It's easy to read a romance novel and get caught up in all the big, bad brawls, the political intrigue or the business wheeling and dealing. You can see the men standing around and talking to each other about how they rule their roost and manage their woman. Often, of course, it's the bachelors boasting and issuing proclamations that they wish to wed a nice, biddable female. Any happily married man in the story will snort, guffaw or issue a vague warning -- you'll see.
Those bachelors may get what they think they want. If they do, they'll end up in a typical society marriage where they share a house and not much else. If the bachelors end up happily married, they'll see that the women rule the house and set the pace. And if the women do it right, the men won't mind a bit. That's one type of female power.
Male power works like men's minds, men's interests, and men's bodies - it's open, obvious and hard to miss. Female power works like women's minds, women's interests, and women's bodies - it's subtle, secretive and hidden. Men use their power to run governments and businesses. It helps them build an empire and control it. Women use their power to run men. It helps them to rule the world softly, gently, and in the wonderful world of historicals, they do it without ever having to soil their tender hands with working outside the home.
Where She Force is wielded in the hands of a good author, it defines and controls and does it without ever being obvious. In Flame And The Flower Brandon makes several vows of what he will and won't do, and by the end of the book, as a prior post addressed, he's broken them all but has arrived at the happier ever after he swore he never wanted. In Johanna Lindsey's Mallory novels, Georgie gets James to break his promise never to wed by tying him in so many knots that he forces her brothers to force the wedding. Amy gets Warren to trust women again, makes him compromise her, refuses to wed him if he's forced, and coerces him to propose properly. In Nicole Jordan's Bride series three male best friends who don't want to marry meet three sisters who want to be independent. The men chase the women, try to compromise the women and ultimately, it's the women who come to the men and make the marriages on their own terms.
Female power works quietly and stealthily. It's not motivated by force or will but rather by love and tender persuasion. Which force is stronger? All the loud, brash clashes of testosterone in the world can't compete with the soft force that changes men's vows, aims and goals and ultimately shapes the world. She may do it over the breakfast table or in the bedroom, but look behind any happily married man and you'll find the woman shaping the policy, making the rules and defining the world.
Today, many -most (me too)- women are forced to be out in the everyday working world. A lot of us would like to be like those ladies in historicals, working our magic from behind the scene. Perhaps that's part of the charm of regencies and historicals - they paint a world we'd like to live in. And why would we like to live in an age where men held the power? Because we know they never did.
Or rather, in historicals, men held the power women didn't want. It freed ladies to shape and manage the power they wanted, and to exercise it from the homes, the worlds, they built. Economy has forced most of us out into the greater universe. We should go there recalling that behind the shouts and shoves of men lurks the quiet intensity of women whose work makes the world go round as surely as it allows life itself to continue.
And when the working world gets to be too much, and the shouting and shoving makes us want to rip our hair out by the roots, we can pull out a romance novel and take a refresher course. Then, with revived strength, recharged batteries and the recollection that the brash efforts of male employers or co-workers will never, can never, erode our She Force, we quietly keep ruling the world.
The next time you read your favorite romance novels, or treat yourself to a new one (My new book, Golden, is an excellent example of female power) look behind the obvious and notice how the women exercise their power. The next time you're in the working world, notice how many of the men's decisions are really made by women laboring quietly at keyboards, running the show from behind the scenes.
She Force beats He Force every time and does it without ever letting the men realize that women run the world. But then again, the smart ones do know. Remember the happily married man talking to the boasting bachelors I mentioned at the beginning of this post? He could tell the bachelors the secret truths behind "Yes, Dear." But likely he won't. He'll let them figure it out on their own and we get to enjoy each man's lessons, one page at a time.