Last Bird Fluffing
Last Girl Dancing by Holly Lisle My pal Debi keeps telling me I should write romance, but I don't know. She's basing her opinion on the fact I can write hot bird-on-bird and fly-on-spider sex scenes. But, really -- how tough is that? The real challenge would be to create believable (human) male and female characters*, get 'em to fall in love, and have the reader care about them. I've never tried this, but I suspect it's a lot tougher than it sounds. For one thing, I'd have to crawl into a female skin and imagine sexual attraction from a female POV. I don't have any homophobic resistance to doing this; I'm just not sure I could. Men are . . . well, you know. Icky. Holly Lisle takes on the challenge in her "police procedural romance" (one Amazon reviewer's description of the genre) Last Girl Dancing. Lisle shifts back and forth between her female and male leads, and does a respectable job on both. I liked Jess Brubaker, the aggressive workaholic cop who finds herself with a dirty, dangerous, and soon to be very personal assignment. Jess is beautiful, sexy, self-sufficient, but also broken, emotionally wounded. Thirteen years ago, her twin sister went missing while working as a stripper. Jess went into the police force to find Ginny, but she hasn't been successful. Now she's being asked to pose as an exotic dancer to track down a serial killer specializing in strippers. I also liked Hank Kamian, the male lead. Hank, a martial arts instructor, is a former Ranger who sustained some serious wartime injuries. He also carries more than a few emotional scars, but he doesn't piss and moan about things. Hank is a man's man. Think Clint Eastwood circa High Plains Drifter, or Mel Gibson circa Road Warrior, before he got all flaky. Think Jake Barnes with functional equipment. Hank's a wee bit psychic: enough that he gets strong (and usually reliable) impressions from crime scenes, not so much that the story is over by page 20. Part of the fun here is watching Hank use his power to try to figure out Jess in the early phases of their relationship. A creep would use this knack to bed every woman in sight, but not Hank. He's a good man -- no, wait. He's a Good Man, and it's clear women readers are supposed to dig him. Lisle does a great job setting and sustaining a creepy atmosphere. I didn't care much for the mystery, but I'm not a big fan of police procedurals. (Full disclosure: I think I've read two or three in my life.) I read it for the romance, and enjoyed it as such. Romantic tension mounts steadily as Hank and Jess circle each other, trying their best to avoid the plunge. But, as the Borg say, resistance is futile. After they've hooked up, we have the added anxiety of (1) hoping Jess doesn't get herself killed, and (2) hoping the murder investigation doesn't trash their fragile relationship. So: could I do this? According to what I've read over at Smart Bitches, there are a few men who write romance (under female pseudonyms, apparently). I wonder how their work differs from that of their female counterparts. And are they all gay? I thought of a more interesting question, but I'm going to preface it with an observation. Men crave love and affection every bit as much as women. Why, then, is there no male counterpart to the romance genre? In other words: male protag seeks and ultimately finds love, aimed at a male readership. Women would read it. But how would you get men to read it, too? . . . Without putting lots of sex in it, cuz that would be cheating. D. *One each, naturally, to keep the grand old dames of the RWA well plastered with frigid rictuses.