Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Thoughts from a Hopeful Romantic: An Upside Down Fairy Tale, Part II: Kindred Spirits: The Love Story of Captain Swan

No one would have ever put them together.

She was born of royalty, yet grew up in the modern world a commoner, unaware of her own value and importance until her son brought her to the place she now calls home.

He was a pirate who'd lost everyone he cared about, a villain desperate for revenge on the man who murdered the woman he loved.

Yet, after three seasons of innuendo and "yearning looks," Emma Swan, daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, and Killian Jones, better known to the world as Captain Hook, are one of the most popular pairings on the series Once Upon a Time.  Their journey to get to where they are now could fill the pages of an epic romance novel, filled with illustrious adventures, determined ex-lovers, and pasts that both of them needed to heal from.  Unlike most of the other romances on the show, the relationship known to fans as Captain Swan was a slow burn.

Killian and Emma in 2.05, "Tallahassee"
Photo courtesy of
The attraction was apparent from their first adventure together in the episode "Tallahassee," yet Emma resisted vehemently.  It took another season before she impulsively kissed Killian after each taunted one another that they couldn't "handle it."  Another season ( which really evened out to nearly two years due to a curse) passed before they had an official first date.  So, it is safe to say that when Killian said he was in this for the long haul, he wasn't lying.

Emma and Killian met at the beginning of the second season, when the audience (and Emma) were unsure of the pirate's motives.  There was reason to be.  At that point, he wasn't even sure what side he was on.  All he wanted to do was ensure his revenge on "the Crocodile," Rumpelstiltskin.  The two had a complex history.  Rumple's wife ran away with Killian many years prior, and after becoming the Dark One, he took his wife's life and the pirate's hand.  From then on, Killian 's mind was only on avenging his first love's death.

Throughout most of the second season, the side of Killian Jones the audience saw was not a most pleasant one.  He bounced back and forth between being a help and a hindrance.  His shining moment in the season was "Tallahassee," when he and Emma climbed to the top of the beanstalk together to obtain a magic bean.  It was paralleled with learning about Emma's first love, Neal, who is also the father of her child.  Killian's softer side was displayed in the episode, particularly in scenes like when Emma notices the tattoo on his wrist with his first love's name inked into his skin.  It forces her to confront her own romantic past and remember it, no matter how painful.

Killian spent most of the season flirting with Emma, and she spent that time rebuffing him, too busy and too afraid to take a chance with something who just might be able to break down the walls she surrounded herself with.  This back and forth continued into season three, in which they journeyed to Neverland to save Henry, Emma's son.  It is there that Killian and Emma share their first kiss.  It is a heated, passionate moment where all of the pent-up emotion that simmered for the past season exploded.  Still, Emma keeps her distance after that, even when Killian admits that she made him realize that he was capable of letting go of his first love, opening himself up to the possibility of falling in love again, just one episode later.  Emma never addressed this, still continuing to back away from the possibility of love, especially since Neal was back in her life.  Having two men vying for her was confusing and intimidating, particularly when the men were so different.

Killian and Emma lock lips for the first time in Neverland, episode 3.05, "Good Form"
Photo courtesy of ABC Studios
Throughout the season, many changes take place.  Emma is ripped from him by a curse, separating them for a year until he finds her in New York, living a new life with her son with no memories of him.  In a sad attempt, he tries true love's kiss for the first time, which does not work.  What does, however, is a memory potion.  The next half of the season is spent in Storybrooke with Emma doing her best to help defeat the Wicked Witch.  She's also trying to help recover the memories of the missing year that seem to be absent to everyone except Killian, who won't say a word about it.

It isn't until the end of the season, after a trip to the past where Emma saw her parents fall in love, kissed and flirted with past Killian, and played princess, that we find out the truth.  In an earlier episode, he'd admitted to another character that he loved Emma and that she'd broken his heart.  We learned the extent of that love when he tells Emma that to get to her, he had to trade something of value.  When she asks what that was, he says, with a smile, "Why, the Jolly Roger, of course."  His ship.  His home.

This was the beginning of the official romantic relationship between Killian and Emma.

Season 4 was smooth sailing, generally.  The audience was treated to a first date, a couple of rescues, and other couple-ish happenings.  That wasn't to say the season featured no adversity.  In the first half of the season, Killian made a deal with Rumple, resulting in blackmail that leads to his heart being absent from his chest for several episodes.  Besides that, Storybrooke is always a place of constant conflict, therefore it is difficult to enjoy those quiet moments together, particularly for a woman known as the Savior.

The end of season 4 was interesting, to say the least.  The first part of the episode was spent in an alternative universe, where each of the characters was the opposite of the people they normally were.  Emma was the only person who was herself, along with Henry.  When she encounters Killian, he is a cowardly version of himself, yet she still finds herself drawn to him.  It proves that, no matter the time, place, or circumstances, Killian and Emma always find their way to one another.

Caught in the crossfire, Killian ends up stabbed by Evil Prince Charming, dying in front of Emma.  She barely has time to react before being dragged away to escape her own impending death.  However, the possibility that she will never see him again is very real to her.  She confesses to another character that she watched the man she loved die and never told him once that she loved him.  Seeing Emma, a character who had always been so guarded about her emotions, finally admit something so raw was a truly powerful moment and proved that she does love Killian, even though she'd never admitted it to him.

Several scenes and a sword fight later, the real world is restored and all of the characters land back in Storybrooke.  After hugging her son, Emma makes a mad dash to the loft, the last place Killian was supposed to be before the alternative universe took over.  She bursts through the door to find her parents but not a sign of Killian.  For a moment, a look of despair and fear crosses Emma's face.  Despite all her efforts, he was gone.

Promptly at that moment, the self-proclaimed "dashing rapscallion" pokes his head out from the loft above and apologizes for the mess he's made looking for her son, a sly grin on his face.  Emma runs to him, her enthusiasm bursting through so much that in hugging him, the force of her embrace lands them on Emma's bed (an improvisation made by actress Jennifer Morrision, completely unbeknownst to acting partner Colin O'Donoghue).  After a few moments of giggling and expressing relief, she pulls him up and says, "When I watched you die, I thought I was never going to get the chance to tell you something."

Everyone, including Killian, thought this was going to be it.  He grinned and teased, "Tell me what?"

"That...I...want to thank you for sacrificing yourself."

Killian's face fell in that moment a bit.  And so did almost every fangirl's heart when they saw that damper of sadness in his eyes.  Of course, he knew, like all of us, that she really did want to say it.  However, as Emma had mentioned in the alternate universe, she was scared to say it because it would make it real and change everything.  So, instead, he was understanding, nodding his head and smiling.  When they pressed their foreheads together and just sat there, arms around one another, there couldn't have been a more perfect moment.  Despite Emma's fears, Killian understands her and loves her for it.  To many, it was better than an "I love you" moment.

Emma and Killian reuniting after a trip to an alternative universe, episode 4.23, "Operation Mongoose, Part II"
Photo courtesy of
The moment of bliss for Killian and Emma is far too short-lived, as is typical in Storybrooke.  The darkness eating up the show's arch villain, Rumplestiltskin, finally becomes too overwhelming and is removed from him, only to surround the town and try to attract a recently reformed villain, Regina.  However, Emma won't have that.  As the Savior, she feels she is the one who should make the sacrifices, no matter what it costs her.  She grabs the Dark One dagger and starts making her way to take on the darkness.  First, her parents beg her not to.  She tells them that they can save her and that they've taken the darkness out of her before.  They can do it again.  Before she turns back, though, Killian makes a final plea, begging her not to do this.  With tears in her eyes, Emma says "I love you," the words we've been waiting episodes for, and holds his hand to her chest before wielding the sword and allowing the darkness to consume her.  After a few seconds of churning magic, Emma disappears and the Dark One dagger clinks to the ground in the middle of the main street of Storybrooke.  Killian's face of despair is the last thing the audience sees as the season closes with a view of the dagger and the name Emma Swan clearly engraved across it.

Safe to say that left season five open to many theories and opinions from fans.

As a huge fan of Emma Swan as a character, I was definitely nervous to see what the creators dubbed as the "Dark Swan" emerge.  Comic-Con gave fans a first peek at the heavily bleached, leather-wearing Dark One, and it scared me a lot.  After all, how would this impact what fangirls call my OTP (one true pairing)?  The theories other fans came up with scared and worried me.  It allowed my imagination to get far too crazy with possibilities.

Contrary to what I thought, the Dark Swan arc has actually allowed for some beautiful Captain Swan moments.  Emma's initial response is to fight the darkness, even though the voice of the Dark One (Rumplestiltskin, in her case) keeps gnawing at her.  Killian is her light in the darkness, encouraging her to make the right choice and ignore the voice.  It led to a gorgeously shot scene in the last episode where Emma and Killian share a very fairy-tale-like kiss in a field of roses, the first time Emma has been free of the dark voice.  He loves her unconditionally.

However, these scenes are sharply contrasted to scenes six weeks in the future, where Emma has completely embraced the darkness.  The other members of the town have no idea what transpired during that period, except that Emma has made a complete 180-degree shift.  Initially, she attempts seduction as a way to keep Killian on her side, channeling a bit of Harley Quinn from the Batman comics in her attempts, but, as proof that he truly has changed, he walks away and tells her that is not the person he is.  When Emma realizes she needs something from him, she changes tactics, instead preying on the memories they have built together over the course of their relationship, wearing the sweet, innocent pink dress she wore on their first date and grabbing a sword to try to remind him of how she taught him how to use it in the alternate universe.  The problem is that Killian knows these are only games.  He allows his vulnerability to shine when he admits he liked her the way she was.  The line, "I liked your walls.  I liked being the one to break them down,"  was beautifully delivered by Colin O'Donoghue, and the pure pain in the scene is conveyed beautifully through his acting.  Emma, a little bit of the real her finally shining through, asks if he loves her, and tells them that if he doesn't, she will let him go.  After a long pause, he replied with "I loved you."  Emma, again allowing a bit of herself to shine through when her eyes wet with tears and she whispers, "The ship's yours" before disappearing into a cloud of gray smoke, breaking the hearts of fans everywhere.

The Dark Swan attempting to seduce Killian, episode 5.02, "The Price."
Photo courtesy of
That is the most recent scene the audience has of the couple, although last week's episode heralded the aforementioned rosy meadow scene with an epic fairy tale kiss.  Killian may have said "loved" using past tense, but the week before, he used it in the present tense.  He was simply trying to get through and see if the real Emma was still within her.  She needed to understand that he's not going to condone and like who she is right now because that's not really her.  This arc is a true test for them to see if there love is strong enough to withstand the strain of this.

It may not seem like it right now, but Killian Jones and Emma Swan are going to make it through whatever obstacles are in their way now and in the future.   They have been defined by the creators of the show as True Love, but to me, it's been obvious for a long time now.  Each of these characters has gone to great lengths for one another, putting their hearts and lives on the line in order to discover who they were and their capacity for a relationship of this intensity and passion.  What that's done has broken down the walls Emma has surrounded her heart with and changed they way Killian moves through his life.  Emma is now much more vulnerable (or was until the darkness took over) and Killian is now a hero.  That's the kind of fairy tale I want to read to a child, one that is modern and can inspire hope that love can change people in the most beautiful ways and a open a person's heart when no one else thought it was possible.

Emma Swan and Killian Jones, the ultimate fairy tale couple, in episode 5.04, "The Broken Kingdom"
Photo by

Next weeks's installment will focus on Emma Swan, an unconventional romantic heroine.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Thoughts from a Hopeful Romantic: An Upside Down Fairy Tale, Part I: Welcome to Storybrooke

Like most romance writers, I grew up adoring fairy tales.  Watching the glamorous princess and handsome prince fall in love despite a fury of obstacles was somehow inspiring and hopeful to the little girl in me.  It was the first time I witnessed the power and joy of love.

Now, it has been quite a long time since I have watched a fairy tale movie.  I have replaced those stories with the romance novels I read and write.  The obstacles have changed, with more realistic conflicts separating the lovers than an Evil Queen or Ursula the sea witch.  Still, many of the elements of fairy tales arise in modern storytelling.  The heroes and heroines may no longer be princes and princesses, instead taking on the roles of powerful CEOs, lawyers, and professors, yet they still face conflicts in getting their happy ending.  Modernizing these stories reconnects us to the nostalgia of our childhoods and depicts the longevity of great storytelling.

As many who follow me on social media know, the last year has introduced me to the brilliance that is ABC's Once Upon a Time.  For those unfamiliar with it, the series follows the fairy tale characters we all know and love in their journeys through the modern world.  It features most of the heroes and villains we have come to love (or hate) as more realistic individuals with backstories, and it allows families to bond over the struggles of these characters and rediscover them as people rather than caricatures.

From left to right: Lana Parilla (Regina Mills/ the Evil Queen), Emilie De Ravin (Belle), Colin O'Donoghue (Captain Hook/ Killian Jones), Jennnifer Morrison (Emma Swan), Josh Dallas (David Nolan/ Prince Charming)
Front: Jared Gilmore (Henry Mills)
The core of the story is the family of Snow White and Prince Charming (played by real-life couple Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas), the most traditional pairing on the show.  Their love story is sweet and sappy, yet it evokes the elements of traditional romances and is the most stable romantic relationship.  Their daughter, Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), is the Savior of Storybrooke, Maine, a town all of the characters were cursed to.  Because time was frozen, Emma, who grew up in our world, is the same age as her parents and has a teenage son, Henry, who she was reunited with in Storybrooke when he was ten.  Until that point, Henry was raised by his adoptive mother, Regina, who was the Evil Queen in the Enchanted Forest.

That's the short version.  And it gets more confusing than that.

While Snow and Charming have the most stable relationship, all of the other romances have been rather bumpy.  Rumpelstiltskin (former Dark One and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast) and Belle have had a complex relationship since the episode "Skin Deep" in the first season.  Until the middle of the fourth season, Belle was unconditional in her love, blind to Rumple's manipulative ways.  Since then, however, Belle has been enlightened and is currently trying to resolve her feelings for a man who has spent the majority of his life obsessed by power and revenge.  Regina, the former Evil Queen, has spent the last couple of seasons trying to become a better person.  In that journey, she's found love with Robin Hood, despite a couple of soap opera-esque plot twists that continue to loom over them.  Both of these relationships have been developed and built, to the the delight (and sadly, anger) of many fangirls.

 So, if love is a core trope of Once, where does that leave the main character, Emma?

Emma (whose role as a romantic character will be discussed in the third part of the series) is a strong female.  Finding a romantic partner who allows her to be who she is but also breaks down her emotional walls had to be a tough task for the show's creators, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz.  Despite that, they created the perfect romantic complement, an equally strong man whose past mirrored hers, who challenged her in his relentless pursuit, and who ultimately proved that he would do anything for her, even die.

No one expected him to be Killian Jones.  He is more commonly known as Captain Hook.

The relationship between Killian and Emma will be the focus of my next piece, but first, let me say how opposite this is of Snow and Charming.  These were the characters who were always meant to be together, at least according to every other telling.  To my knowledge, Captain Hook never had a romantic pairing in any of the literature about him.  Emma is an original character.  Turning stories upside down on their heads and illustrating both Killian and Emma as individuals who were kindred souls, despite what seem to be glaring differences.  It's one of the many things that Once Upon a Time does well, despite the fact that I can no longer watch Peter Pan.  Besides taking me back to my childhood for an hour a week, it reminds me that great stories never go out of style.  They may change, but the roots always stay the same.  I can only hope that some of that luck rubs off on the words I write and that those themes can be immortalized centuries from now.

Be sure to look out next week for "An Upside Down Fairy Tale, Part II: Kindred Spirits: The Love Story of Captain Swan."

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Hi, everyone.  I'm here to update you on my projects and what is going on with each of them.

Unbound is currently in edits, which should be completed early next month.  I'm hoping to make it available to you by the end of the year as a nice little Christmas gift to all of you.  I really can't wait for all of you to read it.  I'm honestly so proud of it and cannot wait for you to meet Dash and Celia.  They are two of my favorite characters that I've created thus far, and their story is unlike anything I've done before.  So, watch this space for more information about release dates.

As for my current work-in-progress, it's titled Dreams, and I don't want to reveal too much about it yet, but all I am going to say is that it is extremely different than anything I've written before.  That makes it a little scary, yet that's part of being a writer.  You have to take chances in order to better your writing.  There are some great characters and story arcs coming your way.

I'm also bouncing around with two other books.  One of them is the third book in the Love, Windy City Style series, a long-overdue book about Jennifer Alexander.  The plot has been altered significantly since I originally planned it, but I think that the new story will be much better suited to the characters.  Another story I have in the works is a historical novel set in 1740s Europe.  Both of these stories have had a lot of work put into outlining over the past several weeks, but it will likely be some time before either of these stories get my full attention.

So, that's where I am right now.  Watch this space as well as all of my social media accounts for any new information on my upcoming projects.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Smashwords Interview with Mary Frances Gualandri

I recently completed an interview with e-book distributor Smashwords.  Below is a transcript of the interview.

Interview with Mary Frances Gualandri

What are you working on next?
I am currently working on a historical drama called Dreams, which centers around the California rock music scene of the 1970s. However, it is a saga that spans 40 years. It is not a romance, but it is a love story.
Who are your favorite authors?
Oh, gosh, that's a question. Well, I would say that my favorite author is probably Jackie Collins, but I also really love Sylvia Day, Sylvain Reynard, and Rona Jaffe.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Well, I can't sleep late, so I guess that's a good reason. I think what really makes me get out of bed is knowing that I have a purpose.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Well, I am a full-time student, so most of my time is spent going to school and studying. Other than that, though, I love to read, watch TV, listen to music, and hang out with my friends and family.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
It's usually based on the authors I typically read or through bargain sites like Bookbub. It depends, though.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I ever wrote and finished was a 40 page story called Senate Girl. It was about a girl who was a page for the United States Senate during the Kennedy era. It ended up being a six part series I wrote in 4th grade.
What is your writing process?
It's shifted a lot, but lately, I've been doing extensive planning. The last two books I've been writing were both projects that I planned for a year or more before writing them. I have a lot of notes and spend a lot of time on Pinterest. I am a very visual person, so I need to know how things and people look. Then, I just write and edit. The editing is usually a three or four round process. Then, I publish.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story I ever read, or that was read to me, I should stay, was a children's book called Moving Day. I loved that story and constantly wanted my grandma to read it to me. I just loved the emotion of the characters. Oh, and Hoppity, the main character, was an adorable rabbit. That might have helped.
How do you approach cover design?
Cover design is actually the easiest part. I have an incredible cover designer, Robin Ludwig, who has done all of my covers. She asks me what I'm looking for and takes it from there. The result has been three covers that I love and have a professional look. I didn't have to pay an arm and a leg, either.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
This is really hard, but here we go.

5. Shades of Twilight by Linda Howard- An odd book, but Southern and sultry.
4. Gabriel trilogy by Sylvain Reynard - Sensual and unique. Beautifully written.
3. The Crossfire series by Sylvia Day- The sexiest books I've ever read. Also, Gideon and Eva are incredible characters.
2. Perfect by Judith McNaught- I cried through most of this book. It's just so raw and sweet.
1. Paradise by Judith McNaught- This book is just gut-wrenching and beautiful. Matt and Meredith are incredible characters, and I can laugh and cry through the entire book.
What do you read for pleasure?
Romance is what I spend most of my time reading, but I also enjoy some general fiction as well as thrillers and horror novels.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Well, it used to my my Kindle 6, but ever since I got my iPad, I've been reading on that.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I have great critique partners, and they help me with promotion. Online release parties and cover reveals are great.
Describe your desk
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in rural north central Illinois, and it influenced my writing by making me want to write about urban areas, be it Chicago or New York. All of that glitz and glamour fascinated me.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing in second grade after my grandfather passed away. It was a shock and I didn't know how to deal with my emotions, so I picked up a pen and the rest is history.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book was a bit of a response to the Fifty Shades mania, both playing into it and questioning it. I wanted the sultriness and raw sexuality of those books, but as readers will find out, I question the mechanics.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I just wanted to do it on my own and see what happened.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Creating characters. I love my characters, and putting them into situations and seeing what happens to them is amazing to me.
Published 2015-07-22.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Thoughts from a Hopeful Romantic: What's In a Name?

When coming up with a name for my blog series, it was an easy choice.  In order to relate it back to romance, I knew that there was only one place to turn: the 1984 film Romancing the Stone.

For those familiar with the movie, Romancing the Stone tells the story of Joan Wilder, played by the beautiful Kathleen Turner, a romance writer who pens stories about the kind of man she hopes will come to sweep her off her feet.  It turns out that she finds him in the most unlikely of places: while in South American trying to find her missing sister.  Jack Colton (Michael Douglas) is a drifter trying to achieve his dram of getting a sailboat but is not getting too far when he meets Joan.  What begins as Jack getting Joan to Cartegena quickly becomes a rollicking romantic adventure, with the two falling in love as they discover a priceless gem that her sister's captor desires.  It is the perfect mirroring of what a romance writer wishes would happen to them.

One of my favorite scenes in the film takes place toward the end, when Joan turns in a new manuscript based on her adventures.  Upon finishing it, her editor tells her that she is a hopeless romantic.  Joan shakes her head and replies, almost to herself, "No, hopeful.  A hopeful romantic."  Something about those words struck me from the first time I heard them.  Especially since I began writing romance, they have become even more prevalent.  After all, those who write romance and have yet to find their real-life hero (or heroine) are not hopeless.  They have hope that they will eventually meet the person who will ignite passion and love within them like no one else can.  While they may not be ruggedly handsome or strikingly beautiful, the person we long to fall for exudes the same type of qualities we admire in those protagonists on a page.

So, that's the story of the name.  There's nothing very complex about it, just a connection I couldn't help but make.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Vegas: Cover and Release Details

Here is the rundown.  First of all, here is the cover for Vegas.  I hope all of you like it.  Big thanks to Covers by Robin for the amazing design work.

The release date for Vegas will be Tuesday, March 3rd.  I am currently working on some possible promotion for that, so be sure to stay in tune to my social media for that.

Also, Vegas is available for preorder on Amazon, so be sure to check that out.  I am working on other outlets at the moment.  I will keep everyone posted.

Thoughts from a Hopeful Romantic: Fifty Shades of Ignorance

The last few days, the internet has been abuzz with everything relating to Fifty Shades of Grey.  From the astounding numbers scored at the box office to the morality of the film, my news feed on every social media outlet was permeated.  To me, it was kind of exciting to actually see a romance novel turned film gaining some serious attention.  However, it was also frustrating to see the criticism, which is often irrational and ignorant.

First of all, I read Fifty Shades of Grey and saw the film.  I loved the adaptation.  While there were certainly things left out or added in, I still thought it remained true to the heart of the novel.  Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson could not have been better, and while there is still a heated debate about casting, I do not think anyone else could have done justice to the characters the way they did.  The sex was there, of course, but I did not find it gratuitous.  I actually thought the scenes were quite tastefully done and made the movie more sensual rather than sexual.

In one of my college classes, the film has come up in every class for the last couple of weeks.  The teacher, who does not support the film and considers it to be pornographic, has not read the book.  Neither did the three-quarters of my classmates who agreed with her.  There was only a small group of us who would admit to seeing the film.  The main topic of discussion was not the sex, though.  It was the characters.  Those who opposed the film consider Christian to be a stalker and unhealthy, and that this film is only going to make young women believe that they need a man like him.  They say that it sets women back instead of pushing them forward.

This angered me deeply, as I am quite passionate about what I considered to be an attack on the romance genre.  After all, Gideon Cross from Sylvia Day's Crossfire series could also be considered a stalker if we are judging him by their standards.  The men in romance novels often do whatever it takes for the woman they love, and while it crosses boundaries sometimes, these novels are fiction.  My characters are often that way as well.  Are they also control freaks?  Are romance novels a social evil that needs to be exterminated?  I mean, it feels like the argument goes so much deeper than Fifty Shades.

I spoke up, saying that if you read the novels, you will understand that Christian has endured traumas that might make any sane person crack.  It would sicken any reader to read about what he went through.  Still, the moment I brought up the book, I was told that we were only talking about the film.  Well, if that is the case, then people are missing the big picture.  No film is going to be a perfect adaptation and convey every aspect of the book.  The example I came up with was if there was ever a film made of The Catcher in the Rye, and without reading the book (though I have), I said that Holden Caulfield was an obnoxious little jerk, I can guarantee you I would be told something that started with the line, "Well, if you've read the book, you would understand why he's that way."  Am I not making the same argument?  I know I am, but because The Catcher in the Rye is a classic novel, it is assumed that everyone should read it and understand.  Am I out of line to say the same thing about Fifty Shades?  I'll be the first to admit it's not the most well-written piece of literature, but reading it would certainly clarify a lot about Christian.  However, romance novels do not receive that consideration and unless writers who encounter similar situations to mine stand up and say that there is something wrong with judging books without reading them, we won't make a difference.

I was never going to win the argument in that class because there were too many people against me with narrow-minded opinions who weren't about to listen to what our small group had to say.  Still, I won't be backing down on this subject.  Romance novels do not deserve the backseat.  No one should make you feel guilty for what you read or see and try to persuade you, especially if they have no knowledge about the book or film, or at least none that goes deeper than the surface.

The Fifty Shades argument goes so much deeper than shaming women for going to see a movie about BDSM where the dominant is fucked up.  It's about shaming an entire genre, for if any other erotic novel was made into a film, I can guarantee these people would say the same thing.  I will again bring up Gideon Cross, since he's already been my example.  Gideon is one of my favorite romance heroes.  However, I also recognize that he shares some of the same characteristics as Christian Grey.  He likes to control everything, sometimes verging a little on obsessive.  However, upon finding out the trauma he's endured, his reasons become much clearer.  His reactions are quite normal, actually.  These critics who do not like the way Christian acts would not like any of the alpha heroes who have reemerged in the romance genres since the release of Fifty Shades.  What they ignore is the strong women that these men are paired with and how Anastasia Steele frequently stands up to Christian Grey or Eva Trammell tells Gideon to fuck off.  How can you say women are being set back if they are standing up to men as strong as these heroes are?  It makes very little sense to me.

Regardless of what its critics rant about, Fifty Shades is breaking records.  It's a big old middle finger to the people who claim all of these ridiculous things about the book and the film.  People are seeing past all of the BDSM and salacious stuff and recognizing what the crux of the film really is: a woman teaching a man how to love.  That's a far more important lesson than any of these other crusades, in my opinion.  After all, romance novels are the journey of a couple finding their way to each other, right?  Fifty Shades does that, simply in a more brazen way, and much of this hate is generated by the cynicism of the public in general who are too skeptical to believe in something like second chances or love changing a person.  It's a sad but true fact, and I can only hope that more people who share my opinion speak out without the fear of being ostracized.  Loving romance novels shouldn't be a crime, after all, and it seems like this huge debate about one film is really finding its roots there.