I just finished a book I really enjoyed. It was a top read in all respects except one. Almost as unwelcome as the Hermetically Sealed Heroine is the Crazy Bitch Ex. Why can't relationships just not work out? Why does the genre insist that our heroine is special and unique to the hero (or vice versa) while all past relationships were a narrow escape from the cauldron of hell? Shelve your divorce issues, people. Sometimes you don't get married. It's why we have friends we used to fuck instead of shallow graves in the backyard. Sex is not a sacred event that can only be correctly bestowed upon one person. In the case of this book I was really into the hero. His evolution from sulky arrested adolescent to leading man was skillfully done and fully realized. Then his ex shows up. Suddenly, I hate both of them. If you've ever spent time on a legal aid board, poverty skills forum or any other place second, third or fourth wives hang out you know exactly what I am talking about. The current relationship is pure and magical. The past relationship is a succubus draining the life from their innocent and trusting spouse.
In this case, our hero rides off to apologize for a one night stand several years past, thankfully leaving the heroine out of it. The CBE is in an insanely dysfunctional marriage she entered a scant two months after rejecting the hero on grounds of potential poverty. Her parents may have forced her into the relationship and since then she's rarely seen in public. On a trip to London our hero was drunk as a Duke and spent a weepy evening reliving past glories. Along comes the harsh light of dawn and he realizes he just wanted to bang her once. He's out of there and she's on her own. CBE heads back to her husband, never to cross Drunky McDuke's mind again.
On the other side of the marriage, CBE's husband is wicked crazy. He engages in a three book arc of revenge culminating in a promise to kill the hero if he so much as glances at the husband's prized tea kettle. He's angry, unreasonable, and obsessively focused on his wife (the aforementioned CBE) and Drunky. Our hero has been a pretty stand up guy to this point. He's all about women's rights. He's discovered his own father had a potential CBE that turns out just to be a nice dead lady. (See? Relationships CAN just not work out!) So to this point we're ok. Then it all goes Jerry Springer. Drunky may (or may not) have fathered a child with CBE and CBE has informed her husband of this either to torment him or because she's honest. CBE is sobbingly grateful that Drunky has finally come to rescue her from an (allegedly) abusive husband she fears will kill her. At this point Drunky has had his own life threatened (and certainly turned upside down) by CBE's husband. He's afraid of the guy himself. So he sneers down at her for making her husband the mess he is. How dare she complain when she has a wealthy, titled husband who adores her. She's a celebrated (if rarely seen) beauty with four children. Tend to them and bother him no more. Later Drunky takes a moment to wonder if CBE's husband might really kill her. He thinks it sucks the kid might suffer, especially if it's his, but what can he do? He's famous Drunky McDuke and that other guy is Reclusive Lord Crazy. How can Drunky McDuke do anything for his potential child or baby mama? And why should he? She's obviously a head case who has driven Reclusive Lord Crazy mad with her bitchy ways. Thank god he didn't marry her!
Our hero rides off to apologize to his family for Reclusive Lord Crazy stalking them after his failure to keep it zipped. Later in the book Drunky stares down at his first (second?) born son with awe and hopes all sons are so beloved. As a reader we are supposed to share Drunky's revulsion for his CBE and Reclusive Lord Crazy. As well, we are supposed to share the hope that Lord Crazy's son is his own. As a person familiar with domestic violence and the ease with which people turn away from it's pleading victims I had a hard time looking at Drunky after that. I'm pretty sure CBE quickly took a header down the stairs leaving Bastardish Son to grow up with a hot and cold father he can never satisfy. Eventually BS will meet a Hermetically Sealed Heroine and the two will go off to their own HEA. That's how things go in Romancelandia.
I would have thought a hell of a lot more of Drunky if he'd taken the words of a women he once loved (enough to marry) seriously. If he had investigated her safety as carefully as he did his own paternity before coming to a ruling of CBE I'd have forgiven him. The Crazy's may be in a hell of their own making, one they enjoy in the manner of those drawn to these relationships, but she could also be in serious danger. I find it hard to take a man seriously when the life of his former lover and possible child are something to shrug over and walk away from. Maybe that's just me.