Greetings! Darlings, as patient as you have been with me, Joanna Chambers has been the same. This post was supposed to go live in *mumbles* and … clearly that did not happen until right now. Fortuitously this is still very on point. So without further ado … What Ms. Chambers has to say.
I’m Done with Evil Mothers
I have a gripe, and it’s this: I’m sick of reading about evil mothers in romance novels. I’m not saying there’s no room for evil mothers at all but I would like to see a lot fewer of them. I’m not asking for the sugar-sweet opposite extreme. I’m asking for proper characterisation. Nuance. I want to read about mothers who are recognisable as people. People who try their best, and sometimes fail. People who make mistakes but not because they are utterly malevolent. Just because they are as flawed as the rest of us.
I’m not sure what it is that bothers me so much when I read egregiously – sometimes bewilderingly – evil mother characters, but it’s not just that I am a mother myself – it’s something deeper around the casual vilification of women. When a book features an evil mother, there’s something of the Witchfinder General about it. Someone needs to be blamed for the bad things that have happened.
Someone needs to be the scapegoat. And it’s a mature woman. A witch. That just chafes.
It might be argued that the egregiously evil mother is so obviously over the top that she does no real damage. Readers know she is not *really* real. But I don’t want characters who read like cartoons! I want to believe in what I’m reading. I want to be drawn into the story. I want to *feel* it. And how can I feel it when some woman in metaphorical horns and a forked tail is sweeping around, behaving in a manner that makes no real sense?
The worst thing about the egregiously evil mother character is that it’s lazy writing. It’s too easy to give characters a painful childhood at the hands of an unarguably evil person. Too easy to create conflict by having a puzzlingly malicious woman do horrible things then conveniently exit stage left at the end of book, dead or scorned forever. She can tear through the story like a plague and the characters don’t have to do anything but react, puppets to her evil schemes, liberated by her death or exile. They certainly don’t have to do any interesting work for their own redemption. They don’t have to face up to truths about themselves or change. They just need to get rid of a witch.
Well, lots of mothers (myself included) are pretty good at criticising themselves, without needing any assistance from anyone else, thank you very much. When I became a mother at thirty, I discovered that I’d gone overnight from being a capable person to being a novice at something again. I made lots of mistakes – and I still do, all the time – you’re always a novice, because just as you’ve got used to one stage, your children move on and you have to learn again. Being a mother is an eternal case of “fail better”. I wish I was a perfect mother, I really do, but I’m a very imperfect one. And it’s only now that I am (an imperfect mother) that I give my own mother a (retrospective) break.
The thing is this: there’s a journey to be had in life, lessons to learn. I feel – I feel strongly actually – that fiction can take you further along that road. That fiction can be a template for life, a parable for understanding others. For tolerance and empathy and all of those things we strive for. It can be a prism, exposing the colours of your thoughts and making you examine them. I’ve had my own beliefs tested and stretched by reading fiction. It’s powerful stuff.
So my plea is this: let’s give mothers a break in romance novels in future.
Somnus, Book 1
Centuries ago, a man with Bryn Llewelyn’s dreamwalking ability would have been a shaman or a priest. In this time, he’s merely exhausted, strung out on too much caffeine and too little sleep.
Sleep means descent into Somnus—an alternate reality constructed of the combined dreaming consciousness of ordinary humans. A place he’d rather avoid. Trouble is, his powers don’t include the ability to go without sleep indefinitely. At some point his eyes close…and his nightmare begins.
As a teen, the treatment that cured Laszlo Grimm’s sleep disorder stole his dreams—and his ability to feel emotion. Petrified of needing more “treatment”, he clings to familiar rituals and habits. But lately his nightly terror has returned, and when he meets Bryn in the real world, the man seems hauntingly familiar. Not only that, Bryn awakens feelings in Laszlo for the first time in years…
Slowly Bryn and Laszlo realize they are both unknowing pawns in a plan of unspeakable evil. And that their powerful attraction could release the destinies locked within them—or be the instrument of their doom.
Warning: Contains the stuff of your lustiest dreams—and most frightening nightmares. You may want to read with a candle at the ready…just in case the lights go out.
So what do you think? Have you noticed this trend? Are there other tropes you’ve been seeing that you’re sick of? Also I’d like to note nobody is saying the books pictured are guilty of blanket evil mothers. Just that Ms. Chambers wrote them – and aren’t they pretty?