If you’ve been on Romancelandia Twitter for more than a millisecond in the past week or so, you’ve heard about the giant kerfuffle regarding author Lucia Franco’s book, Balance. I’m not linking to it because a) it was removed from Amazon, and b) I don’t want to do anything that might drive sales of the book from other sources because frankly, I don’t support it in any way.
The book is classified as “taboo” romance. It features a 15 year-old gymnast who is repeatedly raped by her 32-year-old coach. Notice I didn’t say that she “fell in love with”, “had sex with”, or “started a relationship with” her coach. Why? Because the law is clear on this issue. What went on in this book between the heroine, Adrianna, and the “hero”, Kova, was illegal. Legally speaking, it WAS rape.
Now, while I personally find the subject matter of the book disgusting, that’s not my biggest problem with it. My biggest problem with the book is that it’s classified as romance. To suggest that a real romance, true love, can exist between a child and a grown-ass man who is in a position of power over her is foul. There’s nothing romantic about it. End of story.
But apparently that’s NOT the end of the story, because there are lots of supporters of this book out there rabidly defending it and going so far as to retaliate against authors who dare to speak ill of the book by 1-starring them on Goodreads (it’s called “revenge reviewing”, and it’s an author’s nightmare). In this post, I’m going to address some of their arguments and why they feel the book shouldn’t have been pulled from Amazon.
“Amazon isn’t pulling Game of Thrones and Flowers in the Attic, and those feature incest.”
True. You know what the difference is? Game of Thrones and Flowers in the Attic were never classified as romance. George RR Martin never once came forward and said, “Hey, y’all, come check out the epic love story I’ve written about Jaime and Cersei Lannister.” In a romance novel, there MUST be a happy ending between two consenting adults. The only happy ending that should take place at the end of Adrianna and Kova’s story is an arrest warrant for Kova.
“If you haven’t read it, you need to shut up. It’s an epic romance.”
Well, no, I actually don’t have to shut up. And I don’t think anyone needs to read the book to think it’s wrong for a 15-year-old girl to be raped by a 32-year-old man. (No, I don’t care that she said “yes” to him in the book. The law says it’s rape. She’s a child. She can’t consent, especially since he was in a position of power over her.) I don’t think anyone needs to read the book to think that it shouldn’t be classified as romance. BUT, that said, I actually did read a good bit of this book before writing this post just so I could shut down this stupid argument with a quickness. Here’s what I found:
“Why do you do this to me, Adrianna. Why do you make me want you so bad? You make me want you in ways that should make me ashamed.”
That’s the “hero”, folks. Blaming the victim (the CHILD) for "making him" want her.
“I will tell you right now that if you get pregnant and it somehow comes back to me, I will deny it until the day I die."
That’s the “hero” again. He sounds dreamy, doesn’t he?
“I did no such thing, it was all you. You pursued me every chance you got and you know it. A man can only take so much before he loses his fucking mind and caves.”
That’s Kova again. Apparently he has no control over where he sticks his dick. Sounds a lot like rapists who say their victims “deserved it” because of what they were wearing, doesn’t it?
Oh, also, this pedophile has a long-term girlfriend, so he’s a cheater, too. And he doesn’t use a condom when he rapes Adrianna, and forces her to take the morning after pill as a means of contraception. (Don’t even get me started on that one.) He also threatened her gymnastics career and was verbally abusive to her on many, many occasions. At one point, she threatens to tell people about what he did to her, because she knows it was statuatory rape. He tells her to go ahead, because no one would believe her anyway because he’s such a beloved, respected coach. (Gaslighting, anyone?)
Anyone still claiming this is an epic romance and that Kova doesn’t belong behind bars for the rest of his life should come see me. I have plenty of recommendations for REAL romance for y’all.
“At 15, girls are practically adults these days, anyway. And back in olden times, girls were married with 5 kids by the age of 15.”
Thankfully, we’re not in Ye Olden Times anymore. These days, a 15-year-old is still a little girl. I don’t write the laws. I just follow them.
And while we’re on the “olden times” topic, it was also common for doctors to bleed their patients and for plantation owners to buy slaves. Those practices are no longer considered acceptable or moral. (Thank God) Neither is raping a 15-year old girl.
“You just don’t understand taboo romance.”
I understand taboo romance just fine. I’ve read LOTS of taboo romances. Age gap and teacher/student romances don’t bother me at all—as long as the two people involved in the romance ARE CONSENTING ADULTS. Adrianna is neither consenting nor an adult. She’s not capable of consenting in this scenario. She’s only 15 and he’s in a position of power over her. Like I said...I don’t write the laws.
You know what else I understand? There are teenage girls out there who are dealing with these kinds of predators every day. Romanticizing it is NOT helping solve the problem. If anything, it has the potential to cause even more harm by convincing an impressionable teenager that it’s perfectly normal to have sex with a grown man.
“You’re just a prude.”
Wrong again. I read lots of spicy romance and romantic erotica. I’m just not a fan of child rape.
“I know the author and she’s a really sweet person.”
Um...OK. So? We’re not voting for Prom Queen, for fuck’s sake. I don’t care how popular she is and how many friends she has. She called her book romance when it clearly isn’t. That pisses me off. I’m allowed to be pissed off at a person who is really sweet. I’m not saying she’s a bad person or even a bad writer. She made a bad, bad call by categorizing this as romance. That’s all.
“It’s fiction. Lighten up.”
I’m aware that it’s fiction. I have no problem with fiction that depicts distasteful subject matter. But don’t take a child rape story and try to sell it to me as romance. I don’t “lighten up” about that. Call it a horror novel if you want to, or a cautionary tale, but don’t try to convince me that the old gymnastics coach who rapes his 15-year-old student is “dreamy” and “swoon-worthy.”
“If this was about a boy, no one would be so angry.”
Let’s ask Mary Kay Letourneau what she thinks about that, shall we? (For all you young folks out there, go Google that name. Just be prepared for ickiness. Trust me, it's not pretty.) But seriously, this is just idiotic. OF COURSE the gender of the child being raped doesn’t matter. Child rape is child rape—I don’t care if the pedophile is male or female. It’s deplorable either way.
“You’re just jealous that the author is so successful.”
I’d personally rather be poor than make money selling stories that romanticize pedophiles. But no, I don’t begrudge the author her success. I don’t know her personally. I don’t want to ruin her career. I’m sure she’s a perfectly nice person. If she’d classified her book as anything other than romance, I wouldn’t even be talking about her.
And besides, now that even Amazon has determined the book is unfit for sale...what’s there to be jealous of?
I’m all for it, too. I never said Amazon should’ve taken the book down. But it’s not romance. It needs to AT LEAST be classified correctly and pulled out of the romance genre. Romance needs a HEA, and you’ll never convince me that HEA between a child and the pedophile who groomed her can get to a genuine happily ever after.
Public Service Announcement: The right to free speech means the government can’t arrest you for what you say. It doesn’t mean the rest of us have to listen to your bullshit. It also doesn’t mean that a private company like Amazon has to sell your book. The 1st Amendment also doesn’t protect you from criticism. If your book has been taken down and readers are expressing their disagreement, your free speech rights aren’t being violated. It’s just that the people you’re speaking to think you’re full of shit and they’re letting you know it.
“If you don’t like it, don’t read it!
Well, first you tell me I can’t talk about it if I don’t read it, then you tell me I shouldn’t read it if I don’t like it. Which is it?
“If Amazon takes this book down, they should take down reverse harem and erotica, too.”
Except Amazon doesn’t have any rules against books that contain sex between consenting adults—and that’s what’s going on in reverse harem and erotica. Frankly, comparing reverse harem to a story about child rape is just...stupid. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. (Or, a pedophile-to-pedophile comparison, as the case may be.)
“The jealous authors and angry bloggers who got this book taken off Amazon should be ashamed of themselves.”
Actually, there’s nothing an author or blogger—jealous, angry or otherwise—can do to get a book taken off Amazon. Anyone—authors, bloggers, readers—can report something that they feel violates the Amazon TOS, but it’s ultimately Amazon’s call on whether or not it’s actually a violation. Amazon’s TOS are pretty clear about child exploitation. They reviewed the book and found that it clearly showed child exploitation, so they pulled it. Jealous authors and angry bloggers had nothing to do with it. In fact, I’m not arguing that the book should be pulled. I just want it classified as pretty much anything other than romance.
Plus, the author was well aware of the Amazon TOS when she AGREED TO THEM before publishing. She knew her subject matter was a violation of the terms. Amazon made the call to pull the book, but the author is responsible for violating their terms to begin with. Let’s place blame where blame belongs, shall we?
And no, I’m not at all ashamed of myself. Thanks for your concern, though.
“This is about censorship! Amazon shouldn’t have the right to take this book down."
It’s actually not about censorship at all. Amazon has the right to take down any book they want. It’s their sandbox. If they want to take their toys and go home, they can. And as we’ve already covered, authors agree to the TOS before they hit the publish button. So it’s kind of ridiculous to cry foul when you knowingly publish something that’s in violation of the standards and you get pulled as a result OF YOUR OWN ACTIONS. Since the book was published a while ago, I’d say the author should be happy the book wasn’t yanked immediately.
“Romancelandia needs to stop coming after their own. We need to support each other!”
I’ve actually never seen a group that comes together faster in support of their own than Romancelandia. The amount of support an author or reader or blogger can find in this group is staggering. But when they feel lines are being crossed, they won’t keep quiet about it. There’s no such thing as blind support anywhere. And I haven’t seen anyone in Romancelandia actively trying to ruin the author’s life. They, like me, just don’t think this book belongs anywhere in the romance genre.
Look, if you read and enjoyed this book, I’m not saying you’re a bad person. I’m not saying the author is a bad person. Everyone should read whatever the hell they want and enjoy whatever kinds of books they enjoy. I’m not here to yuck anyone’s yum. I’m merely suggesting that only romance novels be classified as romance novels on book selling sites. Is that too much to ask?
What about y’all? Any thoughts you’d like to share? Let’s discuss! You can email us directly or leave a comment below.