I have a confession – I read romance books. Ideally, it is a great way to unwind and decompress, and clear your mind in the same way that only a Madonna tune can unstick a song from the brain. In terms of the written Happily Ever After, I’m not alone as a fan of the romance genre. Combined with erotica, this is the top selling genre in bookstores, both physical and online, with over $1.4 billion in sales in 2013. Sadly, these sales aren’t all going toward books written by alums of the Iowa Writers Workshop, or by the likes of Jennifer Crusie (MFA and ABD on her PhD), Julie James (JD, who has worked in the US Court of Appeals) or Lauren Willig (ABD on PhD at Harvard, JD at Harvard.) The genre has been hijacked by amateurs writing paranormal reads, books about motorcycle clubs, an abundance of smut and books that go for a three-fer – borderline porn that feature wolf shifters who ride in a motorcycle club. Why leave any trope untouched? And where’s the eyebleach?
Additional dissolution comes from mass consumption of fanfiction, including the Greek myth abusing Fifty Shades of Gray, delivered by self-publishing authors. The demand for content is clearly exceeding the supply of editors, as demonstrated by basic grammar mistakes and the lack of attention to details in many books. Take Resurrection River by Lindsay Cross, a book I just finished. The plot is interesting; Cross works to develop a heroine from doormat to strong woman, and there is some almost plausible romantic suspense action. An extra bonus is a female in an occupation traditionally associated with men. AND every sentence is not in simple sentence structure, which should be a given when you’re buying a book but sadly is not.
However, there are two real issues with the book. First, it needs a good editor to differentiate between ‘your’ and ‘you’re,’ as they are inverted most of the book. The hero tells the heroine, “Your mine.” during an occasion of intimacy. Having a possessive adjective before a possessive pronoun really kills the mood. Even better – during a crucial fight between the heroine and her mother-in-law, they exchange verbal blows like “Ever since you’re first husband ran off with that waitress you turned into a spiteful witch.” And “I did nothing but try to live my life. You’re spite did this.” Seriously hard to have any tension in a fight with misplaced compound subject/verbs distractedly used as possessive adjectives – everywhere! The real resolution I wanted from this scene was a thesaurus and a red pen.
The second issue with the book is in details, details that seem particularly apt, given the current stand off between Armed, Pathetic and Hungry (Rolling Stone) Y’all Qaeda militants and the federal government in Oregon. Cross wrote a romantic suspense series, based out of a small town in Mississippi where apparently all the men are/were in Special Forces at one time, and sometimes all special forces at once. The Sheriff was a Marine, who was also a Seal (which is plausible, the Marines are part of the Department of the Navy) who served under a General. This is possible if the General (a rank ,that occurs in the Marines and the Army but not the Navy) were in charge of Joint Special Operations or other specialized contexts, but none of that is clarified in the book.
The murkiest details in Cross’ writing are about the deployment of men, in active service with the Army, under the jurisdiction of the CIA, within boundaries of the United States.
In Cross’ defense, the terms used to describe these situations are sort of murky too.
- The definition of Militia, as given by Websters, is a military force raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency, or a military force that engages in rebel or terrorist activities typically opposing a regular army. The word has been legally defined and redefined in terms of the US constitution many times. In popular culture, the word has morphed from the positive reference Of Minutemen, who preceded the Continental Army during the revolution, to crazy folks who openly carry and take over federal buildings in the 21st Century. Each state has its own organized militia, which differs from civil militia – the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard. Some may have state defense forces and naval defense forces.
- Militant as a noun is someone who is combative and aggressive in support of a political or social cause, and typically favoring extreme, violent, or confrontational methods. Take as an example those crazy folks in Oregon.
- Terrorism is “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims,” Oxford English Dictionary.
The United States Army and all of the Armed Forces, are under the command the President, who is prohibited by a law called Posse Comitatus to use any person on active duty in the military for domestic law enforcement. This prohibition does not include the National Guard, or those serving in organized militia. So the options of dealing with those militants in Oregon, should it come to conflict of any means, are the National Guard, or possibly the FBI, ATF or the BLM.
The resolution of any conflict on US soil would not be lead by the CIA. According to the CIA website: The Federal Bureau of Investigation has the lead on intelligence matters in the United States, especially those directed against US citizens. However, the CIA and the FBI work together as needed to protect the interests of US national security. The CIA does not collect information concerning the domestic activities of US citizens, but its foreign intelligence collection mission can be conducted anywhere.
Kind of vague, right? Basically, a large loophole allows the CIA to play nicely with the FBI should foreign combatants threaten the interests of US national security on US soil. But the FBI would have the lead, which is fitting because only the FBI is a law enforcement agency. The CIA is all about gathering intelligence, not enforcing foreign policy. In terms of protecting citizens, this is where organized militia like state defense forces would come in to play. So Cross’ team of current servicemen deployed in the US does not work.
In almost any work of fiction, there is a willing suspension of disbelief. What makes this acceptable is the way those instances of extraordinary are woven into the fabric of an otherwise believable and realistic narrative arc. Cross’ logic is faulty, she ignores the basic legal definitions of the occupations she gives her characters in her series and that lets her down, detracting for the caliber of the book and series. Now, it’s another instance where a good editor could really help.
In terms of the standoff in Oregon, it is just too surreal to have any suspension of disbelief. The militants have committed terrorist acts in the name of patriotism, and to protest the acts of the Federal government, in support of men who were found guilty (twice) of breaking the law. And these men, a father and son, apparently admitted to breaking the law, putting land agents and volunteer firefighters in danger, and poaching. Most recently, the militants asked for snacks, over social media.
Makes reading the next book in the Lindsay Cross series not look so ridiculous a choice after all.
For more on Oregon, check out the Oregonian’s Coverage. What’s Going On In Oregon?
The HuffPo on why Smart Girls Read Romance