Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Romance Heroines Behaving Badly

Yesterday afternoon, (well, technically this afternoon, because I haven't gone to bed yet...) I started to write a comment on Molly's post, in response to Stephanie's comment about some of the motivations for the heroine in Sherry Thomas's PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS coming from a less than angelic place, then thought: Hey, why not just make it a post.

FWIW, I completely agree with Stephanie that many of the heroine's actions/decisions in PA are less than sympathetic, but that's one reason I loved that book, and why I hope it opens up the door to editors taking chances on more heroines like Gigi.

While reading that book, I kept thinking, "Everyone's behaving so badly, yet I'm riveted." I loved that it broke the "rule" that a romance heroine's motivations have to be so "good" all the time. (I think heroines who are good all the time can be boring.)

Some of Gigi's choices weren't motivated by the best of values... and neither were the hero's. Between them, at various points in the book, they were motivated by money (him), social climbing (her), anger (him), deception (both of them), revenge (mostly him), jealousy (both of them)... on and on. All negative motivations. LOVED it. Loved too the emotional cruelty of some of the sex scenes. Don't see that in too many romances. At least not the ones I've been reading to date. I remember at least one steamy sex scene where the reader knows how much more the each character is feeling as compared to what he/she is willing to show the other and I found that deliciously heartbreaking. In the end, I did think each of them was redeemed enough to deserve the happily ever after, too. They both paid for all the mistakes they'd made.

WARNING: Spoilers below in white text. Highlight to read.

Gigi did treat her fiancé terribly, but I thought the author handled that well - at least the way I'm remembering it, right now. Didn't the fiancé finally figure out she was still in love with her husband? Didn't he dump her in the end or at least give her an out? I loaned the book out again, so I can't check. But I do remember thinking that bit had been resolved in a way I liked. Not too easy for the heroine, but not in a way that made her even worse than she had been.

And as far as her intentions re: the heir… I, too, was a little surprised that she went along with the plan with little thought at first, but then as soon as the diaphragm came out, (I mean went in, wink), I was shocked for new, better reasons. I don't think it crossed her mind what would happen to the baby if she got pregnant — because she had no intention of letting herself get pregnant. She just planned to have sex with him — something she already knew she'd enjoy, while hiding the fact she was using protection — until the year was up or even better, he gave up trying. LOVED that. So devious.

Romance needs more devious yet lovable heroines. I say bring 'em on.

Oh, and this book had the funniest trailer I've ever seen. I normally hate book trailers, but this one's worth watching...

17 comments:

Kimber Chin said...

Oh, man, that trailer had me shooting Fanta out of my nose. I LOVED it! Thank you SO much for sharing!

I like heroines to be nice people. They don't have to be perfect (most of my heroines are candidates for mental institutions) but I do like them to be someone I might be friends with. I meet enough mean people in real life. I prefer not to read about them.

Maureen McGowan said...

I don't think they have to be mean -- just people whose motivations are less than virtuous.

The fact that the paper cut-out heroine swore in the trailer captured her character perfectly. Not that she curses -- it's a Victorian setting and she's a proper Lady... but if Gigi were alive today, she'd be uttering a few well-placed cusses when her carefully crafted plans were foiled once again by the man who won't admit he loves her, but won't let her go. (For some pretty good reasons. What she did to him was bad... But she was young and foolish and in love.)

M. said...

fantastic trailer, maureen. maybe even good enough to make me pick up PA, the blog reviews of which had left me torn about whether to add it to my TBB list. i love it when authors are not only creative in their books, but outside of them as well.

and otherwise - *sigh* i'm the chicken-thawing-on-the-counter-as-i-pottytrain-my-toddler writer to whom molly referred. i'd been hoping if i made it a funny chicken, and a funny toddler, that might be enough...

perhaps if it was a historical chicken that had to be head-chopped as the historical toddler wandered about diaperless as the mother involved herself in espionage?

Amy Ruttan said...

That was a hilarious trailer.

Okay this brings up another point about historicals, that I should have mentioned yesterday but didn't. OMG I get bored by the perfect heroine.

I'm not, why should my heroines be that way.

I entered a historical I wrote in a contest. Scored pretty high, except one judge. She hated the fact that my "proper" Victorican lady was smoking a cigar and how dare she even THINK of going to India with just a couple of guides and no proper escort.

She was reeming me out about proper ladies not behaving that way.

True ... but that was the point of my heroine. She wasn't a proper lady. I'm not a proper "lady" per say if you want to get into semantics.

Of course she's going to defy convention, that's the whole point of my book.

She's not manly, she didn't smoke cigars every day. She smoked them when she was stressed. She dressed as a proper lady. She just hated being controlled by men, and there was no way any one was going to stop her from searching for her brother in India.

No man or no woman.

So I like my heroines jaded, tainted, rough around the edges. They make more interesting characters than the swooning virgins. :D

Ok, I'll stop ranting now.

Amy Ruttan said...

I should say that I still like my heroines to be "good" with their morals.

But totally against the grain of normalacy.

Hence why I wrote about a woman pirate ... I just gave her good morals in that she used her ill gotten wealth to free slaves before emancipation.

But yeah, totally not sitting there swooning for Mr. Right.

I'm going to go now. LOL

Maureen McGowan said...

Great rant, Amy! And that heroine sounds fabulous. Anyone who tells you what your characters can't be is full of *$&@.

But morals, too, are not always a black and white thing IMO. One person's idea of a little white lie to get what she wants is another person's idea of low morals and unacceptable behavior. I like to understand why characters are acting badly if they are... but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt if they're well motivated to make a "mistake" and either regret it after... or in some cases (and this is harder to pull off) are so great at rationalizing their behavior, it takes the entire book for them to realize they've done anything wrong... The Shopaholic books and Eileen Cook's character in Unpredictable pull this kind of thing off for me. Characters whose actions are outrageous but they're in self-denial. Hard to do, but if done well, brilliant.

Amy Ruttan said...

Oh yeah, the self denial thing. I play with that on a lot of heroes.

Love that.

I haven't read the Shopaholic books yet, but it's on my TBR pile!!!

You know what book I read that through me for a loop was Sex and The City. THE actual novel that the series was loosely based on.

I was kind of disappointed really. Didn't like Carrie a whole lot.

Oh man I'm going to get hit for that. LOL!

Maureen McGowan said...

Amy, you should try Eileen Cook's book instead of the shopaholic ones... She's a friend of mine and goodness knows Sophie Kinsella doesn't need any more sales. Buy Eileen's book. LOL.

And I've never read Candace Bushnell... but I've read interviews of her and I'm not sure I'd like her books, either. I mean, in the book, Carrie was her. It wasn't really fiction initially, but columns based on her life if I'm remembering properly.

I think Darrin Star and the actresses who played those parts are what made the TV show great. Have not heard good things about Bushnell as a writer.

Sinead M said...

Maureen, great post. I loved PA, and that heroine, and one of my favourite romances is Ain't she Sweet, which has another heroine who definitely made some mistakes.
Amy, I know what you mean about writing heroines who aren't perfect.
I wrote a book where my heroine killed people. Got some strong reactions to that one as well.
But nothing will put me off a book faster than a perfect, shining heroine. I can't relate to that.
Because I think deep down we want our heroine's to be relatable.
A hard thing for a write to pull off.

Stephanie Doyle said...

The trailer was hilarious!

Maureen - I agree I LOVE flawed characters. Give me flaws all over the place. I really got behind Gigi deceiving him to get him to marry her - actually. I thought it was a sound plan :)

It was just that initial set up that tweaked. And you pointed out the emotional abuse during the sex scenes. I think *that's* why I wouldn't read this book again.

This book gives you that sick feeling in your gut at times. While I applaud the talent it took to make me feel it... not sure I would go back and want to feel it again.

I'll be really interested to see what she does with her next one.

Maureen McGowan said...

Yes, Stephanie, it will be interesting to read the next one... My expectations will be high -- perhaps too high.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Where is my amazon order?!?

I think the flawed nature of heroines is a fantastic change to romance novels. It gives us as writers much more room to create an interesting and believable arc.

And I also think that within the range of flawed characters - there are heroines for everyone. Killer Heroines for Sinead and human but decent for Kimber, whereas before I think the narrow confines of heroines was getting old. It's also (one of the many reasons) why I think chick lit ran amock -- all those basically decent but misguided heroines running around being zany or caught in situations that were zany - there's only so much of that a reading public can take.

Molly O'Keefe said...

oh - just finished Liu's Eye of Heaven. Good, not AS good as the last twilight, but very very good.

Is there a time line at work with these books, or do they all seem to be running concurrently, or written out of sequence? Anyone out there know?

Molly O'Keefe said...

oh my god - sorry -- I'm an idiot. But, in Liu's Eye of Heaven, she does the same thing in the ending that I am sensing she does in all her books -- she doesn't totally know how to create a big finale so she just throws a bunch of things at the wall - namely bodies. But this one, there's an earthquake. And, at the beginning of it the hero actually thinks, while the ceiling is coming down on him - that he just remembered more and more of those were happening in this area.
Horrible!! but, a testimony to how incredible the rest of the book is that I had to keep reading.
last message - I swear.

Amy Ruttan said...

Sinead that sounds really interesting. I love flawed heroines.

Maureen, LOL, I will definitely check out those recommended books.

And yes, Bushnell's books ...meh.

I was not impressed with Sex and the City novel.

There is one I read of hers (can't think of the name), where heroine was PRETTY flawed and it was her life through the NY social scene. It was pretty good.

Kathy said...

I agree. I may even do the obvious and mention Scarlett O'Hara. :)

I have trouble finding heroines that interest me anymore. I do but they are few and far between. The heroine in the book I'm reading now is so boring.

And interesting doesn't mean mean. :)

Marley Delarose, Author said...

That's hilarious. And I'm going straight to Sherry Thomas dot com to read an excerpt.

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