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I Don't Know that Angel is Redeemable For Me Any More

January 17th, 2014 (08:18 pm)

Strange what we ship and the characters that we like. I think it's far more than the characters themselves but the hot button issues they hit within us.

And strange that when reading one thing, it makes me think of unrelated issues.

Anyway, I've been continuing the romance novel binge. Several Courtney Milan's are now under my belt (that writer likes her angst. Oh my. I'm going to have to find something decidedly more fluffy soon). Anyway when finishing up one of them last night, I had the stray thought about how post-BtVS comics/Season 8 Angel is intolerable to me, now. I don't think I can root for him any more. I don't think I LIKE him any longer.

I'll get to what brought about the thought in a bit, but before I do, I want to stress that I did not always feel this way about the character of Angel. I really loved the character of Angel once. Even on those times when I didn't, I liked him as a complicated, conflicted character. I'm not saying that for 'cred', I just honestly did like the goofy, Mandy-singing, doomed, burdened Angel who wanted to be a hero. That character from the show had flaws but I LIKED him. Despite the occasional irritations, I rooted for him.

So, what brought on the thought.

I was comparing the leading men in the Courtney Milan stories. A couple of them -- Robert and Evan -- worked for me. The final, Oliver, did not. And it came as a shock to me that I didn't like Oliver at the end of the day. He's a romance novel hero. That's the ultimate in protagonist privilege right there. The writers always want us to root for the hero in the end. And I'd been primed to like him by all the novels preceding that one. In fact, I HAD liked Oliver in the other books. But when I reached the end of his book, I was thinking that his leading lady should turn him away and mean it.

I don't think it was a matter of Oliver's mistakes being more unforgivable than the other characters (in fact, one would argue that Evan had made the same kind of mistake only worse and for a far more protracted period of time). It was a matter of motivation rather than crime.

Okay, elaboration is needed to make any of this make sense. Robert and Oliver are the 'next generation' from the novel I mentioned the other day, the one where the governess was raped at a house party and who ended up marrying the rapist's man of business (the man of business quit the rapist's employ). Oliver is the result of the rape. Robert is the legitimate child of the rapist, the next Duke in "The Duchess War."

I really liked Oliver in Robert's novel. In particular I liked the scene where Robert is asking Oliver why Oliver had ever become his friend (at Eton. When Oliver's father --father being the man of business who had married Oliver's mother and who had raised Oliver as his own, not the rapist -- had beaten the Duke and exposed the rape to the pregnant Duchess, he'd also wrested an obligation from the Duke that the child of the rape would be educated when the time came. So both Oliver and Robert ended up at Eton as twelve-year-olds, where they went from being enemies to being friends.) Oliver told Robert that he'd needed to give Robert a chance, because if Robert could be different from the duke, that meant that Oliver could be too. How could I not like Oliver after that?

But that was in Robert's book. Robert's driving motivation in his novel was to be seen as himself, not as an extension of his father (either in legacy or title). He wanted so desperately to be worthy of love, to be seen for himself, to be better... Erm. Yeah, Robert was a bullseye on my preferred story kinks. I can forgive a hell of lot of character mistakes when a character makes those mistakes out of a desperate desire to be loved.

Which brings me to the Angel and the Oliver thing. I'd read the novel with Oliver's parents, and the novel with Oliver's brother. Oliver's story really couldn't be a desperate need to be accepted and loved. He was outright treasured by both his parents (his parents, not the rapist who was long dead), his siblings, and even by his titled half-brother. So his story was motivated by ambition. He was a duke's by-blow, the child of servants turned farmers, whose brother got both status and wealth (albeit, Robert settled part of the fortune on him... which was rather, generous, I thought given that Robert's money came from his MOTHER rather than their mutual father). So everything Oliver is doing is for placement, for power, and for status. And it places him in a story where he falls in love with an heiress. If he marries her, they'll think he's fortune hunting. She, like him, is illegitimate. She's too loud, doesn't know how to dress or behave "properly" and he loves her. But loving her isn't enough because... ambition. He loves her but being with her would thwart his ambitions, he wants power and status. He wants to be IMPORTANT (with capital letters). And... I ended up not liking him very much. When while telling her that he loved her he simultaneously comes out with her being beneath him (even though they are the same social status), I just... This is the opposite of story kink button hit.

This was where I thought that the heroine really shouldn't take him back. When he tells her he loves her while ripping her self-worth to shreds by telling her that she's beneath him...

This is what got me to thinking about BtVS. There are things a character can do that takes the rooting value out of a relationships. It's not exactly about some actions being unforgivable. It's not a matter of forgiveness even. It's that sometimes it's what MOTIVATED an action makes it intolerable.

And to further complicate things, when I read the Milan novella with a similar situation in that the hero Evan damaged a heroine's self-esteem through somewhat similar means, and yet I found Evan to be quite appealing where I found Oliver's transgression one that I don't actually think I would've forgiven. And I couldn't figure out WHY. Why was Evan's virtually identical transgression didn't leave as bad a taste in my mouth as Oliver's did and it finally came to me -- it's about power, ambition and status.

Everything Robert did was out of a desire to be accepted and to be loved. Evan, in his story, did virtually the same things as Oliver, only Evan's motivation had been a misguided immature love. Oliver's had been AMBITION. Oliver's desire had been to be IMPORTANT. To be important was the. most. important. thing to him.

To be powerful and to be important was what drove him to hurt people who wanted to love him. It was about the motivation. And it was why I didn't like Oliver by the end. And it was why, I don't think comics!Angel is redeemable to me any more.

Comics!Angel harmed people, people who loved him (Buffy in particular, but I actually consider Spike in there too. Spike had been Angel's ally during AtS 5, had gone walking into Angel's apocalypse as back-up, and Angel comes back, screws Buffy while gleefully telling her that she never really loved anyone else, and then tries to murder Spike so, yeah, I include Spike in the list of people who loved Angel and who Angel betrayed). Angel was also blinded by his ambition, by his desire for power, by his insatiable need to be the very most special snowflake around because He. Is. Important. And that importance meant it was worth harming Buffy, harming slayers, etc.

And... much like the end of Oliver's story where I found myself thinking: Someone who hurts you because their ambition is worth more to them than what they claim to love can't really be trusted with someone's heart. They don't value anyone as much as themselves. It's something hard underneath. When someone breaks someone's heart because they'd rather be Important with a capital "I"...

That is what Angel did in the comics, and he'll never really change because the writers of it can't even seem to catch onto the fact that that is what Angel did. And I cannot like that character. I cannot like comics!Angel. He's so very selfish deep down. He wanted to be the worlds most special snowflake above and beyond anything -- or anyone -- else. And at that point, I just find myself wishing that the character discovers this is a hollow pursuit. I don't actually think they should get the payoff of the very people he's willing to sacrifice to be the people who praise him and love him because that ends up with the disparity of requiring others to love HIM more than they love themselves after he's demonstrably shown as being utterly incapable of that himself.

And it was Milan's Oliver who taught me that. For me to rec Oliver's book, I'd have to rec it to someone with different story kinks than my own. Maybe an Angel fan would like it? I don't know. (That might be an interesting experiment).

I would rec Milan's "The Duchess War" with Robert as the hero, though. I floved Robert.


Posted by: Kats (wildrider)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 02:23 am (UTC)

I'm so, SO glad I have never read any of the comics. I would be extraordinarily sad if Angel was taken from me. I've always felt more connected to Angel than any other character in the show -- so earnest, so well-meaning, and so, so very fallible and bumbling in his attempts to do the right thing while inevitably choosing just the wrong thing. So many of my friends were always Buffy, or Spike, or Willow... I've always been Angel.

Posted by: Lisa (shipperx)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 06:50 pm (UTC)

The comics did a number on Angel. They really did. The worst part is that not only did they do an unforgivable number on Angel, not ONLY did they do it without any idea whatsoever how to get him back out, they did so in a way that...

Well, it sort of reminds me of Season 5 fic. At the time that Season 5 was going on it was possible to write all sorts of directions for Spuffy to go. Once Season 6 rolled around they chose a direction that cut off all those other ones. It's not that things COULDN'T have gone in the direction Season 6 took. They could. It was just that it eliminated so many other possibilities and took the most depressive one.

That's what they did with Angel. There are aspects of Angel, ways of looking at Angel that could lead to some of what happened in 8. By writing Season 8, they chose that route, eliminating the other interpretations of him. And that particular interpretation of him is... it's a hard sell.

If you had asked me in AtS5 whether Angel would've been capable of what he did in the comics I would've said, no. The parts of Angel that I emphasized in my interpretation of Angel would never have had him going down such a path. But the parts of Angel that the comics chose to emphasize... Now, I can't unsee it. And that has permanently changed some of the equation on Angel. It makes me terribly sad that they did that. They made Angel into someone I just don't root for, and I used to. I really, really used to.

Posted by: Barb (rahirah)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 03:50 am (UTC)

Yep. The thing is, if a writer who actually got that were to write Angel, I think he would be redeemable, because the writer would get that he needed redeeming. Sadly, it often seemed that the writers thought that what he did wasn't so bad and people should just get over it.

I do think that Dark Horse BELIEVED they were redeeming Angel last season... it's just that they honestly think he didn't do anything very bad, so for anyone who takes his betrayal of Buff and those hundreds of poor canon fodder Slayers seriously, the redemption seems perfunctory and unsatisfying.

Posted by: shadowkat67 (shadowkat67)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 03:54 pm (UTC)

Part of the problem may well be that the quality of writing has changed considerably in the transfer between mediums? Because Tim Minear who was doing Angel the Series - got the need for redemption and was actually exploring it, as well as its pitfalls. Whedon, who is about as involved in the comics as he currently is in Marvel Agents of Shield (which is not that much), never really got the whole redemption thing and isn't very good at structuring the arc (see Willow's redemptive arc in Buffy S7 as just one example, actually what he tried to do with Angel in the comics reminds me a lot of how he dealt with Willow - it's the old, they were possessed excuse. Keep in mind, Whedon's idea of a redemption arc comes from comic books and daytime serials - which more or less follow the same rules.)

I've rarely seen comics handle redemption well. They have this tendency to white-wash it. Oh, that character was possessed or they were manipulated, they are a hero now. I think it has to do with how quickly they are written or just the level of talent involved? I don't know.

Posted by: Lisa (shipperx)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 06:58 pm (UTC)

I pretty much agree with all of this. Plus a little.

I agree that this isn't Joss's strong suit. Not at all. He actually has a dodgy record on writing about this sort of thing (I tend to consider much of Spike's journey a happy accident... well not happy really, but definitely at least partially accidental).

And Joss himself admits to not really 'getting' Angel.

And the medium is definitely part of the problem.

And then there are the writers. They don't get it. And I honestly don't think at this point that any of the people directly involved in the comics are capable of 'getting it.'

I mean, seriously, the idiot who pitched and wrote Twangel was the exact same idiot who does the immensely stupid "Decoded" on the History Channel, the only interpretation of which is that either he's stupid enough to believe that half-assed conspiracy theory twaddle or he doesn't mind promoting idiotic conspiracy theory twaddle as though it were a real... for money. Either way, it makes me give the guy the stink eye. I'm not sure whether it's a question of IQ or ethics, but SOMETHING is out of whack.

The comics are never going to redeem Angel from Season 8 because they can't even get it through their heads what about it was actually wrong.

Posted by: shadowkat67 (shadowkat67)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 08:53 pm (UTC)

I mean, seriously, the idiot who pitched and wrote Twangel was the exact same idiot who does the immensely stupid "Decoded" on the History Channel,

Yes, Brad Meltzer. Have you ever read one of his thrillers? I did, Double Dare or something like that. The plot made no sense. It was this weird legal thriller that was beyond stupid. Then he wrote this wildly popular Justice League comic - that Whedon fell in love with and wrote the forward to the graphic novel version (which I read in a book store once, and seriously, were they stoned?)

Dumb move. Although I don't think they worked that closely. Metlzer basically stated it was quick and by email.

The problem with Angel the character, was a) he was created by David Greenwalt not Joss Whedon, then developed by Marti Noxon and Tim Minear.
Minear took over and wrote the dark redemptive story - Minear, unlike Whedon, is a religious man, as is David Greenwalt, and has a different view of what a soul is - he actually believes in it and views it from a religious context. While Whedon, an atheist, does not believe in God, is not a fan of religion, and does not believe or define a soul in a religious context. As a result - we have a bit of a conflict going on here.

Add to all of this - Whedon was never that involved in Angel. Greenwalt and Minear ran that series, Whedon didn't pop up until S5, and that's when the whole redemption story sort of got questioned.

So, jump ahead to the comics. IDW owns Angel for a bit. Whedon manages to get the rights handed over to Dark Horse. Once he does, they change the direction of the character completely. I'm not saying I loved IDW's take, but I think their writers understood the character better than Dark Horse did.

Posted by: Infinitewhale (infinitewhale)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 10:47 pm (UTC)

I don't even know if that's it. It might explain it if Angel were the only one raked unceremoniously through the latrine, but it's also Buffy and to some extent Giles (even though it's downplayed). So I don't think it's that Joss didn't get or respect Angel the character (though he didn't), it's that he simply didn't care. Story before characterization or continuity.

Posted by: shadowkat67 (shadowkat67)
Posted at: January 19th, 2014 04:09 am (UTC)

Oh, I'd agree it wasn't just Angel. I honestly don't think the Buffy comics work...nor do I think Whedon was ever that involved in them, any more than he is in Marvel Agents of Shield. (fans can be very guillible when it comes to their heroes).

Five reasons why the Buffy comics don't work for me and I gave up on the comics after the last comic in S8:

1. Serious plot and character arc continuity issues and plot holes you could drive a mac truck through.

2. Pacing - slow as molassas - too many issues where zip happens.

3. Out of character moments for literally everyone..with possible exception of Andrew who doesn't count.

4. Too much breaking the 4th wall or meta reference on fandom (writers stop reading the boards and write)

5. Too much focus on ex deus machina devices or crazy plot twists, not enough on character relationships and personal demons - which was what made Buffy great.

Clearly the people charged with writing the series - either forgot it, or never really watched it. Because that's how egregious the continuity issues were.

Posted by: Infinitewhale (infinitewhale)
Posted at: January 19th, 2014 10:20 am (UTC)

with possible exception of Andrew who doesn't count.

I think the whole drugging Buffy and swapping her with a robot was pretty OOC for the guy is supposed to be in S9.

Too much breaking the 4th wall or meta reference on fandom

Absolutely. Far, far too much. It's actually why I never bought the "I forgot" defense Joss put out. There are way too many 'we know this is bs, but go with it' winks in them.

I don't think Joss himself has been all that involved since the Fray arc of S8, which was... 2008? Since then he's written all of 4 issues or so. Still, it seems like every bad idea seems to come from him.

Posted by: Lisa (shipperx)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 07:12 pm (UTC)

As I said to Wildrider above, I think possibly the worst part of it is that in some ways it reminds me of Season 5/6 fanfic where there were so many open possibilities for Spuffy, where their relationship could've travelled a different path. Then the writers chose one specific one, one that traded on certain particular aspects of the character, emphasized those aspects and eliminated other possible ones.

The comics zeroed in on one aspect and interpretation of Angel. It emphasized certain parts of Angel, parts that had been there but had been part of a broad mix. And much like shadowkat's and my discussion of the differences in what we each had emphasized in the character of Oliver when we read the book, when watching show Angel there were certain parts we emphasize, parts that constituted 'My Angel..." much as we have "my Spike: smokes, drinks, swears, and is loyal to the end" that sort of things. The parts of Angel that I emphasized to stake out the "Angel" territory in my head were not the aspects that were emphasized in the comics. "My Angel" wouldn't have traveled down the Twangel path in the way that comics Angel did.

However the aspects that would rationalize how Angel could go down that path are there. If you pushed them to the forefront, if you emphasized them, if you made them the most driving characteristics... then, yeah, you could see how THAT Angel got to THAT place. And the thing is, if that's what the story emphasized, that emphasis DOES push that interpretation forward. Like Season 6 it eliminated other possible paths to a more narrow array of choices and... those aspects that allowed Angel to do that cannot receded to the recesses any longer. They have bound greater areas of Angel territory than they had before... and now I can't unsee it. I can't make those irrelevant aspects any longer. And they make Angel an incredibly selfish person in a way that fits with his backstory, even if it's not in the way I would've previously thought of fitting him. It's changed him.


They don't get what they did to the character. They don't even get what the character has DONE, which is astounding considering it constituted the death of hundreds of cannon fodder and of systematically undermining Buffy in a host of pernicious ways.

But the thing is, they've irrevocably eliminated other paths for Angel, and the one they made is one I have an extremely hard time sympathizing with. I don't LIKE this guy. And it isn't just Bangel that was damaged. I don't have any Spangel=y feelings left either. It really destroyed relationships in a way that I just -- don't. Just don't.

I feel sorry for show Angel. But Comics!Angel needs his ass kicked. Repeatedly. And then he needs a couple hundred years being alone.

Posted by: Shapinglight (shapinglight)
Posted at: January 21st, 2014 10:41 pm (UTC)

And it isn't just Bangel that was damaged. I don't have any Spangel=y feelings left either. It really destroyed relationships in a way that I just -- don't. Just don't.

Yeah, I can't ever forgive them for that. Trying to write Spangel since the comics (unless you write Angel as a complete dick) is pretty much impossible. Why would you wish this self-involved idiot on Spike?

Edited at 2014-01-21 10:42 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Lisa (shipperx)
Posted at: January 22nd, 2014 02:14 am (UTC)

I can't imagine why. At this point, I can't really understand rooting for anything but "run, Spike, RUN!"

Posted by: Infinitewhale (infinitewhale)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 07:55 am (UTC)

I don't think I could root for comics!Angel because even if one could ignore the scope of his actions*, I don't trust the writers. In a way, they are exactly as you describe comics!Angel. They want respect and trust, but have no interest in reciprocation. They should just have it even if they'll throw it all away at the drop of a hat for their own ends. He/They don't think there is anything wrong with this and it's aw-shucks-sorry and back to the start. That's true of comic!Buffy as well.

*At this point there really needs to be some kind of explanation of why Angel gets to be redeemed (again). What makes him better than Warren or any other baddie we're meant to rejoice in the demise of? Why because he actually *is* a special snowflake, of course. And the circle begins (again).

Posted by: Lisa (shipperx)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 07:22 pm (UTC)

At this point there really needs to be some kind of explanation of why Angel gets to be redeemed (again).

Which is a very good question that they will never ask and will never allow Angel to ask himself. Something could be done with that, but it'll never happen because, quite simply, with Dark Horse the very obvious answer is "Because he's the hero, duh!" They really seem to think about these things on just that superficial a level. He's the hero because he's the protagonist. He doesn't actually have to be particularly admirable to earn the privilege or the praise. He is because he IS, darnit.

Posted by: curiouswombat (curiouswombat)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 12:29 pm (UTC)
Hmm 2

Everything I read about the comics makes me glad I don't see them as having anything to do with TV Buffy. I see them as an AU like much fanfic - but not as good as much of it, from what I've heard.

Your comment on Oliver When he tells her he loves her while ripping her self-worth to shreds by telling her that she's beneath him... makes me think of Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice who does exactly that - but manages to eventually redeem himself.

Posted by: Lisa (shipperx)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 07:19 pm (UTC)

Avoid the comics. It does permanent damage, most of all to Angel.

And re: Oliver, as LJS said, I think it has to do with structure. Mr. Darcy looked down on Elizabeth at a stage where he didn't know her and where society bolstered the concept that he was better than her. And -- and this is important -- Elizabeth ripped him a new one when he proposed while simultaneously putting her down.

The really deflating aspect of what happened with Oliver was that it came so very near the end of the story. He really DID love her. He KNEW that he loved her. He just knew that it would harm his political career, so he didn't choose her. And he explains it by pointing out that she's beneath him, even though what was 'beneath him' was either superficial (how she dresses) or... was HIS OWN SITUATION (she's illegitimate just like he is.)

And he 'wins her back' at the end by basically... saying he wants her back. She never even rejected him after it, and she truly deserved better. He actually really broke her heart.

I get the bullying aspect that shadowkat points out from her reading of the novel. I'm not really criticizing the novel because the author makes a very convincing psychological case for why Oliver is the way that he is, it's just... I don't think he deserved to 'get the girl' anywhere nearly as easily as he got her in the end. I think she deserved someone where she didn't have to wonder whether deep down he thought she wasn't good enough for him.

Posted by: LJS (ljs)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 01:25 pm (UTC)

For me, the difference between Evan and Oliver is also a result of structure. We see Evan AFTER he's repented, and the bad behavior is all in flashback. He's ready to grovel from the start, which emphasizes the love. Oliver we see making all those mistakes of ambition, and they are still happening late in the story; we don't get the explanation of the bullying until nearly the end.

Posted by: Lisa (shipperx)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 06:14 pm (UTC)

I agree that some of the difference is absolutely structural. Oliver's soul-deflating words came near the end of the story. Evan's bullying came in flashback, but also was somewhat more impersonal (despite his feelings at the time) so that when we experience the story, it's with his always trying to set it right.

But I also think part of it had to do with Evan having only been 19 when he'd said those things. Oliver was 30.

And it had to do with Elaine accepted the apology but did NOT accept Evan as a suitor after it. I saw some complaints about the time-jump in the story, but I thought it was somewhat necessary. That skipped year was somewhat necessary in that it gave time for trust to develop. He had to become non-threatening friend before anything else could grow. In The Heiress, Oliver pretty much only had to arrive and say that he'd been wrong in order to be forgiven. Which is, as you point out, a structural issue. If the betrayal had been sooner in the story it probably wouldn't have played in quite the same way. But the combo of coming so late with so little involved in the reconciliation made it less than satisfactory for me.

Edited at 2014-01-18 07:29 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Kiki May (kikimay)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 01:36 pm (UTC)
Angry slayer is angry

The comics kinda ruined all the characters for me. Even Spike and Buffy, the ones I love the most are at their weakest points (Okay, Spike not so much, but he so underused! And Buffy yes, totally)

I loved Angel in AtS (And in BtVS, even if he sometimes did things I don't approved) I loved him despite I often "disagreed" with his choices, but he was a complex and fascinating character and ultimately his puppy eyes and his goofy side won me.
In S8 he's terrible, but what really bothers me - like REALLY - is the whitewashing in S9. HELL NO.

Posted by: Lisa (shipperx)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 07:27 pm (UTC)

The comics are a plague. Buffy is definitely damaged in them. Not as damaged as Angel, who I think is perhaps irreparably damaged, but she's damaged. They've definitely made her more immature than she used to be. Some of the comic-damage to Buffy is just too what-the-hell to incorporate (I'll never wrap my head around bank-robbing-Buffy), and some of it is so obviously part of the sexist mindset of Dark Horse and comics fanculture that I dismiss it. There are still other aspects that damage her because it is close enough to her to be detrimental, but she hasn't been as fundamentally damaged as a character as Angel.

And yeah, Season 9 made clear that Dark Horse not only does not GET what they did to Angel, they have not the first flipping idea of how to address it so as to make the story worthwhile on any level.

The comics did a horrific number on Angel.

Posted by: shadowkat67 (shadowkat67)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 03:43 pm (UTC)


First off, as you well know I was a huge Spike fan, and a Spuffy shipper. While I liked Angel and was at one point a Bangle Shipper, I was mostly ambivalent about him after roughly S4. I stopped shipping Bangle during S4 Buffy and S1 Angel. While I did read the comics, IDW and Buffy, I admittedly stopped after S8, quickly realizing that Dark Horse's take on the characters and series did not work for me at all - too many continuity errors, plot holes, and insane out of character moments - etc, etc. So, I basically, just stopped bothering and eventually lost interest altogether.

I've also read The Duchess War and The Heiress Effect. (Preferred the Heiress Effect, the Duchess War had plotting issues, and I chose not to read the novella - because honestly, I'd begun to get tired of the rape trope. Plus, I wanted humor. The other two had it, the first one clearly didn't. This may have influenced how I read it? Because I noticed in your synopsis of it - that you mention the word rape five to six times - and that really isn't important or even a factor in either The Duchess War or The Heiress Effect.)

I view both differently. But I think you are right - its about story kinks. Also, experiences, economic status, environment, family, genetic quirks, how we think - etc, etc, etc. There really is no understanding of why people view something so differently.

I actually identified with both Oliver and the heroine, whose name I forget - read it back in October. In much the same way that I identified with Willow, Xander, and Spike in Buffy. I'd been bullied in school - and at the core, the novel is about bullying and how it damages us.

Oliver used to handle bullying by fighting back, but somewhere along the line he got scared. He saw power as a means to fight it. If he had power and prestige he could ensure change, he could ensure people like his father could vote, that women like his mother didn't get raped. He felt that he had no power as a boy, and was often the one being bullied, relying on his cousin and brother to rescue him. One day, in school, his defining moment and one that wracks him with guilt - is when he finally gets fed up with being bullied for protecting a classmate. And figures out if he didn't protect this boy, he wouldn't be beaten up or hurt. The Heiress handles a completely different situation, she's being bullied by her Uncle, who is holding her sister hostage and bullying her into getting married. The (bully) lord who asks Oliver to hurt the Heiress - is doing it because the heiress scorned his attentions. He had financial issues and was planning on marrying her for money - and she went out of her way to make it impossible for him to do so. In short, she handled bullying by standing out, making herself known, loud and obnoxious. Oliver handles it by disappearing, by hiding, by going along with the crowd. In some ways Oliver reminds me a great deal of William/Spike - who took on Spike's cloak and attitude and became a bully himself to handle it.
And like Spike, Oliver's insecurities make him put everyone else down - telling the Heiress she's beneath him, when he actually deep down feels the opposite - which is what he eventually tells her at the very end. That he is beneath her, that he's a coward and she's so brave.

Oliver had been bullied so badly as a child, for being illegitmate (no small issue back then), a working man's son (also a major class issue back then particularly when you are in school with Lords). What you see are the effects of that.

So see? You focused on one thing - while I focused on something completely different. It's almost as if we read completely different books.

This is why I love reading reviews of books on Amazon and Good Reads - I love to see how differently everyone views things.

Posted by: Lisa (shipperx)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 06:01 pm (UTC)

I agree that I think having read the prequel with Oliver's parents influences my read because of Oliver's father (again, man who raised him, not the other one).

{BTW: Oliver and Quincy's first meeting appears in that prequel. Quincy began as a bully against Oliver as well. Quincy was only 11 and had always been told by the Duke that Marshall had destroyed his parents marriage (which was true enough... in a totally perverted and perverse re-imagining of events). Being an eleven year old faced with the child of the 'bad man' who had destroyed his parents marriage, Quincy had it in for Oliver the moment he laid eyes on him, up until Oliver spat out the truth at which point, Quincy did a complete 180 and let Oliver beat on him).

Anyway, Oliver's father was a coal miner's son whose own father was a drunken abuser who had beaten his mother to death (bejeebus, Milan likes angst). His mother had always nurtured his education and ambition. She was protecting him when she was killed, so Oliver's father ran away and was determined -- DETERMINED -- to make something of himself to make up for his mother's sacrifice, going through a series of jobs and coming into the Duke's employ through less than stellar but understandable means. He had been the one holding the Duke's finances together, etc. Walking out on the Duke actually cost Oliver's father a great deal financially (he would've ended up wealthy had he stayed, that much of which, Oliver understood), but when presented with hurting Oliver's mother, his father just... couldn't. He tried to hold onto his desire to become rich and wealthy and important, but he eventually had to face that his ambition wasn't as important as being happy and respecting himself. He chose Oliver's mother.

And I'm not knocking Milan's psychological development of Oliver here. He makes a great deal of sense. And, unlike Angel, I do NOT consider Oliver unredeemable. He really doesn't have that much to be redeemed about. But I wasn't really supportive of his leading lady taking him back because the problem was that there was an underlying truth to it. Oliver had simultaneously loved her and been embarrassed by her. He chose himself for a good long while there and frankly, by that point, I thought that she deserved better. He could be redeemed, but I wasn't sure that he should've gotten the girl.

And perhaps it is structural as LJS suggests because Evan basically did what Oliver did but it's told ten years later so that through the entirety of the story Evan is trying to make up for his mistakes to Elaine (and Evan had only been 19 years old when he did it, not a 30 year old man). But I think the reason I reacted differently was that unlike the heiress, Elaine doesn't just up and forgive what happened. In fact she tells Evan that while she can forgive but she WON'T take him and WON'T love him. And he has to accept that. Or at least he tries to. It takes a yeah of his 'just being friends' with her to begin to win her trust and to pave the way for winning her in the end. So structurally it may have worked a bit better whereas in Heiress, Oliver never really had to work very hard to win her back. All it really took was no longer pushing her away, and, I couldn't help thinking that she deserved more than that.

And, you're right. It's about story kinks. What works for us and presses our own emotional hot button issues.

I was ready to really love Oliver from the previous two books, but between Oliver's behavior with his sister Free and the way that he broke his lady love's heart near the end of the story, I found myself thinking that he wasn't a bad man. I understood his problems (and I do appreciate Milan creating such psychological complexities). I could even sympathize, but I thought he probably needed to lose the girl, at the very least like Evan, for a good long time. Because SHE deserved better.

Posted by: Lisa (shipperx)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 06:01 pm (UTC)

And re: Angel and Spike (as well as Oliver and Quincy, etc.) I remember ages ago realizing that with fiction people come away with different ideas because which specific pieces and parts of a character stick out to us and/or connect to us may not be the same parts of the character. So sometimes people love the same character... but it's not the same character.

It's sort of mysterious alchemy how one thing works for us and another doesn't.

At any rate, Oliver makes total sense as a character. He does. I really liked the stuff at the end with his aunt and his relationship with his aunt. How his aunt said that his mother was a 'coal-grabber' and how Oliver, like herself, held his hurts closely and couldn't 'grab the coals again.' From Oliver's POV, his aunt was sad and lovely (from his mother's POV she was deflating as all hell. I actually liked reading the entire set* because the different POV's give multiple perspectives). I just found that I was rather disappointed in Oliver. His father would NEVER want Oliver to 'make up for' what he had given up in marrying Oliver's mother. His father chose that because he wanted to be HAPPY. And Eddenton (I don't remember the bad guy's name) was right that he already had Oliver 2/3 of the way down the path to perdition. Hurting the woman he loved for his own ambition was bad... but so was distancing himself from his sister and his family... other than, curiously, the young duke. And it made me wonder whether at least part of Oliver's devotion to Quincy was in fact that Quincy was a duke after all.

*I haven't read the one with Sebastian. I was intrigued but the book had such mixed reviews on Amazon that I was sort of taking a break before delving in. So many reviews were referring to 'a broken heroine' and a 'self-loathing hero' that I wasn't sure that I didn't want to read fluff before diving into that one.

Posted by: shadowkat67 (shadowkat67)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 09:06 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I'm beginning to think reading The Governess Affair probably colored your take on The Duchess War and the Heiress Effect. See, I came into both books a bit blind to the back story, which is touched upon but not really discussed at length. (The Governess Affair was too angsty). Also, I rather adored the sister and the Indian Doctor romance - which was handled better than usual. In some respects it was more interesting and more compelling than the lead romance.

I admittedly was not turned on by Oliver. He irritated the hell out of me for a good portion of the book. But then, when he has his epithany about why he was doing what he was doing and how he was on the verge of losing everything that meant the most to him - I was moved. He didn't want the power to be "important" - it really wasn't about that at all, he wanted it to change things, to be able to fight the bullies in his life. So that he no longer had to kowtow to bullies. And he may not have perceived his father or parents as ever having that ability.

I have no idea how I'd have read it if - I read The Governess Affair first. It's weird - it's sort similar to discussing Buffy with people. The people who started watching the series in S4, never understood why fans loved Angel or Bangle. They never quite got it, nor did they understand the appeal of the first three seasons. Those who watched S1-3, and got fed up during S4 and 5, never understood the Spike love. Sometimes it's what order you've watched things in and what episodes.

Posted by: shadowkat67 (shadowkat67)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 09:12 pm (UTC)

I haven't read the one with Sebastian. I was intrigued but the book had such mixed reviews on Amazon that I was sort of taking a break before delving in. So many reviews were referring to 'a broken heroine' and a 'self-loathing hero' that I wasn't sure that I didn't want to read fluff before diving into that one.

Haven't read it either. Didn't much like the blurb. And ...unfortunately, I've begun to burn out on the romance genre and am jumping to more literary. (We'll see - The Blind Assassin may be sending me scurrying in the opposite direction. Talk about angst!)

Sherry Thomas is a better writer than Milan. Loretta Chase is more fun. Both are about 2-3 dollar kindle reads. For something completely different there's dragon shapeshifter novels - can't remember the writer's name though, the title of the book is Dragon Actually, and What a Dragon Should Know. They are a hoot, if a wee bit on the violent side.

Posted by: Lisa (shipperx)
Posted at: January 20th, 2014 05:35 pm (UTC)

Having read GRRMartin, it takes a hell of a lot of violence to be shockingly violent any longer. (Not exactly proud that my tolerance for violence has gone up so high since reading those, but truly, ASoIaF is relentlessly violent. It was bound to happen.)

Posted by: shadowkat67 (shadowkat67)
Posted at: January 20th, 2014 09:21 pm (UTC)

Yep, it's why I stopped reading A Dance of Dragons - I got tired of every five pages involving a torture, a dismemberment, a gruesome death, or a detailed description of it. I get it that GRRM is a horror writer and this is a war novel...but seriously, every four or five pages in a 800-1000 page book?

I think the tv series weirdly less violent and easier to take. Weird, I know, but there it is. Maybe it's because I only see one episode a week?
I don't know. You'd think it would be the opposite.

My mother and I were discussing Blacklist, and she'd mentioned that it was brutal, shockingly violent. (The episode involved a serial killer as the case of the week, torturing and killing people, while in the B subplot, the lead, Red, was hunting all the people who had tortured him - and killing them one by one). After I saw it, I said,'s rather tame in comparison to Game of Thrones, the Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, a relative walk in the park. And it's a very sad comment on our society that I can actually say that.

Posted by: Lisa (shipperx)
Posted at: January 20th, 2014 10:04 pm (UTC)

My mother and I actually argue about that sort of thing. She moans about how I watch "such violent, unreal things" and then she turns around and watches Lifetime Movies (where husbands and wives constantly murder each other) and things like Blacklist and Law and Order ad nauseum and I point out that those things are ALL ABOUT murder and rape. "Yes, but they're real" she says. "THere's reality about them."

Exactly! Seriously, I'd rather have Vampire Diary vampires killing folks and GOT Ice Zombies. Those are decidedly NOT. REAL. and it's all quite easily dismissed. The girl being raped at a frat party (i.e. every third episode of Law and Order SVU) is entirely possible and entirely depressing. All her procedural shows are every single bit as violent. They just wrap it up in law suits and investigations, so could she please lay off the fact that what I watch tends to be more abstract and/or faciful in nature. I'd rather watch a Headless Horseman than a "real" type serial killer any damn day of the week. There really aren't Headless Horsemen running around bringing about the apocalypse. There actually are pervert serial killers.

Posted by: shadowkat67 (shadowkat67)
Posted at: January 20th, 2014 10:53 pm (UTC)

LOL! I've had similar discussions with people, just not my mother - who tends to be open-minded. Although she does not understand why tv series like The Walking Dead or horror movies scare me. It's not real, she'll state. Horror doesn't phase her and she thinks it is rather silly.

I agree with you actually - the violence on Vampire Diaries and Game of Thrones bothered me less than the violence on the Walking Dead (I have issues with zombies, so there's that, although oddly not the ones on GoT - maybe because we see less of them?), and Blacklist. Vamp Diaries feels like cartoon violence.

Breaking Bad - of all the tv shows that I've seen - bothered me the most and I had the most issues with. It's violence is almost too real and too possible and too depressing.

Posted by: shadowkat67 (shadowkat67)
Posted at: January 20th, 2014 09:23 pm (UTC)

Dragon Actually...I think it's that one, has a hilarious scene where the heroine is taken to task because every time a guy flirts with her - she either chops off his arm or lops off his head. Apparently she's an expert with an ax.

I'd have to say the violence is rather comical. So too for that matter is the sex.

Posted by: Lisa (shipperx)
Posted at: January 18th, 2014 09:53 pm (UTC)

I totally liked the sub plot of the sister and the Indian student. Quite enjoyed that bit (and it set my mind to wondering when will be the day they'll slip a gay romance into a mainstream romance in the same way. Can see how it would be done but after reading the reviews on Amazon that complain about graphic sex, it's probably going to be a wait before that happens... but it should totally happen.)

Posted by: shadowkat67 (shadowkat67)
Posted at: January 19th, 2014 03:59 am (UTC)

Eloise James comes close with Pleasure for Pleasure. The rake's fiancee - dumps him and takes off with another woman, who she's fallen in love with.
That's the closest I've seen in the historical regency trope.

Currently it's just contemporary or urban fantasy that has it. (The popular JR Ward's best-seller on Good Reads, is a gay urban fantasy romance about male vampires...which, honestly, I'd rather read Spangle fic.)

Posted by: Rebcake (rebcake)
Posted at: January 21st, 2014 03:16 am (UTC)

I don't know that I'm able to add anything much to your epiphany. I haven't been solidly Team Angel since BtVS S2, if then. That's because those parts of his character that led to the OTT S8 behavior were always there and I couldn't overlook them. He and Willow both exhibit an alarming conviction that they know what's best for other people, all evidence to the contrary. That would be fine, except that they both force things on others, rather than dealing with their own issues. The puppy eyes and resolve face have no power over me, although I do enjoy the odd dork moment from either on the show.

I do get what you're saying though, about how certain actions can make you re-evaluate a character's entire arc. The comics haven't been kind to hardly any of the characters. That would be okay, as authorial kindness isn't necessarily required to make a good story, but so little of it made emotional sense for the people we knew. Angel's awful scheme actually made more sense for his character than many of the other digressions, but I suspect that is why it's been so hard for people.

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