Recently I was writing a workshop to give at a local chapter of the Romance Writers of America. The topic was Crafting Historical Heroines (and Heroes) That Rock, and I was speaking about how to create characters that are historically accurate but who still appeal to modern readers. One thing I did in preparation was to ask my readers (via Facebook, of course!) who their favorite heroes and heroines are and why.
Here are a few of the responses.
Cora DeBeau from Tracey Devlyn’s A LADY’S REVENGE because she came out of France tortured not broken. I think this book should be given out at lady’s shelters. I understand abuse and ladies in abusive relationships should know THEY ARE NOT BROKEN only slightly dented.
Ian Mackenzie from Jennifer Ashley’s THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE. He is labeled “crazy/mad” to the world because of eccentricities. What draws me to him is he doesn’t hide who or what he is. He lives his life with the stares and whispers. Every time I read this story I am amazed how far he comes from the beginning to the end. I love how complex his character is and how Ms. Ashley doesn’t fix him but makes his eccentricities part of the great man he is.
Eve Dallas from the JD Robb series because she saves herself.
Darius Carsington (From NOT QUITE A LADY by Loretta Chase) because he runs so very, very hard and far from his heart, then slams back to it in an instant when the woman he admires is threatened. Then he runs that much faster back to her side, intellectual sword at the ready.
Skye O’Malley (the entire series and Legacy series) by Bertrice Small. She was as intelligent as any man, went against Elizabeth Tudor and won, survived countless obstacles in the pursuit of her own happiness and empowered her children, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren to do the same!
I love all the characters from the Stephanie Lauren’s Bar Cynster series all the men are heroes to their ladies and family as well as the ton, but their women are strong and a force to be reckoned with!
Sebastian and Evie from DEVIL IN WINTER. Sebastian taking a bullet for Evie was a sign of true sacrifice.
Jamie Fraser. There are many reasons to like Jamie (other than being a kilted, Highlander, of course!). He loves with his entire being. And he is willing to sacrifice himself for the people he loves. He sent Claire back through the stones to keep her and their unborn child safe even though it broke his heart to do so.
I wish I could have shared all the responses because I received so many fabulous ones. A lot of the characters mentioned were also my favorites and others I added to my TBR pile. As far as my workshop, One thing this “scientific” survey showed me was what all of these characters have in common.
In my opinion, the heroines are strong and resilient. They save themselves and empower other women. The heroes are at peace with themselves (at least by the end of the book). They don’t have anything to prove to society. They are willing to love with their whole beings and make ultimate sacrifices. In short, these heroes and heroines rock!
Who are some of your favorite heroes and heroines and why?
The Secrets of Jaunty P. Quills (Porcupine Extraordinaire)
Jaunty P. Quills: Hello, readers! It’s me, Jaunty P. Quills. I’m back with another of my award-winning interviews. This one is with…ah…I know it’s one of these Quills. There are so many of them…<digs through notes, but finds pine nuts instead>
Robyn: I hate to interrupt your snack over there, Jaunty, but um, I’m pretty sure you were going to interview me today about my new book.
Jaunty P. Quills: Oh, right <says with mouth full> Maybe you can entertain these folks while I clean myself up and have a drink.
Robyn: Uh, sure, I can try to do that. How about I share with y’all the back cover blurb of my book, The Temptations of Anna Jacobs…
Love and justice…
When Drew Foster is released from prison, he doesn’t much care about salvaging his soiled reputation. Though he’s working undercover, everyone in Victorian London believes him guilty of the Jack the Ripper murders and that his brother paid for his “innocence.”
Despite her genteel upbringing, Anna Jacobs is intent on finishing medical school and becoming a physician. Society’s ridicule has never bothered her, but when her brother, the Yard’s best detective, is scorned for letting Drew go, she confronts the one man who can set the record straight at a ball. She certainly doesn’t count on the rogue being dashing and handsome, nor on him stealing a passionate kiss.
Anna’s brazen contempt for his dangerous reputation captivates Drew, but he is harboring secrets that make him unfit to court any proper woman. As he finds himself an outsider among his colleagues at Scotland Yard, the feisty beauty offers up her medical knowledge to assist him on the case. But when the real killer returns to London to continue his reign of terror, can Anna find safety in Drew’s arms?
Jaunty P. Quills: This is another of those killer porcupine books, isn’t it? The last one you wrote had me up for nights. *shudder* I snuck into Kristan’s house for a week and curled up under her bed. Don’t tell her I told you that though.
Robyn: Your secret is safe with me. And I’m sorry if I frightened you. Jack the Ripper can, indeed be creepy. I spooked myself out by writing some of the scenes. But at the heart of this book and the first book in the series (The Secrets of Mia Danvers) is a lovely romance. No matter what the subplot, romance is always what I focus on.
Jaunty P. Quills: Romance. I do love a good romance. I just finished Shana’s Porcupines Love Sapphires. At least I think that was the title. Tell me about your couple. Is he a tall, handsome porcupine who saves the fair hedgehog?
Robyn: Not exactly. For those of you who read the first book, you’ll remember Drew (Alex’s younger brother). Well, he was a bit of a wastrel in the first book, he’s selfish and angry and an alcoholic.
Jaunty P. Quills: Wait, a minute, I thought you said this was a romance. Or is he the killer?
Robyn: Heh…no, he’s not the killer, though he is arrested on suspicion of being him. But Drew is simply in a dark place and he needs a little light in his life, a little joy that can pull him out of the darkness and back into a place where he wants to be a better man. That’s where our heroine, Anna, comes in. She’s a sweet sort, though she certainly has plenty of spunk. She’s going to school to become a doctor, something that was not looked upon as being a viable option for women, nonetheless, she’s bucking the system and studying to be a physician and she’s very good at it too.
Jaunty P. Quills: She’s sounds nice. I’m not so sure about that Drew fellow though, perhaps I need to meet this Anna, show her how strong the love of a good porcupine–
Robyn: Yeah, let’s not go there, Jaunty. In any case, Drew and Anna begin an unlikely friendship when he seeks her assistance hunting the killer.
Jaunty P. Quills: So he puts her in danger? Where is he? I’m going to show him a thing or two.
Robyn: (grabs Jaunty – carefully, of course – and holds him back) Calm it down, big boy. Drew keeps Anna perfectly safe. Well, mostly safe….but for that you’ll just have to read the book. Here’s have some more pine nuts.
Jaunty P. Quills: mmmmmmmm
Robyn: Well, I guess he’s done asking me questions. I’ll just leave y’all with a short excerpt and then if y’all have questions, I’ll gladly answer. Thanks, Jaunty. Jaunty? Wow, he’s is really chowing down on those pine nuts. Okay then, here’s your excerpt…
She was quiet for several moments. He watched her face as she considered all the possibilities. Even now, the taste of her lips stayed with him, and he wanted more. More of her kisses, more of her smiles. Simply more of Anna.
Perhaps she had other thoughts that could explain the differences in the injuries, or the use of an alternate weapon.
“Why did you kiss me? The other day?” she asked.
Drew felt his brows rise in surprise. “Is that what you were thinking about? I suspected your thoughts were more academic in nature.”
She shrugged. “Academic or not, I am still a woman.”
“It seemed the thing to do,” Drew said with a shrug of his own.
“‘It seemed the thing to do,’” she said, mocking his tone. She frowned. “That’s not a very good answer.”
He resisted the urge to smile. Hell, he didn’t know why he’d kissed her. Because the desire to do so had been so overwhelming he hadn’t been able to resist her lips. In fact, he longed to embrace her again, right now. “What would be a good answer?”
“How the devil should I know?” Her hand fluttered to her chest. “I don’t go around kissing unsuspecting people.”
“Fair enough. Well then, I kissed you because I wanted to.” Perhaps honesty would appease her curiosity. “Because your mouth is tempting, even though you talk far too much.”
“That doesn’t even make any sense. Well, the bit about my talking too much, I admit I can be verbose—”
“You’re doing it again,” he interrupted her. He leaned forward, toward her chair. “Only makes me want to kiss you again.”
She waved her hand. “That’s ridiculous.”
“The mere notion of kissing you? Hasn’t any man ever expressed a similar interest?”
A blush stained her exposed throat, marring her lovely creamy skin. Her hand followed the telltale sign of her embarrassment and she fiddled with the necklace around her throat. She swallowed visibly. “I don’t see how that is any of your business. I’m not even certain how we got on this discussion,” she said.
“You asked me why I kissed you.”
“Yes, and your answer is unsatisfactory. I shall merely have to conclude that you men are a peculiar lot.” She pointed at him.
“I’m going to kiss you again, Annabelle,” he said softly.
Her mouth opened, then slowly closed. “Right now?”
“Would you like me to kiss you right now?”
“I cannot answer that.” She shook her head fervently. “It would be utterly improper.”
“You, a lady going to medical school and assisting me with an undercover investigation of a murder? Last night we broke into a government building. Your behavior hasn’t exactly been the pinnacle of propriety.”
Her brow furrowed. “That is quite different.” Her tongue darted out and wet her lips.
He felt a stab of desire, hot and poignant in his gut. Oh yes. He wanted her. Whatever the reason, logical or not, he wanted her quite badly. Too badly, in fact, for him to kiss her now when his passions were so close to the surface. It was entirely too likely they would not be interrupted, that no one would come along and stop him from ruining her here in his parlor.
“You already answered my question,” he said.
She frowned. “I don’t believe I did.”
“Oh yes, Anna, you want me to kiss you very badly. Now that I know that, I’m going to make you wait. For a little longer.”
“You are an insufferable man!” she said as she came to her feet.
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On Saturday Jesse blogged about watching movies over and over. It made me think about books I loved to read over and over (and over). With so many new books released each month and so little reading time, I sometimes feel guilty about re-reading books I’ve already read several times. But then I read an article titled “Re-Reading: The Ultimate Guilty Pleasure,” and I thought, yes, exactly!
The article looked at why readers re-read. One of the reasons that really struck home to me was the “security blanket” reason. There are some books I come back to over and over again because they make me feel happy or lift my spirits when I’m in a bad mood. My daughter has a blankie, and when she is naughty and gets in trouble, she often runs to her room for a few minutes of quality time with blankie. It soothes her and helps her to feel ready to face the world again. I’d have to say a lot of my Julie Garwood historicals fall into this category.
Another reason we re-read, which the article calls “heart of the matter” but which I’m calling time warp, is to remember who we were at the time we first read the book. Whenever I pick up one of the Earth’s Children books from Jean Auel, I remember being in college, because that’s when I first read that series. When I re-read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, I remember my first years of teaching and my trip to Scotland and Culloden. It’s fun to go back and “relive” a previous time in our lives but also bring those books into our present reality too.
Finally, I re-read because I want a “refresher.” A lot of non-fiction books fall into this category. I read them for research but have forgotten details over the passage of time and need to refresh my memory. But I like to refresh fiction too. I re-read my Jane Austen books often just because every time I read Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion, I pick up new details I’ve either forgotten or didn’t catch the first time.
Do you ever re-read books? Which are your go-to books?
YEAH! It’s release day. I have a love/hate relationship with release days, as I’m sure most authors do. It’s both thrilling and terrifying to send a new story out into the world. And with this release it’s doubling nerve-wracking. First of all it launches a new series for me, the Masquerading Mistresses, a Regency-set series about spies and betrayal and delicious heroes.
Case in point, in NO ORDINARY MISTRESS, you’ll meet Remington AKA Remy who is arrogant and sexy and the very last man that Emma Masterson wants to be assigned to on her most recent assignment. But in order to uncover the identity of a killer, she must masquerade as Remy’s mistress. Here’s a little teaser…
“You will still be on assignment searching for the link between Comfry and the other traitors, not to mention his killer. By working with Remy, he can get you into places that you cannot go yourself.”
“Of all the men in the Seven, why must I work with him?” She didn’t want to be paired up with any man, least of all Remy, who tempted her so and muddled her thoughts and made her wish for all the things she could never have.
“Did you not tell her any of this?” Remy asked.
“No, I thought I’d wait until we were all here together.”
“Coward,” Remy said with another grin.
“Tell me what, precisely?”
“You’ll be posing as my mistress, sweetheart,” Remy said with a lecherous wink.
Emma came to her feet. “I shall do no such thing.” She turned to Harrison. Working with Remy would be bad enough, but pretending to be his mistress? It was intolerable! “There must be another way.”
“We need to make certain you’re protected while we investigate the murder. We can’t afford to pull you from the assignment altogether. You know Comfry’s circumstances and habits better than anyone else. We cannot know if the killer saw you or knew you were there,” Harrison said. “Remy is a qualified spy, Emma. He will take good care of you.”
Her training had taught her how to slow her breathing, gentle her pounding heart, so she could appear in command of her faculties. Inside, though, she stewed in turmoil.
“Indeed.” Remy leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. “And I’ve been needing a new mistress.”
Emma rolled her eyes. “You are a pig.” Her fate was sealed.
Did I tell you the best part? NO ORDINARY MISTRESS is only $0.99, so get yours today and fall in love with Remy. Let’s talk about heroes – what are your favorite kinds of heroes?
I’m not the kind of author who crafts really great villains. In fact, I sort of prefer for my hero or heroine to be their own worst enemy. It’s more interesting to me in some ways. I do love reading a great villain. I think Nora Roberts writes great villains. Julie Garwood has some good ones too. There are lots of romantic suspense authors who write great villains. They really get into the head of the serial killer, which pretty much just creeps me out.
So you might be surprised to learn that in Sapphires Are an Earl’s Best Friend, which is out today (woohoo!), I have not one but two villains! I’m not really sure how that happened. I’m tempted to blame it on Princess Galen. She is oddly attracted and repelled by villains. On the one hand, she is terrified of the movie Sleeping Beauty because of the “evil Maleficent.” She has imposed a moratorium on movie trailers because we saw the Maleficent trailer before Frozen back in November. To this day, she won’t enter a movie theater until all the trailers have ended.
On the other hand, her favorite game is playing Laverna with a frog puppet (long story). If you don’t know, Laverna is a villain in the Barbie Fairytopia movies. I have to play Laverna, and Princess Galen’s job is to defeat Laverna. But Laverna is also her friend. She shows her Laverna puppet her artwork, her new outfits, and any special news.
Maybe we’re all both drawn to and repelled by villains. I know they are some of the more interesting characters I write. In Sapphires Are an Earl’s Best Friend, one villain is Lucifer. He is the owner of a gambling hell in London. He’s after the man he believes stole a valuable list of spies’ secret identities. The man Lucifer suspects is our other villain, the Duke of Ravenscroft. The heroine, Lily, is investigating him because the Crown sispects he might be a vile double agent known as Artemis. Is he Artemis or simply falsely accused? That’s Lily’s job to discover, and she has her work cut out for her, considering the duke’s son is suspicious of her and won’t let her out of his sight. Added to that problem, Lily’s always been in love with Andrew, the Earl of Darlington.
It was a fun book to write, even if it meant balancing two villains. Who are some of your favorite villains? One person who responds will win a copy of When You Give a Duke a Diamond and If You Give a Rake a Ruby (U.S. and Canada only).
Sapphires Are an Earl’s Best Friend
Lily Dawson, dubbed the Countess of Charm, has the gentlemen of the ton eating out of her hand—all but one. As one of The Three Diamonds, Lily has borne her share of scandal, but none so great as the scandal that forced her into a the role of a courtesan. But there’s more to Lily than a pretty face. What better disguise for a secret agent than that of a courtesan?
Andrew Booth-Payne, Earl of Darlington, is in love with Lily’s best friend. He wants to hate Lily for taking up with his father. When he discovers there’s more to her flirtation with his father than greed, he knows he must help her uncover a traitor, even if that traitor is his own father.