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C11P66 – Nobody Listens

C11P66 – Nobody Listens published on 12 Comments on C11P66 – Nobody Listens

Poor Pakku. The world is constantly letting even your most basic expectations down.

Although sometimes, it’s good to have something that challenges one’s expectations.

I recently finished reading the book Ash by Malinda Lo. It’s a retelling of Cinderella, so naturally there were a lot of expectations going in just based on knowing that. And…well…dread. Dread, because as a general rule, I hate romance. And Cinderella is that quintessential romantic story that highlights a lot of what I despise ABOUT romance.

Yet this book made me completely re-think my stance, because I quite ENJOYED the romance in its pages! Which made me wonder: Is it not romance that I’ve hated all this time, but the way it is typically portrayed?

The qualities I’ve come to associate with romance are opposite to what I consider love. Love is built on trust and mutual acceptance. Love is full of affection and respect that grows over time. Love challenges the people in it to become better, and gives them the support they need to grow into the best version of themselves.

Whereas romance…romance I’ve typically seen portrayed as something that is built on lies, usually for the sake of forced drama. Where both parties try to be something they’re not to please the other. Where there is very little agency on either side, so wrapped up in the illusions of Love At First Sight that they’ll simply DIE if they can’t be together FOREVER with this stranger. Where nobody asks before they kiss someone else. Where the word “No, not interested” means “Just try harder to woo me, my dislike of you will fade as you repeatedly ignore and disrespect my wishes not to be pursued.”

Ash does not have that kind of romance. Ash instead has a gradually formed friendship, which develops over shared interests in fairy tales and nature and an appreciation of skill, which blossoms into love. While some things are kept as secrets between the two, there are never outright lies. One knows that there is something wrong, but respects that the other must face their trial alone. There is no unwanted rescuing. There is acceptance, and faith, and respect, and I really liked reading it.

The book as a whole was a fairly slow read, but in a pleasant way that made it easy to pick up and easy to put down. It wasn’t a “Grip you by the teeth and drag you on into the early hours of the morning” kind of read. More sedate and meandering than that. Which sometimes can be a refreshing change, when the world itself gets hectic.

Overall, “refreshing” would probably be the word I would use to describe this book. Refreshing in its treatment of romance, of fairies, and of a fairy tale I’d thought I’d lost interest in.

Sometimes, it’s good to have an expectation challenged.

Have you had any expectations be challenged in a positive way?


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LOL he’s a bit Naive isn’t he? I didn’t really think he was going to hang out myself!

Pakku has very specific convictions. He’d never have expected someone like Una to have stayed (unless she specifically agreed to do so), because Una has already shown a tendency to violate Guild Law. Whereas this man, whatever his past, is an Auditor. Which means, clearly, that he holds himself to the same standards that Pakku holds himself. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be an Auditor.

Poor Pakku. No, people don’t ever listen, I’m sorry.

Robin, I really think you should read two series. The first is the Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs – awesome urban fantasies, with one of the most amazing romance subplots I’ve ever read. The main character constantly sticks up for her own agency, and the guy she eventually chooses (and marries!) is a very respectful, interesting character. They have shared interests, and marriage isn’t portrayed as perfectly happy-ever-after, but something that they have to work at in the face of adversity. A lot of series with a heavy romantic subplot lose interest after the pairing gets together but the Mercy books have only gotten more interesting, partially because the subplot isn’t the be-all and end-all, but partially because the romance hasn’t gone stale.

The other series is the Tinker books by Wen Spencer. There’s a bit more ‘quick’ romance in those, but at the same time, they all seem to be portrayed quite respectfully as well. It’s interesting because throughout the first book, the character kind of gets in over her head, not really understanding the customs she’s accepting or saying yes to, which leads her to make some big mistakes. Unlike other books, though, she’s shown dealing iwtih the consequences of those mistakes – and also, when the person she ends up with realizes she’s mde those mistakes, that she didn’t understand what she was saying/doing, he STOPPED and BACKED OFF, always making sure after that that she understood everything he was saying and doing clearly before he accepted a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from her. In the end, it’s explicitly described as one of the things that causes her to fall even deeper in love with him, because he respected her choices.

I will say that there are events in both series that are somewhat triggering as far as sexual assault/violence goes, though both heroines make it out okay. In both books the aftermath is also portrayed quite realistically for dealing with traumatic situations, though I’d say the Mercy books do it a little better than the Tinker books do.

I will definitely give them a look! The Mercy books sound especially interesting. It’s a pet peeve of mine, that so many writers love “will they won’t they” nonsense, but seem to think marriage is, at best, bland and, at worst, a nightmarish prison. Where are all the couples that face the myriad conflicts of marriage and OVERCOME them AS A TEAM? Because, you know, that’s kinda what being married and in love is about??

I know, right?! It’s definitely one of the more interesting things about the Mercy books, to me. Mercy chooses her man (there’s a bit of a love triangle) at the end of book 3. They get married like two books later. They’re still dealing with issues and complications in their marriage as of book 9. And it’s never the same thing, either, and through it all, their love remains as strong as ever even as it’s tested. And sometimes they have to work to keep it that way – one of the plot threads recently was her husband’s ex being in trouble and needing their help, and using it to try and get between them because she’s kind of a petty person. ANd it was INTERESTING. Not the least bit because instead of making the ex out to be just a petty shallow maneater, the author decided to make her a real person who happened to be a petty shallow maneater but also happened to have hopes, dreams, fears, and motivations like any human being. Even her shallow b*tchy characters are interesting because they’re shown in the lights of both strengths and flaws. Even if Mercy doesn’t like someone, even if the feeling is mutual, there’s never the feeling that they’re a cardboard cutout meant to fill a role.

Pakku needs to make sure he’s taking care of himself. I’m sure he’s got high blood pressure.

Ash is on my to-read list. I think you’re generally right about “romance” in pop culture. It’s not healthy, nor is it useful for relationships in the real world. And it generally just makes everyone look bad.

Pakku would probably avoid modern doctors specifically he wouldn’t agree with what they’d tell him…He’s 19 going on 90, and he really ought to improve his diet, work habits, and stress levels…

Pakku and Una really just need a nice long spa day. Maybe be therapy buddies.

The internal reaction of these two characters in my head is best summed up by cats:

A bright orange tabby flops on your lap, paws in the air, and a look that says, “Do I want a tummy rub, or to bite the heck out of your hand? I DON’T KNOW. DO YOU WANT TO FIND OUT?”

Meanwhile a neurotic skinny black cat looks twice his size because his back is arched so hard his front legs are off the ground, his tail looks like its been electrocuted, and he’s silently making his way toward the closet where he will likely hide for the next five days.

I now have the urge to try to draw this! Pakku-kitty is likely to be easy. Una-kitty will probably require several tries and I may never get her quite right.

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