Desert Isle Keeper
A romantic comedy with a hitman hero definitely doesn’t follow the norm of mafia romances, which tend to be of the ‘dark romance’ variety. Yet author Katrina Jackson has done a delightful job of combining a lot of humor, sexy scenes, and yes, action too, in The Hitman, the second book in The Family series.
Zahra has just discovered that her husband-to-be, an A-list actor, cheated on her with a stripper and her maid of honor on the night before their wedding, all gleefully exposed via hotel cameras on entertainment reality TV. Furious, embarrassed and hurt, she decides to go to their Italian honeymoon destination solo in order to lick her wounds, courtesy of her now ex’s credit card (stolen by her faithful cousin, Shae.) She’s got a beautiful penthouse suite in a villa in the mountains outside of Milan where she alternately drinks and cries as she tries to pull herself together.
Her junior suite neighbor is Giulio, a hitman for ‘the family’. He’s finally on vacation (though ticked off that the large penthouse suite isn’t available) and hearing his neighbor wailing nightly is getting on his nerves. All he really wants is a warm woman in his bed and some peace and quiet. And the beautiful curvy Black woman he sees lounging outside the pool is a prime target – even if she looks at him with disdain. He’ll have to use his charms if he is to succeed in his mission to fill up on sex before going back to work.
Zahra couldn’t be less interested in the Italian gigolo with the slicked back hair and the tiny speedo and brushes him off. But after a few more encounters, and the realization that they are suite neighbors, Giulio’s lustful appreciation of her turns out to be a balm to her psyche. And yes, a fling with an Italian hottie is just the ticket to get over her ex. But when a date to a local vineyard ends up with a shooting and a murdered man, Zahra realizes she’s getting more than she bargained for. Is it to be a quick return home, or can her romance with Giulio survive the truth?
The ‘jilted bride goes on her honeymoon and meets someone’ trope is one I enjoy, which was why I decided to pick this book up. The addition of a playboy Italian mafia hitman who loves women of all shapes and sizes and wants to help Zahra get over her ex (whom he would gladly ‘take care of’ if Zahra wanted him to) makes for a really fun and enjoyable story, that had me laughing out loud constantly. It’s a very sex positive story, with Zahra getting over her initial first impression of Giulio quickly when he makes it clear that he lusts over her exactly as she is, and there are several steamy scenes that cement their growing friendship. Of course Zahra’s initial plan is to go home at the end of her designated vacation time but then she gets caught up in Giulio’s business when a rival associate tracks Giulio down. And Giulio sums up his job for her thusly:
“I’m a bad man, who works for bad men, and when necessary I kill bad men.”
Giulio wants her to leave Italy immediately, but Zahra believes she’ll be safer if she sticks with Giulio in case someone tracks her down as a witness to the murder. So instead of doing what she should, she ends up on an adventure that takes her across Italy (train sex anyone?) and along the way, she and Giulio deepen their connection. Sharing their life stories bonds them – and that’s how you get an insta-love story between an American public relations expert and a mafia hitman. Giulio wants to be a good man and that means sending Zahra home before she gets any more involved with him but Zahra is ready to choose her own destiny.
There are some other connections between characters, as the first story in the series is a short novella (with an unfinished story) that details an encounter between Zahra’s cousin Shae and Giulio’s boss Salvatore, and I definitely plan to read their eventual HEA. Plus Zahra’s sister Zoe (who had warned Zahra about her ex in the first place) is planning a trip to Italy to find her sister so clearly there is something in the works there. The Hitman is a wholly enjoyable laugh-out-loud romance with two really interesting characters, lots of hot sex, plenty of action, and an Italian setting perfect for an armchair adventure.
Buy it at: Amazon
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I'm a biochemist and a married mother of two. Reading has been my hobby since grade school, and I've been a fan of the romance genre since I was a teenager. Sharing my love of good books by writing reviews is a recent passion of mine, but one which is richly rewarding.
|Review Date:||August 29, 2020|
|Book Type:||Contemporary Romance|
|Review Tags:||AoC | assassin | interracial romance | Italy | mafia | Plus size heroine | PoC|
Great book! However, I don’t believe it falls in the plus size category. And I read it specifically looking to read a book featuring a plus size heroine.
This entire thread has been fascinating and informative. Whether or not the book is worth reading, the discussion it has sparked has been great. This is what I love about community. Thanks.
I agree. I learn so much at AAR from others. <3
Me too. AAR is great about allowing stimulating relevant discussion and debate as long as we treat each other with respect (which we should do anyway). :)
Agreed! I will often read the comments under a book I haven’t read or don’t plan to read because the discussions are so interesting.
For me, a realistic hired killer is like Bronn in A Song of Ice and Fire. His employer says, “tell me, Bronn, if I ordered you to kill an infant, a baby girl in her mother’s arms, would you do it without question?”
“Without question? No.” Bronn rubs his thumb and forefinger together. “I’d ask how much.”
No excuses or justifications that the only people he kills are bad people (and who gets to define badness?). He has a job, so as long as the reward outweighs the risk, he does his job. Of course, even in the gritty world of ASoIaF, people recognize him as an amoral murderer. But I prefer him to a contract killer who I’m supposed to find heroic.
Here’s a thing about Bronn–he was able to be developed over thousands of pages. I find morally iffy characters much more interesting that one note villains. (I’m currently watching A Place to Call Home and the villain on that show, Regina, is so cartoonishly and often inexplicably evil that it’s dull.) But I like to understand those gray zone characters and usually, do that, I need to be able to spend time with them. Most romances are just too short for me to be able to develop empathy for those who do very bad things.
Keep watching. Regina becomes more nuanced as the show goes on, although Sir Richard remains a one-note villain (although maybe not so unrealistic when I think of the way powerful men in Real Life view themselves as entitled). Despite flaws such as this, I thought “A Place to Call Home” was one of the best miniseries I’d seen in a long time.
We will. We just watched a very depressing episode where Regina and George marry. I really do loathe her and Sir Richard. But we love the show.
Bronn is a great character and GRRM has a way of making a reader examine uncomfortable ideas. For instance, why is it OK for the “great knights” to ruthlessly kill on behalf of their houses (ultimately to gain wealth and power) but Bronn, who is largely self made is looked down on for “killing for money” and is seen as without honor.
GRRM’s best work is delving into all those grey areas. Jaime Lannister for instance.
Those of you who point out the questionable–at best–values that endorsed sexism, racism, and prejudice and the conformity of so many past movies are so right. However, when I watch TV and movies, I am struck by our violence and our vulgarity. Might is a cheap answer too often. Of course, no culture is just one thing, and our culture and beliefs are hardly unified. I love old movies for lots of reasons, among which is a humanity in the best of them that I find missing in our big hits.
I used to have no problem in romances with men of violence. As a matter of fact, I attempted to reread a novel I liked a lot four years ago. The hero strangles the pickpocket who knocked the heroine off her feet and in real life, would have given her a concussion. Interestingly, the author tossed off the hero’s murder in one sentence. Its brevity showed its lack of importance to her. I stopped rereading.
Maybe my change in tastes just reflects my getting older, but I think it’s bigger than that.
“However, when I watch TV and movies, I am struck by our violence and our vulgarity…Of course, no culture is just one thing, and our culture and beliefs are hardly unified.”
Absolutely. There were certainly nice elements of culture then and not-so-nice elements of culture now. As for old movies, there are quite a few I enjoy. But overall, I’m glad we live in the post-Hayes code, internet age. At least we have access to old films on DVD, BluRay, and streaming services if we want to take a trip into an era of less vulgar fare. And those of us who want the sex, violence, drugs, and whatever else have options too.
As for violence and vulgarity in media today, that’s definitely true. I saw an old Dick Cavett interview of Groucho Marx the other day from the 1970s where Marx expressed his disappointment with the explicit direction films were moving. He predicted- incorrectly so far- that people would get tired of seeing unabashed smut on screen and clamor for a return to more wholesome fare. Of course, a lot of YouTube commenters were quick to jump on him for hypocrisy, saying a lot of his material was suggestive. But I get the point good old Groucho was making. His jokes were sometimes naughty, but they were nothing compared to the outright sexual content he was criticizing.
And me? I tend to be both picky and wildly eclectic in my media tastes. I’m just as likely to watch the sweet and wholesome movie Miss Potter (it really is lovely, check it out if you haven’t already!) as I am to watch the rather sad and sordid Midnight Cowboy. It makes me glad I live in a time and place where I have the freedom to watch and enjoy both, even if one or the other doesn’t suit someone else’s taste.
Yes, “Miss Potter” was delightful. In turn, have you seen the wonderful ”
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day ?
No, I haven’t heard of it. Thanks for the rec. :)
Miss Pettigrew is an absolute delight and romantic in the best way.
Just put a hold on it at the library; looking forward to it. :)
It used to be that movies, tv, and even novels reinforced values that were good for society. Then, the antihero came into fashion and we’ve seen–and viewed with sympathy, understanding, and even approval–psychopaths who torture and kill people. “The Hit Man” is just one more example, excused by “I kill only bad people.” Who defines “bad people”? This excuse (“Bad people”) has been used for centuries to kill witches, uppity Negroes (called then), “scolds,” Jews. Just substitute whoever the enemy is.
And Dabney, your friends’ “reframing” the murder of Floyd, taken one step further, means that my kneeling on your neck and causing you to stop breathing doesn’t count because hey, we are all going to die anyway. What difference is it, if you die now, or in five minutes, or in fifty years? You were going to die anyway.
“It used to be that movies, tv, and even novels reinforced values that were good for society.”
I see what you’re saying, Lynda X, but quite a few of those “values” wouldn’t pass muster today. Take for example, your average Western- of which there were an incredible number. Manifest destiny is often the “value” portrayed; a viewer on a steady diet of John Wayne and his cohorts would never know that about 25% of cowboys were black; and American Indians were almost always cast somewhere between “noble savages” and “hostile enemies.”
Or look at 1950s movies and TV shows that steered female characters to the hearth and home, often portraying homemaking as the only or ultimate option for respectable women. Certainly nothing wrong with homemaking and housewifery, but also not the only work of value.
What about media that touted the supposed glories of young men marching off to wars they had no part in creating? I could go on and on.
The antihero, I believe, rose in opposition to values that could be just as damaging for society. Unfortunately, it was a case of the pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other.
That seems on point to me.
I’m not sure TV or movies were ever good places to find moral value, but I do think it’s murkier than ever. This is what I mean by getting desensitized. I’ve gone back and rewatched the police procedurals that have been so popular through the past 20 years,and I am now appalled at the vigilante-ism present in so many, even the humorous shows. The viewers are asked to “wink-wink, nod-nod” at our heroes abusing suspects and doing illegal things for the “right” reason. Bending rules because “the scumbag needed to be taken off the street” looks righteous, until you can’t trust the people making these decisions. But this has been the meat and bread of TV and movies, and I think we as a country have some to forget that there are laws for a reason a and police are NOT judge and jury. I used to love these shows, now I can’t watch them without feeling a little ill.
“I’m not sure TV or movies were ever good places to find moral value, but I do think it’s murkier than ever.”
I think murky morals in media come and go in waves according to what’s going on in the culture at large. Look at pre-code cinema from 1929 to 1934, for example. A lot of those movies are surprisingly dark, sexually frank, and all but root for the bank robbers and gangsters. Antiheroes are nothing new, and appealed to a lot of people on the down and out during the Great Depression.
Contrast this with the often nauseatingly squeaky clean films of the 1950s and early 1960s, which were made in a more financially stable time. Yes, the Hayes Code and McCarthyism/Communism scares shaped most of the plots, but I bet a large number of viewers approved of the comfortable don’t-rock-the-boat/keep-the-status-quo narrative after two depressions and two world wars lingering in not-so-distant memory.
Then you have the 60s and 70s where a lot of political liberation movements popped up at once coupled with the Vietnam War and a recession. Suddenly, antiheroes looked attractive again because people got sick and tired of the status quo and getting sent off to die in a damn fool war in droves.
Incidentally, I think the 1970s as a decade had some of the best films ever made in terms of storytelling and overall entertainment value. With the Hayes Code abolished in 1968, and PC culture not really a thing yet, filmmakers were able to explore a variety of topics, subcultures, beliefs, and narratives without a censor board breathing down their necks or special interest groups rallying for them to be silenced. (Not saying it didn’t happen, but there was definitely a newfound freedom in storytelling that’s sadly missing today.) Although many of these films were chockfull of vigilantes, sympathetic gangsters, and dirty cops, there was a raw, artistic, unapologetic energy to them. I’ve noticed that a lot of 1970s films didn’t look like they were trying to ram a point down viewer’s throats or pander to the easily offended. Filmmakers seemed to know their job was to tell riveting stories rather than push a message, at least overtly. There are so many entries from that decade that I look at today and say, “Holy cow. You could not have made that movie today.” And what a pity. Because I think a story should be allowed to be just a story without having to impart some moral message.
And, of course, anything that offends us, we don’t have to watch (or read, as the case may be). :)
Thank you for the film history lesson! You delved much deeper and obviously much more knowledgeably into film/TV history than i could. On a much more superficial level, I was recounting anecdotal evidence from my own viewing. With the current climate I am definitely not comfortable vigilante-ism in a person, fictional character or otherwise. Obviously, this is a personal opinion. But it has less to do with history as it does with the very jarring present.
You’re welcome! I’m kind of a nerd like that. :)
I definitely get what you’re saying about current goings-on though.
I would like to add the idea that it may not be as terrible as it seems to have morally wrong or ambiguous characters so prominently displayed, as it serves (or should, anyway) as a reminder that monsters aren’t real, but humans are and they can and do awful, monstrous things.
That’s an interesting perspective, never thought of it that way.
For another interesting note, I remember Leslie McFarlane, who wrote about 20 of the original Hardy Boys mysteries back in the 1930s, said that in adventure magazines villains always got to have more fun than the tight-laced heroes because of stringent moral codes of the time. Sure, he conceded that the villain had to get his comeuppance, but at least he got to drink, smoke, rabble rouse, have sex, and kick the hero in the balls first whereas the hero had to be an insufferable Puritan who couldn’t do any better in a fight than a right cross. :)
That’s certainly less true today, but traces of it linger. I think a big part of the appeal regarding antiheroes is they get to be unabashed bad boys, which can make for a fun ride. But in fiction only, if you please. :)
OK. Here goes.
Recently, several conservative friends of mine posted that because George Floyd had high levels of fentanyl in his system, his death wasn’t murder because the fentanyl might have/would have killed him. (And yes, I do have conservative friends on Facebook. There, as here, I’m interested in the perspectives of those who see the world differently than I do.)
I find this argument morally bankrupt. If I encounter you in a park and feel threatened by you and you are sitting on a park bench jammed to the gills with opiates and if I’d just walked by you you’d have died on your own, but I shoot you I not the opiates have morally and actually caused your death.
The whole hitman argument–I kill bad people–is too ethically iffy for me to buy. The hero in the latest Maria Vale is an ex-hitman and I’m finding it really hard to not see that as a flaw I, in my personal preferences a a reader, can’t get past.
What’s interesting to me is that I didn’t used to feel this way. I love Carolyn Crane’s Associates series and that whole lot are killers. And I still can accept killers whose acts save the world–if the bad guy is, for example, about to set off a nuclear bomb for fun (this is the wish of one of Crane’s villains), you need to be taken out.
But someone whose career is murder, I can no longer find them heroic.
This is just me and I don’t condemn anyone who enjoys these stories. I’m happily able to read forced seduction tropes without being morally affronted, something that many of our readers can no longer do. This is not a rant. It’s something I am genuinely curious about.
Do those who love these heroes believe that, at heart, they are good? Forgivable? It doesn’t matter because the stories are interesting?
Agree with you, Dabney. It’s a step too far far me to accept a contract killer as a romance hero. I find it a tad tasteless.
It’s an interesting thing–for me it’s not tasteless, it’s just not something that works for me at this point in my life. I’ve found, as I age, I value life intrinsically more than I did when I was younger. Secret baby plots didn’t bother me at all when I was younger–now they are almost always problematic for me because I think the dad has a right to know.
I think what calls to us changes and that’s just fine!
I remember enjoying Agnes and the Hitman years ago,although I don’t remember the story. I also enjoyed the non-funny Death Angel by Linda Howard. That one sees a reforming hitman, so I think it was a little easier to go with it. But generally I am not comfortable with making sympathetic characters out of such a souless occupation.
I think we also have to look closely at so many alpha male characters who stay just right of the law, such as Anne Stuart’s heroes in the ICE series, and so many more. These characters are often the legal or acceptable version of hitmen, and they bother me just as much, even when I’ve enjoyed the books. I decided years ago to stay away from this particular moral ambiguity and no longer read books with these types of heroes. I’m not comfortable with myself when I do, and while I don’t mind being challenged in my reading, I don’t want to be desensitized.
I guess I’d say each reader has to do and read what give them joy. If Anne Stuart’s heroes give you joy, that’s lovely. If they make you uncomfortable, that’s fine too.
I haven’t reread the ICE books in a long time and I used to reread them regularly. I now prefer her historicals.
Of course people should read what brings them joy. I was developing on your original post about the moral ambiguity of hitmen as heroes, noting that my own tastes have changed over the past 10 years. I eschew violence and horror in movies and books because I do not find it enjoyable, no matter how good the story. My husband and oldest daughter have different tastes. It’s just a different comfort zone.
I tend to be a lot more forgiving when it comes to erotica starring antiheroes than romances, maybe because erotica promises a different kind of fantasy than romance. To me, romance should feel, well, romantic. Characters need to have a believable HEA, which I think would be difficult (to say the least) marrying into a crime family.
With erotica, on the other hand, I am a lot more open to bad guys getting it on- whether with each other or some savvy miss. Gangsters have sex, so let them screw their way through the pages of their depraved life. I’d just rather not see them as hero material in something explicitly marketed as a romance. I’m also okay with gangsters as main characters in gangster books (kind of a given) and certain types of thrillers (a la Elmore Leonard or Quentin Tarantino). But romance? No thank you.
On a side note, I’ve noticed that black women with Italian men is a popular niche pairing right now. I’m not sure why, but thought it was an interesting tidbit to bring up. Mafia romances and erotica in general are also popular. I’ve also seen an increase in bratva (Russian mafia) works. The trends are certainly interesting to watch.
I think it’s interesting that the idea of Italian Mafia is so entrenched even though in news and life we rarely if ever hear about it any more, particularly the “Five Families” since Gotti’s rise and fall.
Since “The Godfather” in book and films romanticized the idea of the Italian Mafia (with Scorsese elaborating on the legacy and the Sopranos bringing it back into popularity) it’s culturally acceptable to write an “Italian hit man” as a romance hero in a way a Colombian Cartel hit man surely wouldn’t be.
I also think it’s interesting that in a time of utter awareness about being politically correct and avoiding stereotypes about most ethnicities, it’s still fine for the heroine to assume the hero is an “Italian gigolo” and for him to turn out to be a mafia hitman. Talk about stereotypes!
Nan- last year’s movie “The Kitchen” set in Hell’s Kitchen of the late 70’s and dealing with the Italian and Irish Mobs there had Tiffany Haddish cast as the wife of a leader of the Irish Mob. Maybe it inspired some romance writers?
You nailed it. Yes to all of this. I’ve noted before that Italians are one of the last ethnic groups that people can get away with stereotyping so negatively without significant backlash. One reason for this, I believe, is because Italians got lumped in with Anglo-Saxons and other “white” ethnic groups and therefore can’t make convincing claims about being persecuted by the media. Apparently, I’m not the only person to come to this conclusion. This article by Dr. Christopher Binetti is quite interesting on the subject: https://www.smerconish.com/news/2019/5/23/how-italian-americans-can-be-considered-people-of-color. I forget who it was who said something like, “Italians: brown enough to kick around, white enough to pretend you’re not being racist while doing it.” Sounds about right.
There are certainly modern-day prejudices as well. For example, I enjoy listening to trends forecaster Gerald Celente (okay, so he’s a professional doom and gloomer and a bit wild, but a lot of fun). He wrote a nice memoir about his sweet and sassy relationship with his “Zizi” (auntie), entitled What Zizi Gave Honeyboy. In addition to a whole chapter about how hurt Zizi and her family felt back in the 1950s when Italians were the bad guys in every dang show, Gerald recalled an incident in the 2010s when a friend of his went to a posh country club, only to get pulled aside by one of the members who basically said, “Oh, you’ll love our country club. One of the best things about it is there are no Italians.” In the 2010s. Think about that. Courtney Milan thinks she has grievances based on a book published more than 20 years ago? Give me a break.
As for Martin Scorsese, I remember he got asked once at an interview what he would say if someone accused him of perpetuating these Italian gangster stereotypes in his films. And he basically said (paraphrase from memory), “Look, I grew up in a different time period where Italian gangsters really did run the town where I grew up. I tell those stories because they were an interesting aspect of my childhood. But of course most Italians were decent people who had nothing to do with it. Even so, the gangsters were there as part of the cultural landscape.”
Also interesting are the mixed attitudes toward Italian gangster stories in Italy. The classics like The Godfather have been dubbed a couple of times, and the films play on their television stations occasionally. The Czech-produced Mafia II, considered an excellent story-based open world video game, had harsh criticism in Italy but also big fans. There are several long-running popular network and cable TV mafia series in Italy as well that actually come from the country.
Having said all this, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with entertaining, stereotypical stories. In that same vein, equal opportunity offenders often make the best comedians. But if the left is going to cry racism, they should at least be consistent about it. I honestly don’t want to hear any squawking about Colombian cartel hitmen romance protagonists if they are going to be silent and/or supportive about Italian gigolos turned mafiosi. Better yet, maybe they should be less uptight overall and just leave storytellers alone to tell stories. Or write stories of their own. There’s a thought…
P.S. Shameless plug alert for your entertainment: I actually wrote a femdom erotic short story for kicks about this fearsome Las Vegas Italian gangster who visits his mistress- only to get a severe spanking with a ping pong paddle over her knee for being such a bad, bad boy. It had some borrows in Italy, so make of that what you will. Oddly enough, it’s the only femdom mafia erotica I’ve ever seen! I’m telling you, Chrisreader, some things just have to be written. Nothing personal, of course, just business. ;-)
LOL Nan, you have to follow your muse! I think there are a few groups that can still be stereotyped pretty freely now, Italians, French and Irish/Scottish/English. I think Russians also. They’ve kind of picked up the “mafia” label as well.
I think the reason is that (with the exception of Russians perhaps) none of these nationalities or ethnicities are seen as being discriminated against any more in the US. I’ve heard of some lingering anti-Italian feelings, but nothing across the board or major. (Unless you count having to listen to people do bad Italian accents and say “bada boom bada bing” or “forgeddaboutit”. Yep, heard those several times. Along with the requisite mafia jokes.) But no one I know of my age group has ever said they felt like they were discriminated against trying to get a job or an apartment etc. Unlike people of my parents or particularly my grandparents’ generation where stories abound of them being told to “go away” when they tried to buy something or do something. Now when the second or third generations have no accents and there has been so much Catholic mixing it’s hard to say what ethnicity anyone is anymore without knowing a last name. I have heard of some country club level snobbery as you mention but nothing life changing.
“I have heard of some country club level snobbery as you mention but nothing life changing.” True, true. Things have gotten better across the board for pretty much everyone, I think. And thank goodness for that.
No, you’re right. Things aren’t perfect. And I’d rather not play into what I like to call “oppression Olympics,” if I can avoid it. As for discrimination, unless someone gets caught in the act, discrimination based on race, sex, ethnic origin, etc. can be difficult to prove these days. Examples definitely exist, as we’ve seen in recent news items. Overall though, I’d say things have definitely improved as a whole from say the mid-1960s onward. Outside of some really vocal open racists who mostly grumble online these days (thank God!), you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t want a person of X race or Y ethnicity to eat in their restaurants. (Everybody’s money is green, right?) The cultural landscape and attitudes have changed that much in a relatively short period of time. Incredible, really.
But I also find it interesting that quite a few members of so-called minority groups are more than a bit disgusted and find it patronizing that they are supposed to believe they are being systemically discriminated against in 21st century America. For example, a lot of black Africans I have met or heard from think the idea of insidious, widespread anti-black discrimination in America is ludicrous- particularly when compared to their home countries where living in the next town over makes you a “barbarian” and subject to harsh discrimination and sometimes violence. It’s interesting how perspectives vary so much based on life experiences.
None of this is to say racism doesn’t exist anymore in America. It absolutely does. But thankfully, a lot of it (not all!) has been pushed into the shadows compared to past decades. One place where I hear racism is alive and well is in prison and gang culture. But that’s a subject for another time…
I think one of the things that has helped the most with making people less prejudiced over the years is the continued integration of communities.
It’s a lot harder to instill racism or hatred when the “other” group people talk against includes your nice neighbor or your friend from school.
The current trend emerging among some groups to want to separate themselves is very disturbing to me. I just read an article that said our schools are less integrated now than they were 30 years ago and that’s upsetting to read.
“The current trend emerging among some groups to want to separate themselves is very disturbing to me.” I think the urge to segregate becomes stronger in shaky economic situations as opposed to stable ones. For example, if you have lots of small businesses and low government corruption, it’s really to your benefit to at least pretend you want to get along with everyone because you stand to lose money if you don’t. And heck, you may find that you actually like your neighbor and/or fellow small business owner. I won’t go as far as to say economics is the only factor, but it can be a big one. Contrast this with areas plagued by high poverty and high levels of corruption. In such a system, it’s not to your benefit to open your arms to everyone. Scarcity and financial insecurity are more likely to make people behave in a primitive, tribal manner. Look at any war in history. I don’t think most people naturally want to hurt or kill others, but in a time of severe economic hardship, it’s really easy for highly stressed, starving people as a group to be led down the path of scapegoating some other group in a misguided effort to better their own lives. It’s no accident that wars tend to come off of the heels of economic depressions and/or political strife. They’re a great distraction for politicians who can whip their citizens into a patriotic fervor to prevent revolt or having to take responsibility for policies that caused the problems in the first place. Or look at situations like prisons. Prisons are hostile environments by their very nature of confinement. The high stress, low freedom, poverty (prisoners are lucky if they make 25 cents per hour), and an atmosphere steeped in crime by definition make for an explosive racial situation. These problems can’t be solved by forced integration without tackling underlying causes. If anything, there would be an explosion of violence. This is especially true considering gangs tend to be race, ethnic, and/or subculture based, and guess who winds up in prison? A similar thing happened with public school integration. Sure, you can argue times are different now, but a generation of kids and teachers had to suffer emotional and sometimes physical harm because of poor execution of the concept. I know a few people who experienced that turbulent time as either students or teachers and have heard stories that would horrify a combat veteran. I’m not saying, “Yay for segregation,” but it’s important to remember how well-intentioned policies can have disastrous consequences if not handled with care. “I just read an article that said our schools are less integrated now than they were 30 years ago and that’s upsetting to read.” I think I read that article too. The problem is, few people ask why there’s a widespread movement to re-segregate in the first place. As far as I’m concerned, just chalking it up to old-fashioned racism doesn’t cut it. According to Dr. Walter Williams, economics professor at George Mason University, both black and white families who can afford it are fleeing major cities for the suburbs in droves: https://www.djournal.com/opinion/walter-williams-the-true-plight-of-black-americans/article_f9c2c51f-4771-51a0-9a32-45505d8dbd73.html. When certain major cities are literally on fire and murder rates are way up, can anyone really blame people for leaving? Unfortunately, the poor (which often includes racial and ethnic minorities) can’t afford to make the choice to flee to a safer area. And people who manage to get out of high-crime areas often get called “racists” or what-have-you just for wanting safer schools and neighborhoods for their kids. Not a good situation for anyone by a long shot. In short, of course I want people to get along, but I’d also like people to examine some of the serious underlying issues that lead to trends like the one you mentioned. It’s unfortunately not as simple as making people- whether literally or figuratively- hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” Or even worse, causing resentment by playing the blame game instead of addressing serious problems that make people behave more tribally in the first place. Unfortunately, I think the increasingly knee-jerk reaction to cry “racism!” about every little thing shuts down dialogue and problem solving in favor of fostering a toxic “us” vs “them” mentality. And then, we’re right back to where we started. Thank goodness we have a platform like AAR where respectful discussion is encouraged rather than stomped on and shut down. If more of the internet were like this site, maybe more… Read more »
I agree, Dabney. A hired murderer? Sorry, that’s more than I can take.
That bit about George Floyd makes me incandescent with rage. Yikes.
You bring up some really interesting points about the limits of morality in fiction. Do you think it’s harder to justify it in romance than other genres?
I don’t know that I’ve read any hitman romances – I might give this one a shot, hot sex sounds like a fun time – but I have read mercenary/private security protags and it never really bothered me. I think I subconsciously buy in to it being fictional. He’s not -really- killing anyone, so it’s fine. But that sounds problematic too so I’m going to dig deeper. I also think there’s //talk// of being a killer for hire in these books but they don’t really show it unless it’s in service to the safety of the heroine.
It would certainly be jarring to have the protag get a murder assignment, go off and kill them, and come home to the heroine and talk casually about his day at work, wouldn’t it?
That wouldn’t work for me!
I’ve said it before, but I think readers of historical romance will accept behavior that many would find completely unacceptable in a contemporary romance. Making the people and their actions current and more relatable/understandable to the reader is surely more likely to turn off a contemporary romance reader.
It’s very easy to see how the actions and behavior of a modern hero can strike a nerve and make them too real to be enjoyable. How many people wouldn’t blink an eye at a historical romance hero shooting a Stagecoach robber or highwayman who attacked the heroine or himself but would put down a book where a modern hero did it to a carjacker or mugger?
I think there are lots of things I’ve encountered in a contemporary romance that just strikes that nerve, hits too close to home or seems applicable to a real life situation.
I tend to take things on a case by case basis. I’ve read some MC books where it’s clear the hero does “wet work” on behalf of the MC and others like the Anne Stuart books where the guys are like “licensed to kill” 007 agents or Linda Howard novels where they are flat out assassins. If a hero is too disengaged and unfeeling I can’t connect to them which is why I never got into the ICE books people loved. I read a couple and they just didn’t move me at all. I’m far more likely to be sympathetic to a modern character who feels too much and got involved in a bad lifestyle because they were brought up that way and/or were born into the life or had no other choices. I find it hard to warm up to completely unfeeling heroes.
I try to be a very quiet voice in politics, but based on some of the responses to your post feel the need to speak up for another aspect of conservative thought. For the conservatives I know, the main concern is that Floyd has become a hero in death. Even though his life seems to read, on the surface at least, more like the hitmen we are discussing and pretty much condemning! I think many of my friends (fb and irl) search for reasons – not to justify his death, but to try to articulate their incomprehension that people would consider him a good man, one worth causing additional deaths and ongoing months-long destruction over. Personally, I was sickened at his death. But I’ve also been disturbed — and scared/alarmed/upset/saddened — at all the death and destruction I’ve seen since.
It’s interesting that you try to bring up the question of what makes a hitman hero under these circumstances…redeemable. I found Death Angel (I think that was the title) by Linda Howard interesting because he was redeemed by his job failure and then his love for the heroine. But generally I found that popular MC and hitman books were DNF for me. This subgenre and I don’t mix.
I will be interested to see if/how the subgenre of police heroes continues to sell. I really enjoy authors like Janice Kay Johnson, Laura Griffin, JD Robb/Nora Roberts, etc.
Thank you for your perspective.
One thing I have struggled with my whole life is what kinds of lives is it OK to to take for some other cause. I’m pro-choice, pro-child, anti-death penalty, pro assisted suicide. There are moral contradictions in my views and yet they make ethical sense to me.
For me personally, it doesn’t matter who Floyd was–I don’t want a society where the police are overly aggressive towards those who do not present a real and present danger to them or others. I fully believe Floyd’s death–and the many others the police and our overly armed populace take–are profoundly morally wrong. At the same time, I do not support riots, non-peaceful protests. Nor do I believe in defunding the police.
I think police romances, military romances, etc… will continue to sell as long as the leads make it clear to readers that they, the heroes, are aware of the moral compromises that they face and make ones that people feel are life-sustaining rather than life-destroying. One reason Death Angel works is that Simon, the hitman, has a very clear ethical framework that grows stronger and stronger over the book. He realizes that he owes restitution, first to Drea and then to the world, and acts on it. Additionally, Howard does a superb job of making the reader consider what the choices are when truly evil people–Drea’s ex, for example–aren’t stopped. Caroline Crane does that as well.
This really has been an enlightening and lively conversation. Again, thank you for your perspective!
I think it’s important to remember that it’s not George Floyd *alone*. He is “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. I have had experience with this in the former Soviet Union – sometimes the trigger seems incomprehensible but it’s because it sits on top of the oppressive system and the issues finally boil over.
As one of my black friends pointed out to me, it’s not that George Floyd is a hero. It’s that when they arrested Dylan Roof, after mass shooting at a black church, they somehow managed to do this without violence and even take him for a hamburger. Or, in numbers, the fact that the rate of police killings is 31 per million for black people and 13 per million for white people.
I am afraid of violence and I am worried where this is going, but I also see it as a pattern that I am familiar with: an anger of an oppressed group spilling out, even if an individual case does not seem to merit it. People then do things that that I don’t support – yet I understand why they do it when the more peaceful forms of protest failed.
I think redemption narratives make sense in romance. They go all the way to the biblical stories – whether you take the thief on the cross, or Paul who was present at the execution of Stephen. These stories can be really powerful. I have also seen assassins that work for me – like Gin Bianco in the elemental assassin series, where she goes against a super corrupt system. Or the most recent Ilona Andrews where Leon kills people because that’s how house warfare works but then he needs time to recover from this because life is never to be taken lightly.
There’s also a very interesting series from Thomas Perry where Jane Whitfield, the main character, rescues people where law fails. There is a *lot* of violence and as series goes on her choices become more morally ambiguous. But I have enjoyed that because she faces them clearly and does not pretend that the situations are black and white.
I do like characters who weigh what they are doing and who move towards better.
You are 100% correct that it’s often “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and that the “victim” of the offense can be someone that victimized someone else. As my Mom always put it to me “Two wrongs don’t make a right”.
Everyone knows about the “Miranda warning” or your “Miranda rights” from watching TV -it’s how the police must tell a person when they are under arrest that “You have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney…”.
The name “Miranda” comes from the last name of a man arrested who was not informed of his rights and it was ruled his confession was inadmissible. He was not only an armed robber but a kidnapper and rapist of a mentally disabled woman. (luckily they were able to retry and convict him later). But just because he did wrong, it didn’t excuse the police from different wrongdoing.
I am not however, in favor of snap judgements, rush to judgements or political grandstanding by anyone. No one should be tried in the media. All the tapes, witnesses and evidence needs to be collected and a fair investigation and judicial proceedings need to be held so that everything is out in the open and proper and everyone can see that justice is eventually carried out. Rushing just leads to problems down the line and sentences being overturned.
Playing “spot the re-used cover image” – this one was on L.J. Hayward’s When Death Frees the Devil :)
I’m not up to that book yet – I’ve read the first one and the 3 novellas and the others are waiting to be read.
Too many books and not enough time……………………
Gah, that’s SUCH a great series! I miss the crazy bastard… ;)
Oooh, this sounds fun!