My very first review was from Publishers Weekly, and it was a starred review! One thing that stood out is this:
In this touching and stupendously fresh debut, Braden proves that one doesn’t have to turn an entire genre on its head to get something new and exciting.
This review on Amazon articulates it perfectly:
It is so refreshing to read a romance where where the guy doesn’t feel the need to push his interest when he gets back off vibes. Patience, honesty and consent are very sexy.
For the longest time, I’d avoided the romance genre because so many books think the opposite. “She says no, but she means yes” is (or was?) rampant. Dear Author has a great piece on consent, both on reader consent (a reader’s willingness to overlook realism for the sake of the story) and, relevant to my reviews, on consent, sexual force, and rape fantasy (also called forced seduction).
The villain’s threat of violence against the heroine is not substantively the same as the hero’s use of sexual force against the heroine, for example. While both instances may constitute fantasy on the most generalized and superficial level, potential rape by a villain is generally not a rape fantasy in the sense that the heroine’s imposed sexual submission to the hero is likely to be.
There are a million reviews out there discussing Fifty Shades of Grey and how it portrays BDSM. And while you can cheer that it brought BDSM into mainstream discussions, it did so in a way that glorifies rape and abuse–mental, physical, and emotional–for the sake of a “hero” who is anything but. Google “fifty shades of grey rape” if you want to spend a few days being disgusted. I can’t help but wonder how many naive people have ended up sexually assaulted or worse because they were using it as a template for sex.
In contrast, Nalini Singh’s paranormal romance, the Psy-Changeling series, does a great job at ensuring that the dominant alpha male hero (literally, in the case of the shapeshifting changelings) gains consent from the heroine. In the case of the “mating dance”–the process of bonding two people together as lifemates–it’s the female who has the last yes or no, to the point where a male who starts the mating dance but is then rejected has to live with the consequences for the rest of his life.
Talk about a fresh perspective on alpha males who respect a woman’s right to say no!
Consent can be sexy. Respect can be liberating. Hell, not can be. Is!
And that’s what I tried for with both The Longest Night and the sequel, The Deepest Night. My heroes aren’t perfect by any stretch, but they both have a very strong respect for a woman’s right to say no. Maybe that’s the “new and exciting” aspect that the Publishers Weekly review picked up on.
So what about you, readers? Books are fantasies, and a fantasy’s boundaries are a lot more malleable than reality.