...but Ms Lamb is long dead, the book was published 30 years ago, and I just can't help myself!
I read Pagan Encounter the other night. OMG, it was soooooo good.
I picked it up for free from the library's Give Away pile. I don't know why. A couple of days later I saw this post, which led me to this post. And then, a week after that, I read this post while Pagan Encounter was sitting an arm's length from me.
I snagged the book, opened it and there went the rest of my night.
Now, this book was published in 1978. There are a lot of things that authors did in '78 that authors cannot do now-at least not without being thrown against a wall. I will confess that my mouth fell open in horror at some of the things I was reading. So there might have been a whole, "I can't believe she did that, what the hell is she going to try and get away with next" vibe to my reading experience. But it was more than that.
The truth of the matter is, the writing was just damn good. I tried to distance myself from it so I could absorb it better, but I didn't do that good a job of it. The story was too compelling. The characterizations were spot-on as well. She created a cold-fish heroine and an asshat hero, and neither of them really changed through the story. They simply found, in each other, someone who loved and appreciated that side of them.
In that book they called "making out" "making love." So it caused a few eyebrow wrinkling moments when the heroine talked about her previous guy, and called it "making love." Yet, it was left ambiguous as to whether or not they truly did the big dirty.
The first time the hero kisses the heroine he has trapped her in the elevator against her will and forces his attentions upon her, even as she's shrinking back and saying no, and promising to scream the place down. Nowadays we call that sexual assault. In '78, apparently, they called that Sexy (with a capital S). Of course, she winds up enjoying the kiss, and there's no screaming - but any character who behaved like that nowadays would be characterized as Evil Creepy Stalker Dude with Severe Boundary Issues, not cast as the object of her affections.
The hero doesn't listen to "no" a chapter later either, and isn't too much concerned with consent, because, you know, he knows what's best for her. So they make out like little 70s bunnies (lots of kissing and a slipped towel, no oral sex) where she gets the benefit of all the good physical feelings, but none of the guilt because she did, after all, say no. However, when the heroine tells the hero that she confessed all to her ex in private, he is furious that she put herself in a position (blame the victim) where the ex might over-react and take her by force.
The hero slaps the heroine!! No, really. Seriously. My mouth hung open for a full minute. You just CAN'T DO THAT! But, we forgive him. You know why? Because she had already slapped him. Twice. And, she also made two other attempts to slap him, where he caught her hand and told her in no uncertain terms, "If you hit me, I'll hit you back." Go egalitarianism! (But seriously, he slapped her. On purpose. And I didn't hate him.)
At one point, she's being harassed by the hero and finds a cop. She tells the cop that the guy is harassing her. The hero tightens his hold against her shoulder, and tells the same cop that the little woman is just nervous about the impending wedding night. Then the cop and the hero exchange a wink and a nod and the cop goes off whistling. Any cop who did that now needs to have his badge revoked.
Ultimately though, the hero redeems himself in a few ways. He shows surprising tenderness when we least expect it, and because he's so wrong in so many other ways, we love him for those moments all the more. I'm telling you, this book was delicious. He was a complete asshat, but he was the perfect asshat for her.
Currently reading: Wolf Tales IV