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May 7th, 2005

12:12 AM

Why Do Secret Agent Stories Have These Stupid Things?

I noticed that whenever I read a romance novel with secret agent main characters, these stupid things always crop out in so many of those books. Why is that?

  • The secret agent heroine is always in love with her hunky superior. I don't understand why, but these women always are in love with those men. These men could be their trainers, supervisors, partners, but they are also the heroine's superior in terms of abilities. It is as if a secret agent heroine has no role in the organization other than to cheer the hero on before getting kidnapped and having to be rescued by the hero for the penultimate scene.
  • The hero is a death magnet. His partner died. His wife and infant died. Sometimes, the heroine's partner died but it is always the hero's partner, parents, family, or all three who are sacrificed for some stereotypical "I'm A Vigilante Now, See My Stubble!" antics from the hero. I'm surprised that the heroine isn't concerned about her longevity, since it's obvious by now that the hero is better at being guilt-ridden than at keeping plants alive.
  • When the hero is on a mission, he is always acting against his superior's orders. And the superior often turns out to be evil. When the heroine is on a mission, it is because she is trying to locate her missing father or sibling or investigate the death of a best friend. It is as if heroes cannot follow orders and heroines have no concern about anything outside her family and small circle of friends. When both the hero and heroine embark on a mission together, chances are they have to pretend to be lovers. Or in an erotic story, she has to pretend to be some dominatrix.
  • The secret agent heroine stammers, cannot lie, or in rare cases, feels uncomfortable about lying. Goodness me, where do they find these charming idiots?
  • The heroine has an innate ability to sense that the hero, her suspect, is innocent. Her attraction to his abs and her desperate need for her first orgasm do not affect her impartiality, naturally.
  • World-class terrorist leaders bent on world-domination hire thugs to watch our hero and heroine with orders not to harm the hero and heroine.
  • When on the run, the hero and the heroine can still have sex twice or thrice.
  • The villains will show up conveniently after the sex scene or before the sex scene but never during.
  • Every villain wants to rape our heroine.
  • Every villain's mistress is the hero's ex who still wants to sleep with the hero.
  • In a murder mystery, if the villain is male, he is a traitor who holds a personal grudge against the hero. If the villain is female (and they always are, for some reason), she is jealous of our heroine, wants our hero, or is some weirdo who is scorned by some man so she now hates all men. For some reason, very few villains harbor a genuine personal grudge against the heroine that isn't related in any way to the hero.
  • Secret agents have no personal politics or dogma.
  • Secret agents think in black and white, just like military guys do. They never get involved in morally grey missions.
  • Secret agent heroes have names like Ace Jaxxon, Striker Shooter, Nick Scorpion, Alex Hawk, and other names previously reserved for WWE wrestlers and Cassie Edwards' heroes.
  • Secret agent heroines have friends that are murdered by serial killers before. It's the latest "in" thing, I believe.
  • Serial killers always target female secret agents - no exceptions - in their thoughtful note-sending sprees.
  • Female secret agents are always profilers or evaluators or psychics. Very few actually deal with field work - they leave all that gung-ho stuff to the men, doncha know. Female secret agents get bonus cookie points if they are psychic, even more cookie points if being psychic means that they are still clueless anyway in the investigation.
  • Every small town has a serial killer.
  • Every small town has a big house with a big basement filled with dead bodies.
  • Yet no one ever consider just catching the inhabitants in these big houses whenever dead bodies show up.
  • In small town, other women are always the killers. But if these other women are not present, the local rich kid, who always want to develop the smalltown, is always the bad guy.
13 comment(s).

Posted by Lisa:

I was so disappointed in how watered down the heroine was in L. Howard's Kiss Me While I Sleep. The worst moment was when the hero kills the scientist after they blow up the lab. I got the impression this was so the heroine wouldn't have to kill someone in cold blood. She's a freakin' assassin, that's her job. I was just so pissed off that she was neutered to keep her likeable, feminine, what?
May 7th, 2005 @ 12:46 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

I haven't read that book but I will be just as disappointed as you are by the outcome. I don't blame LH though. Everytime an author has her heroine doing something heinous like lying or even doing her job as an agent, too many readers are too trigger-happy in calling these heroines "unfeminine", "unlikeable", and what-not.
May 7th, 2005 @ 12:51 AM

Posted by Cece:

If the heroine can't string two sentences together, it does make you wonder how she got to be a secret agent! LOL Dead on Mrs. G!
May 7th, 2005 @ 3:52 AM

Posted by Daria:

I can proudly say I've never written any of those things... :P ... and I loathe the 'he has a nice abs and kind eyes so he is innocent'... but as a matter of fact, it all goes down to trying to insert an erzatz-reader into a story
May 7th, 2005 @ 7:36 AM

Posted by Kate Rothwell:

You've read the Horniest Danger, right? http://www.likesbooks.com/ppp2004a.html#jennyevans
May 8th, 2005 @ 8:37 AM

Posted by cw:

I felt let down by KMWIS, too. Are there any examples of women who do their job that readers DON'T get upset about? Incompetent heroines seem to litter the romance genre (ref: female business execs/owners).

Love the list.
May 8th, 2005 @ 12:11 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

Kate, I just read that PPP entry. Hysterical. But what's more hysterical is that there is a story in Secrets 11 where the heroine armed herself with a STAPLER.

Who needs PPP when authors are writing the "real" deal, huh? Pfffft!
May 8th, 2005 @ 12:19 PM

Posted by PS:

I love all the dorky Secret Agent stories because I have a cousin who is one. And I mentally picture her in all the silly situations and laugh my ass off. She scared some Navy Seals during a training sessions because she got excited when they said that they were going to blow up stuff. Anyone who can scare Seals doesn't need an Alpha guy to protect her.
May 10th, 2005 @ 11:39 PM

Posted by Anonymous:

May 11th, 2005 @ 7:01 AM

Posted by rianax:

Makes me want to run and watcg Alias-- at least the first three seasons before it went all into soap opera territory.

Sydney needs to grow up, get away from her family, and move to Canada had have like a dozen dogs or something.
September 6th, 2005 @ 6:20 AM

Posted by suzan hyssen:

The thing that makes me mental is that the very qualities these heroines need to be credible--methodical, smart, on target--are those most lacking.
October 26th, 2005 @ 10:33 AM

Posted by platedlizard:

Necroposting, I'm sure, but what the heck:

My sis is a Marine, and while her job is mostly Geek Corp, she still has to know how to use weapons ("every Marine is a riffleman"). According to her the best part about training was blowing things up on the range, and she checked out as a sharp-shooter with a pistol, which isn't something a Marine of her rank usually does.

She's not a 'kick ass' type herione, being kind of average for a young 20-something woman, but she is more then capable of handling herself in a potentially dangerous situation. I wish there were more heriones like her, 'ordinary' but capable of getting the job done.
November 18th, 2005 @ 7:54 PM

Posted by Lenise:

I'm writing a thesis on romantic suspense novels - and you're 100% spot on! I've spent 16,000 words complaining about how stoopid the heroine's are, and how the serial killers are always off raping 'promiscuous' women while the heroine flutters around and the hero takes care of it (while getting in up to 9 sex scenes - have you read 'Hard Evidence' by Pamela Clarke - friggin hilarious!). Anyway, thanks, you've brightened my day!:)
September 24th, 2007 @ 9:59 AM