Power differences in romance

I read a book by an author I usually enjoy a couple of days ago.

As you might have guessed from the title and the “usually”, I didn’t enjoy it.

There was a significant power difference between the heroine and the hero. The sort of power difference where it was like watching a ten year old beat on a three year old. It wasn’t just age, or knowledge, resources, physical capability, mental capacity, and sexual prowess — it was that he trumped her soundly in all of those areas. It was painful to read, because he’d do something terrible and then he’d put his hands on her and she’d just melt. Then she’d hate herself for it afterward. Rinse and repeat. As one other reviewer put it, it was like a BDSM book without the safe, consensual, or willing sex. Forced orgasms don’t make things okay, just for the record.

There were other issues I had with the writing and the plot, but that stood out overall.

I like my conflicted heroes. The alpha males who are intelligent, ruthless, and just a bit too much on the bad side. The ones who don’t flinch at killing when death is needed and those who you want on your side in the dead of night and on a battlefield. Anne Stuart writes really good ones. So does Anne Bishop.

But this didn’t remind me of those men. This male reminded me of a bully. The sort who bloodies his wife’s face and then cries over it and apologizes and does it again. It would have been all right if he groveled at the end, but he didn’t need to. She just rolled over and forgave him everything because somehow everything was magically her fault.

I have a friend who can’t read Nalini Singh’s Archangel series because of the power discrepancy. I love that series. For me, I can accept it because Elena is a hunter, with her own abilities, and her mind is almost always her own. Raphael is also vulnerable to her and for her, which helped balance things out for me. When they tangled, I was never certain who was going to come up on top and Raphael’s code of honor made me feel that Elena was safe, no matter what was going on.

I need to know that even if it’s not an evenly balanced fight, that at least it’s a clean fight, and the other person has a fighting chance.

It’s a line to keep in mind when writing in the paranormal or fantasy realm, where the men are larger than life and have ten times the testosterone.

Any fellow Anne Stuart lovers who have bad boys to recommend?

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