Archive for the Romance Category

Hakuōki and emotion in video games

Posted in Games, Historical, Romance with tags , on June 9, 2014 by Cara Marie

Partway through my first playthrough of Hakuōki, I thought how strange it was, to be playing the character who doesn’t go out and fight, who is helpless in many situations. I thought, in a typical game, you’d be playing as one of the shinsengumi, and it could be a typical RPG …

And then I remembered my history, and remembered that it couldn’t be at all. Because there’s no victory at the end. You couldn’t frame the story in terms of action and have it conclude satisfyingly as a game.

It can only conclude satisfyingly on the personal level.

And I thought also, how there are certain emotions that games evoke better than any other medium. Betrayal, for instance. If a book makes me feel betrayed, it is at the author for some failing of theirs – I do not feel betrayed by the characters themselves. Not the way I felt betrayed when I discovered Chizuru’s father – ‘my’ father – didn’t care for my happiness, only saw me in terms of my ability to procreate. Or the way I felt betrayed playing Magical Diary, when I found out Damien had been lying to me the whole time.

And along with betrayal, there is frustration and hopelessness.

Chizuru is not able to contribute to the shinsengumi as a warrior. The tasks she comes up with for herself are rather less grand – serving the tea, doing the mending.

‘You don’t need to do that,’ she’s told, ‘the servants can do that.’

It’s frustrating. ‘Here’s what I can contribute.’ ‘No, no, your contributions aren’t necessary.’ You’re too valued to do that; not seen clearly enough to be given anything of use to do.

Chizuru’s father says, all you have to offer is your womb. Sannan says, all you have to offer is your blood. It’s a romance, so in the end, what you have to give is love – something you can choose.

Hakuōki is about finding a satisfying life when the roles open to you as a woman are very limited. The heroes’ journeys reflect this too – they must find a satisfying life when the role they currently fill is disappearing.

I think I found Hakuōki more satisfying as an exploration of the limitations of gender roles than I did Analogue, which is far more explicitly about gender roles. Because in Analogue, you play an observer; it is a game, but it is an epistolary game, and you are discovering the story as you read and are told about it, rather than living it. You are not Hyun-Ae, having things done to you, having to live with the expectations put on you. And so I never empathised when Hyan-Ae the way I did with Chizuru, because I never was Hyun-Ae.

Of course, when you think of the feelings a game can invoke, betrayal, frustration and hopelessness aren’t seen as desirable ones. But they can be very effective in a narrative game, and I’d like to play more games that take advantage of them.

(Why, yes, I did read too much shoujo manga growing up and I do enjoy stories that make me feel awful, why do you ask?)

Got my copy of Succubus Revealed

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Romance with tags on October 4, 2011 by Cara Marie

Final book in the series! It’s nice to have such a definitive ending. And I wasn’t expecting the big reveal, though everything was leading to it. I feel a bit like I was tricked into it … if you described the arc of the series as a whole, it’s not something I would pick up. But it was disguised, because each book is its own mystery. You don’t realise the whole thing is a romance.

But it was most satisfying (I may have cried a little). I’m glad Georgina got her happy ending.

Close Encounters – Katherine Allred

Posted in Books, Romance, Science fiction with tags on February 3, 2011 by Cara Marie

I borrowed Close Encounters, which Tammy talked about at book group, because I am kind of intrigued by the science-fiction romance thing, and was hoping this would be more the urban fantasy kind of romantic than the paranormal romance kind. I should have realised from the way the second book featured a different woman in the same universe. Or, actually, I was told straight out by one of the other book group members that I probably wouldn’t like it, but I took it anyway.

I just can’t think of any good reason why I shouldn’t like romances, given I like things with romantic subplots. But I guess these things aren’t the same.

The main character is a total Mary Sue, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. She’s, like, totally strong and fast, and a babe, and all she and the other amazing Genetically Engineered People are totally persecuted by the rest of society (which, okay, but it’s very they hate me ’cause I’m special). She is even more special than the other GEPs because she was created by a rogue scientist!

I am pretty much for that, and I like that at the end she didn’t really give up her life’s work for love, and ended up with a promotion in effect.

And I quite liked some of the other characters, like the scientist and her giant cat companion. I always enjoy a good cat companion.

But the things I didn’t like:

  • Soul bonds. Or, I thought it was all fun and games when she had that tingly feeling when she met his eyes, I thought, ha, she’s just Recognised and she doesn’t even know it! You would think I might be into soul bonds, considering I grew up on Elfquest. But then, the Wolfriders were sending all the time anyway, and there wasn’t the same possessiveness.
  • Protagonists who are too stupid to realise that they’re getting married. The wedding’s being planned for like a hundred pages and she doesn’t get it.
  • The friend she makes who’s all like, oh man, this planet’s so perfect, I wish I could totally hook up with a hot alien like you. And then she does!
  • How exactly are planning on breeding with aliens anyway?
  • There’s a bit of a creepy Noble Savage thing going on, which doesn’t completely get mitigated by the reveal at the end.
  • Have you got the impression there might be some bad science in this book? There’s some bad science.
  • Turns out I really object to magic crystals, even if they are only magic because of tiny alien hive minds. The alien thing doesn’t stop it being magic! Don’t you get your magic in my rocks!
  • Why is all the food so damn delicious??

I did actually enjoy the whole mystery behind the Buri, and I might’ve liked this book more if the middle two-hundred pages had been cut. And it does have a proper SFnal premise (magic crystal deux ex machina excepted). But most of the book was just really not for me.

It’s kind of funny that I’m the one who borrowed these books, when the woman who seems to like actual romances turned them down on account of them being sci-fi. I’m pretty sure she would have appreciated this book more than me.

Five movies/TV shows, and how they came into my life

Posted in Crime, Fantasy, Movies, Romance, Science fiction, TV with tags , , , , , on October 16, 2010 by Cara Marie

The ones where I was behind the times: Lost in Austen and the Terminator movies

Lost in Austen

I watched Lost in Austen never having read Pride and Prejudice. I was just so utterly charmed by the premise that I had to see for myself!

Plot in a nut: P&P fan Amanda gets swapped with Elizabeth, and in her attempts to keep the story running as it should manages to screw everything up. She is forced to sing, tells Bingley she is a lesbian to Caroline’s delight, and gets taught by Wickham how to be a lady.

I did a set of Jemima Rooper icons (who plays Amanda) and it was so fantastic to go through and cap Lost in Austen: Amanda pulls many great faces, eats a lot of food, reads books, and there are so many scenes which are all ladies. So many femmeslash possibilities! On the people I wish to ship Amanda with, Darcy is on the bottom of the list.

Lost in Austen = pure delight, and the best pick-me-up a girl could want.

The Terminator movies

Considering my affection for AIs and robots, it is amazing it took me as long to see Terminator as it did. The Sarah Connor Chronicles was my first encounter with the Terminator franchise, but I soon corrected that, and my sister and I spent a lovely afternoon watching the first two movies. We spent a not-so-lovely afternoon watching Terminator Salvation in the theatre (I mean, there was a lot of stuff going on that I liked, but there was a lot that was just WHAT.) I was then pleasantly surprised by the third movie, which was not as awful as I had heard.

But I have posted about Terminator before, so I don’t need to go about that.

The shows I loved as a teenager: Gormenghast and Jonathan Creek


My friend Ms Bird was a big Mervyn Peake fan when we were teenagers. I was a big Jonathan Rhys-Meyers fan. Watching the Gormenghast miniseries was an obvious next step for us, and we were very impressed. Death by owls! We were particularly taken by the twins, Cora and Clarice and often quoted them.

The books are massive, and I only read the first, but I think the miniseries did really well at preserving their tone, the overwhelming nonsensical ritualism, the ancient claustrophobia of the castle. The visuals for the miniseries very strong, and I can still picture many of the scenes – despite not having seen them since high school.

Jonathan Creek

You might think that the important part of Jonathan Creek is its title character who creates the tricks for a magician and solves mysteries in his spare time. No! Jonathan would never have solved any mysteries if it weren’t for Maddy Magellan, true-crime writer and general nosy-parker.

Basically: people die and no-one can figure out how it was possibly done, until Maddy fibs her way onto the crime scene, and drags Jonathan along with her. Maddy is wonderfully bolshy, and Jonathan is very dry and really would rather not be involved, but while he’s here he may as well explain how it was done. Their relationship is the best thing ever. They do hook up in one episode, but promptly decide it was a mistake and go back to being reluctant BFFs.

I first watched Jonathan Creek when I was at intermediate, I think, and again when they replayed it on UKTV last year. Luckily I had managed to forget all the solutions! Maddy is only in the first three seasons (there are four, plus a bunch of specials) and the series, though quite watchable, is not the same without her.

The one I found through vids: Misfits


The first thing that made me want to watch Misfits was Nicky’s disturbing vid, ‘I Want to Destroy Something Beautiful‘. However, my favourite parts of the show are less the disturbing and more the ridiculous – the psychic baby being the best thing ever. And I love how they pass from the ridiculous into something empathetic and meaningful, or into something truly scary. And I think they walk that line really well, between the comedy and the drama, what touches you and what freaks you out.

This is a series I really cannot recommend enough: the first season is only six episodes long, and I think it’s brilliant. And season two starts next month!

Chris Ryan wrote a romance novel, your argument is invalid.

Posted in Books, Romance with tags on October 5, 2010 by Cara Marie

I have no patience for the argument that there aren’t enough books for boys out there. Because there are, and also because I don’t like the suggestion that boys won’t read ‘girly’ books. Because some will.

But I was reminded of those complaints when I found out that my favourite non-sf writer, Chris Ryan, ex-SAS manly-man extraordinaire, wrote a romance novel. Sadly it is out of print, but I am delighted just to know it exists.

The Secret Countess – Eva Ibbotson

Posted in Books, Romance, Young adult with tags on July 14, 2007 by Cara Marie

The Secret Countess is a reprint – it was published previously for adults as A Countess Below Stairs. I think it works for any age though; it’s just lovely. I’d never read Eva Ibbotson before, apart from the more junior Which Week?, and I really enjoyed this.

It was quite slow to get into, and written quite formally, but being as it was set at the beginning of the 20th century, it was appropriate. The story itself is quite old-fashioned, and also a genuinely heartwarming romance. I cried.

It was also well constructed: things would be mentioned that helped save the day later, without feeling unnatural. It was nice to have such a happy ending.

The only bung note, for me, was probably the attempts at humour, such as a family of girls who are completely unlikable and fail in any attempt to find husbands. Their purpose seems mostly to be comic relief, but that didn’t work in the story. The good characters in The Secret Countess are very good, the bad characters completely bad and I think I would have liked more nuance there. And it wasn’t that they were written without sympathy – just you couldn’t hold any for them. The plot was complicated, the characters weren’t.

For most of it though, I was utterly charmed, and look forward to it actually coming out here so I can recommend it. I’ve often recced Eva Ibbotson based on what others have said, and it’s nice to be able to do so from myself.