>A fellow Berkley author, Kate Moore had been published by several different publishers, she’s an award-winning author, and Sabrina Jeffries calls her a “…writer to treasure.” Please welcome Kate for today’s Pleasure Me With Romance guest post.
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Hi Monica, Thank you for including me in this blog fest. The posts are fun and inspiring, and my to-be-read pile grows with each one, starting with your Pleasure Me, which sounds like a richly emotional treat.
So many books, so little time, especially when deadlines loom, but in those brief lulls between projects, I read stacks and stacks from my tbr pile—friends’ books, books I’ve heard buzz about, and books that intrigue me with a blurb or a premise. Right now with winter blustering away outside (snow!) and a steaming cup of soy chai beside me, I am deep in a restoring, energizing marathon of reading. I call it “filling the well.”
I’m loving it, but I’m also finding myself let down by two patterns that writers seem to fall into in the effort to elevate the heroine to her heroic stature and to raise the love between the hero/heroine to the level of a great love. Mostly I ignore the flaws in my favorite genre except that finding them in book after book right now has made me take note.
First, the heroine has to be unique among women in the hero’s experience. She has to be the one for him. After all he has to give up a bachelor’s independence or a jaded rake’s cynicism to offer her his love, loyalty, protection, and worldly goods. The writing pattern that bothers me is the pattern of making all other women in the hero’s past and/or present terrible people.
To Save The Devil
Will Jones, the middle brother takes on his enemies directly. An ex-spy and ex-Bow Street Runner, Will is a master of disguises. In disguise he enters the discreet brothel run by the family’s enemy and rescues a virgin being auctioned off as “Helen of Troy.”
Helen is no swooning maiden, but a woman of wit and determination with a mission of her own. She must retrieve dangerous letters of her mother’s from a blackmailer. Disguised as a youth, Helen is determined to escape Will until she realizes he may be her only hope of getting her mother’s letters back.
In the bleak winter days after mad old King George’s death, London is more dangerous than ever, and as Will and Helen search for her mother’s letters and his brother, they stumble on a plot to assassinate the English cabinet, which divides them in a moment of stunning betrayal.
When I found myself in a recent read more sympathetic to the “other” woman than the heroine, I had to wonder what was going on. Several heroes I encountered in this round of reading face clone armies of available and willing blondes (inevitably) who know the score, seek and give sexual gratification without expectation of anything more than a bauble, or attempt to manipulate the hero for their own advancement. These rivals to the heroine are the hero’s “usual women,” the women he knows before he meets the heroine.
Even if he went to high school or college or runs a business, the hero never seems to have known any smart, kind, funny, or capable women—like maybe his sister or his mother or a friend’s sister or a teacher or a pediatrician or a physical therapist. He’s only seen Kristen Scott Thomas films and never Queen Latifah movies. Perhaps his own skewed values, or misperceptions, or life circumstances kept him from meeting you or your best friend, but I’m thinking that a good hero should at least imagine that there are passionate, smart, kind, honest women at work in the world.
Second, the heroine must resist the hero. He’s dangerous to her. Initially, his physical strength and attractiveness make him dangerous, but even more dangerous is his power to reject her love and crush her emotionally. The dangers and rewards inherent in loving someone make for rich writing material. The writing short cut that bothers me is the pattern of blighting the heroine’s romantic history with one bad experience.
Apparently, one jerk has made the heroine wary of all relationships. We’re expected to believe that she tried love, like sushi, once, and decided she would never try it again. I know that there is no pain like a broken heart; and that we don’t ever forget a heartbreak that made us curl up in the fetal position for days in the depths of a closet or a coal bin. But many women have suffered much worse at the hands of men, so I expect a worthy heroine to have picked herself up and dusted herself off, to have done some thinking, met other people, gained perspective, and developed resilience.
The two patterns I mention seem to me like short cuts to the lofty writing goals we all have of making the heroine heroic and the love between her and her hero a great love. But how can writers avoid them? How can writers make their heroines shine without diminishing every other woman on the planet? How can writers make the love between the hero/heroine a great love if each lives in a world of decent men and women? And can’t we as writers have fun creating evil secondary characters?
I have some suggestions and I invite yours.
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One: give the heroine a credible rival who has some good qualities—not just a position in the world that advantages her over the heroine, but something about her that might genuinely attract an intelligent hero, even though she’s not right for the hero. Two: have fun with a genuinely bad female character, who is not the heroine’s rival, but who is a thorn in her side and who does represent the unheroic aspects of female possibility. Three: give the heroine her early misfortune in love and some perspective on it and then a plot circumstance that has kept her from seeking love again. Four: let the heroine resist the hero because she values herself and wants him to show that he really does respect her. Our heroines are special because they are perceptive, they have integrity, they can grow, they’re resilient, they are fighters of one sort or another, and above all because they can love. So, five: let the hero/heroine’s love be great because they genuinely understand each other and sacrifice for each other and can play each other’s games for a lifetime.
Have you ever seen either the patterns I’ve been seeing? Are they necessary, or have they bothered you or made you think less of a book’s hero and heroine? What’s your ideal “other woman” in the hero’s life?
Happy reading, Kate
one copy (1) of To Tempt a Saint and one copy (1) To Save The Devil
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When she’s not reading, writing, teaching, or brainstorming, she walks in the redwoods; feeds birds; collects books, apples and leaves; watches the tele-novellas on Spanish-language TV; and immerses herself in all things English. Her favorite food groups are butter, brown sugar, dark chocolate, and red wine. Her early literary influences were The Little Engine That Could, The Little Red Hen, and Winnie the Pooh. Austen, Heyer, Chaucer, and Homer came later and inspired her to put that first plot on paper.