(I had meant to post this last summer but didn't. So while the seasonal reference is a bit dated, the excuses, particularly the last one, still hold true.)
I've put off writing about this theme for a long time. Partly because it's summer and summer is a busy time in my household. All the little fledglings return to the nest and so there's quality family time and vacations and such. Routines go fluttering out the window, following swiftly by schedules and (unfortunately) self-discipline. That one is the hardest to coax back inside.
Still, that's only one reason why I've procrastinated writing about this theme. The other is because this is a subject I'm not real keen on discussing in public. It feels like hanging transparent lingerie on the front porch for the neighbors to inspect. Well, these days maybe that wouldn't bother a lot of folks, but I guess I'm just old-fashioned.
But here is theme number three:
Beauty vs the Beast
OK, that's the cop-out, euphemistic label.
In reality, it's:
This theme has appeared so often and in sometimes unexpected (and uncomfortable) ways that I've finally had to accept that it is an actual theme and not an embarrassing subconscious fixation after all. (There was some relief in acknowledging that, I can tell you.)
The idea of sex both as a path to intimacy through love (requiring sublimation of self), and as a means of manipulation and control through seduction and rape (thereby establishing the dominance of self) is one that my story explores in several ways:
-- Moriana's brutal marriage, where her husband uses sex as a means of power and control;
--Saree's increasingly bizarre and disturbing discoveries as she gradually restores her lost memories and learns the truth about her relationship with a man she thought she loved;
--Yakoba's own disastrous yet empowering decision to engage in a forbidden liaison that both liberates and destroys him;
--the fraught triangle of Riordan, Alazne, and Taliyr, and particularly Alazne's own struggle to overcome culturally ingrained distrust of men and sexuality, and to find the courage to freely choose or reject a lover, with attendant consequences.
Reading that, you might get the impression that the book is all about sex in some form or other.
Thank goodness I've already posted the other two themes, so you know it's not really.
But any expression of sex and sexuality in stories tends to snag a reader's attention like nothing else will, kind of like the way one's eye will jump first to the color red in any photo or painting. My greatest fear (well, besides the one where my mother and children (why do we never worry about our fathers reading our work?) will some day read it and Wonder About Me) is that this theme will prove too overwhelming. I'd like it be subtle and subterranean, but red is not a self-effacing color.
In the profound stillness that preceded dawn, Alazne awoke. She had been dreaming of the man with the knife, only in the dream he held no knife and this left his hands free to do other things. As she became more fully awake, the ache of longing in her loins translated to a very full bladder.
Muttering oaths under her breath, she found her boots and thick, felted overtunic, and pulled them on. Outside, the air was breezy and cold, though not as cold as it had been in the heights. The moon was a bright feather, floating high over a pine-furred ridge. She walked beyond the camp to relieve herself and afterwards lingered a moment, staring over the black and shifting sea of grass that washed into the dark shores of the northern mountains.
Where was he now, this golden-eyed sorcerer who had fashioned a tether between her spirit and his? Even with the link gone, he haunted her thoughts and found a place in her dreams. Or was that only because the newly born desires of her flesh snatched at any stray image on which to hang a dream? The anjeli help her—even Ilari's kiss had aroused her, in spite of her anger, as though some beast now lived in her, awakened from a long sleep and ravenous for any morsel that might be thrown its way.
It was all very disturbing to have her body at odds with her will. As much as she wanted to give herself to Taliyr, she had no liking for the notion of living as his concubine or whatever name the Tsuroi had for such a woman. And perhaps he would be impatient with her inexperience and after the first time would not want her again. It was well known that the affections of a man for a woman shifted like sand under the feet, firm one moment and treacherous the next. Even her father, who was known to be a just man, treated his wives and concubines as though they were clothing to be worn and enjoyed for a time, and then discarded. She wondered, with a trace of wistfulness, if in all the world there existed a man who would cleave to a woman for the whole of his life, who would give himself to her as unreservedly as she was expected to give herself to him.
She laughed bitterly and called herself a fool. Not in her world.