Wednesday, November 05, 2008


So – I was reading a historical yesterday and read a scene where the hero was filled with lust for the innocent young heroine. As they weren’t committed to each other – in fact they had barely met, he headed off to slake his itch with his mistress. When I read that I was ready to scrunch up my face and deduct hero points.

Fortunately instead of slaking his hunger on said mistress, he ended his association with her – thus keeping his hero points.

But upon pondering upon my instant reaction, I wondered why it would have bothered me. And I know I’m not the only one who is bothered when the hero seeks ‘some lovin’ from another willing woman once he’s met his heroine. Although he’s met the future love of his life, there often isn’t any commitment in this scenario. So why does it bug us? It’s not like he’s being unfaithful. He can’t cheat on someone he hasn’t paired up with yet.

Partner Katie sent me an email not long ago asking if I thought that Derek had done the deed with one of the ‘house’ wenches. She chose to believe that he hadn’t. Although I offered my opinion he had – and in that rare instance it didn’t bother me, I did console her after saying he probably didn’t because he had too much gin in him at the time for anything to really ‘work’.

I’ve seen many a reader who refuses to read anything with adultery in it. And I must confess I really see their point. I don’t like it either and tend to avoid it if I know in advance that it is part of the storyline.

But that isn’t the case in what I’ve been pondering.

Would it bother us as much if the situations were reversed? Mind you I can’t think of any historicals off the top of my hear where this is the case – oh – wait a minute – there is one hanging on the periphery of my mind now that I think of it……. (damn I hate getting old – I can’t remember it – if I do, I’ll edit this) but back to the topic. If there was such a story line, would we dock heroine points or think to ourselves “you go you adventuresome heroine self you”. I’m thinking in my case it would be more the second scenario.

So why does this bother me – and maybe others? Why do we hold heroes to an unrealistic standard while not necessarily holding the heroine to the same one?

Does it bother you if the hero does the horizontal tango with someone other than the heroine once he’s met her – even if they don’t have any kind of understanding? Does it bother you if the heroine does? And are you stricter with historicals?

I’m still pondering this without coming up with any good answers.

And totally off this topic – I started humming this morning and I’m getting close to rubbing my hands. There is a new episode of SYTYCD Canada tonight!! Only 3 hours to go!!


Meghan said...

I'm not sure. I think I'd dock heroine or hero points if they were just having casual sex to get rid of the itch. If, however, they were refocusing their passion into their other relationship but still felt for the new person, I think I might be okay with it. I don't know. I don't like adultery either. I think I'd dock points from both of them to be honest. So I guess I hold them both to unrealistic standards. =)

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

I read a Catherine Coulter book that everyone seems to love where the hero has a mistress on call whenever he feels the need because he has so much lust for the heroine. And since the heroine has been abused and is afraid of sex, he won't have sex with her.
WTF?!? I hated that book because of that. Keep it in your pants Mister, "I love you so much, but hey I am horny, but since you aren''t giving it up to me, I am going to someone who will."
Arg, again, this makes me angry.

I still refuse to think Derek had relations with house ho. They just cuddled, like friends. That is all.

Allison('s)Reads said...

Hi Kristie, if I'm understanding your q's/points correctly (hey, I have mom-brain, it's hard for me to focus well on one thing anymore), my answer is: if I'm reading a romance, I really only want to read about the hero and heroine. If there is adulterous-like action, I will probably never read that book (or possibly check out that author) again. I guess I'm just shallow or naive or something, but that's why I'm reading a romance - for the lovely ideal/idyllic (?) loveliness of romantic love (or whatever that means to me)!

little alys said...

It's neither okay for the h/h to be like that for me. When I first read about Derek, I was actually pretty shocked and it took me quite a long time to comes to term with it. Mostly due to Sarah's attitudes.

For me, it's like the idea of emotional or mental affair. Both are just as bad. If the h/h really cared about each other, they would make it a choice not to hoe around even if they have needs. Or at least, they're welcome to take care of it themselves.

As Kate said, if s/he was a good enough individual, s/he would be able to control their horniness. Besides, it makes me think less of them for using someone else whether they were willing or not. More callousness and ultimately an egotist.

Wendy said...

In scenario you described? It wouldn't bother me. However, once hero and heroine are on page together, and moving towards the HEA, I'm not wild about hanky-panky with other partners.

The reason this bothers readers is because it's romance. Romance is written for women, and feeds into our fantasies. In real life - some men cheat. Some men are dogs. In romance? It's the very best of men. It's idealized men. It's our fantasy. And women's fantasies tend to revolve around that one special man who will treat us like a Queen and never even look in another's direction. Hence, why they're called "heroes."

We deal with "normal" guys in our real life all the time. In romance we want The Heroes.

Any of that make sense?

azteclady said...

I don't think I've found it too often--I'm really not very well read, am I?

My position is that I don't much like it when either of the protagonists is in a relationship, then feels pulled towards the other protagonist, ignores the pull for a while--thus emotionally cheating his or her partner--then dump the partner for the other protagonist.

Of course, often the current partner is made out to be a cold bitch or an abusive bastard, but still, I prefer my protagonists to be unattached when they feel that spark for each other.

Anonymous said...

The first thing I thought of as I read this post was Derek from Dreaming of You.

I loved that scene, where the house wench tells Sara the story of how Derek came to her room. For me it was an act of desperation. He was so in love he wanted--no--needed something, anything that would help ease his hunger for Sara. And supposedly the house wench looked alot like Sara. To me, in his mind he wasn't sleeping with anyone but Sara.

Amy C said...

I am in total agreement with Wendy. She said pretty much exactly what I was thinking as I read your post.

Shannon said...

Since it is romance I prefer that they both keep it in their pants, except of course, with each other. Like others have said. This is fantasy, the perfect hero. I don't want to read about him tupping some other woman.

I think it also depends on the pacing of the book. If they meet and he is casually involved with someone else for a while, but breaks it off before they get involved (and there is a build up to the relationship) I am fine. If the story is set for a very short timeline and the hero sleeps with his true love and his f-buddy all within a week of each other, then I have issues.

Kristie (J) said...

Meghan: I'm still trying to figure out why I was all set to dock him points. It wasn't just a one night stand - it was his mistress and therefore meant he had an ongoing relationship with her. And he didn't have a relationship with the heroine - well, OK - he planned to marry her - but only because he was blackmailed into it and the second time he saw her, she visited trying to call the wedding off - stirred up his lust and off he went. But they hadn't begun to care for each other yet.

Katie: That one I would hate too because it sounds like he had some kind of relationship with the heroine. And once that's established - there is no question the hero loses hero points. And there, there, - as I said nothing happened with Derek and the house wench.

Allison: LOL - I still remember Mommy brain! Thank goodness it's been years since I had it. Now I'm waiting for gramma brain - but that's not looking to happen any time soon. Maybe you have something though - I only want to read about the hero/heroine and not about hero/mistress/heroine. If he had actually gone to the mistress to get his rocks off it would have meant deduction points - which really isn't fair in a way 'cause there wasn't anything between them yet. Maybe it's my gramma type years sensibilities acting up :)

Alys: Ixnay on the Ellingtay AteKay - but it was only when I read DOY a few times that I finally clued in that OmethingSay happened between ErekDay and the OusewenchHay. And by that time I was OK with it 'cause Sarah was too.

Wendy: By George I think you might have nailed it!! We do have higher standards in romance for heroes 'cause it's well - romance. And heroes are our IDEAL but seldom in person fantasy. That was always an ongoing 'discussion' Ron and I had. He thought I expected him to act like the heroes 'in those books' I read. I always snorted and answered 'then that would mean I'd be expected to act like the heroines and I can guarantee you THAT'S not going to happen."

AL: Well - it turns out that the mistress IS one of those evil women who cause trouble for the hero/heroine later on - as well as a wicked sister-in-law and evil father. It's rather a cliched book albeit in an enjoyable kind of way. I'm almost done so I'll do a review when I am.
Though he can't really be accused of emotionally cheating - though I understand what you mean.

Barbara: Shhhh - we have to keep this quiet so Katie can't overhear us. But I think that's what made the scene so poignant and why it didn't bother me - that to Derek, she WAS Sarah. The only way he could have the woman he was dying for.

AmyC: I think Wendy explained it pretty good too :)

azteclady said...

Yeah, what Wendy said :grin:

Kristie (J) said...

Shannon: *laughing* Keeping it in their pants is a good way to put it. Since the hero was drawn to the heroine - even though there was no relationship yet - except they were engaged - but only because of the manipulations of the evil father - there was a kernel of something - so it would have been wrong for the hero to do - taking it out of his pants so to speak - and unheroic thing. But since he didn't do the unheroic thing - he got to keep his points.

JenB said...

I dock points for a slutty heroine too. In fact, I'm tougher on chicks than I am on guys.

Cheating and promiscuity = bad.

My only exception is for a closeted gay man cheating on a woman. If a closeted man cheats on his wife with another man, it doesn't usually bother me.

Renee said...

Just read Dreaming of You last week. Sigh.

I loved Derek. He was a flawed hero. At the time he got with the house girl, to his mind he had been trying to put Sarah out of his life for her sake (like a true self-sacrificing hero) and really thought he wasn't going to see her again. I would have felt differently if he thought he was going to continue a relationship with her.

It doesn't bother me too much if the hero or heroine is with someone else, but once they become emotionally involved, then I'm all about the fidelity. That Catherine Coulter book sounds icky. Bad hero. No cookie.

Renee said...

Just read Dreaming of You last week. Sigh.

I loved Derek. He was a flawed hero. At the time he got with the house girl, to his mind he had been trying to put Sarah out of his life for her sake (like a true self-sacrificing hero) and really thought he wasn't going to see her again. I would have felt differently if he thought he was going to continue a relationship with her.

It doesn't bother me too much if the hero or heroine is with someone else, but once they become emotionally involved, then I'm all about the fidelity. That Catherine Coulter book sounds icky. Bad hero. No cookie.

little alys said...

Okay, a little more why I feel the way I do. Darn personal baggage.

I started seeing this guy and we were clicking pretty well, but since it was early on, there wasn't any sit down discussion about being exclusive.

Well, since he had made a date (I use the term lightly) with someone he had known even before meeting me, he wanted to keep his promise (it was a group trip) and I was happy for him to go have fun.

Evening of, he calls and try to force me into an exclusive relationship by saying that if we're not, he and that woman (poor girl) may have sex. He didn't put it like that and it's not as I had to put out, but the whole thing stank. Kind of like those romance novels. Beginning of feelings. He has needs. He knew her and had relationship before. Blah blah blah.

Oh...and he professed to have been in love with me the whole later on even though I had regulated us to friends status.

Maybe he didn't have to tell me. We weren't "serious." Maybe I shouldn't have mind. But honestly, when you experience it first hand, it's not exactly a good start for anything.

So, even though I completely agree with Wendy that we hold Heroes at a higher standard, I'd like to hold men in general at a higher standard too rather than put up with this kind of crap.

And yes, the reverse if the woman does it is true for me too. I don't like those. Again, personal baggage.

Jace said...

In the scenario you described, no, it won't bother me if the hero slaked his lust with another wench. :-) The H/h barely know each other (let alone having any sort of "understanding") so what is there to object? ;-)

pidute said...

hum....for reason i don't know ,i like it when it's the heroine who does it but loath it if it's the hero.

Weird and unfair i know but that must be the fact that i am French ( we are quite selfish like this)

I have loads of French historicals with a unfaithful heroine ,all the Angelique (Golon) ,most of all the book written by Benzoni and of course my all time favorite THE BLUE BICYCLE (here is a true "free" girl haaaaaa)

But god forbid the hero just as think as looking at another girl! ^_-

Jenre said...

If the hero was already a complete man-whore, then it would be entirely in character for him to slake his lust on his mistress - and I have read historicals where the hero has done this. Going to his mistress and calling it off is NOT in character if he has only just met the heroine and only feels lust towards her.

If the hero isn't a man-whore (yes there are some in historical novels) then perhaps he would call everything off with his mistress, once he has met the heroine, especially if thoughts of her keep intruding on his mind when with the mistress.

AnimeJune said...

Well, seeing as real-life society's double-standards are usually in the man's favour (man sleeps around = awesome. woman sleeps around = ho), I can sometimes tolerate the double-standards in romance that are the other way around.

Still - one example of the double-standard in romance novels I don't like is the attitude towards divorce. When a woman initiates a divorce, she's "Yeah! Getting rid of an awful man! You go girl!" When a man initiates a divorce, he's "What a monster! Abandoning his wife like that!" Divorces are rarely so one-sided that it's never at least partly the heroine's fault, but I notice a LOT of romance novels with divorced heroines pose it just like that.

As for adultery - I don't like it in romance, either, except in the few cases of the "separated-spouses" historical stories where they live on separate continents married only in name. I think it's because adultery - if he/she can do it once, who's to say they can't do it again? I think that's why heroes in romance are generally not allowed to cheat (even with the heroine), because it shows there's an element to his character that's willing to betray a vow - and who's to say he won't do it to the heroine?

That being said, I don't think I would be troubled by the example you mentioned, Kristie J - because, as you said, they weren't committed, and it was historically accurate for men of means to have mistresses. I'm more for historical accuracy in my historicals - I like seeing how the romance can be orchestrated WITH the beliefs and societal restrictions of the period. If, for instance, he'd just swept the heroine off to a broom closet to make sweet, sweet love to her, which so goes against pretty much every social and moral code in the Regency, I would have been much angrier.

Anonymous said...

Call me incredibly naive, but I was really surprised to learn that people read that scene (about Derek and the woman who looked like Sarah) as them having sex. I never read it that way. Perhaps someday Lisa Kleypas will spell it out for us. -- willaful

Amy said...

God, I know I read the book you described, KristieJ, but the title is totally blanking on me.

As for how I feel about my h/h sleeping with others, it's pretty much the same as many others have already mentioned. I pretty much want them to remain exclusive, and I do hold the hero to a higher expectation, but I tend to read books where it's expected that the heroine will remain true to her man. As for mistresses? Wow, I've read tons of historicals featuring the hero having one, but for some reason I'm striking out on any that had him still boinking her while he was involved with his heroine. Many of the books I've read featured the mistress as a friend of the hero pretty much first and foremost, so he'd go to her to talk. Y'know, instead of...hmmm, actually talking to the heroine. That tends to bother me somewhat.

Kristie (J) said...

JenB: Really? *g* I think that would bother me even more. He's robbing both himself and his wife.

Renee: Hello!! I agree. And not only did he think he'd never see Sarah again, but she was engaged to someone else!

Alys: What a JERK!! You deserve someone SO much better than that. And speaking of, I have this son.......

Jace: *laughing* I don't know. That's why I was puzzled by my reaction and so glad that he didn't do it. 'Cause really - there was nothing between them. So why DID it bother me? I think Wendy explained it pretty good though. We expect heroic behaviour from our heroes even before they are 'officially' the hero. Well - I do anyway *grin*.

Pidute *g* so you see it too :) It is a double standard - something I'm not really comfortable admitting I have!!

Jenre: Nope - he's not a manwhore. If he was, I probably would have put the book down. And once he and the heroine marry, he's totally faithful to her. Well even before that since he gave the mistress her walking papers.

AnimieJune: It's that old saying 'once a cheater, always a cheater' or if he cheated on me he will cheat on you. And I still would like the hero - if it's a good book and the hero was heroic later, but he would be starting off with a few minus points for me - which I admit doesn't quite seem fair.

Wilaful: Well, I read somewhere that Lisa Kleypas deliberately kept it ambiguous and left it too the reader to decide. I suppose it depends on how cynical we might be. Katie is totally uncynical - me not so much *g*.

Amy: We'll have to see if it's the same book when I do a review *g*. This is a new author and only her second release.
I read one book years ago where the hero cheated on the heroine and she caught him. I was shocked, shocked I tell you. I loved the book up until then and I still continued to enjoy it after because boy did she make them both pay for it. It was a medieval and they were in an arranged marriage - but still he was starting to have feelings for her - and vice versa.