Annoying Heroines

Free Clip Art  CC BY-SA Wikimedia Commons

Free Clip Art, Wikimedia Commons

Christina here and today I’m going to have a little rant. A while back, I read a trilogy with a hero I absolutely adored, but at the same time I couldn’t stand the heroine. I found her intensely annoying, not in any way worthy of the hero’s love and devotion, and so immature I wanted to slap her! I carried on reading the entire series because I wanted to know how things ended for the hero, and whether the heroine would redeem herself in the end, but I almost had to force myself. That’s not how it should be, is it?

A heroine ought to be someone we like and empathise with. Sure, she can be naïve or immature at the beginning of a story (or a series in this case), because we’ve all been there and lessons need to be learned before we grow up and understand certain things. She doesn’t have to be perfect – none of us are, after all – but she does need to be likeable. At the very least, she should have some very good reasons for NOT being likeable, if that’s the way the author wants to play it.

What we absolutely don’t want is a heroine we dislike intensely.

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Sweet Inspiration: On Heroines, Plots . . . and Chocolate!

Chocolate-01Andrea here, I’m just putting the finishing touches a new Lady Arianna mystery, which got me to musing on how a series takes shape in an author’s head . . .

But first allow me set the scene: For those of you who follow the series, you may recall that the last Lady A book, SMOKE AND LIES, took place on Elba amidst international intrigue and deceptions as Napoleon plotted his escape from the tiny island off Italy in order to re-seize the French throne. In A QUESTION OF NUMBERS, Lady Arianna and Lord Saybrook’s latest adventure, (which will be released in early Spring) the action moves to Brussels, a city aswirl in rumors and treachery as all of Europe waits to see if Napoleon will once again march his army into battle against the rest of Europe. (Brussels, you might ask? But honestly, what Regency historical author could possibly resist the chance to feature the Duchess of Richmond’s ball—one of the most famous parties in history—in a scene!)

Smoke and LiesNow, if you had asked me when I first started to envision the first flutters of Lady Arianna if I ever imagined her matching wits with Napoleon, the answer would have been a resounding . . . Well, er, no. (You see, it’s a trick question—but I’ll get to that in a moment.)

So, that’s where Lady A and her friends are now . . . but how did they actually come to life? The process was a little different than the usual way ideas happen for me, so I thought it might be interesting to share, as readers often ask, “How do think up your ideas?” The answer is, sometimes creativity takes some twists and turns.

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Musing on Mysteries—Interview Part Two

Murder at Half Moon Gate-smallAndrea here, continuing the joint interview with Pat about our new books, Sapphire Nights  and Murder at Half Moon Gate  which both released yesterday! At first blush, they may seem very different—Pat’s is a contemporary with paranormal elements, while mine is Regency-set historical. But in reading each other’s manuscripts (Wenchly Beta reading is such fun!) we realized there were some really interesting core themes that tied the stories together. In the previous blog, we talked about our heroines. And today, we’re asking ourselves this question: We're both romance writers who have chosen to use mystery plots as a core element of our new books—why?

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Is X-Rated Over-Rated?

Love 1Are you tired of sex?
Ummm, wait— that didn’t come out quite right! Allow me to start over . . .

Cara/Andrea here, and what I meant to ask is, are you growing a little tired of all the sex scenes in romance novels these days? I’ve recently been seeing a number of reader comments on various online forums saying that all the gymnastics are becoming  . . . boring. The complaint seems to stem from the perception that too many books appear to be simply stringing together a number of hot bed scenes with little attention paid to characterization or story plot.

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Craft and Character

Lady's-faceCara/Andrea here, thinking about the craft of writing today . . .

In the normal scheme of publishing, a linked series—such as a trilogy or quartet of books that features a closeknit group of family or friends—usually comes out in a leisurely fashion, with perhaps 9 months or a year between the stories. In some ways that timing allows the secondary characters to take root in the minds of readers and rather organically “grow” into their starring roles.

Heroine 3My publisher decided to turn that trope on its ear and do a consecutive release—three books in three months, starting in January. (So yes, the final story is out this month—Passionately Yours goes live on March 5th! You can read an excerpt here.) In many ways, it’s very exciting. Readers don’t have to wait very long to find out the answers to such questions as, “Ooooh, what’s going to happen between Anna and the Devil Davenport!” or “Please tell me that McClellan is going to be Caro’s hero?” But it can also present intriguing challenges for a writer. At least, it did for me.  

The stories are the heart of the series, but the craft of creating the character arcs is elemental to having the books work together. Sometimes, that’s not so hard—in the past, I’ve often written about three friends, who have well-formed characters from the start. It’s simply a matter of how to slowly reveal their essence as they move from the perimeter of the ballroom out to the center of the polished parquet when its their turn to shine in the light of the glittering chandeliers.

Heroine 4But in my latest trilogy, I wrote about a trio of sisters, so it was a different sort of process. And with the books coming out so close together, I found myself far more aware of the nuances in character of Caro, the youngest sister and how to develop her over the first two books into someone with enough emotional depth and complexity to be an interesting heroine.

Heroine 1In the first book, she’s hovering on the cusp of womanhood, not quite out in Society, and longing for entree into the real world. She’s a budding poet, with an active imagination untempered by experience, so she tends to be dramatic, which amuses her older sisters.  They see her as the baby of the family, and thus so do readers. Which is all very well for her secondary role in Scandalously Yours, but she has to change in order to come into her own and be an appealing heroine.

Perhaps I’m wrong about this, but it seems to me that having, say, a 9 month interlude before the next book helps make readers feel that a character is “growing up.” It’s a subtle message to be sure, but time softens perception. Change seems more natural—after all, we all change over time! But with the second book coming out in the following month, it sharpened my sense that I had to be very attuned to how I moved her along in her growth arc.

Regency sisters 1It helped that in Sinfully Yours, Olivia, the oldest sister and heroine of Scandalously Yours, was away on her marriage trip, so the dynamics of the relationship between Anna and Caro were already cast in a different light. As Anna struggles with inner conflicts, she cautiously begins to confide in her “baby” sister—and in turn Caro is eager to prove she can be a thoughtful listener and offer some words of wisdom rather than merely react with schoolgirl theatrics. And the truth is, she has changed—having played a part, albeit a small one, in Olivia’s adventure, she’s seen that deadly serious consequences can result from impulsive decisions. It’s matured her, and given her some of the life experiences she had been yearning for.

Heroine 2Over the course of the story, I try to show her biting back her first impulsive reactions and taking a moment to ponder a problem.  That’s not to say I take the spark out of her. Caro remains Caro—the most romantic, emotional of the sisters, She‘ll always be fighting the battle between reacting with her head and with her heart. But that, I hope, is at the essence of her charm.

And now, in a few days, it’s her turn to step to the center of the stage and play the leading role her own story, Passionately Yours. Is she ready for the chandelier’s diamond-bright lights? After all, bright lights tend to magnify and accentuate every flaw. Well, she still has much to lea
rn about herself . . . and about men. (Though we all know THAT subject takes two lifetimes to figure out!) However, I think she’s ready for the challenge . . .

Regency sisters 2aSo I’m curious—how do you feel about the quick release of a series? Do you like having all the stories come out over a short period of time? Or do you prefer the traditional release pattern of having 9 months or a year between books? And while I’m asking publishing questions, how do you feel about the e-book first release? How do you prefer to read your romance novels? One lucky winner will be selected at random from among those who leave comments here between now and Tuesday evening to win a digital copy of Passionately Yours.