My Wicked Wench

MismistHi, Jo here, talking about my story in the anthology Mischief and Mistletoe. When the idea of a wicked wench came up I immediately thought of a vague idea that had been rattling around in my head for a long time — "The Triumph of the Red Fingernailed Lady."

Not a story per se, but a concept.

I don't know if the "Red Fingernailed Lady" means anything to you. It probably depends on how many Mills & Boon/Harlequin romances you read in the olden days, but they often had a particular dynamic. The millionaire (back before inflation — they're all billionaires now!) somehow connects with the Poor But Honest (PBH) heroine, often an orphan who is hired to care for his child/mother/wheelchair-bound sister etc etc. Red

He is already connected with a woman of his own world who considers him her property. She is sleek and perfectly turned out, including perfect nails, generally blood red….

When the RFL sees that Her Man is ridiculously taken with the innocence of the unmade-up and poorly dressed heroine, she will stop at nothing to show her up in his eyes. Of course in the end innocent goodness is perfect protection from sneaky malice, etc etc.

CountryHere's a bit of the storyline from Country of the Falcon by the great Anne Mather. "…it was not long before Alexandra had exchanged one danger for
another-that of falling in love with him. For Declan was far too old and
experienced for her, he thought of her, and treated her, as a child and
in the sophisticated Clare Forman he had a more than willing woman of
his own sort anyway . . ."

I don't know what it says about me, but I soon wanted to turn this scenario on its head. I didn't like the RFLs as presented, but I didn't much like the PBH twits either. (Twits because they always fell for the RFL's schemes.) I was also bothered by the hero loving her for her sweet naivity and the RFL getting no points at all for fighting spirit.

Do any of you remember those sorts of books, and did you have the same reaction as me? I suspect that many did, which is why the RFL had to be so nasty. If she was simply well-groomed and sophisticated too many readers might be on her side.

However, you'll note that I kept reading the books! As readers we're not at all logical, are we?

Back in the '70s I began a story in which the free-loving, drug-enjoying heroine snatches the guy from a sanctimonious drip. Never got far with it, and I'm sure it would never have sold, but the urge was there, even then, and at mention of a Wicked Wench….

I wrote Miss Brockhurst's Christmas Campaign.
Cardicywindow

No, Penelope Brockhurst is not truly wicked, and she's not really a RFL, but she is a sophisticated lady of the ton, and has a reputation as well. She's known as Miss Breakheart because she's jilted a number of men. She's belatedly realized why, and she intends to hook her one true love over Christmas at his parents' home. When she arrives there, however, she finds him about to engage himself to a vision of sanctimonious propriety.

What's a red-blooded lady to do but set out to undermine her rival get Ross Skerries for herself?

You can read a short excerpt here. http://www.jobev.com/novellas.html#PENN

Enjoy!

As I'm in Britain, I'll send a copy of Mischief and Mistletoe to one randomly selected commenter who lives in the UK or Eire.

Do you remember the Red Fingernailed Ladies?

Are they still around?

Is naivity v sophistication still a good dynamic in a romance novel?

Jo

55 thoughts on “My Wicked Wench”

  1. Oh the RFL’s decided books were not enough, they moved into TV. Think Joan Collins vs the blonde twit in Dynasty and they”re currently planning a movie and a career in government (look out Sam Cam & Michelle Obama). I’ll be honest though my intro into romance was by that genius in pink Babs Cartland. Now there was a woman who knew how to re-write a good story using the same plot lol. I LOVED her

    Reply
  2. Oh the RFL’s decided books were not enough, they moved into TV. Think Joan Collins vs the blonde twit in Dynasty and they”re currently planning a movie and a career in government (look out Sam Cam & Michelle Obama). I’ll be honest though my intro into romance was by that genius in pink Babs Cartland. Now there was a woman who knew how to re-write a good story using the same plot lol. I LOVED her

    Reply
  3. Oh the RFL’s decided books were not enough, they moved into TV. Think Joan Collins vs the blonde twit in Dynasty and they”re currently planning a movie and a career in government (look out Sam Cam & Michelle Obama). I’ll be honest though my intro into romance was by that genius in pink Babs Cartland. Now there was a woman who knew how to re-write a good story using the same plot lol. I LOVED her

    Reply
  4. Oh the RFL’s decided books were not enough, they moved into TV. Think Joan Collins vs the blonde twit in Dynasty and they”re currently planning a movie and a career in government (look out Sam Cam & Michelle Obama). I’ll be honest though my intro into romance was by that genius in pink Babs Cartland. Now there was a woman who knew how to re-write a good story using the same plot lol. I LOVED her

    Reply
  5. Oh the RFL’s decided books were not enough, they moved into TV. Think Joan Collins vs the blonde twit in Dynasty and they”re currently planning a movie and a career in government (look out Sam Cam & Michelle Obama). I’ll be honest though my intro into romance was by that genius in pink Babs Cartland. Now there was a woman who knew how to re-write a good story using the same plot lol. I LOVED her

    Reply
  6. Your blogpost reminded me of a book I read back in the late 60s. When I was a teenager I had a bit of a thing for the Edwardian romance writers – Ethel M Dell, Ruby M Ayres etc. Very funny! On a holiday in Ireland, while looking for one of these authors in a second hand bookshop, I picked up a book called, if I remember rightly, While you were away’. The book was probably written in the 1950s. I can’t recall the author but have it somewhere! The villainess isn’t a woman with red fingernails, she’s a woman with a “ruby velvet voice”! The heroine of the story finds out about her after she calls the house to speak to the husband who is “away”. To general hilarity I read passages aloud to the rest of the family. The book grew funnier and funnier as the heroine angsted on and on about the woman with “the ruby velvet voice”. I’ve never forgotten it.

    Reply
  7. Your blogpost reminded me of a book I read back in the late 60s. When I was a teenager I had a bit of a thing for the Edwardian romance writers – Ethel M Dell, Ruby M Ayres etc. Very funny! On a holiday in Ireland, while looking for one of these authors in a second hand bookshop, I picked up a book called, if I remember rightly, While you were away’. The book was probably written in the 1950s. I can’t recall the author but have it somewhere! The villainess isn’t a woman with red fingernails, she’s a woman with a “ruby velvet voice”! The heroine of the story finds out about her after she calls the house to speak to the husband who is “away”. To general hilarity I read passages aloud to the rest of the family. The book grew funnier and funnier as the heroine angsted on and on about the woman with “the ruby velvet voice”. I’ve never forgotten it.

    Reply
  8. Your blogpost reminded me of a book I read back in the late 60s. When I was a teenager I had a bit of a thing for the Edwardian romance writers – Ethel M Dell, Ruby M Ayres etc. Very funny! On a holiday in Ireland, while looking for one of these authors in a second hand bookshop, I picked up a book called, if I remember rightly, While you were away’. The book was probably written in the 1950s. I can’t recall the author but have it somewhere! The villainess isn’t a woman with red fingernails, she’s a woman with a “ruby velvet voice”! The heroine of the story finds out about her after she calls the house to speak to the husband who is “away”. To general hilarity I read passages aloud to the rest of the family. The book grew funnier and funnier as the heroine angsted on and on about the woman with “the ruby velvet voice”. I’ve never forgotten it.

    Reply
  9. Your blogpost reminded me of a book I read back in the late 60s. When I was a teenager I had a bit of a thing for the Edwardian romance writers – Ethel M Dell, Ruby M Ayres etc. Very funny! On a holiday in Ireland, while looking for one of these authors in a second hand bookshop, I picked up a book called, if I remember rightly, While you were away’. The book was probably written in the 1950s. I can’t recall the author but have it somewhere! The villainess isn’t a woman with red fingernails, she’s a woman with a “ruby velvet voice”! The heroine of the story finds out about her after she calls the house to speak to the husband who is “away”. To general hilarity I read passages aloud to the rest of the family. The book grew funnier and funnier as the heroine angsted on and on about the woman with “the ruby velvet voice”. I’ve never forgotten it.

    Reply
  10. Your blogpost reminded me of a book I read back in the late 60s. When I was a teenager I had a bit of a thing for the Edwardian romance writers – Ethel M Dell, Ruby M Ayres etc. Very funny! On a holiday in Ireland, while looking for one of these authors in a second hand bookshop, I picked up a book called, if I remember rightly, While you were away’. The book was probably written in the 1950s. I can’t recall the author but have it somewhere! The villainess isn’t a woman with red fingernails, she’s a woman with a “ruby velvet voice”! The heroine of the story finds out about her after she calls the house to speak to the husband who is “away”. To general hilarity I read passages aloud to the rest of the family. The book grew funnier and funnier as the heroine angsted on and on about the woman with “the ruby velvet voice”. I’ve never forgotten it.

    Reply
  11. LOL about the Red Fingernailed Lady! I never read Mills & Boon, but I recognize the type from other books. The Evil Other Woman whose great crime is sexual knowledge. Personally, I think innocence is a very frail thread from which to spin a life long relationship. Boring. I liked your heroine. *G*

    Reply
  12. LOL about the Red Fingernailed Lady! I never read Mills & Boon, but I recognize the type from other books. The Evil Other Woman whose great crime is sexual knowledge. Personally, I think innocence is a very frail thread from which to spin a life long relationship. Boring. I liked your heroine. *G*

    Reply
  13. LOL about the Red Fingernailed Lady! I never read Mills & Boon, but I recognize the type from other books. The Evil Other Woman whose great crime is sexual knowledge. Personally, I think innocence is a very frail thread from which to spin a life long relationship. Boring. I liked your heroine. *G*

    Reply
  14. LOL about the Red Fingernailed Lady! I never read Mills & Boon, but I recognize the type from other books. The Evil Other Woman whose great crime is sexual knowledge. Personally, I think innocence is a very frail thread from which to spin a life long relationship. Boring. I liked your heroine. *G*

    Reply
  15. LOL about the Red Fingernailed Lady! I never read Mills & Boon, but I recognize the type from other books. The Evil Other Woman whose great crime is sexual knowledge. Personally, I think innocence is a very frail thread from which to spin a life long relationship. Boring. I liked your heroine. *G*

    Reply
  16. My dad made my mom’s life miserable by his penchant for alcohol and red fingernailed ladies. After five kids and with the endless struggle to make ends meet, my mom wasn’t equipped to struggle with opportunistic women whose only job in life was looking sexy. I always thought they must be selfish creepy women, to make another woman so unhappy. So I’m kinda on the other side of this debate; I don’t find predatory relationship-breakers at all admirable.

    Reply
  17. My dad made my mom’s life miserable by his penchant for alcohol and red fingernailed ladies. After five kids and with the endless struggle to make ends meet, my mom wasn’t equipped to struggle with opportunistic women whose only job in life was looking sexy. I always thought they must be selfish creepy women, to make another woman so unhappy. So I’m kinda on the other side of this debate; I don’t find predatory relationship-breakers at all admirable.

    Reply
  18. My dad made my mom’s life miserable by his penchant for alcohol and red fingernailed ladies. After five kids and with the endless struggle to make ends meet, my mom wasn’t equipped to struggle with opportunistic women whose only job in life was looking sexy. I always thought they must be selfish creepy women, to make another woman so unhappy. So I’m kinda on the other side of this debate; I don’t find predatory relationship-breakers at all admirable.

    Reply
  19. My dad made my mom’s life miserable by his penchant for alcohol and red fingernailed ladies. After five kids and with the endless struggle to make ends meet, my mom wasn’t equipped to struggle with opportunistic women whose only job in life was looking sexy. I always thought they must be selfish creepy women, to make another woman so unhappy. So I’m kinda on the other side of this debate; I don’t find predatory relationship-breakers at all admirable.

    Reply
  20. My dad made my mom’s life miserable by his penchant for alcohol and red fingernailed ladies. After five kids and with the endless struggle to make ends meet, my mom wasn’t equipped to struggle with opportunistic women whose only job in life was looking sexy. I always thought they must be selfish creepy women, to make another woman so unhappy. So I’m kinda on the other side of this debate; I don’t find predatory relationship-breakers at all admirable.

    Reply
  21. Having written on this theme myself, I like the idea of turning the cliches upsidedown. After all, to use more cliches, all’s fair in love and war, may the best woman win, e. t. c.
    But only if the hero is worthy of her…after all, is – ‘I hope you get what you deserve’ a blessing – or a curse?

    Reply
  22. Having written on this theme myself, I like the idea of turning the cliches upsidedown. After all, to use more cliches, all’s fair in love and war, may the best woman win, e. t. c.
    But only if the hero is worthy of her…after all, is – ‘I hope you get what you deserve’ a blessing – or a curse?

    Reply
  23. Having written on this theme myself, I like the idea of turning the cliches upsidedown. After all, to use more cliches, all’s fair in love and war, may the best woman win, e. t. c.
    But only if the hero is worthy of her…after all, is – ‘I hope you get what you deserve’ a blessing – or a curse?

    Reply
  24. Having written on this theme myself, I like the idea of turning the cliches upsidedown. After all, to use more cliches, all’s fair in love and war, may the best woman win, e. t. c.
    But only if the hero is worthy of her…after all, is – ‘I hope you get what you deserve’ a blessing – or a curse?

    Reply
  25. Having written on this theme myself, I like the idea of turning the cliches upsidedown. After all, to use more cliches, all’s fair in love and war, may the best woman win, e. t. c.
    But only if the hero is worthy of her…after all, is – ‘I hope you get what you deserve’ a blessing – or a curse?

    Reply
  26. I’m so with you in often wanting the RFL to win, or at least not being able to understand what the hero sees in the ingénue (purity and chastity not being big on my list of things I admire in a woman as they are “virtues” that really say nothing at all about her as a person).
    BTW, Jo, I’ve always admired the way you managed to redeem Damaris is A MOST UNSUITABLE MAN. She was a RFL if ever there was one!

    Reply
  27. I’m so with you in often wanting the RFL to win, or at least not being able to understand what the hero sees in the ingénue (purity and chastity not being big on my list of things I admire in a woman as they are “virtues” that really say nothing at all about her as a person).
    BTW, Jo, I’ve always admired the way you managed to redeem Damaris is A MOST UNSUITABLE MAN. She was a RFL if ever there was one!

    Reply
  28. I’m so with you in often wanting the RFL to win, or at least not being able to understand what the hero sees in the ingénue (purity and chastity not being big on my list of things I admire in a woman as they are “virtues” that really say nothing at all about her as a person).
    BTW, Jo, I’ve always admired the way you managed to redeem Damaris is A MOST UNSUITABLE MAN. She was a RFL if ever there was one!

    Reply
  29. I’m so with you in often wanting the RFL to win, or at least not being able to understand what the hero sees in the ingénue (purity and chastity not being big on my list of things I admire in a woman as they are “virtues” that really say nothing at all about her as a person).
    BTW, Jo, I’ve always admired the way you managed to redeem Damaris is A MOST UNSUITABLE MAN. She was a RFL if ever there was one!

    Reply
  30. I’m so with you in often wanting the RFL to win, or at least not being able to understand what the hero sees in the ingénue (purity and chastity not being big on my list of things I admire in a woman as they are “virtues” that really say nothing at all about her as a person).
    BTW, Jo, I’ve always admired the way you managed to redeem Damaris is A MOST UNSUITABLE MAN. She was a RFL if ever there was one!

    Reply
  31. Jo here.
    A ruby velvet voice is quite something, Gilli, though hard to imagine!
    Janice, good point about relationship breakers, though I think it makes a lot of difference what stage of relationship. Marriage breakers are pure evil.

    Reply
  32. Jo here.
    A ruby velvet voice is quite something, Gilli, though hard to imagine!
    Janice, good point about relationship breakers, though I think it makes a lot of difference what stage of relationship. Marriage breakers are pure evil.

    Reply
  33. Jo here.
    A ruby velvet voice is quite something, Gilli, though hard to imagine!
    Janice, good point about relationship breakers, though I think it makes a lot of difference what stage of relationship. Marriage breakers are pure evil.

    Reply
  34. Jo here.
    A ruby velvet voice is quite something, Gilli, though hard to imagine!
    Janice, good point about relationship breakers, though I think it makes a lot of difference what stage of relationship. Marriage breakers are pure evil.

    Reply
  35. Jo here.
    A ruby velvet voice is quite something, Gilli, though hard to imagine!
    Janice, good point about relationship breakers, though I think it makes a lot of difference what stage of relationship. Marriage breakers are pure evil.

    Reply
  36. Lyn, that check list for wives would be funny if it wasn’t so creepy!
    Isobel, I suppose there was something of the RFL about Damaris, but then, there was a bit of that in Genova, too. Ashart had shown interest in marrying Damaris for her money, so she had reason to think he was hers.
    I hadn’t looked at it that way before.
    Jo

    Reply
  37. Lyn, that check list for wives would be funny if it wasn’t so creepy!
    Isobel, I suppose there was something of the RFL about Damaris, but then, there was a bit of that in Genova, too. Ashart had shown interest in marrying Damaris for her money, so she had reason to think he was hers.
    I hadn’t looked at it that way before.
    Jo

    Reply
  38. Lyn, that check list for wives would be funny if it wasn’t so creepy!
    Isobel, I suppose there was something of the RFL about Damaris, but then, there was a bit of that in Genova, too. Ashart had shown interest in marrying Damaris for her money, so she had reason to think he was hers.
    I hadn’t looked at it that way before.
    Jo

    Reply
  39. Lyn, that check list for wives would be funny if it wasn’t so creepy!
    Isobel, I suppose there was something of the RFL about Damaris, but then, there was a bit of that in Genova, too. Ashart had shown interest in marrying Damaris for her money, so she had reason to think he was hers.
    I hadn’t looked at it that way before.
    Jo

    Reply
  40. Lyn, that check list for wives would be funny if it wasn’t so creepy!
    Isobel, I suppose there was something of the RFL about Damaris, but then, there was a bit of that in Genova, too. Ashart had shown interest in marrying Damaris for her money, so she had reason to think he was hers.
    I hadn’t looked at it that way before.
    Jo

    Reply
  41. Jo, I too see homewreckers (whether red fingernailed or otherwise) as evil.
    I see the appeal for men of the innocent, virginal, naive young heroine: not only do they have hot bodies, emotionally they are malleable and credulous. He can turn them into whatever he wants, and they will believe whatever he tells them about himself or their place in the world, because they want so much to believe that they are loved for themselves.
    Doesn’t always last forever though. Around the age of 30 many women wake up, come to full maturity, look around and aren’t pleased by what they see. In my little group of friends, if the husband didn’t accept his wife as an adult equal – that was the Age of Divorce. In previous eras, that wouldn’t have worked, but divorce is easy to obtain now. I suppose in our favorite Regency and Georgian eras, people just stayed married but went their separate ways otherwise.

    Reply
  42. Jo, I too see homewreckers (whether red fingernailed or otherwise) as evil.
    I see the appeal for men of the innocent, virginal, naive young heroine: not only do they have hot bodies, emotionally they are malleable and credulous. He can turn them into whatever he wants, and they will believe whatever he tells them about himself or their place in the world, because they want so much to believe that they are loved for themselves.
    Doesn’t always last forever though. Around the age of 30 many women wake up, come to full maturity, look around and aren’t pleased by what they see. In my little group of friends, if the husband didn’t accept his wife as an adult equal – that was the Age of Divorce. In previous eras, that wouldn’t have worked, but divorce is easy to obtain now. I suppose in our favorite Regency and Georgian eras, people just stayed married but went their separate ways otherwise.

    Reply
  43. Jo, I too see homewreckers (whether red fingernailed or otherwise) as evil.
    I see the appeal for men of the innocent, virginal, naive young heroine: not only do they have hot bodies, emotionally they are malleable and credulous. He can turn them into whatever he wants, and they will believe whatever he tells them about himself or their place in the world, because they want so much to believe that they are loved for themselves.
    Doesn’t always last forever though. Around the age of 30 many women wake up, come to full maturity, look around and aren’t pleased by what they see. In my little group of friends, if the husband didn’t accept his wife as an adult equal – that was the Age of Divorce. In previous eras, that wouldn’t have worked, but divorce is easy to obtain now. I suppose in our favorite Regency and Georgian eras, people just stayed married but went their separate ways otherwise.

    Reply
  44. Jo, I too see homewreckers (whether red fingernailed or otherwise) as evil.
    I see the appeal for men of the innocent, virginal, naive young heroine: not only do they have hot bodies, emotionally they are malleable and credulous. He can turn them into whatever he wants, and they will believe whatever he tells them about himself or their place in the world, because they want so much to believe that they are loved for themselves.
    Doesn’t always last forever though. Around the age of 30 many women wake up, come to full maturity, look around and aren’t pleased by what they see. In my little group of friends, if the husband didn’t accept his wife as an adult equal – that was the Age of Divorce. In previous eras, that wouldn’t have worked, but divorce is easy to obtain now. I suppose in our favorite Regency and Georgian eras, people just stayed married but went their separate ways otherwise.

    Reply
  45. Jo, I too see homewreckers (whether red fingernailed or otherwise) as evil.
    I see the appeal for men of the innocent, virginal, naive young heroine: not only do they have hot bodies, emotionally they are malleable and credulous. He can turn them into whatever he wants, and they will believe whatever he tells them about himself or their place in the world, because they want so much to believe that they are loved for themselves.
    Doesn’t always last forever though. Around the age of 30 many women wake up, come to full maturity, look around and aren’t pleased by what they see. In my little group of friends, if the husband didn’t accept his wife as an adult equal – that was the Age of Divorce. In previous eras, that wouldn’t have worked, but divorce is easy to obtain now. I suppose in our favorite Regency and Georgian eras, people just stayed married but went their separate ways otherwise.

    Reply

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