Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-21685-7
Historical Romance, 2005
Marketing Fatal Attraction as a historical romance does this book a great disservice because it gets the same people, who would squeal when an author gets a title wrong in a historical romance, squealing about how terrible it is that a teenage girl has sex and is forced to marry in this story. There are also readers who completely miss the point, squealing just as indignantly about the potentially incestuous affair between Aphrodite and Ares… Honestly, people, this is a retelling of a major aspect of Greek mythology where Zeus is known to screw anything that moves regardless of blood ties, and if you think you are one of these readers, you have best stay clear of this one as well.
This is a not-at-all paranormal retelling of the story of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, only this time she’s a human. The premise of this The Goddesses series is that these folks are actually normal humans like you and me, only as their stories get passed from generation to generation, they become gods and goddesses in these stories. Do take note that despite the two books being in the same series, this one has nothing to do at all with the previous book Love Underground – for example, the Demeter in this story is not the same Demeter in the previous story.
It’s shades of a Jerry Springer extravaganza as we meet the family of Zeus and Hera. Like those old stories, Zeus is a notorious philanderer so when he comes home one day with a baby, claiming that he has rescued this baby who was left exposed to die by the baby’s parents (as folks tend to do with female babies during this time), and his family believe that he’s so full of it and this baby is yet another one of the results of his various affairs. This baby, Aphrodite, soon grows up to be a beautiful young woman who, alas, is too much like her probable father. She soon marries Hephaestus, who isn’t related to her as he is the result of Hera’s single “I’ll have an affair to get back at Zeus” indiscretion, but throughout the years, she will be chasing after Ares when she’s not flitting from one cute guy to another.
In other words, Aphrodite is Aphrodite. This is not a story for you if you have no patience for a self-absorbed woman who craves and demands affection while giving nothing back. Her treatment of the long-suffering Hephaestus is awful, really, but to be fair to her, Hephaestus could have said something, anything, to let her know that he’s unhappy, but that fellow doesn’t say anything. So… The story also contains other tales of Greek mythology as subplots, such as Eros and Psyche as well as a certain Helen of Troy making eyes at Paris of Trojan.
Throughout it all, this isn’t a romance as much as it is a historical story with a twist of the whimsical. Romance readers expecting Aphrodite to conform to the standard virtuous heroine code of behavior will not like this book, I suspect, because Aphrodite doesn’t display much remorse or contrition about her behavior here. Instead, she is the kind of woman who is the way she is, an emotionally needy person who thrives on the drama and affection given to her by infatuated men, and Ms Fields is pretty much asking the reader to take Aphrodite as she is or read something else.
I confess that it doesn’t take long before I wonder why Hephaestus bothers with Aphrodite since she takes everything from him and gives very little back in return. But as I’ve said, Hephaestus could have said or done something, but he instead chooses to play the martyr so I can’t blame self-absorbed Aphrodite for not being more considerate. She’s who she is: she can’t be expected to make the first move here. I find myself very intrigued by the way Ms Fields continues to stamp her twist on Greek mythology. I also love the underlying wry humor that permeates the story. Ms Fields isn’t afraid to poke subtle fun at her characters’ more melodramatic antics and I like how she has me chuckling with her as a result.
The characterization in this story is… well, it’s not too deep, but interesting nonetheless. I find Aphrodite an interesting character, even if I suspect that I would probably want to strangle that self-absorbed and often immature wretch if I actually stay next door to her. I give Ms Fields plenty of credit here: she allows me glimpses into the workings of Aphrodite’s head to an extent that I actually find that silly creature’s thought processes most unexpectedly fascinating. I don’t find Aphrodite a hateful character, just an interesting character whose flaws fascinate me, which is the biggest reason why I keep turning the pages of this story.
In a way, Fatal Attraction is a terrible romance novel if only because it is not a romance novel by any stretch of imagination and shouldn’t be judged as one. I really don’t know what the folks at Signet are thinking to market this one as a romance novel. Nonetheless, I find it a well-written and often fascinating story that works better as a character study.