarkably small.

Since you are writing as a sexually dominant male, what do think women hope to learn from your books, and from you?

I worry about that. My books are not intended to “teach” anything about the BDSM lifestyle. They are intended simply as fiction. A story. I worry when people read my books hoping for a glimpse into the real BDSM lifestyle.  My books have a lot of stuff that I don’t condone.  Just like action movies are exaggerated, so are BDSM novels.  People should read my books for fun, not for education.

Is the sex in your novels rough because that is what your readers want?

It’s not that I’m trying to cater to what the reader wants but in storytelling almost everything is exaggerated for dramatic effect. In a cop story we see these wildly spectacular car chases where 10 Police cars chase a car through crowded streets at speeds of 200 mph. In a medical drama the Doctor heroically saves countless lives.  In a sports movie the athlete scores the winning goal with two seconds left.  Think of every single Hollywood movie you know. So, with a BDSM novel, the same applies. The tasks that the submissive must perform are exaggerated for dramatic effect. It’s fantasy. So, in my books, the sex scenes are intensified as is the case in every other genre.

Your reading audience is primarily women. Some would like to turn their vanilla mates into dominant males, or at least get them to experiment. Any advice on getting guys to try new things?

To answer a question like that would take pages, and even then, it varies by person/couple.  I’m not sure I can provide a succinct answer.  There is some information on my blog.  As I say in my blog: not all men are born with a dominant gene. With those men, I’m not sure that there’s any hope.  Those men who have the underlying qualities – at least there’s hope. Someone could probably write an entire book on this, lol.

Do people call you master?

As mentioned, I am happily married and have been for some time. My wife does not call me “Master” no. Nor do we discuss our personal lives in any kind of detail. I can tell you that I have been called “Master,” and it’s actually a lovely feeling. Obviously it is commonly used in a scene, but also it can be a nice endearment among two people who live the lifestyle.  He might say, “Sleep well my little pet,” and she might say, “Goodnight Master.”  Like anything, if terms of endearment are overused they become goofy.  We’ve all been around couples who make us gag because they are so lovey-dovey.  But used properly “Master” can be a great word. I’m not sure if your question was poking fun at the term…but I hold it in high regard.

Learn more about Al Daltrey.

Find Al Daltrey books.

Visit Al Daltrey’s Erotica BDSM virtual community.

A.C. Rose is a love, romance, and entertainment columnist and author of steamy romance books. Her Latest book is AROUSAL

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Only .99. Click to buy.

 

Allison Monroe just got kissed on an elevator.

But she has no time to be distracted by this gorgeous man, with his panty-melting glances and sexy accent. She’s headed to the most important event of her career—a launch party for the new “My Fantasy e-Reader” at Club Kismet, high atop a Manhattan Skyscraper.

She’s determined to forget about the amatory elevator ride.

But Nicolai Petre has other ideas. That kiss confirmed what his grandmother’s vision had already told him—that Allison is his destiny.

He’s determined win her love but has only six days to prove they are meant to be. So he must keep her in a state of… AROUSAL.

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