I've been wondering, since reading The Girl from Nowhere, what's with the abusive asshole millionaire trope in romance? You simply can't have a hero on the abusive asshole end of dominant personality continuum without loads of money. It's just not possible. You can have a emotionally deeply wounded car mechanic hero, and a reforming womanizer firefighter hero, and tormented by his past bohemian artist hero, but a consistently manipulative, abusive and scary hero only in case of a millionaire. In contemporary romances, that is. In historical bodice ripper romances I think an abusive alpha hero is possible in case of a pirate or a rebel something something, although I haven't read those that much, so this assumption is based mostly glancing through covers. And there's a whole sub-genre of SF romance about dominant space alien warriors – who tend to kidnap earth women to make babies. (Speculative romance creates space to explore both the most progressive as well as the most regressive relationship models. As I'm drawn to the former, the abundance of the latter fills me with exasperation. I'm all for 'whatever floats your boat' but this situation makes it terribly hard for me to find speculative romance that does not make me go ick and aargh.)

The historical and SF abusive alpha have one element in common: physical danger. The contemporary millionaire, however, is not a fighter either by profession or nature. While he is wide-shouldered and well-muscled, it's only to fulfill basic requirements of current aesthetics. His money seems to carry out the same function as alien warrior's and rebel pirate's aura of physical danger.

And this reminds me of a strangely compelling pop psychology/new age book Money Heart & Mind (William Bloom 1995), which proposes that nowadays economy inspires the same fear and worship as nature used to do, back when human lives depended more directly on weather and other natural conditions. Economical stress taps directly into the vast store of survival anxiety inherited from our ancestors. Early humans attempted to make their fear tolerable by worshiping personifications of thunder and sky and earth and so on as gods, who could hopefully be made favorable through proper sacrifices. A millionaire could be a comparable nearly supernatural personification of money and the scary forces of economy, so hard to understand and near-impossible to placate. A cold, uncaring recession could hit any time, taking your job, annihilating your meagre savings, getting you kicked out of your home, making you completely vulnerable and worst of all, rob you of your social standing and identity: those struck by an economical calamity are faceless non-persons, queuing in a breadline heads hung low.

So, I think the millionaire character represents and focuses this anxiety. His millions are not there to create a glamorous background, nor as a proof of his eligibility. It's something more fundamental. He is the God of Money, dangerous and demanding. An elemental force in the form of a man. And he must be nasty, otherwise it would not be him. You feel it in the pit of your stomach. It is the truth. But no matter how harsh and controlling and jealous he may be, his personal attention is a blessing. It means you are already winning – if he appears before a mortal (woman), and is thus aware of her existence, she's not going to disappear into the anonymous masses.

Hmm, I'm really starting to like this idea. Someone please write about the Money God and his many brides. I promise to buy the book that first uses this set-up!

(All fiction is speculative fiction, if the reader is of speculative sort)