Authors We Have a Love/Hate Relationship With #1

(Here, in this first of a new series where we discuss authors we have a love/hate relationship with, Blue Falcon addresses his thoughts about historical romance author, Rosanne Bittner.)

Rosanne Bittner

Author Rosanne Bittner

Many readers have authors they love to read. Some have authors whose work they hate. Still others, however, have authors whose work they love, but may also have issues with. One such author for me is Rosanne Bittner.

Over the course of her lengthy career (Mrs. Bittner’s first book was published in 1983 and she is still active and prolific today), Mrs. Bittner has published 68 books. Among those are the series “Savage Destiny” (7 books), “Outlaw Hearts” (6 books), “High Lonesome” (3 books), and the “Mystic Indian”, “American West”, “Bride” and “Blue Hawk” trilogies. Her works have been printed by multiple publishers, such as Zebra/Kensington, Sourcebooks, and Warner Books. The great majority of her works are set in the American West, circa 19th century, and many feature fully or half-Native American protagonists.

What I Love About Her Work:

I write this frequently when I write reviews: When I read a book, I want to feel as though I am not reading words on a page or screen. I want to feel as though these characters are real people and I am an observer of their lives. In my decades of reading, very few, if any, authors do that. Mrs. Bittner is one of them. For me, reading one of Mrs. Bittner’s books is like being on the world’s most extreme roller coaster. I feel her characters’ joy, I feel their pain, and every emotion in between. 

Where I Have Issues with Her Work:

While I love Mrs. Bittner’s work, there are two issues that come up constantly in her books that are sources of irritation. 

Issue #1: Her Books Are Parochial and Patriarchal 

Mrs. Bittner’s heroines are incredibly strong emotionally; they have to be to endure all that they do (more on that later).  Although her heroines are strong emotionally, they aren’t as strong in other ways. Mrs. Bittner’s heroines are emotionally, financially, mentally, and physically dependent on the heroes or supporting male characters. I have yet to read a book by Mrs. Bittner where the heroine has a job (in the interest of fairness, employment possibilities for women were significantly less than they are today), nor are they financially independent. (In two of her books, Arizona Bride and Sweet Mountain Magic, the heroine is an heiress, but the money wasn’t made through her efforts, but those of her male relatives). As a result, the heroine is almost entirely emotionally and financially dependent on the hero or other men, which dovetails into issue #2.

Sweet Mountain Magic, Rosanne Bittner, Zebra, 1990, cover artist John Ennis

Issue #2: Extreme Misogyny

In EVERY book I’ve read by Mrs. Bittner, the heroine-and frequently other female characters-is subjected to emotional, mental, physical, and sexual abuse. While I understand that violence against women occurs every day around the world, it feels like to me that the only purpose of the violence in her books is to give the hero carte blanche to kill someone-or many someones-in sometimes graphic ways. I don’t as a rule have a problem with this-I very much want villains in books to suffer as much, if not more, pain than they’re inflicting upon their victims-but the level of violence against women in Mrs. Bittner’s books feels heavily gratuitous. 

Bottom line:

I am a huge fan of Mrs. Bittner’s work–she is in my top 10 all-time favorite authors–but there are parts of her work I do have issues with.

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