I’m delighted to welcome back author Kathryn Johnson, today in her guise as Mary Hart Perry, author of romantic Victorian thrillers based on the real lives of Queen Victoria’s daughters. Wench Susan interviewed her about the first Mary Hart Perry book, The Wild Princess, which featured the rebellious Princess Louise.
Now the second book, Seducing the Princess, features Victoria’s youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, and the book has Mary Hart Perry pondering what makes heroes heroic. Her thoughts:
Mary Hart Perry
I've been giving this question a great deal of thought lately. Some writers admit that they model all of their heroes after a single image in their minds–the "perfect" man. But perfection is in the eye of the beholder, is it not? What may seem ideal to one woman, may be totally unappealing to another.
I'm discovering this is true even as I work my way through the third book in my series of romantic Victorian thrillers based on the lives of Queen Victoria's daughters. The second novel (Seducing the Princess) has just been published, and the first (The Wild Princess) came out last fall. In the third, my hero is unlike either of the other two men who woo Princesses Beatrice and Louise. And yet they share certain characteristics that appeal to me and, I hope, to my readers.
For me, the ideal hero is a blend of characteristics. First, he must be intelligent. Yup, that's right. I'm likely to pass by a guy who's so fantastic looking that women get whiplash when he passes through a room. I've learned that guys who depend upon their hunkiness to get women usually are all too aware of their looks and expect us to fall at their feet. Something inside me rebels at that. I want to be thought of as special, not just another fling. So if he's got brains and he can hold up his end of an interesting conversation, I'm likely to hang around for a while. That's what I like about Henry in Seducing the Princess. He's a clever guy, and he uses his head to win the woman of his dreams. But neither is he squeamish about taking on his enemy in a physical way, to protect Bea.
I'll give you an example from real life that I've never told anyone before. When I was much younger, I had an immense crush on political pundit, George Will. (Don't laugh!) Seriously. I know he wasn't cover model gorgeous. With his nappy college-prof jackets and horn-rimmed glasses and conservative haircuts, he didn't look like a beefed-up romance hero. But I could listen to that man forever! Because, while he spoke, there was that mysterious, playful twinkle in his eyes that made me suspect he was a lot more fun than he wanted to let on to the world. (Like in bed?) Was he saving that fun for a special lady? I imagined it might be (gulp)…me!
So brains turn me on, and I'll bet they throw the switch for other women, too.
What else? Okay, to be honest–money. Or, at least, the lack of a need for me to have money. My fantasy lover is so smart, he's made his million by the time he turned 25…or at least before we met. And he's generous with his fortune. He would be thrilled to take me on a whirlwind tour of Europe or invite me to cruise with him on his yacht in the Virgin Islands. I suppose this is a natural, given today's economy. We all are super-conscious about our budgets. But wouldn't it be lover-ly (as Eliza Doolittle sings in My Fair Lady) to have someone provide for us whatever we need or want–food, clothing, jewelry, travel…? So my heroes are likely not to have money problems and will never beg for loans from my heroines. In Seducing, my hero is one of four brothers and a prince in his own right. He isn't ostentatiously wealthy, and actually his family is less well off than the queen and her family. But it's pretty clear that he will always have enough cash on hand to take care of his beloved and, perhaps, afford the occasional yachting adventure or diamond bracelet.
The third trait I find necessary for my heroes is that they are nice guys. Truly. If they have a bad-boy image, it's because no one really understands them, or they have cultivated that image for a purpose. A guy who's cruel, arrogant, pushy, selfish, prone to jealousy or needs to always be the boss to be happy…he's not one of my heroes. In The Wild Princess, the hero seems at first self-important and aloof, but there's a good reason for the way he is. And eventually Princess Louise discovers how to break through that barrier. Besides being quite a good guy in many other ways, he's physically very impressive and darn good at saving lives.
Finally–oh, all right, I give up–there's the way he looks. So it's not at the top of my list but appearance still matters. The difference is, perfection still doesn't appeal to me. My ideal hero will have one or more striking aspects–tall, muscled, a super dresser, whatever–but he's not rock-star gorgeous and may well have flaws that would make him less attractive to other women. In a word, he's unique.
The hero I'm developing for my third book in the Victorian series isn't wealthy, titled, or a hunk in the traditional sense. But he's dedicated, aggressive when it comes to doing his job (tracking down a notorious murderer of women), and he "gets" the heroine. Whereas others don't understand her and can only feel sorry for her, thinking she has no future–he recognizes her talents, intelligence, and beauty. And he's smitten.
MJP: Which princess is the heroine of the third book? Inquiring minds want to know!
MHP: In Book 3 of the series, Crown Princess Vickie returns to London at the urgent request of her niece, Princess Maud, whose brother has just been accused of being the infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper.
So there you have it. Heroes–at least the way I look at them.
I'd love to hear your favorite 3 or 4 traits for your fictional (or real-life) heroes. Come on…give it a go!
Hugs, Mary Hart Perry
Thanks, Mary/Kathryn! Book 3 sounds like another great story. Isn't it fortunate that Queen Victoria had such a passel of daughters for you to work with?!! Here are some excerpts of Seducing the Princess if you'd like a taste!
Mary Jo, adding that the bride above is Princess Beatrice in her gorgeous wedding gown