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Customer Review

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I'm really grateful that romances are no longer like this!, 12 Jan. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Flame and the Flower (The Birmingham Family) (Mass Market Paperback)
First of all, let me say that I love historical romance novels, and I don't stereotype them as bountiful-bosom, bare-chested heaving bodice rippers. However, this unfortunate novel lives up to this stereotype--at least the sections I managed to plough through.
The first problem is the purple prose. I'm no grammarian, but the constant abuse of the comma and the liberal use of adjectives started to irritate me about 10 pages in. However, the story was still passable, so I forged on. Then I discovered that the villains are so ugly, they are practically deformed--a cliche I could have done without. I mean, an obese, abusive aunt I can buy, but please, an overweight, lecherous, DROOLING uncle (brother to the aunt)? And the uncle's shop assistant (another villain) is actually hunchbacked, filthy and has a facial deformity. Puh-leeze!
The bit that takes the cake, however, is the fact that the hero has raped the heroine twice--and this is barely fifty pages into the book. What disturbs me the most, however, is the hero's apparent lack of feeling over this act of brutality. The first time I could almost understand, given the fact that he thought the heroine was a prostitute and that her struggles were love-play. But the second time around, he KNOWS she was a virgin and terrified of him, and he does it anyway! Later, when the heroine explains her awful situation, the hero makes light of it and offers to set the poor girl up as his mistress.
At this point, I couldn't read any longer. I had lost all respect for the hero--in fact, I hated him. I mean, I know about the sexual double standards of the time period the book is set in, but really, not even an apology? I think forcing yourself twice in a row on a 17-year old girl merits at least that... But I can even understand not apologizing for reasons of masculine pride or sheer pigheadedness or whatever. It's the lack of internal remorse that finally forced me to chuck this book aside. Fine, the hero is a tall, dark piece of hunka-hunka burnin' love, but the implication that it's OK for him to do what he did because he's good looking and not an overweight, ugly lech disturbs me even more.
Thank God I only borrowed this book from the library. I'm also really glad that rape scenarios have largely disappeared from modern romances. However, it frightens me that this book is held up as a classic of modern romance writing and a must-read for all romance lovers. I think it's books like The Flame and The Flower that create and perpetuate the unfair stereotype of romance novels as mindless bodice rippers that demean women.
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