Maybe this should be
Confession of a Romance Author: I Am Not the Kind of Woman Who Would Ask You To
This rant is going to be a bit rantier than my usual confessions posts, in that it has less to do with me being a writer of romance and more me being a reader of romance. Also it’s about the war on drugs, inside the romance genre, my feelings on which are more of an opinion and less of an objective reality than the observations I often make.
I was reminded of this issue in romance during a re-reading of Liz Carlyle’s One Touch of Scandal, wherein the hero, a man born and raised in India and now living in London, who suffers from insomnia and regularly smokes hashish to calm his mind, tosses his stash down the latrine shaft after one night of sex with the heroine and her magical, insomnia-curing hoo-ha.
The worst part is this is after the heroine has already judged him (in her mind, at least) for smoking too much. So, you’d rather he not smoke and not sleep ever than get some chemically-assisted rest? Yeah, drug crusader, you’re really looking out for everyone’s health and best interests there.
Actually, no, the worst part is she judges him for this habit AFTER she has taken advantage of his inebriation to seduce him. So, basically, she’s like “Oh, he smoked so much hash it’s like he roofied himself? Score. I’m going to tap that while I can.” And then she’s all, “Hey, hero, I know you totally weren’t ready to have sex with me, and I just took advantage of you…but you should let this date-rape be a lesson about why you shouldn’t smoke or drink or anything!”
(Okay, to be fair that’s a bit of an exaggeration of her attitude in the context–the part about gleefully date-raping him, I mean–but that really is the lesson I took the author to be giving us about smoking the marijuana in any form.)
The scene (well, really I mean sequence, as there are several scenes involved) is one in a long and glorious tradition of hero who drinks too much or does drugs giving it up once he finds out how purifying the love of a good woman is. Let’s be honest, that’s just trading one addiction–or habit, as almost none of the heroes I’m discussing here have actual clinical addictions, just habits the heroine (cough *author* cough) doesn’t like–for another; that is, trading getting his high from drugs or alcohol to getting it from the seratonin and endorphines falling in love and banging the heroine give him. Because we all know that is the healthiest role to play in a relationship: His Heroin (pun and Twilight reference both intentional).
Honestly, it just annoys me when the heroine gets all judgy about someone’s habits (sometimes hero’s, sometimes just a minor character’s), especially weed smoking. Like…are half the romance authors out there narcing for the DEA? The authors rarely write anything as overt as “that’s so bad for you,” but part of the happy ending is that character choosing to stop using and then giving a speech (or a soliloquy) about how much happier and more fulfulled they are now that they’re clean.
Every time I’m just like…why? Why was this an issue, and why was it part of the story? Is part of the requirements for traditionally publishing a romance being stridently anti-drug? Ha, ha, sorry, fail that test. I am stridently anti-drug WAR, but that’s not the same thing, is it? At least with self-publishing, if I ever write a hero who came back from India with some sweet hashish to calm his raging ADD or PTSD or something, he won’t have to give that up to calm down a hysterical editor who believes drug references are only okay if the person doing it sees the error of their ways within 300 pages. Go read some Hunter S. Thompson and then tell me whether my mentally fragile hero who uses it to escape the cacophony in his mind that is slowly driving him mad, for like an hour at a time, is really such a public menace. Sheesh.
It’s just funny, because it hits home to me that a lot of people who write romance probably are pretty traditionally conservative people–and I say this as someone who is an unabashed libertarian, AKA more liberal than liberals or more conservative than conservatives, depending on the issue–and for traditional social conservatives, especially those over 35 or so, drinking to excess and drugs are probably still Very Bad Things. It’s just funny to me that writing erotic romance is totally okay with that morality as long as there’s No Drugs Or Alcohol Abuse…at least not in the Happily Ever After segment of the story.
I just don’t think it’s realistic to ask heroes to give up all their vices for the heroine. I’m not saying all romance heroes should be users, but I think unless part of his character arc is coming out a true addiction or a spiral of self-destruction, that the subject of him cutting back shouldn’t come up at all. Do we really think Mr. Darcy gave up drinking because he married Elizabeth? Please.
And she didn’t ask him to.