Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Allowing for Reality: K.J. Charles's Band Sinister

K.J. Charles does it again!

One of my favorite aspects of Charles's plots is her refusal to adopt easy answers. It is frankly common for many romances to fall back on the assumption that all the people who are trying to keep the lovers apart are bad while all the people who want to get them together are good.

Jane Austen and Shakespeare each point out the futility of these assumptions. As does K.J. Charles--though she wends a more difficult line (Austen and Shakespeare had unified cultural moralities to fall back on or at least, as unified as their individual class systems allowed for).

In sum, Charles tackles the moral quandary: What is the line between thumbing one's nose at the world, doing one's own thing, being an island--and being a responsible, social human being?


In Band Sinister, Philip may have good reason to go his own way, to shrug at society's strictures and moral coding. But then, Philip can afford it.

The clothes are wrong but the expressions are right.
As sweet, thoughtful, and level-headed Guy points out, many women and some men can't afford the same indifference (or studied indifference). They need social support. They need good reputations, so they can get decent employment or make decent marriages or receive allowances from relatives so they can, you know, eat.

In addition, he points out that Philip's disregard for social niceties has made things difficult for Guy's sister. In a tribute to Georgette Heyer (which I think Band Sinister may very well be), Amanda breaks her leg on Philip's property and cannot be moved from his house. It is practically impossible to entice a decent nurse to stay as her companion due to Philip's notoriety.

Guy's perspective isn't the final say, however. Charles plays fair! Philip has good reason to protect himself and his friends. In any case, Philip and his friends are philosophical bohemians, not alcoholic libertines. And frankly, who cares what the neighbors say? At some point, everybody has to decide a future course based on his or her own integrity, not the world's views.

It's a problem that applies to more than romance. I work at a job I am reasonably good at, yet I am surrounded by people, from college administrators to relatives, who act as if my job is so much wasted time and space. I would be a fool not to admit the impact and reality of that social pressure. I've done my share of crying into my pillow. Yet I still have to ask myself, "Do I give up something that matters to me, something that I'm good at because of social pressure?"

This is the narrow line that Charles is attempting to tread. Where does personal fulfillment end and social needs/compromise take over? And vice versa?

Guy's solution: "I dare say I can learn not to mind being talked about, if you don't mind trying to be talked about a bit less."