My first published MM novella, “The Dream of a Thousand Nights,” has a forced cheating scenario in it. The Jinn Tamir, under a powerful spell, is forced to submit to his former master, the Jinn Amir. For someone who loves dubcon as much as I do, it just seemed a natural outgrowth of the story. Under normal circumstances, Tamir would never have betrayed the one true love of his life, his beloved Prince Neriah. In fact, Tamir begs Amir not to force him to betray Neriah. And of course, there’s a sweet HEA at the end of the story (not a spoiler, since all my stories have HEAs).
So when I got some of the first reader reviews of “Dream,” I was totally surprised to see how strongly some readers reacted to what they considered cheating. I was naive. Which got me thinking about cheaters, and whether it’s ever acceptable to have a cheating scenario in a romance novel. I don’t really think there is an answer.
Readers are all different. They come to a book with their different life experiences, perceptions, needs, and expectations. For me, I think cheating is a very human thing to do. Is it wrong? Damn straight! I’ve had my own experiences with cheaters and believe me, I was not very forgiving. But do I think cheaters can redeem themselves? Yes. But only through personal growth. Without growth, people don’t really change. Without change, cheaters tend to repeat their cheating behavior.
In my upcoming release, “Aria” (Blue Notes Series Book #3, 12/3/12 release), one of the main characters, Aiden Lind, has his heart broken by a cheating boyfriend, Cameron. That experience shapes Aiden’s view of relationships and wounds him deeply. It influences his newly-minted relationship with the other main character, Sam Ryan. Does Aiden get back together with his ex? No. But there is redemption to be found for Cam much later (and Cam will, eventually, get his own story and his own HEA).
My good friend and fellow Dreamspinner Press author, E.m. Lynley, has a lively discussion of cheaters on her blog this week. She’s also got a few polls to see what people think about cheaters in romance, and what is and is not acceptable behavior in a romance. The answers to the poll questions are fascinating. I highly recommend stopping by and taking a look. Some of the comments from writers and readers are also very interesting.
Have a thought about cheaters? Want to win a copy of “The Dream of a Thousand Nights” and see for yourself how I approached the issue? Leave a comment on my blog and you’ll be entered to win an ebook copy of the novella. I look forward to hearing what you all have to say about it! -Shira