10 August 2012


Character Connection 38

Reading has been difficult lately. I like to say that I'm in the middle of a long classic novel, but I haven't picked it up in about two weeks. There were two books I read for MOD Magazine, but of course I can't blog about them until after the issue with my reviews comes out. There are another two that I've promised to judge for a Special Event I Can't Officially Reveal Yet, but one of them is an eBook that I can't read on my tablet and the other seems to have been sold out everywhere.

Watching movies, on the other hand, has been wonderful. And I almost thought I'd have to turn Shredded Cheddar into a movie blog for a while, when a couple of conversations with a friend inspired me to take a second look at a book I had read several years ago. The blogging fairies were kind and helped me turn my thoughts into a book-themed post.

EDIT: The blogging fairies came back on February 2014 to make me rehaul the whole thing.

So here you go! =)

Smooth Talking Stranger
by Lisa Kleypas

I sighed and drowsed, dimly aware of the murmured conversation around me.

". . . hard what she's doing," Haven was saying. "To put your life on hold."

"What's the deal with the Austin guy?" Hardy asked.

"Wouldn't man up," Jack replied in a tone of unqualified disdain.

And although I wanted to say something in Dane's defense, I was too exhausted to make a sound.

Either I dozed more heavily or a long silence passed, because I didn't hear anything for a while.

One of my pet peeves in Romance is the romantic foil whose only purpose is to make the hero or heroine look good in comparison. (How would you like to be that character?) When I wrote this post about Dane in 2012, I intended to defend him from what I thought was unfair condemnation. And I began by stating the facts . . . 

The story starts when Ella finds out that her trainwreck sister Tara has had a baby . . . whom Ella must care for because Tara must also go to rehab and refuses to name the father (who is very likely a married man) . . . and Ella's boyfriend, Dane, is not too happy about that. He has actually never wanted to have children--something Ella has known for the past four years, which is as long as they have been together. And that used to be okay with her because she didn't want children, either. But now things are a bit more complicated, and Dane has just made it clear that if she brings the newborn back to their apartment, he will move out--although he will keep paying his share of the rent for as long as it takes Tara to get out of rehab and reclaim her son. And yet Dane is somehow the bad guy who won't "man up."

At least that is the verdict rendered by all of Ella's friends, both the new ones who don't know him and the old ones who do. And my original post was my rebuttal to them.

What I argued was that Ella made a choice to be in a relationship with a man whom she knew never wanted a family. He was upfront with her from the beginning, so it's kind of unfair for her to ask him to change his mind now. The other character who declares that Dane has failed Ella by not making her his first priority, would never think of saying that Ella has failed Dane by not making him her first priority. (Ooooh! Double standards! LOL!) Of course, there's the uncomfortable fact that Ella's giving Dane the same consideration everyone is implying she is entitled to from him means turning her own nephew over to Child Services. Nobody wants that. Not even Dane, who offers to use his contacts to make sure the baby is placed in a good home immediately. And I was indignant that everyone was accusing Dane of being a bad boyfriend while Ella got a pass.

It took me a while to come around. For it's not just romance readers who will say that something that looks like a marriage and feels like a marriage should work like a marriage. It simply not fair that Dane has been enjoying all the privileges of a husband for years . . . and now doesn't want a baby. It's not honest that he has been living as if Ella is his wife . . . and now acts as if he has no ties to her relatives. And it's not reassuring to think that if they had been surprised by a baby the way many cohabitating couples tend to be, that he might be making Ella choose between him and his own child. 

There's a sense in which this mess is neither Dane's nor Ella's fault . . . and a sense in which they are equally to blame. I still don't think Dane should be put down for the sake of making the real hero of the story look good, but I can no longer spin his innocence, either.

Image Source: Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

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