#40 Crapometer

Title: Brotherly Love: The Forbidden Fire
Genre: Erotic/ Historical Romance

Brotherly love? Not unless you come from a highly unusual family.

This is a tale about what happens when the boundaries of our morality alter, and the lines we draw to define which love is acceptable and which is forbidden change. The story focuses on the Jamison family, composed of Jake, his two younger brothers, and a girl named Jessi.

Little Jessi would have been their stepsister, had a tragic train accident not killed their Father and her Mother on their way back to the family's Texas ranch for their wedding. The brothers raise the girl as a sister. Unfortunately, three cowboys don't know much about raising a girl, and they end up rearing a total tomboy. After Jessi brawls publicly in the Churchyard with a neighbor's son, the brothers agree with the preacher's wife that they can't teach Jessi to be a lady and accept her suggestion to send her away to finishing school in Richmond.

Jessi loves all of her brothers, but she has always been closest to the eldest, Jake. Because of that bond, and because most unwanted tasks fall on his shoulders anyway, the brothers decide he must convince their sister that she needs lessons a trio of cowboys can't teach. He takes her to the lake, their favorite spot on the ranch, and tells her the plan for her future.

The ranch is the only world she wants, but she agrees that she does want to marry and have children. The perfect solution comes to her and she suggests that she and Jake marry. He is a cowboy but not a diplomat, and such a suggestion from the scrawny tomboy takes him by surprise. Without weighing his words, he tells her that she is not enough of a lady for him. Hurt, the girl agrees to go to Richmond, but is motivated during the years of school by a dream of returning to make Jake eat his words.

ok, right here, you've fallen into the trap of making the plot serve your needs. If Jessi says "we should marry" and the whole point of this is to demonstrate changing morality, Jake's first response would logically be "of course I can't marry you, you're my sister". But, because you want him to fall all over her with lust, you put other words in his mouth. Characters have to behave logically or you lose the reader in a WTF reaction.

When she returns, he wants to eat more than his words. The sultry vixen emerging from the carriage is the same lady he calls sister, but now she summons the lover within the man she calls brother. At his first sight of the exotic temptress who wore his sister's soul, the big brother's gut churned with rage. Every protective instinct urges him to choke the life out of the lecherous bastard who wants to become his sister's lover. He resists the urge only because it is a near physical impossibility to choke yourself to death. So he seethes with impotent rage, even as he burns with potent craving. A small voice from the deepest recesses of his consciousness whispers, "No blood tie, no legal tie. Just a line you drew. You can erase that line."

was there a sale on cliches at Macys?

Jake's growing desire to cross the line drawn so long ago makes a battle between the would-be lover and the big brother inevitable. He fights his feelings, but it isn't only himself he must battle. His brothers' line hadn't moved and they see in Jessi only a little sister. To them, Jake's forbidden feelings are incestuous and they vow to end the romance. They throw other men at Jessi, but her heart sees only Jake and things go from bad to worse when the pair became engaged.

After spying on a rendezvous, the brothers decide Jake has named his own poison, and they use words against him to force him to betray their sister, for they know Jessi will not forgive infidelity. The pair conspires with a local madam to obtain an aphrodisiac to drug their brother, then, with the help of one of Jake's discarded ladies, they lure Jessi to a brothel where she catches Jake cavorting with women and she tosses his ring at him.

Boy, with brothers like that who needs evil sisters. Surely the younger brothers have some thought for Jessi in all this?

Fighting flashbacks from the brothel, Jake now fights to win Jessi back, but has no success until he gets some unexpected help. Jessi goes off to picnic with a beau who becomes too fresh and she gets scared and rides home to escape - right into Jake's arms. In the course of comforting her, Jake begins to rebuild their relationship. During their courtship, a Richmond suitor had been venting his rage at what he considers Jessi's betrayal by murdering members of the community. (alien alert!) That suitor had a plan to secure Jessi for himself by kidnapping her and drugging her with the same potion Jake received earlier. Jake rides to the rescue, and succeeds but not until experience teaches Jessi that Jake had not betrayed her of his own will.

The experience also teaches Jake what Jessi knew already -- that love is a force too big to be contained, controlled or defined. He doesn't want to destroy his family, but if he must choose, then he will cleave to the lady who completes him and the love that defies boundaries. He must trust that his younger brothers will one day learn that love, in whatever form it takes, and whatever lines it erases, can not be judged. It must be nurtured and celebrated. Each man must learn that lesson for himself and he hopes that when they confront their own lines, they will grow to accept his union with Jessi.

Jake and Jessi marry at the lake. The younger brothers still see the union as incestuous. They attend the wedding, but leave immediately afterwards to seek their fortunes elsewhere, but not before Jared catches the bouquet. In the same spot where his words broke her heart, Jake takes them back by telling Jessi that she turned out to be lady enough for him after all.

Yes, ex lovers often kill total strangers in bursts of rage at being spurned. The high cost of being a sultry vixen, yanno.

The way you describe this makes it sound creepy as hell. She’s NOT his sister at all so it feels like you’re trying to set up this salacious plot point but unwilling to do it with something that’s actually forbidden. It’s a straw man--not a real plot.


Anonymous said...

The most valuable thing about all this is, we get a sense of what your day is like. By this time, I'd have committed suicide twice.

Anonymous said...

The first paragraph sounds a lot like the Julie Garwood book, For the Roses.

Miss Snark said...

It takes a lot longer to put it on the blog than it does to read the slush pile.

We'll do about 100 synopses this week. That's about what my incoming queries are each week. The Crapometer skews to SFF which I don't normally see much of, but it's a pretty fair representation of quantity and quality.

Jo Bourne said...

I think this 'flirting with incest' is going to be a touchy Romance sell.
My gut reaction -- yes -- creepy.