Title: Highland Velvet
Author: Jude Deveraux
Sub-genre: Highlanders! Historical Romance
Holy shit, this book was written in 1982. This book is older than me. I don’t really think genre books stand the test of time. I’m pretty sure dog years apply, which means this book is fucking ancient.
This is the first Deveraux I read, to my knowledge, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but I did know that I would have to make some allowances for the age. You know, like when you sit down for a chat with your racist grandmother.
It was alright for most of it. The woman’s kinda dumb, but whatever. The characters do a love/hate back and forth for most of the book, mostly dealing with her hotheaded behavior. Felt vaguely Taming of the Shrew-ish (which is, by the way, another one of those where you have to walk in saying, “okay, this will be sexist.”)
90% of the book is them rolling around in the Highlands, with misunderstandings and hijinks and then HOLY HELL shit goes down out of nowhere! Maybe I should have known it was coming (this is the second of the series after all) but I was lulled into complacency with absolutely nothing happening for most of the book, then wham! Murder of a dog, a rape, and a suicide, all in one go.
It entertains me to no end when my ideals are tested through fiction. Most people know that I’m a take-no-shit kind of feminist, and then turn around and read trashy romance novels. My favorite game to play is, “so I’m okay with [insert institutionalized form of sexism]… but not [similarly heinous action/ undertone/ metaphor/ plot device]?”
With this book, my reactions went like so:
Taming of Shrew type undertones?
A strongly worded mental reprimand towards the author, complete with shaking a finger and saying, “shame on you!” in hypothetical conversation with author.
I WILL KILL YOU ALL.
I was so upset I took off my headphones (I’m listening to it through audiobook), threw up my hands, and started sputtering in outrage in my cubicle at work. I was ready to give up on the book completely.
What the fuck, Jude? What did a dog ever do to you? Besides love you, like the adorable, big-eyed creatures they are?
I WILL Go John Wick On Your Ass
I HATE it when authors/directors kill dogs. It is a low blow. I mean, it’s a desperate grab for an emotional reaction, since dogs are pure in their goodness. Dogs don’t have mean parts to them, they love unconditionally, and they have nothing to protect themselves. They can’t even speak, so they don’t ruin their goodness with some dumb shit thing they said once.
So, yeah. If you are an author and you can’t handle making a character complex enough that is good without being insipid, that we would miss if they were gone, by all means. Kill a dog. Kill a whole pack of them. But I’m not going to be there when you do it.
I also hate it because even though it’s low blow, it works. Every. Fucking. Time. I am often way more distraught about the happenings of whatever dog on the screen than anything happening with the characters.
Seriously, they should put warning labels on the dog killing books and movies.
The Hierarchy of Innocent Things to Kill
I have this theory that there is a hierarchy of Innocent Things To Kill For Easy Emotional Reactions. The more you take away from the character, the more innocent they seem, the higher the tragedy.
From least to most powerful, I would say the order goes: girlfriend, wife and kids, kid, adult that is impaired, kid that is impaired, sentient robot that can speak, cat, sentient robot that cannot speak, other animals that have bonded with a human, dog. And, off the charts, is puppy. DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED.
Sometimes there are combos. Like in AI when Haley is a kid AND a robot. Not fair. Also, impaired robot is also a thing. Do you think Bumblebee would be as interesting in the first Transformers if he didn’t do all that cutesy remixing, and instead just spoke like the rest of them? Doubt it.
Think about it. Why does every love R2D2 but hates C-3PO? Because C-3PO keeps opening his damn mouth. It’s really hard to superimpose feelings of innocence on the guy when he’s being all talky and annoying.
This superimposing of innocence is all kinds of bigoted, of course. The character no longer has agency, or characteristics; it’s only a vehicle for some plot device. The characters that have the luxury to be a dickhead are the characters with the real power.
Not that any of this matters. *Spoiler Alert: the dog (Rab?) is, thankfully, not dead. He was just wounded (by an axe?) and comes bounding up later to the very surprised heroine. I was hoping that the other plot line would conclude in just kidding not dead and not raped, but no such luck. Ah, well. I finished it, so that’s saying something.
I try to give authors second chances, so I’m trying out another of Jude Deveraux’s. So far no dogs, dead or otherwise, so here’s hoping.
I just finished an abridged version of The Duchess by Jude Deveraux. I did not hate it as much as I did Highland Velvet. This was most likely in large part due to the 100% survival rate of all dogs in the book. There were none, true, but there were also none with an axe sticking out of their neck.
There are more Deveraux’s in Overdrive, but I think I will stay away from her for a while.
In loving memory, XOXO Rab.
ONTO THE NEXT BOOK!