The Warrior Dude

I’ve been reading an interesting book on empathy by Simon Baron-Cohen.

(In case the name sounds very familiar, Simon is the cousin of Sasha Baron-Cohen, from Borat fame.  Who is kind of hot, btw. Tho he seems like he tries his best to hide it–which just makes him MORE hot.)

At any rate, Simon, the scientist cousin, says in his book that some male test subjects are much less empathetic than the general population when it comes to strangers or people they don’t like.  These low-empathy men sound like the “cold, arrogant hero” guy in a romance novels.  You know this guy.  He cares for nothing and nobody until–he meets the right girl.  Suddenly, he actually cares about someone for the first time, ever.  This guy actually exists in real life. I’ve met him–he’s completely selfish and shameless about it.  Except for his beloved & children, he only thinks of himself.  Yet for them he will annihilate the rest of the world to meet their needs.  They are an extension of himself.

Meanwhile, Simon says there’s speculation that some people are born with a gene that can possibly affect their levels of agression.  It’s a so-called “warrior” gene mutation.  I looked it up. It’s complicated, but basically, the idea is this: we all have a certain chemical in our brain that help break down other chemicals.  It’s called MAO.  Think of this MAO chemical as the barkeep who at the end of the night says to all the other brain chemicals in the bar, “Folks, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” This barkeep chemical (MAO stands for monoamine oxidase) then sweeps out the other rowdy brain chemicals (neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.) These chemicals keep you pumped full of energy, focussed, and in a state of arousal.

If the MAO doesn’t sweep out the rest of the chemicals bumping about in the brain, aggression is much more likely to occur in the subject.  So folks with this genetic mutation can be much more aggressive because their genetic mutation causes them to have naturally occurring lower levels of MAO.  This was good back when warriors were fighting huns, not so good if you’re a male living in our modern society.

Now, as someone who just can’t seem to stay angry for a long time, I can see how this might be an extremely useful trait.  After all, I’d be no good in a fighting situation against evil beings.  I’d fight for awhile, but soon I’d be like, “Hey guys, can’t we all just get along?” The bad guys would say, “Sure, let’s all just put down our weapons,” And I’d be like, “Oh, good, ’cause I’m tired of fighting.” Then wham! — that’d be the end of me.  However a person with the warrior gene wouldn’t want to put his weapons down. Someone born with this mutation could just keep fighting, and fighting, and fighting…a very good warrior quality to have.

Yet, as I was reading along, things started sounding strangely familiar.  I was thinking about WRATH from J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood Series. (A series with which, as you must realize by now, I’m completely obsessed.)  Wrath cares about nobody.  He stomps people he doesn’t like, and he could give a damn about the rest.  He can fight without rest, and without mercy.  Someone who seems so aggressive and without empathy in general can, according to Simon the cousin, still have empathy towards another.  Thus, when he meets Elizabeth, he’s drawn to her.  Their instant intimacy and super-hot sex bonds them together so that very soon she’s not a stranger anymore.  He feels a huge amount of empathy towards her–an anxiety over any suffering she may experience–but he still could give a rat’s ass about almost anyone else. (Sorta. Things can get sentimental occasionally amongst the brotherhood.)

It seems like science is catching up with what romance authors and paranormal romance authors especially have known for quite awhile now.  Feminists may be clutching their buzz-cut hair at these retrograde alpha-male portrayals, but up until about five minutes ago historically speaking, we needed warriors to prevent rape and pillage by invaders.

We also needed to have babies with these warriors to pass on their genes to our sons so that we could continue to be safe from rape and pillage in future years.   A guy who has no empathy and is all aggression would be a good fighter, but a horrible husband and father.  He wouldn’t pass on as many genes if he was bashing around wife and kids as the guy who can fight the live long day–but still have this one little notch in his brain helping him be Mr. Good Hubby to his beloved and practice restraint around his offspring.

The thing that science hasn’t figured out yet is this: do we women have a corresponding gene in us that’s looking for Mr. Warrior Dude? I bet there is.  I mean, it’s a lot of women out there buying J.R. Ward novels.  Most of us can get quite steamy and curious only thinking or reading about a warrior protecting his heroine and loving only her.  In historicals this is the cold rake who marries the woman who “wasn’t his first lover, but will definitely be his last.”

And I wonder a lot about female aggression too.  Is there a version of this gene in women?

Meanwhile, I wonder if this gene going to disappear from men? Think about cops.  Yes, sometimes they have to be aggressive, but it seems that these days they spend most of their time doing paper work or trying to talk folks down in order to keep the peace.  Meanwhile, think of how technology driven war is these days–and getting more so all the time.  The place for warriors is shrinking down rapidly.

Yet in the world of paranormal romance, there will always be a place for someone who can stomp the bad guy without thinking twice, but who can be tender and empathetic with that one special woman.  A man who can quell evil with one hand tied behind his back.  A man who can last, and last, and last.  If you know what I mean.  And I think you do. (Smirk.)

So Bad They’re Kinda Good: Best Villains Ever!

Hello, Mr. O.   Today I’m chatting about you to all the J.R. Ward fans out there.  Mr. O is the primary villain in Ward’s novel Lover Awakened.  I was into this villain–one of the best villain’s ever. Why? Because he’s not just a villain, he’s a lover.

This is from page 10 of LOVER AWAKENED:  O hesitated before leaving.  God, he wanted to hold her.  The thought of losing his woman, even in the hypothetical made him mental.  That female vampire…she was his reason for living now.  Not the society.  Not the killing.

“I’m going out, wife, so be good.” He waited.  “I’ll come back soon and then we’ll wash you.” When there was no answer, he said, “Wife?”

O swallowed compulsively.

Even though he told himself he should be a man, he couldn’t make himself leave without hearing her voice. “Don’t send me out with no good-bye.”


Pain seeped into his heart, making the love he felt for her soar.  He took a deep breath, the delicious weight of despair settling into his chest.  He thought he’d known love before he’d become a lesser.  He’d thought that Jennifer, the woman he’d fucked and fought with for years, had been special.  But he’d been such a naïve fool.  Now he knew what passion really was.  His captive female was a burning pain that made him feel like a man again.  She was the soul that replaced the one he’d given to the Omega.  Through her he lived, though he was undead.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can, wife.”

Creeeeepy!  He’s so passionate, so into her.  He’s just twenty degrees off kilter though.  So even though his love is true, and passionate, and he lives for her (well, sorta lives) to the point where he seems quite similar in feeling to the warrior-heroes of Ward’s books, yet he’s not headed in the same direction.  Like two diverging lines, O and the heroes may seem very close at first.  Especially in this book where messed-up Zsadist deliberately tries to hurt Bella.  Ward’s warriors always cross the boundaries of our modern rules about love.  So does Mr. O–or David, as he insists Bella call him.  But David O’s emotions take him far, far out into creepy-crawlie land, where Ward’s heroes simply do not go.  His love may be all about that jacked-up place of unthinking impulse (like them), and jealousy (like them), but it’s also about mutual, co-dependent destruction (doh).  The heroes in Ward’s books all find transcendence through love.  O’s ideal love is a violent death spiral downward.

The divergence between him and a hero takes the hero to a happy ending, while Mr. O goes plonk right into a big pile of icky perversity.

And if there’s one thing that I truly love, it’s perversity.

I have to confess, I have a thing for amazing villains.  Mr. O is a true villain in that you do want him stopped, you want him dead.  And he doesn’t quite lay down and die.

Meanwhile, there are those villains that you would never want to die. That you kinda feel a little uncomfortable and wiggly about, especially if you were to fantasize about having to be alone with them.  So though Mr. O is right at the top of my favorite villians list, here are three other favorites below. I hope you’ll leave a comment and tell me about some of your favorite villains as well.

Before Allan Rickman played Snape, he stole–just stole–the Kevin Costner Robin Hood movie.  Which is ironic because the movie was called Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  Rickman played a very sexy Sheriff of Nottingham.  I’ve never seen a sexy Sheriff of Nottingham before. I mention him first because it was watching him in this movie that I realized a villain could take you places that the hero couldn’t.

He got all the good lines, too.  He finds out what Robin Hood’s been up to and says: “Wait a minute. Robin Hood steals money from my pocket, forcing me to hurt the public, and they love him for it? That’s it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas.

When he tells Gisborne to cut out Robin Hood’s heart with a spoon, and Gisborne says: “Wait, why a spoon? Why not an axe?”  Rickman’s Sheriff replies, “Because it’s DULL you twit.  It will hurt more.”

He also exudes really awesome sexual chemistry like you wouldn’t believe.  This is mainly because he’s so in-your-face baaaaaaad.  He commands a hottie kitchen wench: You. My room. 10:30 tonight.

Which is like, you know, forced seduction.  She doesn’t have a say.  But then the wench looks so hot at the prospect that her shorter wench companion looks kinda wistful.  It all happens in a flash, but then Rickman’s Sheriff notices the second wench.  Looking her over he says: You. 10:45…And bring a friend. He’s supposed to be a bad guy and mistreating them, but the movie screen almost gets wavy lines from the heated charge coming from him.

This is the point at which all the women watching the movie start to rationalize about this very big bad boy. See, (the woman movie watcher says to herself) he’s not that bad.  He’s smart. He used to be compassionate, letting lepers have kitchen scraps, and the people have Christmas.  And like, he’ll even have sex with the less attractive wench.   I think that Rickman works about 3/4 of his magic with that amazing voice of his and the delivery of his lines. The rest is sheer charisma and confident mojo. (Drool.)

The final two villains that deserve a nomination for Good Bad Villains are Angelus from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Spike, ditto.  Angel when he was bad was sooooooo good!

Angelus: Spike, my boy, you really don’t get it, do you? You tried to kill her, but you couldn’t. Look at you. You’re a wreck! She’s stronger than any Slayer you’ve ever faced. Force won’t get it done. You gotta work from the inside. To kill this girl … you have to love her.

I mean, that line just slays me, no pun intended. Again, there’s a complicated mix of emotion there at the heart of him.  Yum! The best part was the way he’d always turned Buffy’s “we all die alone” tragedy-jane sensibility back on her to outwit her.  He fights with her and when it’s a draw, points out that because she’s gone after him so single-mindedly, that she’s left her friends unprotected.  She sprints away to save them as he calls out, “And again, you always think it’s about you.”

Of course, Spike was simply amazing. He, too, is every bit as much a lover as he is a hater.  He says, “I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.”

Fantastic villains always cut through societal rules.  They don’t posture; they show who they are through action.  Maybe that’s why I love them so.

An excellent villain is smart, honest to the point where it hurts, and he is supremely confident.  He’s exciting because you never know what he’s going to do next.  He may know us better than we know ourselves.  He is that perverse flip-side of the hero.  He could have gone so right, and just didn’t quite make it.

The brilliance with Mr. O is that Ward created such a layered, textured villain whether she meant to or not.  He feels deeply, he hurts, and yet he doesn’t pity himself or live in the past.  He’s really sick–make no mistake–there’s no redeeming him.  But in that part of him that wants passion and wants love and to feel strong emotion there is a kernel of humanity that’s in all of us.  This is what makes him so compelling to read about.

Meanwhile, LOVER’S AWAKENING is really supposed to be about the love story between Zsadist and Bella.  Zsadist (sigh) has a lot of demons from the past to fight inside himself.  Bella–she rocks it out.  She knows she wants to ride the big bad boy, knows it’s perverse, and she really doesn’t care.  So you like watching her do a little bad boy taming.  She’s amazing.   Worthy of a villain like Mr. O.

Lover Eternal: What if Beauty & The Beast and Shakespeare met in one little ole’ kick ass romance?

Lover Eternal is the second book in the Brotherhood of the Black Dagger series.  The series is about the brotherhood of some vampire warriors who get all hyper-alpha when they bond to a female. They also have lots of H’s in their bad-ass names. (And there are lots of reviews that satirize these names.  Don’t get me started.)

In Book one, their leader assumes the throne, and they become a more cohesive lot than they were before.

So it’s all very over the top, (which I love, btw).  Even if you don’t love over-the-top romance in general, you just gotta stand back and admire that J.R. Ward just GOES for it.  Hormone-drenched, urban fantasy, kick-ass romance to the nth degree is her specialty .  Even the sexless villain falls in love (more about that later).

So in this book, our hero is Rhage.  Rhage has a little problem–as you could guess from his name: he was cursed to bear a beast within him.  The thing manifests itself whenever he gets a little too intense – either through fighting, losing his temper, etc.

When this happens (spoiler!) he turns into the beast, eats the bad guys (yuck!) and suffers indigestion afterwards. Oh, and he’s also hot.  Really, super, madly, crazy-hot.  He is beauty & the beast in one complete package.  Not only that, BUT he has to sleep with women – a lot of them, all the time—or the Beast will come out and totally harsh his mellow.  Yet he wonders what it would be like to settle down with a woman of worth, he confides to a fellow warrior.

SO, that’s the sich when he runs into Mary–a woman of worth.  Mary’s done good works in life, but she also suffers from bad luck.  In fact, her health sucks.  Yeah, she’s dying. When she winds up in the Brotherhood compound through a series of coincidences, she runs into Rhage when he’s recently post-beast and he’s basically a total dick to her.

AND THIS IS WHERE J.R. WARD EARNS THE BIG BUCKS.  She does stuff throughout her books that you can look at objectively and know in our normal world that it would be just gross. I mean, in this situation, Rhage is not quite himself.  He’s kinda blind, he’s kinda feeling sick in his tum-tum; what he should really be doing is lying quietly in his bed until he’s himself again.  Only, the bad-ass warriors in this series don’t take sick days. So when he’s staggering his way down the hall (to do what it’s not very clear) he encounters Mary.  Once he hears her voice and smells her, it drives him mad.  Soon he’s all over her like white on rice and he’s basically being Chester the Molester.   But you know, she responds.

With any other author I might have thrown the book down at this point, but J.R. Ward gets me to read onward.  First of all, he’s beyond gorgeous, and she was just wishing the other day for a guy to be totally into her, just once, before she dies.  Second of all, it’s been a long time for her.    But wait: the best part is this—no woman would actually volunteer to date a guy like this after such a first encounter, even despite her unwilling arousal and awareness of his (ahem!) attributes.  Yet Mary doesn’t remember the encounter.  The vampires take away her memories of the night.  So when someone she knows calls and arranges a blind date to meet Rhage (he calls himself Hal) she doesn’t know that he’s already decided to bond with her just after one blind grope.

[Is the name Hal a nod to Henry the V? Like from back when he was Prince Hal in Henry IV part two? We get the sense that Rhage is just the same kind of play-hard playboy now redeemed by maturity and suffering.]

The second time he sees Mary does he grope her again? No, instead he’s the perfect date.  And here’s why we love romance: we love it because this stuff doesn’t happen in real life.  Mary cannot believe that the gorgeous guy is into ordinary, little her.  And she is ordinary, in the best of all possible ways.

Meanwhile, he IS into her.  Really, really into her. Why? Because in J.R. Ward world vampires are hyped-up men on hormone-occtane.  They meet the ‘right’ woman and it just goes hormone-ily sideways.  They have no control over their physical response, and it’s so powerful, so motivating for them, that they usually just give in and go with the flow.  In this situation, Rhage doesn’t question for a second his attraction to Mary.  He was semi-blind when he was sliming himself over her before, so he’s surprised to see she looks nothing like he expected, but that’s okay, he’s going to sit down and get to know her, giving her 100% of his attention.

It’s this good behavior, following the sexed-up bad, that just gets me so hooked.

Meanwhile, poor Mary is simply unable to believe he doesn’t have another agenda.  Suddenly, she’s Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Mary: “Do I have to spell it out for you? I’m an average looking woman with a below average life span.  While you, you’re healthy, strong, beautiful…”

He tells her the ways in which he likes her, but as Helena would say:  Never did mockers waste more idle breath.

See—it’s not a silly romance—it’s Shakespeare!

Mary’s just not sure about him, and can’t quite accept that he likes her–especially when he gets all removed and dispassionate while getting her hot n bothered.

And that’s the big problem with Rhage n Mary: they can’t quite seem to knock boots.  The beastie inside doesn’t want to let Rhage have all the fun, and Rhage is scared to death he might hurt Mary if he can’t control the beast.   The beastie threatens to come out around her, and Rhage doesn’t know how to engage with Mary, keep the beast down, and do the deed all at the same time.

Mary meanwhile, is really, really dying fast.  Which is sad.


They work it out of course, but you’ll just have to read the book to find out how.

NEXT WEEK: I’ll review an even BETTER book, the next one in the series: LOVER AWAKENED.  (Squee…this is the one with the well done villain.)

50 Shades of Language: What do readers like Lady-Bits to be called?

So I have a good friend, Liz Everly, with whom I’m actually starting a new blog called   LADY SMUT.  We were talking about the Fifty Shades of Grey success the other day and she said she thought part of what women liked was not just the erotic but also romantic aspect of the book.  True, I agree I like erotic romance best.  When it’s just sex I get bored at the drop of a hat.  Liz said she also thought that not using the P-word or (for a guy) the C-word was important to a lot of readers.

What do you think? When you read erotic romance does the ‘dirty’ language send you to heaven or make you wince?

I myself realllllllly used to dislike the P-word.  Yet by the time I was through with writing my first erotic romance, I was over it.  The P-word was soft, wasn’t violent sounding…

However, right now, I’m reading LOVER ENSHRINED by J.R. WARD.

(It rocks btw.  I so recommend the The Black Dagger Brotherhood Series, starting with DARK LOVER) In this novel, J.R. Ward uses the C-word (again for a guy) but sticks with “her sex” when it comes to women.  Or, should I say, female vampires?  ;>  Yet, man, Ward can go pretty far despite this.  Here’s a quote from page 326 of Lover Enshrined:

“With a growl, he lunged down and put his mouth to her, going right for the heart of her body.

They both cried out.  As her hands speared his hair, he gripped her thighs hard and moved in even further.  She was so warm against his lips, warm and wet, and he made her warmer and wetter as he French-kissed her sex.  While she moaned, instinct overtook them both, paving the way for him to….”


What do you think? Should erotic romance authors be dropping P-bombs or not? What about swearing? I saw a quote the other day that just about killed me.  “He’d better stay away, or I’m going to punch him right in his Christmas sweater.”  Loved it! This quote inspired me to think hard about how to use language more creatively and stop being such a potty mouth.

Give a shout out please, — I’m so curious to hear your thoughts.

Meanwhile, if paranormal is not your thing, and if Fifty Shades of Grey is, Liz over on her own blog site is recommending Sylvia Day’s book BARED TO YOU.  Check out what Liz has to say about it here.    And I hope you check both of us out at Lady Smut starting in just a few weeks!