In her blog titled Stuart’s Coat, Sara’s Spectacles, and Jessica’s Glove , Sandy talked about “those hit-you-in-the-heart scenes. The kind you remember. The kind you share with other readers who very often respond “Yes!” The kind that make you feel what the characters are feeling.” In other words, the magic moments, the ones that define a love story.
Recently I’ve run across the opposite of the magic moment. This is a scene in which an author, with just a few lines, turns you against her hero or heroine. It’s an act or statement that makes you wish the other party would get with someone else, anyone else. It’s the I-can’t-get-over-what-just-happened blues. It can ruin a good book or at the very least, ruin the HEA.
They vary in type of course. My least favorite is the act of malice. I first came across such a moment in the Stephanie Plum series. At the very start of the popular love triangle, in One for the Money . For those unfamiliar with the series, unemployed Stephanie has just become a bounty hunter in a desperate attempt to evade eviction. Joe Morelli, with whom she has an interestingly convoluted history, is one of the men she is meant to bring in. They engage in numerous sparring matches, most of them funny till the moment Joe leaves Stephanie in a very compromising position, forcing her to call for help while fully naked. It crossed a line for me. The action was meant to humiliate. It was cruel. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen the next time Joe got really mad at Steph. A bit of slapping around? I rooted for Ranger in the romance department from that moment on.
Another moment that ruins things for me is the petty act. Some small, mean spirited action that involves a nasty bit of one-ups- man-ship. For me, that moment came when Eric, of the Sookie Stackhouse series, tells Sookie the secret of Bill and the Queen. Sookie would have found out anyway but Eric chooses to tell her this at one of the worst possible times. While she is in a hospital, physically and mentally harmed already. It causes the maximum amount of anguish conceivable. This seemed so seventh grade to me, so beneath what a thousand year old powerful being should do, that it ruined Eric as a romantic hero for me. I know many root for him to be “the one” for Sookie but that moment will forever leave me cold to their love. And waiting for the next moment this grown man/vampire feels like acting thirteen.
The truly too stupid to live(TSTL) moment is one that happens far too often in romance. Most recently I encountered it in Sex, Lies and Valentines. When FBI Agent Danita Cruz goes on an undercover assignment, she apparently doesn’t bother with some kind of plausible cover. Instead, she tries to throw villains off her tail by purring a convoluted work history and background at them, figuring the combination of beauty, ditz and cleavage will have them thinking of other things. Seriously? I can buy an arms dealer falling for blue eyes and double D’s but not to the point that he wouldn’t do a simple background check. Especially not if the person he was talking to couldn’t answer simple questions like “What do you do for a living?” and “Where do you live?”. I was actually offended by this scene. Had the author not watched one moment of TV? Had she missed the crucial moments of MI-5 Season One when an agent tried this and tragically failed?
The final moment that can ruin a character for me is the selfish moment. It’s an act that shows that thinking beyond themselves just isn’t something they are going to be doing a lot of. I love Rachel Gibson but in Lola Carlyle Reveals All, there is a moment that yanked me out of the story a bit. After all their adventures together, all the love and loyalty shown by Max, Lola asks him to leave his job for her. It flew in the face of every pop-psychiatrist’s advice against changing your loved one and also just came across as petty. It had an “I mostly love you, let’s just start working on what I don’t” feel to it. That moment took a lot of the glow out of this particular book for me.
So what about you? Are there particular scenes or moments that just yank you out of the story? Any particular action that made you dislike a hero or heroine?
– Maggie Boyd