They just seem to find me. I rather prefer it when the things in question are in the vein of The Egyptologist, or even Royal Spyness (which is to a much lesser degree, of course). This one seems to have an incredibly strong, but accidental, subtext that may or may not have been improved by being upgraded to context.
When I read Standard Hero Behavior, I found it quite funny that just when I was wondering if I had randomly picked up a a middle grade book with a progressive romantic subplot, female love interests cropped up, and neither romantic subplot was well-developed or even interesting. It felt very, “OH CRAP THESE GUYS ARE GETTING TOO INTIMATE TO BE JUST FRIENDS UMM AND SUDDENLY THERE WERE GIRLS OKAY?” And then the relationship between the main character and his guy friend kind of vanished. Seriously, I think they either argued or just stopped talking to each other because of the girls for some reason.
It was more than a little sad after that one funny realisation.
Then yesterday, I took a break from my Currently Reading list with another Avalanche book: The Shadow Throne. Almost before I’d finished the first page, I said, “Oh, just make out already.” And then I had to explain a little, because I said it out loud. Here, I want to go into my reasoning in-depth (obviously) so there will be spoilers for the Ascendance trilogy (but mostly just for the first two books).
The False Prince is the story of Sage, a boy who is taken from an orphanage to compete with three other boys for the role of Prince Jaron. The prince has been presumed dead for a couple of years, but as his royal family are known to be dead, an advisor/regent thingy has a plan to suddenly produce the not-dead-after-all false prince and control him like a puppet. Only it turns out that Sage is a revoltingly good liar and is actually the prince the whole time.
He manages to win over two of the other boys, as well as the AR thingy’s right hand man. However, his relationship with the third boy, Roden, is tempestuous from start to finish, and Roden’s maniacal desire to be the false prince actually made me wonder at his sanity. Roden refuses to believe that Sage is really truly Jaron, because he has somehow fixated on the idea that he himself would become the false prince. Like any good madman, he rejects anything that can pop his little daydream.
But for some reason, Jaron wants this guy to be his general.
In The Runaway King, the ENTIRE BOOK is about Jaron chasing after Roden and begging him to just give their relationship a chance. All right, that is leading language, but come on. The book is literally about Jaron’s inexplicable desire to bring into his inner circle a guy who has only ever shown strong negative feelings towards him. The first thing Roden does in the book is try to kill Jaron. One of the last things he does before magically agreeing to do things Jaron’s way is to break the guy’s leg so badly that he’s still recovering in the third book.
The way I described it to my husband was a bit like this:
Jaron: But we’d be perfect together!
Roden: Go away!
Jaron: Come on, I made a list of all the reasons we’re a perfect couple!
Roden: Stop talking to me!
Jaron: Why won’t you love me?! I am literally about to die for you!
Roden: DAMMIT FINE BUT I’M JUST YOUR FRIEND OKAY
Jaron: Good enough for now. But I haven’t given up!
After all of this, all of the chasing and murder attempts, and hate and torture… They are having a lovers’ spat on the first page. I have no other way to describe it. Jaron is bitching about Roden not listening to his orders, and Roden is spouting off something about not taking orders from a foolish king.
Add to everything the fact that Jaron’s official love interest is about as intriguing as a glass of water. His attraction to her is 100% author mandate, and although his betrothed, Princess Amarinda, is probably supposed to be gorgeous, Jaron could not seem less attracted to women on the whole whenever she is around or even mentioned.
This is not a reading preference I have. In fact, I very much doubt that this kind of belligerent sexual tension and completely boring and lazily-written heterosexual love interest are intentional. To me, they look like a writer who saw her characters get away from her and then papered over the cracks as if no one would notice that the window was actually a door.
Now I’m mixing metaphors.