Wednesday, May 25, 2011

ARNP: The Healing Touch by Christine Flynn

I shamelessly have run through all the Alaska-themed romance novels in my local library. What they must think of me, checking out this literary trash and every bad movie ever made. I justify it because this is SCIENCE. I am doing RESEARCH.

Ahem, so. The Healing Touch is special because it is a Forest Service based romance novel set in Alaska. Yerp. This book is set in the fake town of Mist, AK which clearly is a complex of the actual towns of Hoonah and Pelican. It's Hoonah for the logging and USFS office and Pelican for the barkeep side character of Rosie, who is an honest-to-God real Alaskan Institution. The rest is pure, sweet Graphic Swirler circa 1991.

We begin with the heroine, Lara Grant, running over a bear cub with her truck. An event that causes her to flash back to the baggage she will unpack thanks to the love of a Good Man. Lara grabs the injured cub and takes it to town. (Real Talk: She should have been mauled by the actual mama bear who was probably in the ditch when this happened. Remember when I said biological inaccuracy makes me itch? Yeah. This.) Ain't much in the town of Mist, except for Cole MacInnes and his Ranger Uniform of hotness and bear healing. The drowned "musk rat" looking Lara (Cole's thoughts) brought an injured and bleeding cub in for Cole to Heal with his Touch.

Cole's office consists of Cole, some maps, and a book of regulations that "he tended to ignore." Heh, except he was the District Ranger and in 1991 Hoonah, and northeast Chichagof in general, was a hopping place. Logging was in full swing and there would have been a boatload of other bureaucrats bureaucrating around the lonely, brooding Cole. Somewhere, the author thanks the public affairs officer with giving her the straight skinny on what life is like for the lonely SEAK feds. Cole also flies into Sitka for a big meeting and carries a .375 for the big, bad brown bears. So it's not all bunk.

Well, they sew up the cub and Cole checks out her ass while noting that she is the queen of Cheechakos and is terrifically unprepared for the wilds of Alaska. Cole tells her about the man-eating carnivores with claws like razorblades and a thirst for human flesh: Bears. Also, Cole spends a lot of time scowling at various things--Lara, a flapping shutter, bears, federal regulations--pretty much anything because he is Deeply Wounded and needs a Touch that can Heal. They swap stories and drink whiskey by a wood stove while waiting for the storm to abate. Lara has bought the local store, but the wound that she needs some of that Touch with the Healing, has come with her from California.

Lara has to nurse that cub back to health and figure out how to run a store in a remote location. The whole bear-healing is particularly distasteful to me so I will be brief: she bathes it, walks it on a leash, gives it a diaper, and cries when she has to release it into the wild. I hate this part of the book.

Sigh. Onward and upward, shall we? Mist has 1 phone and bi-weekly plane service. Lara has to navigate the extremely difficult shipping circumstances to stock and manage her store along side the chatty, supremely pregnant Sally. (A pregnant woman in the first act has to give birth in the third.) Rosie, the government appointed Salty Redhead of Wisdom, owner of Rosie's Bar helps Lara as much as a government appointed Salty Redhead of Wisdom does in situations like this. Lara and Cole stare, brood, talk, misunderstand, mutually admire physical traits. Mist is sorely in need of a teacher so kids don't have to go to boarding school. Guess who is a teacher and just moved to town but is escaping her past so can't be around children because her past involved children? This is a Thing.

Lara confesses that he husband and unborn child died in a horrible car accident and she ran as far from San Diego as was possible. Do you want to Touch this pain with some Healing, Cole? Do you? What is your hurt, Cole? Oh! It's the classic abandonment by father, raised by a magical Tlingit elder, taken advantage of by some horror of a woman in need of a Green Card hurt. Well, there is a petite, dark-haired woman who has a Touch that can Heal. HEALING. Woot.

My very, very favorite part is when Cole flies her to a remote location to deliver groceries to the local hermit Asa. While they're flying over the landscape Lara points out a patch of land devoid of trees. "Is that a clearcut from a logging operation?" She asks? "It's a muskeg" Cole replies. "I know it looks like a clearcut but loggers have nothing to do with them." HAHAHA. (At some point, Cole visits the logging camp and talks about how the owner is a good logger and runs a clean show and is real good about cleaning out the creeks. FS propaganda machine is clicking right along here.) After they land, the deliver things to Asa and Cole teaches Lara how to shoot the mythic .375 after kissing her.

The whole shooting scene is an extended metaphor for sex. "She reached for the gun, looking partly defiant but mostly uncertain as her slender fingers wrapped around the stock. It was heaver than she'd anticipated. Feeling its weight, she quickly grasped it with her other hand too." *Cough.* "The safety is off, " he warned her. *Snort.* "You're going to get some recoil and if it's not tight enough you'll bruise yourself when the stock kicks back." Ok, I'll stop now. Guns = phallic objects forever and ever and always.

At some point Lara's roof caves in. Her roof needs some Healing Touches from Cole's Tools. Roof be another metaphor for broken things in need of fixing. This book is positively rife with broken shit In Need.

Poor, knocked up Sally give birth. Lara has to help even though her own, wrecked ladybits will never know the joy of childbirth. Lara, you see, is an empty husk of a woman since she cannot birth no babies. Who will Touch Lara's Womb with some Healing? She cries it out on Cole's shoulder under her new, repaired roof. There is some Healing in the Touching that goes down on Lara's little settee. Cole's even feeling like this Lara woman is Touching his Wounds of Abandonment and he is feeling a bit, dare I say it, Healed.

That damn bear has to make one final appearance after he is released in the wild because he gets a thorn in his foot. Cole and Lara Heal that Thorn with their Touch. Bah.

Cole finally asks Lara to marry him because they are fully Healed with the mutually Healing Touches. He doesn't even care that Lara is only half a woman, he loves her just that much.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My day, she is made

So I stopped by the library to return some DVDs today. No big whoop. But. A librarian with the last name Bryner stopped me to tell me that she and her husband found my blog. Who cares about a Bryner you may ask. Well, Bryner is the last name of the infamous Claude Bryner, he of the hilariously bad movies. She tole me about Claude's terrible taste in movies and how he would watch anything. When he passes, he wanted his collection to go to Kettleson Memorial Library.

I asked if I offended her, she said no. In fact they read all my entries and howled with laughter. I couldn't stop grinning. This totally made my day. I suggested a film festival celebrating some of the brighter entries in his collection. She is a bit more embarrassed about Claude's taste than I am. So thanks, Internet. You rule.

Now, I'm off to load up by shiny, red, new Peugeot pepper mill. Wheeeee.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Alaska Romance Novel Project Innagural Edition

I have a shameful secret. I enjoy romance novels. Especially those taking place in Alaska. They are the Lady Steven Seagal of literature: overly serious, predictable, and unintentionally hilarious. I have a small, incomplete collection of thin volumes bursting with purple prose. Rather than hide my little habit Ima share it with you, internet.

I disagree with most of these books. The relationships are typically lopsided. The sexism is like, whoa, and getting knocked up is the ultimate goal. What really bothers me, however, is when the author gets little facts wrong. Like calling the trees in some fictional community on the Yukon River "Pine Trees." Yes, there are plot holes that you could drive a Bearing Sea Crabber through but it's the biological inaccuracy that drives me insane. So--any and all Romance Writers who want to include Alaska as a character--get it the eff right. There is a person Who Cares.

So. I'll start off with my little grading system that I will use to describe my key to romance novels. There are 3 types of the, um, intimacy in these books I will describe them as follows:

  • Graphic--There are anatomical terms described. Fluids are discussed. It happens more than once.
  • Swirlers--Physical contact is discussed in incredibly vague terms. Someone sees fireworks in a cloud of ecstasy.
  • Graphic Swirlers--No anatomical terms are described, but they are given hilarious euphemistic terms. *cough velvet sword cough*
There ya go. Now you know what kept my field partner and I in fits while staggering though miles of Tongass woods.

Without further ado, I want to present you with the book that started this whole bad-taste chapter in my otherwise highly tasteful life: Untamed Desire by Beth Brookes.

This #53 from a series called "Second Chance at Love" where women who have failed at relationships find an even better love later in life. (Later is early 30's.) There is a lot to make fun of this book from 1982, firmly entrenched in the Graphic Swirler category. The protagonist, Storm Reynolds, isn't really one of them.

Storm is a pilot. A good one. For all of the stupidity I've read in romance novels, it's still pretty great that this book from 1982 has a badass lead. (I stay away from early 80's books, unless they have Alaska in them, because of the awful rape/sexism/and general ickiness.) Aaaanyway, Storm arrives at Bradford Outfitters in Anchorage, AK to begin her new career as a bush pilot. She is fleeing some baggage, looking for her Second Chance At Love. Her new boss, Jim Talbot, is an asshole.

I don't mean in the "Ooohhhh he just needs understanding," as described in the book. He is a grade-A asshole and immediately makes Storm feel like garbage because he has baggage. (He is in need of a Second Chance At Love.) He is super-attracted to Storm but tells her that women shouldn't be pilots because his dead wife died being a pilot while pregnant with their child (spoiler). Therefore women Jim is attracted to shouldn't be pilots because piloting in bush Alaska is dangerous and Jim can't handle loosing another woman. Okay? Yes. Perfect sense.

Well, this outfitter specializes in moving chartered hunters/fishermen to remote areas for recreational killing purposes. They fly people from Seattle to Anchorage then out to little camps scattered around interior Alaska. Storm has to deal with the exact breed of entitled, visiting hunter that swarms the Greatland. A client can't keep his hands off her, she is an exceptionally hot redhead, and she smashes his hand with a clipboard. Awesome. Jim is upset that someone touched his "Untamed Storm Goddess." (A name he gives her when she fights with him about her fitness as a pilot.) I have no problem with the interactions between personalities here, but chartering from Seattle to Anchorage? Bullshit. Alaska Air was around there and they would have just taken a commercial flight to Anchorage.

Storm and Jim spend lots of time in various cockpits, bantering as people destined to be together obviously do. Storm gets mad and fights back like a woman with spine. Although it's a spine clothed in the worst 80's rayon shirts with attached bow tie. Jim admires her pluck and her willingness to put her head down, work, and not complain "like a woman would." Oh, but he riles her up with his holding her job above her head. She gets so riled that he can't help himself and grabs her about the shoulders and kisses away her anger with bruising, punishing kisses (urk).

Finally, the facade that Jim has constructed comes a-tumbling down when they have to medivac a kid. Arriving at Storms apartment during a rainstorm, he huddles on her couch and confesses his not-at-all predictable baggage about his dead wife who died. That levy broken, nothing can keep Storm and Jim apart except that this happens on page 94 of 183. More little hitches to this giddy up are in store for out lovers. Namely, Storm has to tell her ex husband to take a flying leap and realize She Matters and is Good Wife Material.

Because a woman is not complete until she can make some guy happy.

Oh, and they crash in a plane somewhere because of sabotage or something. But not before Storm enjoys a fine glass of Rose Wine on Jim's Polar Bear Rug of serious romancin' in front of a predictable fire. Nuthin' like pink wine on a dead animal that sez, "Woot! Sexy Alaska Time." After they crash, because of the sabotage not bad piloting, while waiting for rescue, Storm reveals she is teh preggers. Their tears of joy mingle as they embrace in a downed Aztec. (Plane, not ancient central-mexican culture.) Storm promises to stop flying when she's 6 months along to, "Keep [Jim] from worrying himself silly."

Isn't that nice? I know my tone is mocking but this book has a special place in my heart as the first Alaskan Romance I ever read.

I'm taking suggestions. I have a stack but if you have anything awesome in the Alaska-romance world, let me know.