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

The Outlaw Hearts, Rosanne Bittner, Bantam, 1993, H. Tom Hall cover artist

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.

Throughout her lengthy career (Mrs. Bittner’s 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.

Multiple publishers have printed her works, 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 like I am not reading words on a page or screen. I want to feel like these characters are real people, and I observe 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 is like being on the world’s extreme roller coaster. I feel her characters’ pain and every emotion in between. An example of one of her great works is Sweet Prairie Passion, which I’ve reviewed previously.

Savage-Destiny
Sweet Prairie Passion, Rosanne Bittner, Zebra, 1983, cover artist TBD

Where I Have Issues with Her Work:

While I love Mrs. Bittner’s work, here 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 endure all they do (more on that later). Although her heroines are strong emotionally, they aren’t 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 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, I’ve 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 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–sometimes in graphic ways.

I don’t also have a problem with this–I very much want villains in books to suffer as much, if not more, pain than they’re putting upon their victims–but the level of violence against women in Mrs. Bittner’s feels heavily gratuitous. 

Bottom Line:

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

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