I recently tried reading an author's 4-book collection of romances and didn't finish it. It wasn't a "dark" romance, which typically means the male main character falls under the category of antihero and usually makes a living through illegal means (assassin, 1-percenter biker, mafioso, etc.). However, it did feature BDSM relationships between the heroes and heroines, as many dark romances do.
I just don't get it.
I keep going back to sample those stories that sound intriguing, but the BDSM inevitably turns me off as does the usually execrable writing. The popularity of the sub-genre lures me again and again to figure out why it's so popular. The sub-genre has acquired a reputation for poor writing, a reputation that--if what I've read is any indication--it deserves.
Many romance readers like these stories. That's fine. However, I find myself wondering why the heroine doesn't kick said hero to the curb when he imposes rules upon her and controls her life up to and including the way she dresses and what she says. Why is it acceptable for a man to turn a woman over his knee and spank her or even flog her? In any other scenario, we'd call that domestic abuse.
For instance in one story within the unfinished book I deleted from my Kindle, the hero orders the heroine to only wear skirts and strip off her panties and bra when she comes home from work. She disagrees with him on another matter, for which he punishes her by ordering her to strip entirely when she comes home from work. The heroine, a supposedly intelligent woman with a graduate degree, complies with a meek "yes, sir" and no objection.
What the hell?
Not only does this jerk control what she does, he wants to control what she thinks. Were my husband so lacking in intelligence as to have ever made the same demand of me, my response would have been along the lines of "I'm outta here" accompanied by a few choice profanities.
I can't see a relationship in which one party is a puppet and the other the puppet master as being in the least acceptable. What kind of woman, assuming she has two brain cells to rub together and free will, accepts that kind of relationship and likes it? How does any such person maintain any semblance of self-respect in such a relationship?
I just don't get it.
Many of my own books deal with themes of independence, free will, and redemption. Even with the randiest, most controlling heroes, my heroines assert themselves as individuals who can think and act as independent, intelligent human being (or perhaps not human, but you know what I mean). My heroines may comply with their heroes' demands--and, yes, sometimes they're forced to comply--but they don't become puppets.
At least I think they don't.
Atlas from The Barbary Lion, starts out as one of these controlling jerks, but his one true love slips his leash. Sindre from Bear of the Midnight Sun imposes control over Miranda so her alter ego, a polar bear like his, doesn't destroy the human within the soul it shares. Diego in The Eagle at Dawn actually does control Miranda's physical body with disastrous consequences--a violation she has a tough time forgiving. (Well, wouldn't you?) She, too, manages to escape, trading pampered luxury for free will and hardship. I could name a few more, but you get the idea.
Such heroes, whether from excessive possessiveness or protectiveness, evolve to understand that the women they love have minds of their own and those women can (and will) act accordingly. Their women become partners, not subjects obedient to the arbitrary law of one man.
That issue of free will confounds a lot of parents and childhood "experts," too. Protests of "But I told him not to do that" and behavior modification through manipulation forget that children have minds of their own and often act in ways detrimental to their best interests.
But I digress. If you want to read more on that particular topic, I suggest you head to John Rosemond's site.
No doubt I'll try yet another such book with an intriguing story premise and delete it without finishing it. No doubt I'll realize--again--that I just don't get it.