Danger Gal Friday: Lt. Theresa Howe
This week’s Danger Gal Friday profile is on Lt. (jg) Naval Reservist Helo Pilot Teri Howe from Suzanne Brockmann’s Out of Control.
Recently, the debate over “forced seduction” scenarios in the Romance genre has surfaced again after statements made by Julie Bindel in an article for The Guardian. Since this subtype of the Romance genre isn’t the topic of this blog, I won’t go into the details here. Dear Author and SBTB both have great discussions going on right now on this issue, so head over there if you want to know more about it. Also, author Louise Allen has written a rebuttal, having been personally mentioned by Bindel.
While this particular Romance subtype isn’t what I personally like to read, it’s lazy to judge a whole genre based on an unrepresentative sampling—and a misrepresentation of that sampling to boot. In the discussion over at SBTB, several commenters asked for recommendations on books that didn’t deal with “forced seduction,” with Alpha heroes who didn’t display the difficult personality traits of the heroes in this subtype. A whole bunch of authors were mentioned, Suzanne Brockmann being one of them. I’ve loved Brockmann’s entire SEAL and Troubleshooters series, and thought Lt. (jg) Teri Howe would be a good character to profile in light of this discussion, due not only to her Danger Gal status, but also to her particular inner conflict. Spoilers do follow, so if you haven’t read this book proceed at your own risk.
What I like about Teri Howe is that we get to see her rise to the status of Danger Gal. From the get-go, Howe has the Danger Gal skill and determination: she’s a pilot who can fly anything from a prop to a small jet to a helicopter, and she graduated from MIT. From Howe’s accounts of her childhood, it’s a safe bet she financed her own college education. Her real passion in life is flying, and I’ve met more than a few pilots who’d fit that description, so this bit of characterization rang true for me. There’s a reason Flying magazine has a bumper sticker that says “I’d rather be flying.”
The backcover summary describes Howe as “one of the best helicopter pilots in the naval reserves . . . tough, dedicated, and highly-skilled,” but as reviewer Kate Nepveu summarizes: “[Howe is] a great pilot but less assertive when off-duty; through her friendship and then love with Senior Chief Stan Wolchonok, she grows into an all-around kickass person.”
On more than one occasion, Wolchonok assumes a certain kind of behavior from Howe based on his experiences with her as a pilot. He comments to himself and others the high respect he has for her as a pilot and a person. He’s stymied when someone so cool under pressure in the cockpit can cave completely when faced with a sexual harassment situation. He builds a trust with Howe by keeping his own libido in check and she finally confirms his suspicions of childhood sexual abuse. Wolchonok helps Howe to transfer the skills she already has in other areas of her life to deal with this problem. Once she begins to master standing up for herself and going after what she wants, Howe decides she wants Wolchonok and pursues him; something he never thought was possible.
Some might say that Wolchonok swept in and solved Howe’s problem for her by removing her from a stressful situation, but all he did was give her the reprieve Howe needed to access the skills she already had in order to solve the problem herself. Wolchonok is a virile Alpha hero who is the heroine’s biggest fan and would never dream of treating her poorly. He helps the heroine see who she really is and to embrace it. At the end of the book Lt. Teri Howe has transitioned to a full-fledged Danger Gal, with kiss-ass skills and the attitude to go with it.
Out of Control is a great example of how the Romance genre can’t be boiled down to its stereotypes of sheik billionaires, savage Highlanders and secret babies. It’s about ::wait for it:: the power of love, most often Romantic love, but specifically regarding how that connection can change a person to live up to their full potential as a human being. I know what you’re thinking, savvy SF reader: sappy, sappy, sappy. But it’s not. Love, affection and sex—which can be primal and gritty as well as roses and chocolate—are some of the most fundamental qualities we human beings yearn for and it belongs as part of a multi-dimensional character in any genre. The Romance genre, though, to quote commenter Poison Ivy over at SBTB, is “an apotheosis of an intimate relationship.” Just like all books, Romance reflects and shapes its readership. This one reflects a woman dealing with deep emotional pain, who with help from a strong man not afraid to show his nurturing side, learns to stand up for herself in all areas of her life.