For those who don’t know my rambles are kind of like conversations with myself (and you as a non-participating listener) about a particular book.
Molly Harper is a local writer. She writes funny paranormal romance. I first picked up her book How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf when it was offered to me for review because of the paranormal and local author factors. I usually get pretty bored with typical romances, even paranormal ones, so I don’t take them for review as often as other genres.
Since then I’ve almost always checked the bookstore sections for her name and grabbed anything new that I found. Especially lately, with so very much going on in my personal life I’ve found a lot of solace in distracting fiction like fantasy rather than my normal emo stuff. I really enjoy Harper’s books and they always give me a nice break from real life angst when I need it.
Let me put this out there, I liked this book. So why do I need to ramble about it? Because something in it struck a chord.
First while most of Harper’s books feature a lot of snark and pop cultural references, this one is a little more serious. Gigi (the main character) is almost out of college and is interning with the Vampire Council on a computer programming position over the summer in the hopes of landing a permanent job with them. She has grown up surrounded by vampires who have protected her. She has been raised by an older sister who gave up her college career to take care of Gigi and make everything possible for her. She has been raised in every way to be a strong woman, surrounded by strong women and men who strengthen women and working in a field where often strong women aren’t accepted, but she totally has a good base with which to fight for her right to be there.
Furthermore she knows her electric lust for a mysterious vampire is completely unrealistic. She knows her actions are dangerous and downright stupid. But she is a true believer and is willing to take risks and deal with the consequences if she fails. Maybe she’ll bitch about it (a lot), but she really whole-heartedly goes for the “Shoot for the moon” thing. I could see how some readers might find that kind of lead annoying or hard to sympathize with. But I thought it was charming. It’s hard to go full force into life, but we should demand better of ourselves and those around us. Gigi does this.
Demanding that fullness in romance is what leads to her breaking up with her perfectly nice but not knee-melting boyfriend. She has a little guilt over that because its not like he was bad to her or anything. The relationship wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what she wanted. Yeah, I get that. Women are often thought of as silly for passing up a perfectly decent partner for someone who they are really really attracted to. The subtext of woman who breaks up with nice guy is a bitch who needs an abusive guy is ever present. Sometimes it’s true. Sometimes a girl (or a guy) has an attraction to people who treat them badly. But that’s something one has to learn/confront/work on themselves for. No amount of “Nice guy” partner can “support” that out of a woman unless she is working on it herself.
And speaking of “Nice Guy” Gigi runs into a Nice Guy. The exact kind of Nice Guy who, as memes say, expects that if he puts enough kindness coins into her sex will pop out. And despite her being a strong woman who knows what she wants (and who she wants) and even knows that this is a Nice Guy and he is being manipulative STILL struggles with “being nice” herself. Because just like she felt bad for breaking up with sweet but boring ex-boyfriend she wants to rebuff Guy-she-has-no-interest-in without causing him emotional damage. She takes pains to not be Friendzoning-bitch even though she has not led this guy on at all, he is very inappropriate with her and eventually even gets her killed. (Censored for spoilers.)
That is not a struggle I expected to find in a “funny paranormal romance”. So, Ms. Harper, you have disarmed me. Somehow I really liked this character, and this book. I wanted to be Gigi, with her passionate, supportive family and her blisteringly hot love. But I also was totally surprised that this confident, amazing, so capable woman who could very likely bring the world to its knees with her drive, also fumbled with trying to not be a bitch and trying to assure herself that yes, Mr. Nice Guy’s action were inappropriate and it was okay to defend herself. And that she under-defended herself.
Maybe it’s just because it ties in really well with some of the private issues going on in my life right now. I, too, want to make the people around me happier, want to pull my weight and accomplish Great Things (like first drafts and clean houses and fun birthday parties). At work I want to know I have improved the day of my coworkers and my clients. Even if, as sadly happens, I cannot help fix a sick patient, I want to give their family the closure and dignity of knowing their loved pet passed peacefully and is no longer in pain. I’m a little pushy, trying to learn many things about positions I wasn’t hired for because frankly if I’m done with my work and someone else is swamped I want to be able to help, not just sit there and say “Well my job is done and I don’t know that computer stuff, so sorry I can’t help you.”
And sometimes that bites me in the ass. Sometimes your best isn’t someone else’s best. Sometimes people get pissy because your priorities aren’t theirs. Sometimes it’s just hard to balance.
And I don’t want to have family members and coworkers and friends pissed at me because I didn’t do X because I was doing Y instead, which isn’t a necessity, but is still something I feel needed to be done. I hate confrontation and I hate it when I disappoint people and then…and then…
Then I realize how very much some people have manipulated that about me. I realize how much I have been asked to put my needs aside, to tolerate shitty behavior, to not be me so that they can be more important, or more right, just just more in control over me. Nice Guy isn’t just a romantic thing. Other people “Nice Guy” and “More Experienced Than You” people all the time. And when you want to be a team player it is really, really hard to step out and demand something for yourself.
I really, really, REALLY relate to Gigi. On one hand that makes me happy because I admire her too.
The other night I remember having anxiety dreams. I have them a lot, they tend to be the same sort of things (house never cleaned, I’m trying to leave a place and keep finding stuff I need to pack, people are abandoning me, etc). I also remember waking up growling and snapping at them. Or trying to. Maybe this book struck a nerve with me because like Gigi, I’ve been put in a position where I’m trying not to be a mean bitch, I;m trying not to hurt feelings, but it costing me to do so.
Maybe like Gigi it’s time for me to start showing a little more fang.
So that’s my rambly, completely and totally way too personal review.