Tender Wings of Desire Chapters 6 & 7: Madeline is in Love with Harland for Some Reason

Since Matthew and I both chose the book’s cover as our feature photos, our front page looks like this:

Part of me wants to just keeping making this the feature photo to every Tender Wings of Desire post, maybe even every post ever. There’s something delightful about the idea of clogging up our homepage with the greatest picture of all time much the way KFC clogs toilets around the world. It’s a metaphorical wonder.

Tender Wings of Desire Chapter 6:

If you recall, Madeline had just come face to face with “the most handsome man she had ever seen”, so it MUST be the colonel.

He was tall, dressed like a sailor with a striped linen shirt and woolen peacoat crusted with sea salt. His hair was light and fair, framing his head in airy curls, and the eyes that stared back at her were almost the exact color of the sea, perhaps darker, but not by much, and they hid behind glasses with dark frames. Madeline had never seen a sailor wear glasses before; somehow it made him seem all the more handsome.

Well, on the book cover the Colonel is wearing the aforementioned “glasses with dark frames”, but there’s no mention of the pointy beard, of a bucket full of fried chicken, of a cutoff-white shirt. Who is this man!

He introduces himself from Harland, and Madeline detects an American accent. This is apparently all too sexy for Madeline to handle, so she runs away from the conversation. All Harland asks her is if she’s new here, and she’s head over heels, which is hilarious since she gave Reginald shit for not having interesting conversations with her.

Caoimhe decides to play matchmaker, and gets Harland and Madeline talking again. They exchange a few words about how this is Madeline’s first job, and she acts like it is basically the most swoonworthy moment in the history of the world because of the way his eyes sparkle. This dull conversation is too intense for Madeline to handle, so she goes to clean some tables, and overhears an exchange between Caoimhe and Harland:

“You better behave,” Caoimhe admonished him.

“On the contrary,” Madeline heard Harland reply. “I think behaving is the last thing I want to do with her.”

The first thing is hand-feed her popcorn chicken.

In any other context, Madeline would be disgusted.

If getting hit on at a seedy tavern is the only context that Madeline approves of, I’m curious about these other scenarios.

Who did he think he was, saying such things about her within earshot? However, as she walked away she could not help but feel a slow burn deep in her belly, and she wondered what it meant.

Could be digestive problems, could be arousal, who knows?

Later that night, as the two women close up the bar, Caoimhe suspects something is up with Madeline:

“What’s gotten into you?” she asked. “I do not know you very well, of course, but I am fairly certain that you are not acting like yourself.”

[…]

“My heart…and my head. And when I looked at…”

[…]

“Looks like you are in love!”

That is a wild conclusion to jump to. Firstly, Madeline’s description sounds like a medical issue. Secondly, unless Caoimhe is between the ages of maybe three and ten, it’s pretty strange that she’s declaring that Madeline is in love after exchanging like three lines with Harland. Come on, KFC, if a company that specialises in selling underwhelming fried chicken can’t convincingly write a Mother’s Day romance novella, who can?

Madeline points out that this is kind of absurd, but Caoimhe counters with a question that cuts to the heart of things, “Do you think he’s handsome?” Madeline, of course, does, so love it is!

Caoimhe shows Madeline to her small apartment in the tavern, and Madeline is breath taken with how quaint it is. Here is an example of her freaking out over a homemade quilt:

Madeline walked over and touched it, feeling the softness of the thing and loving it intensely, even though it was the first quilt she had ever seen.

I could be way way off base here, so feel free to shout at me if I am, but this sentiment in books is starting to make me really uncomfortable. Someone flees a life of wealth and comfort for what they deem as realer, and better, because they’re putting hard work and sweat into living in a shitty room above a tavern. Here’s an example from later in the chapter when Madeline gets into bed:

It was not nearly as comfortable as the feather-stuffed mattress she had grown up using, but it was hers, and for some reason that made her treasure it all the more.

It feels like it’s telling people that really they’re the ones who are free because they get to toil away, do menial labor for next to nothing and live in whatever shit hole they can afford, and damn it that’s the life we should all want to lead! We’re meant to see Madeline as a great person because she’s forsaken a life of money and comfort for…a life of working in a tavern, sharing a room with her coworker because the owner literally told her coworker that if she wanted him to hire help for her, she would have to share her fucking room.  Of course, we all know that Madeline’s hard work will last a week until Harland inevitably sweeps her off her feet and sails her around the world.

Honestly I would not be surprised if there was some sort of subliminal message in this story that was telling readers that the only way to live a truly authentic life is to be underpaid working at a place like KFC, working hard for that minimum wage, and that maybe, just maybe, your very own Harland will walk through that door.

The chapter actually ends on a darker note than I expected. Caoimhe warns Madeline that men can be dangerous, and implies that she was sexually assaulted in the past. They don’t discuss things any further, and Madeline heads to bed.

Tender Wings of Desire Chapter 7:

Madeline pretends she doesn’t care if Harland shows up at the tavern again, fooling no one. She also decides that she’s going to write a letter to her family, which is definitely the right thing to do since they probably are pretty worried about her.

She writes up a pretty basic non-apology letter, but then doesn’t send it to them! Instead, she busies herself with realizing that the owner of the bar, Carson, is in love with Caoimhe. As soon as Madeline started talking to this guy and pretending his backstory was interesting, I knew he was just a pawn in KFC’s game to matchmake every single character in the story.

Harland shows up after two weeks, and he asks Madeline to go for a walk with him late at night. She’s skeptical at first, but goes with this seemingly trustworthy stranger only to discover he’s the Fried Chicken Strangler who has been terrorizing the town.

No, sorry, it’s not that interesting. Actually, despite the fact that Madeline has probably left Caoimhe hanging without even telling her that she’s abandoning work, they go for a walk and talk about eating taffy. Seriously. Madeline who made a big stinking deal that Reginald was so boring agrees that she wants to eat taffy, and then refuses to ask Harland any questions lest he ask her questions about her past.

Despite the fact that they talked for like two seconds about taffy this time and the first time they met their conversation consisted of, “You’re new to this tavern!”, they have this exchange:

“Why is it that whenever I am around you I feel so… so…”

“Alive?” Harland asked.

Madeline gets scared, though, because she didn’t think love at first sight was possible.

“I am sorry,” she said. “I… I can’t.”

Harland’s face crumpled into confusion. “You cannot say that. I’ve never met a woman like you. We’re standing here and we have everything at our fingertips and you are going to walk away?”

Damn, he’s right. It’s not every day you meet a woman who wants to try taffy, and it’s clear from the ten minutes worth of conversation they shared that they’re on the cusp of something pretty incredible. Madeline would have to be a fool to walk away from the potential here!

He seemed sad, a little frustrated, a little sick himself, and the way he looked in the moonlight was so striking that Madeline ended up closing that distance and pulling him in for a kiss.

The kiss is incredible, and Madeline goes from zero to sixty and invites him back to her room. She realizes that she’s in love, and tells him the truth about her past. That’s when Harland pulls off his mask and reveals himself to be Colonel Saunders, P.I. who was hired by Madeline’s family to track her down after she ran away from home.

Anyway, I think they have sex because Madeline thinks how great it is to belong to him, and then paradoxically ends the chapter applauding her independence.

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2 comments

  1. Jennifer Layton Reply

    I’m sorry — she’s never seen a quilt before? Ever in her life? Do rich people not own quilts? Also, you owe me some Windex and paper towels, because when I read the line about the Fried Chicken Strangler, I spewed Dr. Pepper onto my computer monitor.

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  2. gasolinespider Reply

    Someone was paid good money (hopefully) to write a sexy description of Colonel Sanders. That’s all that really needs to be said.
    For a KFC book, there’s very little meat to this story.

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