Not long ago, I was reading a “feel good” British rom-com/chick-lit novel that was filled with charm, sunshine, and sea breezes.
And then the dog died. Hit by a car in front of the hero and heroine while they were canoodling.
That’ll teach ’em to lock lips.
Needless to say, I nearly threw the book across the room with considerable violence. Except with my iffy aim, I thought I might kill my dog, who slept innocently in his hairy dog bed. In Maggie Robinson Fantasyland, dogs do not die in books. No cats, either, or, God absolutely forbid, kids. Certainly not in rom-com/chick-lit books, which are designed to transport you away from the vagaries of real life into pre-pandemic quaint English seaside villages with waterfront tearooms run by quirky-yet-wise grannies who help the hero and heroine find true love after a lot of secrets, lies, and misunderstandings.
Even though I write mysteries, they are not at all suspenseful or bloody or threatening to most fluffy creatures. I just can’t. I learned long ago my anxiety reaches absurd heights at the slightest provocation. There is not enough Lisinopril in the world to bring my blood pressure down. I’ve been to movies where my eyes were closed most of the time and I had to read the plot synopsis on IMDb. I once tried to read a medical procedural by a super-famous acclaimed author that began in a morgue and after three pages had to bail as the M.E. sliced into the corpse with much gusto and gore. I have never seen Clarice Starling in any incarnation. No Halloween franchise. Even this cute picture of my grandson as a zombie soccer player is unsettling.
So, I am a total wuss. I don’t mind killing off bad or inconsequential fictional characters—mostly off the page—but the thought of a child or animal in peril just slays me. There is too much horror in real life without inviting it into my Kindle for bedtime reading.
However, I’m aware readers expect some tension and excitement toward the end of a book, and I’ve forced myself to comply. So far, my heroine Lady Adelaide has dodged a bullet at teatime, driven around with a murderer in the rain with the top down, tumbled her Rolls Royce down an embankment, and…well, that’s a surprise for the last book in the series, Farewell Blues, out in September.
Are you a scaredy cat too? What movie or book freaked you out?
Maggie Robinson is a former teacher, library clerk, and mother of four who woke up in the middle of the night, absolutely compelled to create the perfect man and use as many adjectives and adverbs as possible doing so. A transplanted New Yorker, she lives with her not-quite perfect husband in Maine, where the cold winters are ideal for staying inside and writing historical mysteries and romances. A two-time Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice nominee, her books have been translated into French, German, Portuguese, Turkish, Russian, Japanese, Thai, Dutch, and Italian. Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime and Maine Romance Writers.
The Great Waldo Pepper freaked me out and annoyed the heck out of me. You can’t start a movie by dumping somebody in a horse pond and later in the same movie have someone burned alive while trapped in a crashed plane. Pick your genre, people!
LOL. I suppose “grit” and “shock” get used to sour up the sweetness.
I had to kill a dog in one of my Kate Emerson historical novels but it was a real dog, belonging to Anne Boleyn, and it really did die in an accidental fall. All I did was have another character cause the death. But in a cozy or romcom or some other genre that’s supposed to be pure escapism? A beloved pet might die of old age between books in a series, but beyond that? Not something I want to read or write!
You are forgiven as the Queen of Historical Accuracy! Poor pup anyway. 🙂 Yes, def dogs (and cats) should not die in books!
There’s enough blood, guts and gore on the evening news. I don’t need it in a movie or book when I’m trying to relax and enjoy a little while. An escape from “normal” life means I’m not looking for it in a book. True I don’t want a fairy tale story or one that’s all roses and unbelievable, but gee whiz. 🙂
2clowns at arkansas dot net
I am in total agreement. I know so many people love thrillers and gory movies but I fast-forward at the first eerie musical note, LOL.
My family knows that “if the dog dies” I won’t read, listen to, watch or sanction that book, movie or TV show. And, I always ask anyone who recommends a book, movie or TV show if such a thing occurs before agreeing to it. Innocents like children and pets are not to be subject to cruelty of any kind in my entertainment pastimes. You are not a wuss, you belong to the “compassionate few” if the trends are to be believed. Kudos to you!
Thank you! I think I’m just a coward, LOL.
The second I see a dog or a cat in a movie or on TV my thought is that nothing better happen to the animal. Kids are usually safe in the stuff I watch or I know they will be rescued. Since books can’t give you the same visual clues, I tend to check review headlines to be sure no one has mentioned the critter/kiddie gore. Call me a wuss. What can I say?
Horses are off limits, too. No shooting Black Beauty in the pasture, please.
I quit reading Stephen KIng years ago. I managed to survive children in peril, vampires, haunted hotels, etc. but when he came out with Cujo, that was a deal breaker. You just don’t mess with the family dog.
I loved The Stand, but I had to stop reading King, too. He is a genius, and has had well-deserved success, but scares me too much, LOL.
Interesting post, Maggie. I don’t like a lot of gore or violence, but find I write quite dark books because of the characters I’ve chosen. And yet, if I’m reading and the author glorifies the gore or the bad guy, or doesn’t have a moral component, I’m done with the book.
Dark can be so compelling, but you’re right. Gore for gore’s sake is too much for me. Good thing I’m not a doctor. 😉
Killing of any animal is a no-no. I’m not a fan of gore or violence in the books I read.
I just get this sense of dread as I read thrillers. I KNOW everything will turn out okay, but I still get too nervous!