A rant, not a review: rape in a romance story

14 Jun

I am serious, this is not a review. This rant originated while I was reading Maggie Shayne’s “Animal Magnetism” (originally in the Wild Thing anthology)

Bare bones set up: there’s a serial rapist about and no clues. The bastard wears a mask of some sort, beats his victims to within an inch of their lives, then rapes them and leaves. During one such attack, he shoots the victim’s dog. When the cops arrive, one of them takes the wounded Lab to the nearest vet… who happens to have a psychic ability that allows her to communicate with animals. Events unfold from there.

So far, so good, right? But then I got blindsided.

[reader beware: there be possible spoilers ahead]

A secondary character, who is first presented as the heroine’s only friend, is raped. That in itself is not what pissed me off-while I don’t enjoy violence of any kind, there are times when it’s necessary to tell the story  (for instance, see my review of Ride the Fire). As far as I’m concerned, that is not the case here.

Perhaps because it’s a short story (just over 80 pages) Ms Shayne didn’t have enough space to deal with this character’s trauma, but then I definitely would have preferred that she had found a different way to make her point. Instead, the way it’s written, this poor woman’s rape turns into a plot device, a simple excuse for further action in the next few pages.


Even that, by itself, would not have been enough to rile me up this much-again, space constraints, etc. No, what bothers me is that we are expected to believe that within days, with the perpetrator still unidentified and on the run, this woman is getting over it. (Before anyone corrects me: it’s not spelled out, but it is implied by her behaviour.)

That is what almost made me blow a gasket.

Then we have the domestic abuse thread, both as an explanation and motivation for the rapes.

Look, I’m not saying that the domestic abuse cycle doesn’t exist. I’m not saying that many people who wreak violence upon fellow human beings weren’t victims themselves.

What I am saying is that, having both these things in such a short story? It reeks of short hand for plot and characterization, and-if I may stretch it a bit-it’s abusive in it’s own way, because it trivializes both problems.

Nota bene: please note that I am not saying Ms Shayne intended any of the things I got from the story-I cannot know what she intended or thought while writing. I can just share my reactions, such as they are.

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