Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Innocence Romance Cripplin' and Kind....
(With apologies to Strawberry Alarm clock)
So...just got finished reading The Bad Baron's Daughter by Laura London and if you want an interesting, insightful well-thought out review head on over to AAR because you won't get it from me. I read this book because of that review and had a completely different reaction. It was almost a wall banger. But in re-reading Nora's review, I realize I agree with everything the reviewer has to say, but I still didn't like it. That's the power of a good review.
The book didn't appeal to me for alot of reasons: too old skool, heroine too naive, hero too much of a real jerk and not merely a "rake." But I thought the setting was rather Dickensian and amazing and I loved the name of one of the villains -"Chilworthy." Also, nice touches of the Gothic that are missing from alot of romances today. So it is worth reading. I just kind of wish I had read something else instead. Maybe I would have liked it more if it had had explicit sex. Who knows.
So why the title of this blog post? Well, what stood out for me was the utter innocence, youth, and naivete of the heroine. She's only seventeen, and is almost completely helpless and dependent. On everyone. People get exasperated with her and rightly so. She is compared by the hero as a helpless kitten with no skills and very little, if any common sense. But she's seventeen and a very trusting and inexperienced seventeen at that. Which got me thinkin'...
When was the last time I saw this kind of innocence represented anywhere in the culture? I'm not just talking about romance, but like anywhere? In movies? At seventeen? I don't think I can remember the last time I saw an innocent twelve year-old, let alone a seventeen year old. In most "teen" movies the teens are more worldly than I am and I'm far from being a teenager. In romance, I've gotten so used to knowledgeable "with it" heroines, that it was a real shock to read about someone who just didn't know much about the world and the way things work. In other words, seventeen was allowed to be seventeen.
I am not just talking about sex though this a big part of it. In The Bad Baron's Daughter the heroine knows about sex -the mechanics of it, anyway. But she doesn't get any sexual allusions, knows nothing about positions, and the minute she gets a hold of a naughty book, it is immediately snatched away by a more worldly woman. In other words, the heroine's innocence is looked upon by almost everyone as exasperating, but something that must be protected at all costs.
But it's more than this. Katie (the heroine) has a rather naive view of human nature. She really expects people to be kind. She is a trusting soul and doesn't understand why people don't want her or like her. Her attitude is very much that of a sheltered teenager. It is a testament to London's skill as an author that these qualities don't make her TSTL.
It was disturbing to read about someone so naive and unsettling to me as well. The other characters in the book are also unsettled by Katie and don't know quite how to react. But they all (the good guys anyway) see her innocence as something to protect and cherish, and of course in the hero's case, eventually to love.
So. Where has innocence gone in our culture? Who is still allowed to be innocent? Children? Really? Kids dancing to Beyonce anyone? (I refuse to link to this video.) Can you think of a romance book wherein the heroine was allowed to be an innocent or it is a good thing this trope has fallen by the wayside? What do you think?