The inspiration for this post came not from a romance novel funnily enough but from the A Mind for Murder mystery series by Rochelle Staab. Liz’s ex lied to her and repeatedly cheated on her yet is set up as part of a love triangle. It made me wonder how you should deal with lying, cheating men. I thought the best way to attack this was to provide examples from three novels I have read recently from three different genres. Be warned, spoilers lurk within this post for Hex on the Ex, Silk is For Seduction and The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee.
Please feel free to weigh in with your opinions. As usual, I have no answers but rather more questions.
Hex on the Ex by Rochelle Staab
Jarret, Liz’s ex played around just as much off the field as he did on the field. His position as pitcher for the Dodgers means most people cut him a bit more slack than usual. Liz put up with his numerous affairs but the final straw was when Jarret slept with one of her good friends. Jarret is shown to be morally bankrupt as when he directs suspicion towards Liz after they both become suspects in a murder. He wants to reconcile with Liz but still can’t shake the cheating habit.
Should celebrities be treated differently from normal people? Jarret obviously has many, many women throwing themselves at him so is he just guilty of having a hard time saying no? Liz’s family wants her to forgive Jarret even when she presents Nick as her new beau. Nick is handsome, the best friend of Liz’s brother Dave, has treated Liz with nothing but respect and can info dump all sorts of occult stuff and yet he doesn’t meet the family’s expectations. Why? The family doesn’t strike me as overly religious so it can’t be the whole ‘till death do us part’ thing. It can’t be because they want Liz to have financial stability as she has a solid job and the cash to purchase her own house. The only thing I can think of is that Jarret is famous and Nick isn’t. How does Liz deal with the situation? She dates Nick but whenever Jarret needs her she comes running. She forgives him and ‘stands by her [former] man’. Is this supposed to be an admirable character trait or one that we should decry?
Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase
Lady Clara has been schooled by her mother to accept that men will have affairs. There is nothing you can do about this except pretend that it doesn’t happen. Having a ring on your finger gives you wealth, security and status and nothing else matters. All the men that Clara knows have affairs – her father, her brother and her intended. Society at this time did turn a blind eye towards this sort of behaviour and as women had fairly few rights, there wasn’t much they could do about it. This makes Clara’s outburst towards the end even more shocking.
Why are lying, cheating men so easily swayed by a woman in a beautiful dress? Clara reminded me of Cinderella as in her mother’s eyes, success is reliant on being beautiful and passive – someone who waits to be rescued. She faces stiff competition from Marcelline which reinforces the notion that if you don’t make yourself pretty, another woman will steal your man. You know Marcelline is going to win from the moment she wears a dress that is just a shade lower than what is socially acceptable and thereby attracts Clevedon’s attention.
Clara shows significant backbone when she tells Clevedon that she deserves better than him. The Noirot’s are quick to claim it is the dress that gave her the confidence and I’m inclined to agree. Have you read Aschenputtel, the Grimm brother’s version of Cinderella? It lacks all the gender claptrap of the Disney version and gives us an independent minded woman who uses what tools she has available to get what she wants. Are lying, cheating men therefore the victims of the machinations of the women around them? Does this make them simple creatures that are relatively easy to manipulate? I saw My Big Fat Greek Wedding years ago and one quote that stuck with me came from the mother, “The man is the head but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she wants”.
The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee by Carolyn Brown
Trixie was tired of her husband Andy cheating on her so she divorced him and he moved in Anna Ruth. Trixie can’t get over her feelings for him though and they have a standing weekly arrangement. Trixie continues to badmouth him publically. Trixie thinks that by cheating with him, she is somehow getting her revenge on Anna Ruth. She finally has enough when she realises that he hasn’t just been cheating on her with one woman but with others. Even while she was cheating with him, he still had other women. Trixie and her friends then step in to help Anna Ruth plan the wedding of her dreams with Andy.
Wow! I simply don’t know where to start with this one. Is it a case of art imitating life? Does this sort of thing make sense to anyone? Are we supposed to give Trixie kudos for taking control of the situation? Are her actions less abhorrent because she was cheated on first? Why? Why? Why?