I am on angst overload when it comes to reading these days. Am I the only one?
When I first started reading romance - contemporary, historical, PNR etc, I could not get enough of the tortured hero and the journey to his HEA. The more tormented the better. He’s so broken…let me fix you! The romantic in me loved how true love could heal a tormented soul. Logic need not apply – LOVE CURES EVERYTHING.
But now….I just can’t. Please stop with all the abuse/rapes/PTSD/addictions/death. I feel like the authors are in a competition to out-torture their heroes/heroines. Does every single character need to be damaged or have a disorder to be interesting?
I think a lot of my problem stems from the fact that I don’t think these situations are handled with the care they deserve. I’ve had friends that suffered from child abuse, domestic violence and were gang raped so maybe I’m overly sensitive to the topic. You can’t (IMO) talk about a soldier coming home with PTSD and just have it go away because he’s sleeping with a girl who makes him all warm and fuzzy. Same with rape. Don’t get me wrong. I know that one person can make a difference in your life. Meeting someone (friend or lover), who supports you, can give you that push to get the help you need and change everything for the better but it's still a lot of hard work.
When you introduce a subject like that you need to commit to it. Not just write about how the characters have the hottest sex of their lives – and it is ALWAYS the hottest sex of their lives – and then throw in the obligatory counseling in the last 50 or so pages.
Sure they struggle throughout the book but I’m just not feeling it anymore. I almost glaze over when I hear the hero start with “I’m too damaged – she’s a commitment kind of girl and I can’t give her that.” Yet….he has no problem giving her an orgasm up against a wall in a hallway and leaving her with her underwear wrapped around her knees as he walks away. Because sex would be wrong and disrespectful – but an orgasm JUST for her - is ok because it pleases her/he gets to see what she looks like at that moment/he gets to hear her scream his name. How noble. Honestly, I kind of liked this the first one or two times I read it but no more. If you don't think you are good enough either make yourself good enough or walk away.
It also seems that the most damaged boys get the biggest build up in a series, often spread out over several books, so when they finally get their own book their problems just pile up into this epic level of angst and I just don't care anymore. Do you need even MORE problems?? And a girl with problems??
So what happened to me that I’m completely insensitive to other people’s suffering now? Even if they are fictional I should feel something right? I don’t feel the empathy when reading about a characters obvious despair and journey to healing like I know I should.
Is it because these stories, especially with New Adult, are what’s popular right now and like all tropes you burn out after reading too much of it? Is it because the sex seems to take over the story?
I still enjoy gritty/angsty stories and characters. And when it’s done right it can be amazing. Easy/Between the Lines by Tamarra Webber, The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay, Cora Carmack’s Losing It series, Laura Florand’s chocolate series, The Downside Ghost series by Stacia Kane, Split & Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi, Tom Leveen and Cara McKenna's novels are all good examples of books with abuse/tortured heroes/addiction/sex that don't feel the need to beat the reader over the head with it or gloss over the issue with amazing sex.
But what other readers see as gut wrenching, emotional reads leave me feeling cold. It seems more like this boy is damaged so that = auto swoon and I just don’t feel that way anymore.
I feel completely heartless when I finish one of these books and go to rate it on Goodreads. I’m ready to post my review and then see how everyone bawled their eyes out over the book and I’m all *backs away slowly from Goodreads without saying what I really think* because I mean I’m rating a book about rape or child abuse two stars? I’m such a bitch! I have no soul!!
I started thinking back to the angsty books I read several years ago and they have one thing in common. Even though the heroes/heroines were damaged they wanted something better once they met their one and only. They struggled for it, made mistakes, but strived to be better. It seems now everything is all “I’m not worthy" with lots of self pitying whining (between hot sex of course). Girls who have a traumatic experience walk around for years not talking to or dating anyone, then all of a sudden find a guy that turns them on and poof! fixed. Saying how hard it is for them & that it’s not the sex is just lip service – if you take away that hot sex there’s no resolution or healing for the person in most of these stories.
One of my all time favorite damaged heroes is Zsadist from The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward. Holy crap was he damaged and it took him SO long just to even be touched. But he did it for Bella. He humbled himself and sought help. Even better is that true love didn’t solve everything in their case. He still to this day in the series struggles to overcome his past and make his marriage work.
Ironically, The BDB series is also the one that sort of burned me out on angsty heroes. The days of the powerful vampire warriors overcoming and beating down their pasts are over and in their place is a lot of whining and the I’m not worthy crap. Now they are ALL tortured. How about some variety??
Does anyone else feel like this or is it just me? Do you feel guilty if you don’t feel for a protagonist that has suffered a traumatic incident?
What author/books get it right? Is there another type of trope or trend that has you saying no…more...please!
I have high hopes for Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian soon. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this one and two of my favorite bloggers – Wendy from The Midnight Garden and Jen from YA Romantics loved it. It appears to be quite raw and honest to the topic it’s tackling. *crosses fingers*
P.S. This is just MY opinion. Not a slam on any genre or anyone who does enjoy reading any of the above. Reading is a very personal experience and the same thing I swoon over in one book will make me throw it across the room with another. This time next year I may write a post begging for more angst lol I never did come around on the love triangle so I doubt it but you never know!