Guilty pleasure

Thanks to [Deirdre Saoirse Moen]( for rec­om­mend­ing this book. It’s not my usu­al fare but I was look­ing for mate­r­i­al for struc­tur­ing a romance plot. I asked Deirdre to point me toward some good exam­ples from the genre. Look­ing to a romance nov­el seemed like a good place to get a start on the tropes of the form — both the ones to use and the ones to avoid.

Writ­ing a romance plot into a sci­ence fic­tion nov­el isn’t the same as writ­ing a romance nov­el. It’s easy for a devel­op­ing romance in the book to [take over a plot](, and just as easy for [the rela­tion­ship to appear con­trived and superfluous]( That bal­ance isn’t some­thing I’m going to find in a romance nov­el. Fur­ther, the twists and turns of a nov­el ded­i­cat­ed to the love sto­ry tend to be unre­al­is­tic in ways that a sci­ence fic­tion read­er won’t find palat­able (just as the read­er of a romance nov­el would be put off by some of the con­ven­tions and struc­tures of sci­ence fiction.)

Nev­er­the­less, read­ing *Lead Me On* was instruc­tive and even enjoy­able. It takes a healthy dose of sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief, but it’s a fun ride. I found the sex scenes to be gra­tu­itous, but I could look past that; they seem to be a big part of the pur­pose of the nov­el. I’m no stranger to sex scenes in nov­els, includ­ing ones that are even more explic­it than the ones in *Lead Me On.* I’m not sure what it was that put me off about them; per­haps because I expect­ed it to be about more and because it had the pre­tense of being more.

I can’t say that *Lead Me On* in any way inspired me to read more of the genre. 

Ms Couper is a decent writer, though she has some irk­some habits. I can’t tell whether these are dif­fer­ences in usage between Amer­i­can Eng­lish and Aus­tralian, so I don’t want to judge them too harsh­ly, but some of her phras­ing was awk­ward­ly for­eign to me. There too were some issues with her char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of San Fran­cis­co, but there I think what she got wrong trou­bled me only because of what she got right. Hav­ing done enough research to know cer­tain details it was irk­some to see oth­er details she clear­ly made up or guessed at.

The sto­ry itself does fol­low a for­mu­la, and I found it some­what dis­ap­point­ing that it did­n’t offer me sur­pris­es. That itself may be a dif­fer­ence between the kind of writ­ing I aim to do and the con­ven­tions of the romance genre. Cre­at­ing a nar­ra­tive ten­sion for the pur­pose of resolv­ing it can be high­ly sat­is­fy­ing; any­one who has watched a Hol­ly­wood movie can tell you that.

Nev­er­the­less, I hoped for and even expect­ed the sto­ry to do more than set up a sit­u­a­tion sole­ly for the pur­pos­es of hav­ing the ten­sion resolved. There were her­rings paint­ed bright­ly red as well as unrea­son­able actions and assump­tions made by the pro­tag­o­nists, which seemed unre­al­is­tic to remain uncor­rect­ed for a few min­utes — nev­er mind a few days.

There too was the prob­lem of the auto­mat­ic love between the pro­tag­o­nists. Per­haps love con­quers all, and this is sup­posed to be an ide­al­ized fan­ta­sy, but the idea that a cou­ple could fall so deeply in love as to be ready for a life­time com­mit­ment with­in a few days is either unre­al­is­tic or indica­tive of poor enough judg­ment to pro­vide an unsta­ble foun­da­tion for a long-term rela­tion­ship. Prob­a­bly both.

These, how­ev­er, are the kinds of crit­i­cisms that can prob­a­bly be lev­eled at any exam­ple of the genre. I’m cer­tain that there are sim­i­lar crit­i­cisms that can be made of the gen­res I pre­fer, to which I turn a blind eye when reading. 

There­fore I should­n’t judge too harsh­ly when say­ing that read­ing *Lead Me On* was more instruc­tive about what I don’t want to write than it was in giv­ing me ideas about how to go about writ­ing a devel­op­ing roman­tic rela­tion­ship. I should just say that it seemed to be a com­pe­tent exam­ple of some­thing I don’t real­ly want to read.