Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My personal baggage moment with The Duke and I

Look how much I’m posting about The Duke and I!! I want to say right off that even though I’m kicking its tires a bit, I really liked it, engaged with it, and richly looked forward to reading it every night at bedtime, which is my sole measure of a book’s worth these days.

Here’s the thing with it - the book started out feeling like total confection—in a good way. Light, fun, bright, slightly weightless. Like cotton candy. Nom nom nom.

But then it tossed up an issue that totally shocked me.

One background thing about me: I don’t want kids and never have. Even as a young girl, I found baby dolls to be a crashing bore. As far as I was concerned, Barbies—and frankly, even troll dolls—were a whole lot more fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love being an aunt, and actually, I have the cutest, smartest, funnest nieces and nephew ever. But you know, here at home, I’m good with just cats.

So I'll get to the point--here’s a conflict that arises between the newlyweds:
You told me you couldn’t have children,” she interrupted, her eyes flashing with anger. “There’s a very big difference.”

“Not,” Simon said coldly, “to me. I can’t have children. My soul won’t allow it.”
And later:
Daphne had aroused him in his sleep, taken advantage of him while he was still slightly intoxicated, and held him to her while he poured his seed into her.

His eyes widened and fixed on hers. “How could you?” he whispered.

[later in that scene]
…But she had just curled up into a little ball, her knees tucked against her chest, obviously determined not to lose a single drop of him.
And later:
She wasn’t ashamed of her actions. She supposed she should be, but she wasn’t. She hadn’t planned it. She hadn’t looked at him while he was sleeping and thought—he’s probably still drunk. I can make love to him and capture his seed and he’ll never know.

It hadn’t happened that way.

Daphne wasn’t quite sure how it had happened, but one moment she was above him and the next she’d realized that he wasn’t going to withdraw in time, and she’d made certain he couldn’t…

Or maybe—She closed her eyes. Tight. Maybe it had happened the other way. Maybe she had taken advantage of more than the moment, maybe she had taken advantage of him.

She just didn’t know. It had all melted together.
So, Simon moves out to another estate and shuns her for months, she turns out not to be pregnant, but then they get back together and the issue is sort of transmuted into something different and resolved in that way.

But I was really hung up on Daphne's attempting to force parenthood on Simon - when she went into the marriage accepting there would be no children. I mean, in Regency England obviously women were forced into parenthood all the time. And I’m not saying this is on par with forced seduction or anything.

I think the point is, I had this sort of outrage on behalf of the hero, and I wanted the heroine punished way more than she was, and I wanted her to feel regret and repentance for the act way more than she did.

I am dimly aware that in the world of the book and the time, and all the sort of rules of this genre, Daphne probably paid sufficiently for these actions. But you know, it was my personal baggage moment.

Have you ever brought personal baggage to a book?


Ladytink_534 said...

I never really cared for baby dolls unless they were pretty and usually not to be played with. I did like Barbies though. Kids have always freaked me out, I'm a big enough kid as it is that although I haven't put my foot down about it, I haven't determined whether or not to have children yet. I'm good with just my cat and maybe a dog someday and of course my husband lol.

I doubt that that is personal baggage. It sounds like she forced him to do something against his will and you have every right to be outraged on the guy's behalf.

Holly said...

I don't know that wanting kids or not really had anything to do with it. He was treated badly and she needed to atone for that.

Me? I'm an equal opportunity hater - I hate both men and women for acting ridiculously. Daphne acted terribly, IMO, and didn't do near enough to makeup for it.

I really think the author thought she could distract us by taking the attention from what she did and placing it on the hero. Almost like it was ok that Daphne violated him (for that's what it was, a violation) because he deserved it. Which is the equivalent of saying a woman deserves to get raped..right?

You should read This Heart of Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Marg said...

These events pressed my hot buttons as well! There are two sides to the story, because in a way he was taking her choice away as well, but she definitely took his choice away by doing what she did. Surely a bit of communication wouldn't have gone astray!

pidute said...

first i want to say that i really admire you for saying you don't want any kids ! nowadays when you say that people look at you like something is wrong with you because of course you're a women so you want children riiiiiight!

I am totally with you on this issue and just because it's a man doesn't make it any less bad ,we all assume it's a guy so he should control himself just like Holly said if you get a bit aroused during a rape doesn't make any less a rape.

Katiebabs said...

Because I used to be really overweight, every time I read a book with a heroine who is a bigger girl always gets me. The drop dead gorgeous hero always falls for her even though in real life, and I would say I am ashamed to think this, the drop dead gorgeous rich man would never go for the chunky normal but sweet girl. Sorry, it just doesn't happen.
That is why I read books, because I enjoy the fairy tale.

MaryKate said...

Really interesting observation, CJ. I haven't read The Duke & I in quite a while, so I don't really remember that part of the story. Remind me, had she already realized she was in love with him? Was her "motivation" in the story that she wanted some piece of him (NOT justifying it, just trying to remember how it was set up)?

But, sure, I bring personal baggage to reading all the time. My #1 biggest turn off is love predicated on a lie. One where the heroine falls in love with the hero when he's impersonating someone else, and then he's all "Surprise! I'm a Duke!" or some such nonsense. It will make me grade the book way the hell down. I hate that storyline and do my best to avoid them. It's one thing if you start out impersonating someone and then come clean before the declaration of love. But to go along, "feeling bad" about it but not coming clean. Oh HELL no. It'll make me toss the book immediately.

Kara said...

Being a mother - the baggage I bring to books is that I hate anything to do with abduction of a child or abuse of a child.

Now if the hero or heroine, as an adult, talks about past abuse - I can read that - but when the book is actually about the child - then I have to put it down.

I admire the fact that you know what you want and what you don't want and stick to that decision. I agree with Pidute that people expect you to want kids just because you are a woman.

Dev said...

I bring personal baggage to books all the time. Can't help it. I think it's pretty natural, actually.

And ditto what Holly and Katiebabs said.

Carolyn Jean said...

LT: I'm lucky enough to have a husband who doesn't want kids, either.

Holly: good point - the issue got shifted. And I would've been happy for it to be addressed more directly.

Marg: Right, though she could've chosen not to marry him.

Pidute: Thanks! And yes, it was weird how it had shades of rape.

KB: totally right, because above all in the end this is a fairy tale.

MK: They were already married. So they would have sex all the time, but he would pull out. Yes, falling in love on a lie at least needs to be paid for.

Kara: Yes, that would be hard to read about children being hurt.

Dev: Yes, I suppose it's unavoidable. And makes things interesting!

Ana said...

I was really angry at Daphne too CJ! Good point. And it's funny: I don't want to have children either.

As for personal baggage...let me see. I guess one of the reasons why I hate reading about rape or forced seduction is because I believe that to be one of the worst things that could ever happent to a woman and it's not to be taken lightly, specially when it's done by a "hero". (I feel very strongly about this, not that I have ever been through something like that, thank god. )

Nicola O. said...

Kara, I'm the same way. Can't, won't read things where a child dies, I just can't cope with it. I had to stop watching ER, too, after I had my first kid!

Otherwise, I don't think I have major personal issues that influence whether I like a story or not. Good writing, good storytelling, good characters work for me, usually no matter what the plot is. There's stuff I like, stuff I don't like, but it's not about any deep dark personal stuff I'm toting around.

Carolyn Jean said...

Ana: right, forced seduction should never be taken lightly. I enjoy when it's dealt with well, though. When there is satisfying punishment or atonement of some sort.

Nicola: LOL on ER! Medical shows freak me out across the board, actually.

Tracy said...

I haven't read this book but from what you've written here it's just wrong that the heroine was trying to force him into doing something he didn't want to do. That would just put me in a terrible mood and I probably wouldn't want to finish the book.

Carolyn Jean said...

Tracy: I'd still recommend the book. Really, this was a side issue. And the heroine was punished, in a sense, I was just feeling it wasn't enough. The overall book I thought was great.

little alys said...

OMG! Yes! I had issues with that. And yes, of course I bring personal baggage into the books I read all the time.
As much as I love children, I too, would rather be an aunt (I already told my sis its up to her hehehe). Yet every book I read, the stories end with everyone having a LOT of kids. A LOT. It just...ya know...makes me feel kinda...out there.

For The Duke and I, it wasn't really baggage, but just the fact that the resolution felt a bit too tidy for an issue this large. Children = one o da largest. As much as I enjoy J.Quinn's novels, Daphne was not a character I much liked. I even skim her cameos. To me, it kinda was the 'r' word. He was drunk, she knew what she was doing. She didn't even regret it and he had to apologize? Eh? I went from wanting to clobber the hero at the beginning of the book, to wanting to clobber them both at the end. Liked her other books better.

KB : the drop dead gorgeous rich man would never go for the chunky normal but sweet girl.
This does happen, but very extremely rarely. I saw a couple like that once and the husband loves the wife soooooooo much it was amazing. She was a bit short, plump and plain, but the sweetiest woman I'd met and he was wealthy and really handsome. They have 3 kids and the husband just adores his wife soooooo much. Of course, this is seriously like 1 in every 500 couples, but it happens. Mini-side note. ;)

Liza said...

I haven't read this book, but I think everyone brings some sort of baggage to books.

I do want kids someday...just have to find that husband who wants them too. I think it's a personal choice and I say WTG to anyone who had decided that isn't their path and sticks to it. My aunt and uncle never had kids and neither are unhappy now. In fact, they can pick up and go at any time without having to worry about anything(and pretty much always could).

Katiebabs said...

Alys: That gives me hope! ;D

JenB said...

I hated the book for that reason. Daphne went from smart, sassy heroine to TSTL brat.

I don't want kids either. If I ever do have kids, I want to adopt, not have my own. I've been told that I'm wired wrong, but I don't care. It's nobody else's business but mine.

Anyway...yeah...I was pissed at Daphne for trying to force the kid issue on Simon. I didn't blame him one bit for moving out. I have even less patience for stupid, snotty heroines than I do for bad heroes.

JenB said...

Oh, I forgot to add this.

What bugged me more than Daphne's stupid act of selfishness was that the story suddenly turned into a "save Simon" story. We were somehow supposed to forgive Daphne for what she did, because she'd never have had to do it if Simon hadn't been damaged.

I think JQ did a poor job of trying to justify Daphne's behavior by dumping the blame on Simon's upbringing.

Kristie (J) said...

It's been years since I read The Duke and I and I don't recall that part of it, but I think it's normal to bring our own bugaboos into a book whether it be getting tricked into pregnancy by either partner, forced seduction or (in my case) women who don't tell perfectly decent guys that they are a father for their own personal reason - it robs the child of a chance to know his or her father.

ChariDee said...

Have you ever brought personal baggage to a book?

All the time. Hell, personal baggage is what makes the book different for each reader. It's why I can love a book that you may hate, or why, I've tried to read a book four times and can't get past chapter 2, no matter how good one of my trusted review sites said it was.

What's going on in my life plays a HUGE role in what I read and what I like.

M. said...

found your site via bookblogger appreciation week.

I didn't like Duke and I as much as I thought I would, after having been impressed with a later book in the series (Sir Phillip). It felt to me like it took a long time to get going, and the endlessly repeated statements of the various brothers that they would 'kill' Simon got tedious. And, despite not having the same 'personal baggage' you describe (I always knew I'd have juniors in my life, in some way or other) I felt the same way you did - that the future father should have some say in the matter.

There were glimpses of the trademark Quinn wit, which I appreciated, but overall it was a bit of a 'meh' read for me.

RfP said...

I had this sort of outrage on behalf of the hero, and I wanted the heroine punished way more than she was, and I wanted her to feel regret and repentance for the act way more than she did.

I'm indignant on his behalf simply from reading those sections. But more than that, I'm indignant at the idea that the *genre conventions* would let her off the hook for her actions. It's disturbing if coercion is okay because of the genre's mores. What, the end justifies the means? And the end is babies and 1950s housewifery in a post-war economy? A particular form of domesticity is what's best for both partners, no matter what? Grr!

You really jarred my funny bone with this topic. Baggage? Make way for my steamer trunk.

Carolyn Jean said...

LA: It's been so nice that so many people have read this book and had an issue with this!

Liza: well, somehow we never pick up and go, either. hmmm.

KB: So silly. Like you even need it.

JenB: it really did shift into that, a focus on Simon's problem over Daphne's.

KJ: Keeping the baby a secret from the decent guy . I'd hate that, too!

CDee: Yes, I totally agree. It's what makes book blogs interesting, too.

M: Welcome! Maybe I'll have to check out Sir Phillip! Because I liked a lot of this book.

Rfp: Great points. And the whole thing was that his not wanting babies was the result of a psychological problem that the heroine's actions helped clarify. Steamer trunk LOL- me too!

Tumperkin said...

Ok, I'm going to be contraversial here and say - it just didn't bother me that she did that.

Basically, this is an angsty story but JQ isn't really an angsty writer - she's quite light. And I think that's why Daphne's betrayal didn't really bother me.

See, I don't think you have to agree with the character's point of view on an issue to get how they feel. That's the key. Maybe if the execution had been different, you wouldn't have felt so cheated?

naida said...

this is a great topic, I do bring personal baggage to the books I read. It depends on what is currently going on in my life.

In the case of this read, I think it is messed up that she is forcing parenthood on this guy.

RfP said...

See, I don't think you have to agree with the character's point of view on an issue to get how they feel. That's the key. Maybe if the execution had been different, you wouldn't have felt so cheated?

Tumperkin, I absolutely agree that you don't have to agree to empathize. But I can get how a character feels and still find the treatment dissatisfying. Particularly when it hews uncomfortably closely to a genre convention that I'm not wild about.

this is an angsty story but JQ isn't really an angsty writer - she's quite light. And I think that's why Daphne's betrayal didn't really bother me.

I've felt that way at times, but conversely frothy writing can also strengthen my reaction. Sometimes the treatment doesn't acknowledge or even seem to recognize that the characters were being asses.

Carolyn Jean said...

T: I totally agree with your comment about agreeing with the character's POV, too. I think my problem may well have been the execution.

Naida: Hey!

RFP & T: interesting about frothy writing. It makes for a less realistic character who is usually not asked to answer for as much as a realistic one. And usually I don't ask such a character to answer for much, until one of my buttons is pushed, apparently.

Anonymous said...

I've never been a 'girly-girl'. Hate skirts, hate dolls, don't want kids. But I love romance novels and costume drama movies, romantic comedies and all that.

I think we all have a bit of girly in us!

I loved the Duke & I. It was my second historical ever. (I'm a paranormal gal usually!)

However, I agree with Holly. What Daphne did was a violation. I thought it was a nice twist on the usual 'forced seduction' scenarios. But it didn't phase me enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book.