Sunday, July 8, 2012

Kill Off Your TSTL characters -- Please

I have a confession to make. I detest spineless, weak women in books. They are wimps. At first it was just an annoyance that I attributed to the times. But come on people, this is the twenty-first century, haven't we gone beyond having female protagonists in our books acting like they don't have two thinking brain cells and put themselves in danger or don't know what to do once they're under threat?

I was reminded of this dislike recently when I picked up a book by an author whose series books about a strong female cop I really liked. This one was a standalone and it was a big disappointment.

The heroine is a widow, recently remarried to a widower who has two children. They're super-duper crazy in love, but she has some secret that she has shared with no one, not even this man she loves to death. Nor do we, the readers know what it is, apparently this is to make sure we keep reading.

She has issues with her parents, her in-laws, her husband's sister, her husband's sister's boyfriend and the woman who was once a live in maid and got the boot when she married hubby. None of this is shared with her husband, though she keeps thinking she should mention that she doesn't like it that they monopolize his time. She doesn't speak up. She's a wimp.

Her sister's boyfriend makes two passes at her, even though he knows she is pregnant and she is furious, but not enough to do anything about it. The first time around she doesn't even say anything to the boyfriend, the second time she tells him off, but not very assertively and he laughs it off, clearly not taking anything she says seriously. Does she tell her husband? Does she stop this man from hanging around them? Of course not. She's a wimp.

An abusive man threatens her. Does she call the police? No. You know why.

Only when the abusive man actually destroys her property does she call the police and only then does her husband find out anything about what's going on. He pats her on the head and tells her it's nothing. A 'now, now, dear, don't bother your silly little head about that' moment.

When the abusive man shows up again, does she call the police this time? No, she doesn't want people to get upset if the cops show up.

I find I will read very short bits of this book -- maybe a page or two at a time -- before putting it down in disgust. So why do I keep on reading even though it annoys me so much? Because despite the book's flaws the writer is very good. And I want to find out what this big secret is and who's out to get her. Not because I like the protagonist.

But I ask you, why do we persist in women always being weak, helpless victims who apparently have a million reasons why they can't call the police when a crime is being committed? Is it supposed to make me believe they are strong? That they don't need no cops? All it does for me is make them TSTL. They're never proactive, despite refusing to bring the cops in. They never do anything but react to whatever the bad guy delivers, and usually in a way that ensures they will get in to more trouble. 

Why is it authors can't have heroines with strong backbones? Is it because it means they have to work twice as hard to get the heroine into trouble logically, despite her being proactive and calling the cops when there's trouble? But if the did, think how much stronger and more appealing their books would be. Having stupid, weak protagonists is insulting to real women and, in the end, the mark of a lazy writer.

Will I read this author again? I will get more of her cop books, but I would be very leery of her standalones. And that's something no author ever wants to hear. 

At 22 years of age, P. A. Brown's life changed forever when she sold everything she owned and moved 2,000 miles away to a city she'd never visited, where she knew no one and where she was definitely not prepared. Coming from a sheltered life, she spent the next eight years doing her own wild and crazy thing and managed to survive. In retrospect, she now realizes her family was right. She was insane. Which of course made her fit in perfectly. She roamed the good and bad streets of Los Angeles, doing things that in retrospect were probably downright idiotic. And people wonder why she writes crime novels. Does she miss L.A.? Every minute of every day.

None of her characters are wimps, they take after their author who always knew how to kick butt.

My new release LATIN BOYZ has been getting good reviews.

... beautifully written, a solid, well-crafted story given life with all your LA street and police smarts, and an incredibly satisfying
read. I can't say how, but I think your writing got deeper emotionally in this book...  this book was a feast -- Lloyd Meeker

This is my newest and possibly darkest novel. If you like your romance with a dark edge, then LATIN BOYZ is just the fix you need.  Pushing the envelope on romance. Enter a world of violence where the only thing worth holding onto is your family.


Twenty-one year old Gabe will do anything to keep his family safe from the Locusts XIII Crew, a Cypress Park gang, especially his 14-year-old sister Nattie. In Gabe's struggle to keep his small, fragile family safe, he meets LAPD patrol officer Alejandro Cerveras and must come to terms with his attraction to him--and decide whether to believe his Church’s teachings or what his heart tells him. Then tragedy strikes, fueling his rage. As the need for vengeance drives him past all reason, violence and hatred erupt between Gabe and the gangbangers, spiraling out of control, leading to tragedy and the greatest loss of all.

Thanksgiving, Cypress Park, South-Central Los Angeles

P-Bull swung the thugged-out Buick onto Merced Street.

Sadboy shoved the barrel of his gun out the car window. "Gonna get us a piece of White Fence ass," he screamed. "Bang, bang. Fucking lame-ass chuntaros!"

"I'm down with it." P-Bull jacked a load into his Raven and checked the sight. Beside him Sadboy rocked and grinned and waved the chrome around. Happy as a shitbird. "Don't go shooting your ass off, mijo." 

P-Bull knew this street. He grew up here. He rolled past yards he'd spilled blood in years ago, before the Locusts jumped him in. Down the street little kids played some little kid game, making noise. Old chocho pushed a lawn mower and spit grass all over his skinny legs. The puta, Gabe's mother, and his sister, Nattie, came out of the house beside the White Fence crib. That little girl gettin' all grown up. Gonna have to pay her a visit soon. That sweet little fox about ready to meet a real man.

"There he is!" Sadboy shouted when a scrawny boy P-Bull recognized as Ruiz, the new White Fence banger, came out of the house. Sadboy bounced on the Buick's seat, waving his chrome around. P-Bull was gonna tell him to cool it when the fool opened fire. He yipped and hollered while he sprayed the front of the houses with brass. "The White Fence pussy ocho make a run for it."

P-Bull lit in a second later, blowing the running man down. Gabe's mother ducked. Her and Gabe's sister went down in a tangle, the girl's fine strong legs in the air for everyone to see. Man, he had to get a taste of that.

"Where you from now!" Sadboy screamed. He punched P-Bull's shoulder. "Lay it down."

P-Bull stared at the front yard where the old woman and daughter lay sprawled on the ground. "Later, Sancha." 

Gabe flew down the stairs. From half a block away, P-Bull laughed. When the man who had once been his best friend screamed and fell to his knees beside his mother, P-Bull's lip curled.

"Balless coward, should go back and cap your ass." Before he could act on the thought and throw the Buick into reverse, a black and white, followed by another, screamed around the corner. P-Bull slipped the Raven under his belt.

Sadboy grew so excited, P-Bull thought sure he'd start firing out the car window again like Clint Eastwood as some baddass cop. P-Bull reached over and clipped the back of Sadboy's head.

"Idiot, you lookin' to get 5-0 after us? Put that away."

Sadboy sullenly did, glowering at the dashboard.

P-Bull slipped the car into first, driving slowly, to avert 5-0's attention.
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Tina Donahue said...

I am so with you on wimpy heroines. I absolutely hated that movie "Sleeping with the Enemy". Didn't read the book, but the movie - ugh. There were so many holes in it. Yes, I know the heroine was abused by her husband and feared leaving him. That rang true. But when she had a chance to do something about her situation, she goes into town and takes swimming lessons. Not karate lessons to beat the crap out of him if he looks at her the wrong way. Swimming lessons. Then she concocts this elaborate scheme to fake her death (washed away at sea in his boat) in the freaking ocean no less. She swims to shore and pitches rocks at these lights so she's now in darkness. Yes, she's a good pitch and knocks those suckers out. She scurries to their house (on the beach), grabs her stuff but takes the time to remove her wedding ring and throw it into the toilet (god, TSTL). Why not wait until she's on the bus going out of town and pitch it out the window? SPOILER ALERT (just in case you want to see this): At the end when he catches up with her, threatening her as always, does she gleefully blow his frigging head off after he practically beats her boyfriend to death? No, she cries. She ponders. Should I do this? CAN I do this? CAN I HURT HIM? (gagging here)

I have zero tolerance for physical or sexual abuse. If a guy ever dared raise his hand to me, it would be his last living act on planet earth.

Fiona McGier said...

I'm with you both! I prefer alpha heroines who can kick butt themselves, or at least make their own decisions and live with the consequences.

That's why my secret agents are female and most of my heroes are beta men with long legs and cute butts, who know how important it is to women to be able to talk to the man they're involved with, as equals.