Shelf Love

The Fated Sex Mates to Perfectly Matched Spectrum

Short Description

Do our fated lovers smell like ambrosia because of the cosmic love connection? How do romance novels use language to convey romantic love? I propose a spectrum that ranges from "fated sex mates" to "perfectly matched" using examples from 4 romance novels (not all of them recommended).


joyful problematization, romance novel discussion

Show Notes

Do our fated lovers smell like ambrosia because of the cosmic love connection? How do romance novels use language to convey romantic love? I propose a spectrum that ranges from "fated sex mates" to "perfectly matched" using examples from 4 romance novels (not all of them recommended).

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Thanks to the Shelf Love Discord members for sparking the idea for this episode!

Books Discussed:


Andrea Martucci: [00:00:00] I am very concerned that she is going to get a UTI. I had so many questions. It jumped the shark for me. 

(Intro music!)

Hello and welcome to Shelf Love, a podcast and community that explores romantic love stories in fiction across media at time and cultures. Shelf Love is for the curious and open-minded who joyfully question as they consume pop culture. I'm your host, Andrea Martucci and on this episode, it's just me. And I want to talk about how romance novels use language to convey romantic love. How do descriptions of sex in particular become shorthand for the rightness of a relationship?

And I want to propose that at least one axis exists, along which romance novels fall in a spectrum. And there are many other axes you could define here, but the axis I'm going to talk about is on one end, what often comes up in fated mates type romances the characters are fated to be together and their bodies understand this on an incredible level. And so even though they really, in interactions with each other, don't have much to do with each other, their bodies are biologically driving them towards this and their body's reaction is the truth and their minds just have to catch up.

On the other end of the spectrum are romance novels that I think work very hard to show that the romantic love between the couple it's not necessarily fated or predestined, but that these two people fit together extremely well. It's not that anyone in this relationship is like, so freaking extraordinary that anybody would fall in love with them or that they have to be seen as the most desirable people on earth.

These two people are just exactly right for each other. And so I'll talk about that a little bit.

So the first thing I want to talk about is the first sex scene that I ever remember reading. And it's in this book called After The Night, which is by Linda Howard.

And I keep promising like that at some point, I'll say more about Linda Howard. And I guess I'll say a little bit now. She wrote primarily contemporary, although she wrote a few historicals and the book After The Night came out in 1995, and I would say she was writing primarily in the eighties and nineties. And then by the early two thousands, she had transitioned into more like romantic suspense.

But her novels always had these very archetypical, alpha male heroes who are just really emotionally cold. And very virile and very desired by every woman. And most of her heroines were also these like small, beautiful, desirable women who the heroes respond to in a way that they have never responded to another woman.

She is an author who I read a lot of as a young person. Sometimes I really wish I did not read so much Linda Howard when I was first reading romance novels. Not only because it set the tone for my understanding of romance, but also because it set the tone as a young person, for my understanding of relationships between people, between men and women in particular. [00:03:00] And I think that, some of the scenes I'm going to share from this book exemplify why that is.

After the night, I don't even know if it's worth giving a synopsis of this. Like she's from the wrong side of the tracks and her mother was the mistress of his father.

And he hates her, he has his reasons, but they're all really stupid. And she comes back to town because she's trying to solve like this unsolved murder, which I won't even get into, but so she's poking around and he's like, you should not poke your nose into business that's not yours.

But he keeps finding her in places where he thinks she's not supposed to be. And he's incredibly threatening physically towards her. He literally says to her, " stay off my property. If I catch you on Rouillard land, again, I'm going to give you the fucking you've been asking for." So essentially, if I find you on my land, I'm going to rape you, which is really terrible.

So guess what? She goes on his land again, investigating this murder. And he catches her and just without a word, carries her off to have sex with her. And at some point later he's like, if she had said, no, I'd like to believe that I would stop, but thank God she didn't say no. She's essentially just like wordless throughout this encounter. And at no point gives consent for this.

There's a lot of things going on in the scene that God, I would need a book to really talk about. But he penetrates her and of course, he has an absolutely ginormous penis and she's extremely tight because this symbolically represents her purity and the fact that she's not like her mother who is to his thinking akin to a sex worker. And she's a good woman unlike her mother, because she has a tight vagina. So there's again, a lot going on here. So he's thrusting into her. And this is how the sex scene is described. It's really gross, honestly. Just be warned.

" The sharp twisting movement impaled her on his rigid shaft, seating him to the hilt and the hot gloving of her body made him feel as if his entire body was exploding. Shock reverberated through her. She sagged weekly in his arms, her head falling back like a daisy on a broken stem. His hard won control splintered, his hips jackhammered driving in and out of her. She hung there, supported only by his driving body and the wooden column at her back.

" For a measureless length of time, her senses narrowed to the thudding of her heart and the hard pounding of his body into hers, relentlessly battering. She clenched her hands on his shirt, twisting fistfuls of the fabric as she tried to endure, tossed helplessly about, and the violent upheaval of his lust.

" Then he stopped a growl rough in his throat as her physical and mental withdrawal register through the demanding throb of his body. "No." He said with furious frustration, "I won't let you pull back from me. Come for me, baby. Let me feel it."

"Faith tried to speak to say nothing. "I can't do it." She thought, but no words would form on her lips. Climax, which had shimmered so maddeningly near a short while ago now seems totally out of reach. She felt painfully stretched, impaled beyond pleasure, but he adjusted his position, hooking his arms under her thighs and holding them wider apart."

He changes his position. He touches her. Blah, blah, [00:06:00] blah.

" He had known exactly what he was doing, inexorably forcing her toward orgasm. In seconds, she was moaning with a return of desire. In less than a minute the fury was upon her and she screamed with the force of her release, her body arching and shuttering in his restraining arms.

"It went on and on so strong that she knew nothing else, reduced to completely physical being."

And so now we are in the hero's perspective. " Gray was stunned, rocked to the foundation by the intensity of what had just occurred. That wasn't sex. He'd had sex before, more times than he could count. Sex was a pleasure. Sometimes gentle, sometimes raunchy, an appetite persistent, but easily satisfied. What he just had with Faith was as powerful and unstoppable as an avalanche, a fire that left him scorched and already needing to feel the flame again."

So she storms away and then he begins his quote unquote charm offensive by harassing her. Cornering her in a bathroom at the courthouse and having sex with her. Perhaps with more consent this time. And then they eventually go back to her house and have a whole lot of sex.

And so after they have like seven rounds of sex they're talking to each other finally the first real conversation they've ever had.

He's talking about "every time you're near, I get hard." And she says I'm not doing anything. "It has to be your fault. You're breathing. Evidently that's enough."

" Part of it's the way you smell like honey and cinnamon, all sweet and spicy at the same time." Her head lifted and she stared at him startled.

" I've always loved the way you smell." She confessed. "Even when I was a little kid, I thought you were the best smell in the world and I've never been able to exactly describe it." " So you've had a crush on me since you were a little," he asked pleased.

Okay. So then she reveals that as a young child, she used to roam the woods. And one time she saw him in the summer house having sex with this other woman. He's a little bit older than her. And so he was like a young man in his early twenties. And she was maybe like mid-teens at the time when she saw this.

And she is remembering that the sex that he had with that woman at the time, it was very different from the sex that they have had up to this point. So she says "you made love to Lindsay in French," and he's like, what? And she goes, "I heard you, you made love to her in French. Lots of love, words, and compliments."

" Gray was too experienced not to notice how she felt about that and immediately discerned the reason. He gave her a disbelieving look, then put his head back on the pillow and shouted with laughter. Faith's lower lip trembled and she tried to turn away, but his arms tightened and he held her right where she was. "Oh Jesus." He said wheezing with the effort it took to control himself.

He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "You little innocent, I'm fluent in French, but it isn't my first language." It was plain by the mortified expression in those green eyes that she didn't understand. So he explained. " Baby. If I can still think clearly enough to speak French, then I'm not totally involved in what I'm doing. It may sound pretty, but it doesn't mean anything. Men are different from women. The more excited we are, the more like cavemen we sound. I could barely speak English with you, much less French. As I remember my vocabulary deteriorated to a few short explicit words, fuck, being the most prominent." To his amazement, she blushed and he smiled at further evidence of her charming prudery. "Go to sleep," he said gently, "Lindsey didn't even rate a replay."

" God only knew-" I can't even read this. " God only knew why she found that reassuring, but she did. She went to [00:09:00] sleep as easily as a child, exhausted by the events of the morning and woke to make love again." Blah, blah, blah.

Then they just keep having sex until they get married. And they find the murderer of course.

And, okay. So this is my first experience with reading about sex in romance novel. And first of all, the. Again, guys, there's so much going on here that I just, I'm just not even going to touch with a 10 foot pole. But there's this idea running throughout that people who are meant for each other and in love with each other, have this like irresistibly strong physical reaction to each other. And essentially he's articulating this. She smells delicious. She smells like cinnamon.

There's no indication that she like anything about her life, makes her smell like this. It's not like she chews gum that has cinnamon in it. Or, you could imagine that somebody who works at a bakery might smell sweet and their body may pick up the aromas of the world that they spend their life in. And, a lot of times you read romance novels where characters may smell like horse or tobacco or whatever. And you pick up that this is something about their lived experience, that the other person is scenting on them. But in this book it's like their bodies just know and understand that this other person is the one for them. And so they smell delicious to them.

And I think this is something that comes up a lot in romance novels in various ways. Kisses taste a particular way. The characters smell a particular way, they always smelled delicious. And all of this is meant to convey how perfect these people are for each other and how they are so attuned to the other person. And they think they smell good, right? Like it's not enough that they like have a distinctive scent it's that it smells like the best thing they've ever smelled in their life.

That kind of hyperbole. Romance novels have to find this way of conveying romantic love so that the reader feels it, like it's not enough to just be like, (robotically) and they loved each other. We have to really feel it as the reader. And so this hyperbolic language and these metaphors for how well these people fit together are conveyed a lot. And I think particularly with sex scenes, because I think it's these moments where the characters are unguarded and where they're very vulnerable a lot of times, and it's a very intimate situation. And so it's like this bringing down of the walls that they're showing to each other at other times, and letting the trueness of their relationship shine through.

And you know this scene in particular. I think seeing that play out the sort of like the rightness of this, their physical response to each other is really disturbing in the context of how brutal that first sex scene is and the context around it, which is there's no consent. It's honestly, a very violent scene where he's like Jack hammering into her body. She feels very intruded upon. She's turned on when they start, but as soon as he gets inside of her, she's like really not into it. But then he's somehow able, through his amazing skill and him demanding that she not shut him out and that she [00:12:00] have an orgasm, is able to compel her body to respond to him. Even though at that moment, she is not really engaging in this consensually. So it's really disturbing in that context and the more I think about romance through this podcast and reading other books, reading about romance, the more I see how problematic this is.

And so anyways, so I think that this book really is hitting these two people are like fated mates and they need to be together. It's not fated mates in sort of the paranormal sense, but their bodies understand that they're perfect for each other.

So the reason I'm talking about this today, is actually because I had an opening in my podcast schedule and I was talking to the folks on the Shelf Love Discord.

And I essentially was like, Hey, what's something you guys would like me to talk about.

And DK Jones brought up " moments in romance that were, or are a choice, not necessarily a bad choice, but something that made you pause and go, wait a minute. Did I just read that correctly?"

And I instantly thought of this book by Elizabeth Holt called Scandalous Desires. And it's a historical and there's a pirate. And there's this like beautiful, pure woman who he falls in love with. And they finally have sex. And this is like right after they both orgasm. He's thinking "she was his, now and forever more until the end of time, until the seas ran dry and man no longer roamed the earth. Amen. His and only his. She slumped against him, the scent of their passion musky in the night air. "Sleep." He murmured to her and held her against himself, his cock still buried deep. She was caught and he had no intention of ever letting go."

And the reason I'm laughing is because as soon as I read this line, I was like, excuse me, what? And it stuck in my brain that they fall asleep still with him penetrating her. And I remember reading this the first time and literally just like stopping and being like, I am very concerned that she is going to get a UTI. I also have some questions literally just about, once he is no longer tumescent how this is possible. I had so many questions. It jumped the shark for me, but I understand that metaphorically, this is meant to represent his possession of her, that they are joined even after their passion has died out. He will not let her go. They are one.

And so I understood symbolically why this was in here even though from a practical level, I think that there's just a lot about this where you're like, I don't think that's possible. I don't think this is a thing people do. I don't think there's anything desirable about this physically. Why is this in here?

And I think the why is because it is really trying to symbolically convey just the state of their relationship, the state of their love for each other in this moment. As a reader, I was just like, That is a choice. Like why are we doing this? This has gone beyond flowery language and gone beyond using language to hyperbolically represent what's going [00:15:00] on or metaphorically represent what's going on and has now made me start to draw diagrams in my head of what is going on? How is this possible? This really physically does not make sense.

It's not congruent with kind of my experience with the world. And what's weird about saying something like this is I think there's always this fear, no matter how ridiculous the thing is that you're reading, there's always this fear that you're like, what, nobody does that. And then everybody looks at you like oh, okay. You don't understand things. But truly I don't think this is the thing people do. I don't think it's a thing that like feels good for anybody. I could be wrong. But also anytime I tell anybody about the scene, they are also similarly like, excuse me, what happened? So I don't think it's just me.

So one last excerpt from Scandalous Desires, because I think this is actually really important in the context of what I just said.

What is her name? I literally can't remember, what is her name?

Anyways, this character, she has sex with Michael or Mick. Mickey? And. It's amazing. It's beautiful. It's the most mind blowing experience she's ever had and she's a widow. And she's thinking to herself, "in one night, she'd shared more with Michael than she'd ever had with William," her deceased husband. Mick wakes up to hear Silence weeping, weeping after he'd made love to her, he thinks to himself.

And, so he says, " (god I can't even...) What is it me darlin?" He says his voice rasping with sleep or perhaps some new emotion. And she says, "I lied all this time. I lied." He had no idea what she meant, but he made soothing noises at the back of his throat and kissed her neck. "What do you mean?" And she says, " I said, William and I had true love. That our marriage was perfect, but oh, Michael, it wasn't. I just, just wanted to have a perfect marriage. I think" she whispered, and he could feel a tremble in her voice. As she said it, "he was away so much, and I was always waiting for him. It was like, we never truly settled into married life. We didn't know what to do, how to talk to one another. And doing this," her voice squeaked, "this between you and me, I guess it just made me realize that William and I were truly over. Our marriage, our life. I can't even lie to myself that it was perfect anymore."

She realizes this essentially because of how good the sex is with Mick. And it's not necessarily that she realized how much she loved Mick. It's that she had great sex with Mick and then transpose that into love and then said well, essentially my marriage with my dead husband must have been a sham because it did not feel like this.

I think that's not great.

I think that's a really damaging and potentially harmful way of thinking about physical relationships, because to go back to After The Night, that is an abusive relationship. This is not a good relationship that we're reading about in here. But we are told as the reader that these people are meant to be together and that their intense physical connection is going to solve all of these practical concerns.

And also that they don't even like each other, but after they have sex a bunch, now all of a sudden they can relate to each other because they have finally given into what their bodies knew all along. In the real world if you go about your life with that understanding of this is what romantic love is, you [00:18:00] very easily, could normalize a lot of abusive relationship dynamics. And also you could be in a perfectly lovely relationship and think perhaps that relationship isn't true love because you're not feeling those things.

So that's the harm here. And especially, with younger readers, which I myself was somebody reading this before I had any romantic relationships with people in real life. I definitely went into relationships with people expecting something to happen that, honestly, should not be happening, I think, in romantic relationships.

I think that the symbolism, the noise that is created by some of these metaphors for true love and two people needing to be together. I think they come up a lot in sex in books at this end of the spectrum where because so much of the romantic love between the couple is revolving around their physical sexual connection. I think that's kind of the location of a lot of this language.

So I want to pivot then to the other end of the spectrum. And I'm going to actually not talk about sex as much. At the other end of the spectrum, I think are stories that really focus on how to talk about love and how to show love in a way that is unique to the characterization of the couple and not universal. So it's not just, well, you will know that you are in love with somebody because your body will respond to them in a way that has never responded to anybody else.

It's more about, let's get to know this character. Let's get to know this character. Let's see them together and let's see in action and how other people observe their relationship and how they feel around each other. And how they act towards the other, let's figure out from that if that's what real love looks like.

I've been reading a lot of Connie Brockway's historical romances, and the two I want to talk about today, I think what they do really excellently is they portray the fantasy of being seen and treasured for who and what you are. And. She tends to have these heroines who are really headstrong and unconventional, and kind a lot. And as somebody who is kind of a lot, I really appreciate that.

I think that her books do such an amazing job of using the language and using the story to symbolically represent the perfect knowledge and appreciation that they have for each other. And it's not necessarily that these people, because they love the other person, then put this filter on and view every action through that filter of love. It's that they see the other person extremely clearly.

They appreciate them and they want that. So essentially their desire is aligned with who that other person is. Do they learn to desire it, or did they inherently just desire that kind of person. I think the latter in here.

In the two books I'm thinking of, As You Desire and The Other Guys Bride, they may intellectually not realize that is what they are looking for, but they find themselves helplessly drawn to this [00:21:00] person and have to reconfigure their intellectual understanding of what they desire, which I think is very different from the other end of the spectrum.

As You Desire and The Other Guy's bride are two books in a series. And As You Desire comes first, it is the relationship between Desdemona and Harry. And it takes place in Egypt towards the late 18 hundreds. I believe. And they're British ex-pats in Egypt and I will just put a pin in that idea because I also have some thoughts about how these books talk about that, but that's not the focus here. So let's just put a pin in that.

But In As You Desire, Desdemona can read and translate like many languages, like 12 languages or something like that. And Harry is British gentry who left England because he has dyslexia and was never able to learn how to read. And essentially he was treated like he was defective in England and by his family. And so he went to Egypt where he's very successful as an Egyptologist and he is able to sort of by touching hieroglyphs, able to read them by like physically connecting with the shape of the word in a way that he's never able to do with reading English. But also, he's very skilled in other ways. And so he has found this place where he is really successful and she really loves Egypt, but she also has never really had a home and she's never had a home in England and she thinks that she wants to go back to England because she has romantic ideals about it. But also because her grandfather thinks that she wants to go back to England. So her grandfather is pretending he wants to go back to England. And so she has this like dream in mind that she wants to go back.

And the conflict as you might imagine is he's like, I can't go back. This place beat me down and made me feel terrible about myself. Versus Egypt where I have thrived and I'm a success and I have become my own person. And of course by the end, as they fall in love, he's like, okay, if you really want to go back to England, like I will figure it out. We will do this.

But that's like the conflict between them, where he thinks she wants to leave. So he thinks that their love is doomed, right?

So two people are talking about Harry and Desdemona, and one person says "Something in that girl's life has made her want to be something other than what she is. More the pity. There isn't anything wrong with Desdemona Carlyle, just as she is. And I suspect Harry's the only one who makes her feel that way."

And so this book is really lovely because not only do other characters recognize this, but Harry truly doesn't think there's anything weird about Desdemona and when Desdemona learns that Harry doesn't know how to read, she's also just like, so? There's nothing wrong with you. So what you can't read. I understand that was difficult for you. And I feel empathy for you for the difficulty of that, but like that doesn't change who you are and you know how great you are at so many other things. And everything I love about you, that doesn't change anything for me about how I feel about you.

But you also see really clearly in this text that like, [00:24:00] not everybody feels that way about either of them. Other people are really like tired of Desdemona and they think she's annoying. And some people think Harry's a bit of a scoundrel and. One of Harry's family members is just really hateful and goes around, moping around like Harry being defective and like, how dare he bring shame upon their family for not knowing how to read. Like it's obviously really ableist but also it shows that not everybody in this world would feel the same way about these two characters. However, when it comes to each other, it's not that this is something they have to get over. The challenge with their relationship is not that they have to accept something about the other person that is unacceptable to them. It's that they see each other clearly. However, they may also have misconceptions about what the other person is looking for out of life and they believe them to be incompatible, but they still desire everything about the other person.

Now The Other Guy's Bride takes place about 20 something years later. And the main character Ginesse is the daughter of Harry and Desdemona from the first book.

And the hero is like incidentally, a secret duke, but he is in exile from England because he is trying to have himself declared dead so that his brother can inherit the dukedom. And there's some family history that is making that necessary.

Ginesse the daughter of Harry and Desdemona, has grown up in this like famous Egyptologist family. So they're extremely, well-known in Cairo and she really enjoys living in Cairo, except she's like accident prone and somehow just gets into trouble. She's just an impetuous woman. And was an impetuous girl. And other people just perceived her as annoying. And so she comes back after not having been in Cairo for many years.

And is pretending to be somebody else, hence The Other Guy's Bride. Like the title is admittedly not great guys. It's actually a really good book. Throughout this book Ginesse is pretending to be somebody else. He realizes he's in love with her. She is in love with him and they have just consummated their relationship by having sex after a stressful situation. And it happens very quickly. They're both very into it. And afterwards he is like, oh crap. Like he believes she is somebody else who is engaged to somebody else named Pomfrey.

And he also is somebody who has given up all of his material possessions. And the things that he was raised to believe would be his, like the dukedom, wealth, et cetera. He has given all of that up and he's like, oh my God, I don't have anything to offer her.

So he really wants to marry her. He really loves her, but he thinks that he can't have her. So he starts spinning into like rationalization. And he goes, "I'm not a good man, Mildred." Because he thinks she's Mildred. "I have done things you would despise, but I've never killed a man. And I have never taken from a man anything he rightfully owned." He took a deep breath, "until you," she backed away a few steps.

"Pomfrey owns me?"

He found a smile for her affronted tone. She would rail at being called any man's possession. "Not you, but the right to call you his bride." The right to call her as bride and build [00:27:00] her house and buy her gowns and jewelry. The right to show her the world and see her eyes glow as she made some new discovery or learn some fascinating bit of minutia. The privilege to introduce her to statesmen and officers and witness their admiration and her bemusement, all the things you'd never be able to do because he was no one, a shadow, a living ghost. He had nothing to bring to a marriage, nothing to offer her in Pomfrey's stead. Nothing.

" In her sudden liberation from fear and gratitude and relief, she'd responded instinctively by celebrating life. At the most primal level, he'd used her spontaneous reaction as an excuse to take what he'd wanted, what he'd wanted since the moment he'd first seen her. She would be a fool to accept him. And Mildred Whimpelhall was no fool, but she was a lady and he would be a gentlemen. He would offer for her and she would accept. What choice did she have? What choice had he left her?

" He took a deep breath. " Miss. Whimpelhall. I cannot undo the last minutes, but I can make them right. If you would do me the honor of marrying me, I promise you I will do everything within my power to try to make you happy."

" Undo? Make them right?" The surprise in her voice took him back. He suppose he deserved that. "Yes." He said stiffly. "Did you think I was so lost to decency that I wouldn't ask?"

" I didn't think about it at all," she said her eyes flashing. "I wasn't thinking."

" Why should I marry you?"

" Why?" He repeated numbly. "Yes. Tell me why you want to marry me." And he thinks to himself: "Because I'm a selfish bastard because the thought of you in another man's arms hurts deeper than a shank in my side. Because even if I never see you again and die 60 years hence your image will be the last to fade from my mind's eye, because I want you. But what he says is, "I compromised you. I'm not without honor, regardless of how my actions seem to disprove that claim. Please, you must believe that."

" Oh, I do." She said in an odd voice, " I believe you are a most honorable man."

" Thank you." If she believed in him, anything was possible. Somehow they would make this work. Somehow he would make her happy.

" And while I am most cognizant of the honor you do me" she said an a flavorless, oh, so careful voice, "I'm afraid I must decline your offer."

"What?" " I'm not going to marry you." She said.

And so he starts like descending into of course she won't take me. I have nothing. Why would she want to be with me? And eventually at some other point it comes up again that he has compromised her and she, once again refuses him and is very angry at him. And of course we, as the reader, understand that what she is angry about is that he has not couched this proposal in how much he loves her.

He has couched it as a cultural constraint that he is bound by that he is just going to honor, and it has nothing to do with her. It has to do with, we did a thing and therefore I must marry you. And this we understand from her characterization is really her hard line. This is like the most important thing for her in a partner. Not honor, not how many acres you have or how many pounds a year or whatever. And at various points, he doesn't share his feelings. He makes a logical argument about why they should marry.

She thinks to herself, "Jim Owens had only known her as a girl with a fertile imagination, an insatiable curiosity and a romantic disposition. And some issues regarding impulse control. The girl who she was not the girl she was trying to be. Just as she saw him." At this point, she knows he's a duke.

" Cowboy, duke, store clerk or Beduin [00:30:00] Prince. Labels didn't matter anymore. She didn't see any of them. She saw a strong stern faced man, a man of rare laughter, but great humor, a man thoughtful and deliberate, but capable of swift and bold action, a man well-read and well-seasoned. A gentleman in a scoundrel capable, devious, and damn him, honorable. The man she loved, the man she wanted. And now that she knew what she wanted, she would not be satisfied with anything less.

"If she couldn't have Jim Owen's heart, she wouldn't accept any piece of him. She would not be a part of some sad story of unrequited love. She would not spend her days hoping he did not come to regret his honorable offer. She had already spent too many years trying to be what she thought others wanted her to be. She wouldn't spend her life trying to be Jim Owen's beloved. She either was, or she wasn't.

" In spite of it all she'd wanted to say yes, she'd wanted to believe passion, as he'd said, must count for something. She wanted to believe that regardless of what he said or did not say he cared for her in a way that could become love. And if she spent enough time willing it to be so, she knew herself well enough to recognize that she would make herself believe it. Just like she'd made herself believe that she had a passion for archeology and Egyptology that equaled her father's or her brothers.

" How strange to realize that now, when she discovered that was not who she was, that might be all she had left. So she'd done the only thing she could think to protect herself from making that disastrous leap.

" Undying love, perhaps she was a fool, but she knew such a thing existed. She'd been witnessed to one of the world's greatest love stories. Her parents. Was it too much to want the same? Perhaps it was, but she could not settle for less."

So the denouement of this book.

Her father finds them after they've had sex in a cave. Her father is searching for her because she was lost. And of course, Jim found her first.

So her father discovers them and says, "looks like I made it just in time for the wedding. Doesn't it son?" Jim, caught off guard and a little irritated opened his mouth to reply, "barely in time, sir," when he caught sight of Ginesse out of the corner of his eye. She caught his eye and smiled. It was a confident smile full of love, but there was just the smallest hint of wistfulness there just a soupcon.

"She had wanted to hear him say he loved her and then worried that he would find it pathetically romantic. He wasn't going to satisfy anyone's expectations but hers, even if it hurt, which he glanced at the lean muscular man in front of him, he imagined it would. " No, sir." He said, "what?" Thundered Harry Braxton.

" Ginesse's eyes widened in surprise, but there was no fear there no hurt, just curiosity. She trusted him. And that meant more to him than he would ever be able to express. "No, sir. There's nothing romantic about a shotgun wedding. So that's not the marriage Ginesse is going to have. And when I asked her to marry me, her daddy isn't going to be standing there watching while I try to button my fly in between choking out the words."

" Oh, Jim." A soul might have thought he'd just given her a piece of heaven instead of telling her father he wasn't going to propose to her." So then of course her father punches him and she's like, " be quiet." She took a deep breath and continued. "I am not going to marry him because you showed up and told him he had to marry me. And I'm not going to marry Jim because the state of my hymen." " Merciful, mother of god, Ginesse!", Jim and Harry burst out in unison. She sputtered in disgust. "What a pair of old ladies." She shot them both a venomous contemptuous glare. "It's true. Everyone is so concerned with whether I'm a virgin or not, but no one seems too interested in a far more fragile organ. My heart. "

Her gaze softened, "except Jim," she said, [00:33:00] bestowing on him, such a rapturous smile, it made the beating he anticipated worth it."

Blah, blah, blah.

This is a beautiful moment because it is a sign that he has realized the error of his ways. And he understands the way she wants to be loved, not the way that he is expected to love her culturally or show his love for her culturally, his respect for her by offering to marry her because they had sex and not to appease her father. Anybody else other than her in this relationship.

So this realization and this action symbolically is what she and the reader needs to understand that Jim doesn't just love her. He knows how to love her the way she needs. And isn't just going to follow cultural scripts about how to show love or what love is.

So I want to share one last part here that I just thought was just a really beautiful way to think about the different things people need in relationships.

So Ginesse is talking to the real Miss Whimpelhall, who like her name is a bit of a shrinking violet.

And Ms. Whimpelhall is engaged to Pomfrey. Who's an asshole. And Miss Whimpelhall goes, "I do not think you have a high regard for my fiance. I did warn you. He was not dashing." " Yes, but" Ginesse hesitated then plunged ahead. So much for self-control. "But you deserve dashing, Miss Whimpelhall, and warmth instead of coolness and romance, rather than duty, you should have them."

" Oh, my" Miss Whimpelhall said looking a little helpless and a great deal moved. "I am touched by your concern. Truly. I am. But I know Hilliard very well and he is precisely the man I want." Ginesse regarded her with poorly masked skepticism. " Miss. Braxton." She said turning to her, "Ginesse, you and I are very different creatures. I know you think Pomfrey phlegmatic and straight-laced. Perhaps a little boring and judgmental."

Her apologetic gaze said what she could never bring herself to say, that she disapproved of Pomfrey's attitude towards Ginesse.

" Perhaps he is," Miss Whimpelhall continued. " But for all that, he has the makings of a fine officer. He can be a good man given the right circumstances and under the right influence. More importantly, he is someone I understand because he is very like me." "Hardly Miss Whimpelhall" Ginesse began in protest.

"No, don't deny it. I know my faults. And recently I have been made even more aware of them. Pomfrey and I suit each other." " But what about passion, my dear Miss Whimpelhall?" Ginesse asked, unconvinced.

"Passion," Miss Whimpelhall repeated. "Deliver me from your passion." At Ginesse's stunned expression, she continued on a little dryly. "I look at you and Mr. Elkamel, and your great-grandfather and Mr. Owens. And even to some extent Lord Tynsborough. And I'm unnerved by your intensity. Your passion unsettles me. You burn so brightly, Miss Braxton, you feel things so deeply. I just like standing so close to the fire. Like that dress, it is far too uncomfortable." She softened the comment with a smile.

" For myself, I much prefer tranquility and harmony to-" she shook her head, "whatever it is you own in such abundance. For all that you can never understand my choices. I assure you, I would be equally as mystified by yours."

Not only is this kind of a brilliant moment of just understanding that what one person looks for in a partner is not what everybody looks for in a partner. It also, I think those such a good job of rehabilitating two [00:36:00] characters that are not always presented very generously. Where Miss Whimpelhall is really just presented as like a limp rag throughout this book. And Pomfrey is a self-righteous asshole. And. The book is obviously not completely unkind to them. But I think we, the readers are really supposed to very clearly be rooting for Ginesse and Jim Owens in this situation. And other characters who similarly burn very bright.

But I think it's just really lovely to acknowledge that's not what everyone is looking for. That's not what everybody wants. And for somebody who is like Miss Whimpelhall, she's not attracted to the same things in a partner and that's okay.

Ginesse just doesn't understand why she could possibly be attracted to Pomfrey. But as Miss Whimpelhall says, she doesn't understand how Ginesse could be attracted to Jim Owens or, vice versa. I think it just does such a great job of showing us the reader. You, don't not only through the perspective of the two characters, but also the observations by other characters, how everybody else around them is like, I mean, I don't know, they're not for me, but like those two are great for each other. Like they really love each other. We see these things about them and are not thrilled with them, but they see these things about each other and just feel very differently about the way that they are.

I don't know if this really answered the prompt of what came up on Discord, but it's something I thought was interesting to go on about and I hope you enjoyed this.

So the books mentioned in here were After The Night by Linda Howard, which I do not recommend anybody read. Scandalous Desire by Elizabeth Holt, which I'll be honest. I did not finish. I was not enjoying it. Would not particularly recommend, your results may vary.

And then the other two books were, As You Desire and The Other Guys Bride both by Connie Brockway. And I do really recommend these books. They are historicals. They take place in the late 18 hundreds and the early 19 hundreds in Egypt.

And the pin I put in the whole like Egypt thing, I think this is a book that does problematize the colonialism in Egypt and as much as both stories are about Europeans living in Egypt, there are many rich well-rounded characters who are Egyptians in the stories.

No story is unproblematic, but I think both of them do a fairly good job of problematizing the context in which they are taking place.

Yeah, check it out. And that's it for today. Talk to you guys soon. Byeeee.

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