Ramblings, rants etc.

Bitten: How infidelity is excused if the protagonists do it

This isn’t a general post on the topic. I was re-reading Bitten from the Otherworld series by Kelly Armstrong and I recalled how much I initially disliked Elena. Eventually of course I loved her, but it was the first 70% of book#1 that made me grit my teeth as she narrated the story from her POV.

You see Elena is an unreliable narrator, of sorts. She doesn’t omit pertinent facts or lie, but she gives the last ten years of her life a good, thick coating of self pity and puts all the blame for her unhappiness on Clayton, the guy who’d been waiting for a decade for her to forgive him.

What he’d done to her was pretty bad. He’d broken her trust and taken away her choice when he’d forced a supernatural life on her that made her dreams of a normal house, husband, kids and stability all vanish in an instant.

Elena was a product of the worst kind of foster homes. She could barely remember her own parents and never had a normal family. That’s what she wanted beyond all else. That’s the dream that sustained her through her years in abusive homes and midnight visits by foster fathers. That’s what drove her to excel in studies and then get into a good university on scholarship.

But then Clayton snatched that dream away never giving her a chance to choose him over the life she always wanted. She’d loved him but with one act driven by fear of losing her he lost her trust.

So for the next ten years Clayton waited and Elena stayed with him and the Pack in Stonehaven for a while but as soon as she began to feel too entrenched in a world not ‘normal’, she would run away to the city where she completed her studies and got a job as a columnist.

Elena held a long grudge. She blamed the worst parts of her character on the violent nature of the werewolf Clay had forced her to become. It didn’t matter that Clay loved her, it didn’t matter that the Pack treated her as one of their own. Everyone had an ulterior motive (they were being nice/ they were keeping the only female werewolf in existence safe/they were trying to control her/ they were doing it because they loved Clay) but she could get over that.  The person she would never, ever forgive was Clay.

I never wanted to forget and I never wanted to forgive. I wouldn’t let myself.
Mending fences with Clay would mean surrender. It would mean he’d won, that biting me had been worth the trouble. He’d have his mate, the life partner of his choice, the realization of his own domestic dreams. Well, I had my own dreams, and Clay had no role in them. Werewolf or not, I couldn’t bear to give them up, especially now when I’d finally caught a glimpse of the possibilities in my life with Philip. I had a good, decent man, someone who saw and encouraged my potential for goodness and normalcy, things Clay never saw, didn’t care about, and certainly never encouraged. Maybe marriage, kids, and a house in the suburbs weren’t in our future but, as I said, any variation would do. With Philip, I could envision a satisfying variation, with a partner, a home, and an extended family. My brass ring had come into sight. All I had to do was muddle through this mess with the Pack, get back to Toronto, and wait for the chance to grab it.

Before the book began, Elena had been living away from Stonehaven for a year, pretending to herself that she’d cut away all ties. In her mind, she was single. She met a man, Philip,  and began a relationship with him. When the book began they’d been living together for months.

But when an urgent call came from the Alpha, Jeremy (a man who was friend, mentor and father to her though she would never admit it) she had to return to Bear Valley again to find out what was happening.

Almost within the first day of her return she has sex with Clay. Then she tells herself that it was Stonehaven, it sucked her in like it always does. That when she was there Clay was part of that ‘other’ life and she couldn’t escape it. That it wasn’t her fault. That it was a mistake.

But she does it again a few days later when Clay needs to be comforted. She has no trouble waking up the next morning and accusing him of having done something behind her back that (were she really thinking clearly) she knew he wouldn’t do, or at least he would never lie to her about, and then spending an hour in the study telling herself that he hadn’t changed, that it was a mistake. Again.

She keeps excusing her the fact that she was hurting Clay (half deliberately) and badly using Philip. I love it when Clay calls her on it.

“…What’s the plan then? You run back and forth between us until you’ve made up your mind?”

“I’ve made up my mind. Anything that happened at Stonehaven was a mistake, like it’s always been a mistake. I never misled you. You knew there was someone else. It was the same damned thing that happens every time I go back to that place. I get caught up in it. I lose myself.”

“In what? The house? A pile of bricks and mortar?”

“In that place,” I said, gritting my teeth, “That world and everything about it, including you. I don’t want it, but when I’m there, I can’t resist. It takes over.”

He gave a harsh laugh. “Bullshit. There is nothing in this world or that world or any world that you couldn’t fight, Elena. Do you know what magical spell ‘that place’ has you under? It makes you happy. But you won’t admit that because, to you, the only acceptable happiness comes in the ‘normal’ world, with ‘normal’ friends and a ‘normal’ man. You’re bound and determined to make yourself happy with that kind of life, even if it kills you.”

I didn’t dislike Elena for her acts of infidelity. I couldn’t even make up my mind on who she was actually cheating on. Clay or Philip. But Clay knew the score and having just spent a year without her he was willing to go through a lot to have her back. So he kept his peace as long as he could. Tried to forget about Philip. But Philip didn’t know, he knew nothing about Elena. Later in the book when she forgets herself and says something sarcastic and waspish to Clay, Philip looks at her as if he couldn’t recognise her. He thought she “didn’t even have a temper”. To make up for her hidden self, she tailored her personality to what she thought Philip wanted. He’s a good guy, he didn’t deserve a woman who gave only the fake version of herself to him.

No, I disliked Elena for her utter, unremitting self absorption. Maybe that’s something that hits me harder than others because I struggle with my tendencies towards selfishness too.

She was so involved in trying to find a ‘normal’ stable family in the human world that she nearly lost the family she’d had for years, people who patiently waited for her to come back to them. At the end of the book, knowing that she realized all of this herself you can feel sympathy for her, understand that her childhood had made her cling hard to her dream for a normal home and to have that dream snatched away, to be forced into a life so far from normal when she’d never known what that was to begin with had to be traumatic.

But she was unfaithful. To both Clay and Philip. And maybe some would agree that Clay deserved the punishment but Philip didn’t. And not once in the novel did Elena ever worry or even consider that Clay would move on, that he might leave her and find someone else. She knew him. She knew him and still she painted him an arrogant, self absorbed, selfish man. You could see her trying to hate him.

As Clayton eloquently puts it –

“…God forbid any truth should complicate your convictions.”

And I wonder, would she have come to her senses quicker if Clay had been different? If he could have walked away from her?

No, because then Clay wouldn’t have been Clay. For him, Elena was it.

So to come back to the title of this post, by the end of the book I’d forgiven Elena and Clay never held it against her to begin with. Philip mattered very little really. The author had successfully made me love the romance of the lead pair in the story and forget the issue of infidelity completely. To be honest if it hadn’t been for some enthusiastic discussions on goodreads I wouldn’t have given it much thought on my reread. My issues were with Elena’s purposeful blindness and her selfish stubbornness. I didn’t doubt by the end of the book that no lasting damage had been done to Philip, that he would move on.

Infidelity is one of those issues that I think no amounts of debating will ever resolve. Every person has a different perspective on it and circumstances beyond your personal principles often decide whether or not you can/should forgive the one who cheated on you.

But there’s no doubt that we often forget the hurt that the secondary characters in fiction suffer when the lead pair walk off into the sunset breaking their trust (and their heart) with only the slightest pang of regret.

Elizabeth Bennet talks some sense into Margaret Hale/ When a North&South Miss meets a Pride&Prejudice Mrs/ fun made-up dialogue

The dialogue below is not my work, but taken from the blog What Would Lizzie Bennet Do? 

After Margaret Hale rejects the ardent and smoldering Mr Thornton, our Liz Bennet, the newly wedded Mrs Elizabeth Darcy takes her to hand and imparts a few life lessons.

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Margaret Hale, I’d like you to meet Lizzie Bennet.

<–MH  <–LB (more…)

The second question I asked Ilona Andrews

My second question is – how do you two work together?
I’ve wanted to ask this for a long time, and maybe you’ve already answered this somewhere. You can just give me the link, if you have. I always considered my ideas very private, something to stew over in secret. I understand discussing ideas for projects and doing stuff in a team, but if two people sit down to write with the same story-line (discussed and decided on mutually) in their heads, wont their writings still be widely different? How do you manage that?

In answer :

I believe Ilona answered the first part of your question on the blog.  As far as the second goes, it is more complicated.  (more…)

Ilona Andrews gives her take on narrative ‘voices’

I wrote to Ilona Andrews for advice on my writing, and the authors graciously answered me on their blog. My question was the following:

“I know the best advice given to new/young writers is read, read, read and write, write, write. So, I read and read, but while writing I’ve discovered a block I can’t seem to get past. While writing short stories or fables this doesn’t bother me so much, but when trying to put an idea for a longer story on paper, I try to stay away from emulating the authors of the genre I’m trying in – that is, I try to write in third person :] – but somehow I can’t find the voice I’m looking for. I can’t decide how to narrate my story. The narrative decides how you explain the characters and how you unfold the story, right?  So, my first question – how did you find your voice? How did you KNOW it was the right style to write your story in?

Ilona Andrews:

Emulating other authors is normal.  I’ve pointed it out before – almost every successful writer goes through a stage where he or she writes a derivative work.  That’s how we learn to write.  🙂

“…That is, I try to write in third person” – does it feel “right” writing in the third person or is this a choice you are making to distinguish yourself from other writers?  If it’s the second, then your voice troubles might be happening because you are forcing yourself into the pattern you don’t subconsciously feel is comfortable for you.  Here is a secret: (more…)

From Austenland (a surprising funny in the only enjoyable bit)

“What are you doing?”
“Ya!” said Jane, whirling around, her hands held up menacingly.
It was Mr. Nobley with coat, hat, and cane, watching her with wide eyes. Jane took several quick (but oh so casual) steps away from Martin’s window.
“Um, did I just say, ‘Ya’?”
“You just said ‘Ya,'” he confirmed. “If I am not mistaken, it was a battle cry, warning that you were about to attack me.”
“I, uh…” She stopped to laugh. “I wasn’t aware until this precise and awkward moment that when startled in a strange place, my instincts would have me pretend to be a ninja.”

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I dislike this book. Honestly, I do. But this one part here had me in hoops for days. I kept remembering the “Ya!” and laughing at inappropriate moments.

I don’t say that the book didn’t have other slightly redeemable moments, but this was really the only bit that didn’t seem forced. It was perfect. The rest was…trying too hard. I’m not sure how much of an Austen fan Ms Hale is or how deep her research into the regency era went but the number of things she got wrong even in this ‘pretend’ world of Austen is just…ooh, it made my blood boil.

Also, why do contemporary romance heroines like this Jane (or even Bridget Jones for that matter) sound so damned needy and whiny while their respective Darcys watch them somberly, apparently not blind to their idiocies, but falling in love with them anyway?

If you haven’t read the book and don’t know what I’m talking about, click this —> 😦

Here is a page full of other snippets from this book—> Heh, heh.

Assassin Study [A Valek story] by Maria V. Snyder

Yelena, the heroine of Maria V. Snyder’s stunning debut novel Poison Study, is on her way to her ancestral homeland of Sitia to be reunited with her family and to learn more about her magical powers. An order of execution hangs over her head should she ever return to Ixia. But her true love, Valek, quickly learns that an assassin has taken it upon himself to make sure Yelena doesn’t reach her destination… As Ixia’s chief of security, and a highly skilled assassin himself, can Valek track down the killer in time to save Yelena’s life? (more…)

Power Study [An Ari and Janco story] by Maria V. Snyder

CHAPTER ONE

“Holy snow cats! Will ya look at the crowd.” Janco whistled in amazement.

Although Janco had the annoying tendency to exaggerate, Ari agreed with his partner. “Must be a record.”

“They must think we’ll be easier to beat.” Janco touched the scar where the lower half of his right ear used to be.

Ari recognized Janco’s nervous gesture. He’d seen it a thousand times. “No worries. Take a closer look.” From where they stood next to the castle, they could see the training yard was filled with soldiers practicing with swords and knives and bow staffs. “Greenies mostly. A few veterans, but nobody you can’t handle. Well…” Ari eyed Captain Francesca. She was deadly with a knife.

“You call that a pep talk?” Janco grumbled. “Why are we here anyway? This isn’t our job. It’s Valek’s.”

Valek was the chief of security for the vast intelligence network of the Territory of Ixia and the Commander’s right hand man. He had made a challenge to all the soldiers in the Commander’s Army: beat Valek in a fight with the weapon of your choice and win the right to be Valek’s second. Ari and Janco had teamed up with Maren and the three of them had bested Valek. Janco had found the loophole and Valek agreed the trio could be his seconds. For now. If another trio formed, then the new group would have to win a fight against Ari, Janco and Maren together. (more…)