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Tall Girls Have Short Memories

Aspiring Author Who Loves Books, Writes About Books, and Tells the Truth As She Sees It (From Way Up Here)

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The Spymaster's Lady

The Spymaster's Lady - Joanna Bourne I really like Joanna Bourne’s writing, but I am super uncomfortable with the consent issues present in this book. While I understand that power struggles are a large part of the draw of historical romances, I find that it isn’t the draw for me. And this book seems to have more issues with consent and power than many I’ve read.I understand the draw between Grey and Annique, but the power imbalance between them is entirely too large. She is his captive for most of the book, skewing the power dynamic by a considerable amount, on top of the difference in age (that may not be as great as I am interpreting it, but man, does she seem super young and he much, much older than she). It comes down to choice, really. Annique doesn’t really have any. The first sex scene, in the bathtub, is almost (but not quite) non-con. He decides that’s what’s going to happen and she doesn’t tell him no. What would have happened had she actually told him no? He says that she has the ability to say it, but that doesn’t really mean anything if she doesn’t believe him. And in the end, what she believes about the encounter matters more to me than what he actually intends, if only because her choices are based on her internal interpretation of the facts and if she thinks she can’t say no, then it isn’t a completely consensual scenario. She doesn’t tell him yes, either, however, and the scene ended up not being sexy for me.It just felt like Annique was participating in sexual activity because she didn’t have a whole lot of other choices. While we are told many times that she is attracted to Grey, she clearly has reservations about being with him, and getting involved with him sexually. We’re given moments were she is clearly aroused and having a good time and yet she’s unsure about what she’s doing, which isn’t a whole lot of fun to read about.She has to break out of the house to leave- she is not given the option to choose to stay or go, which also grossed me out. She is a prisoner, and the appropriateness of her in Grey’s bed just feels wrong if she can’t decide to go somewhere else. Grey tells her she could have a different bedroom but honestly, it wasn’t believable. The book gives me a creepy, icky vibe when it digs into the sexy elements of the story. The fact that he seems so much older than she is, that he has so much power over her, that she has so little choice in what happens to her- it’s not fun for me.I’ve also been struggling with the POV issues. There are a number of occasions where I can’t tell whose POV we’re actually in. It’s confusing and threw me out of the story more than once. I didn’t notice this issue when I read The Black Hawk, which takes place a few books after this one, leading me to believe that the POV thing is something that Bourne works through eventually. It stands out, however, in this novel.However, I do love the characters. I think Grey is interesting, I love Doyle and Adrian (having The Black Hawk first), and I think that Annique is a fascinating character whose life is more tragic than I would wish on anyone. They are all well written, coming off the page like real and true human beings.The world that Bourne is writing about is so incredibly well fleshed out, you can practically smell the gunpowder in certain scenes, and you can imagine what’s out there beyond the stage that this story is set on. I could imagine their pasts, what it looked like and felt like, which was a powerful way to participate in the story. I just keep coming back to the issue of sex, and the massive power imbalances that exist in the relationship between the hero and heroine. I never truly believed that she really understood what she was doing, or that she had any real choice in the matter should she decide that she did not want to have sex with Grey. The way that the others in the Service allowed Grey to have his way with her, seemingly no questions asked, was troubling as well.I’m not sure what the appeal is with this kind of story, where the consent of the heroine doesn’t seem to matter. There was lip service paid to it, but I never quite believed it and that was something that made it very difficult for me to root for the main couple.I’m not sure I’d recommend this book to other readers, unless I knew for sure that they weren’t sensitive to serious power imbalances, or that they really enjoyed serious power imbalances. Sadly, it’s just not my thing.