Do You Want Your Heroines to be Perfect???

Elizabeth Camden Ramblings about Romance 7 Comments

If you read many romance novels, especially mainstream romance, you will become acquainted with a slew of heroines who are stunningly beautiful, talented, and witty. If she has a physical flaw, it is usually along the lines of “her eyes were too big.” Or, “she was just so thin and willowy.” Shudder! Wouldn’t it be terrible to be endowed with those shortcomings?

Lately there has been a bit of a backlash against this, and we are now seeing some heroines who are described as merely attractive instead of the most dazzling woman in the room. Sometimes they may even be described as plain or a bit plump. Based on the comments on sites like amazon, it seems readers appreciate seeing a little bit of physical diversity in their heroines. Other comments reveal that some readers are looking to novels as escapism. They want the opportunity to walk in that perfect woman’s shoes, if only for a few hours, and they prefer her to be gorgeous, witty, etc.

One thing I never see readers ask for is a heroine to be more dull, less clever, less able to stand up to the hero. On the whole, heroines are almost always bright, good-natured, and intelligent. I’ve always worked pretty hard on making my hero and heroine witty and smart. This is simply something I find immensely attractive in real life, and I like to see it in novels as well.

I am asking two separate questions here: Do you want your heroines to be pretty, and do you want them to be smart?

Who Peeks at the End of a Book?

Elizabeth Camden All about Me! 3 Comments

I do!

I know this is crazy, but usually around a third of the way through a novel, I flip to the back to check out the ending. If the book is in traditional genre romance, they always have a happy ending, so I pretty much know where the book is headed anyway, but I still have a guilty thrill by hopping ahead. On the other hand, women’s fiction or historical novels don’t always end happily, and I want to brace myself for what is coming.

Last year I read a book which I had mistaken for a genre romance book, and foolishly neglected to read the last few pages. It had a great historical setting with a magnificent challenge for the hero and heroine to overcome. By the end of the book, not only have the hero and heroine split up, but the heroine’s daughter was tragically killed in a laughably bizarre accident. I was so mad! That was not what I bargained for when I invested a weekend delving into that novel. I actually thought the girl’s death was handled clumsily, as if the author was grasping at straws to up the emotional ante. As a reader, I felt manipulated and I really wished I had peeked at the end of that one.
Anyway, I know that I can’t be the only one who indulges in this little quirk.

The only author I refuse to hop ahead for is Ken Follett. I actually paperclip the final pages together so I don’t let myself down and cheat. So far he has been really good about delivering “the right” ending, but I can never be 100% certain.

I hope you all have some wonderful reading scheduled for this long holiday week…… and you’ve got my permission to peek ahead!

What is a Ghost Book?

Elizabeth Camden The Book World Leave a Comment

I suppose it could be a book about ghosts, but if you are a librarian, “a ghost book” refers to a book that does not really exist, despite the fact that its presence has been widely reported and people want to read it.

How could such a thing happen? If an author has contracted for a series of books, sometimes those unwritten books are given names and entered into publisher’s catalogs or even advertisements in the back of books. If the author dies, those books are unlikely ever to be written, but there are fans out there clamoring for the title. I remember reading a huge, sprawling historical epic by Thomas Tryon called Wings of the Morning (1990). It was a magnificent tour de force set in early America, and had a follow-up title called In the Fires of Spring (1992) that ends with a huge cliff-hanger and word that another book would be coming soon. I can remember haunting bookstores in hopes of getting my hands on the next book, which I believed was going to be called Kingdom Come.

I waited and waited. The title appeared in forthcoming books catalogs, but it never appeared in libraries or bookstores. I ultimately learned that the author had died and the sad fact that Kingdom Come would never be published. Oh, cruel world! Kingdom Come was forever destined to be nothing more than a ghost book.

Another explanation for ghost books are titles that are mentioned in works of fiction, but don’t really exist. In 1924 H.P. Lovecraft wrote The Hound, which makes reference to a book called The Necronomicon, supposedly a text about black magic. For all the kids who get enchanted with Lovecraft’s work and come looking for The Necronomicon ….sorry, it is a ghost book as well.

One interesting twist on ghost books is when a publisher decides to take it out of ghost status and make it real.

The Love Dare is a bestselling book that was inspired by a journal that appears in the 2008 movie Fireproof. In the movie, a man is in a faltering marriage, but his father loans him a journal called “The Love Dare,” which is a series of challenges to help rekindle a relationship. Anticipating demand for “The Love Dare,” the producers of the movie commissioned a book with the same themes and challenges as presented in the movie. The Love Dare entered the NYT bestseller list at number 2, and escaped ghost book status.

Photo courtesy of ihave3kids

Looking for a Unique Christmas Gift?

Elizabeth Camden All about Me! Leave a Comment

I used to struggle every year at Christmas with the problem of finding gifts for people. It can be a real struggle to find something the recipient will like, need, or welcome. My parents have down-sized to a tiny retirement apartment, and don’t want anything. Other people have very particular tastes in books or music and are a challenge to buy for. Don’t even get me started about the dangers of buying clothing….

A few years ago I stumbled upon the ultimate solution. Monasteries, convents, seminaries, and other religious communities often support themselves by selling gifts such as homemade soap, candy, jellies, candles, pottery, and notecards. Some even sell beer and wine! A jar of home made blueberry jam or rose-scented soap is a wonderful and inexpensive gift, at the same time you are helping support a religious community. Who wouldn’t like some homemade candy or preserves?

There is a website that serves as a clearinghouse for many religious orders. You can do a little online at Monastery Greetings here.


What is the Unforgivable Sin in a Romance Novel?

Elizabeth Camden Ramblings about Romance, The Book World 1 Comment

There are a lot of “rules” in genre fiction, which is one of its appeals. People like to know what they are getting when they crack open a mystery, a romance, or a paranormal. We select these books because something about the conventions resonate with us, and violating those rules is a risky thing. Yet, in the hands of a skilled writer, the rules of genre fiction are often smashed.

There is really only one rule that you almost NEVER see in a romance novel: killing off a hero or a heroine. This just isn’t done.

Kristen Heitzmann just did it!

So let’s talk about Breath of Dawn, a contemporary romantic suspense novel in her trilogy set in the remote mountains of Colorado. The first book in the trilogy, A Rush of Wings, was the very first inspirational romance I ever read, so I have a real fondness for this author. In this book we met the hero’s tormented brother, Morgan Spencer, who still suffers from the fallout of a disastrous romance and (as he believes) the death of his unborn child. In book two (Still of Night) Morgan reunites with Jill, his long-lost high school sweetheart, and they finally find happiness and come to grips with the loss of their child.

Happily ever after? Not so fast. Book three opens with Jill’s funeral. I was gob-smacked. Couldn’t believe it. Killing off a heroine who supposedly got a Happily Ever After is something I’ve only seen once or twice in the thirty years I’ve been reading romance.

So, did it work?

I will be curious to see the reviews as they roll in to Amazon, but after careful consideration, I think Heitzmann pulled it off. Part of the reason was that I never really clicked with Jill in Still of Night, so I wasn’t nearly so ripped up as I would have been if the author killed off Morgan. Another reason was the brisk pace of this book. After the funeral, the book skips ahead two years and we see that while Morgan is still grieving, he is emerging from the fog of depression and ready to rejoin the rest of the world. His initial attraction to the heroine (Quinn) is mostly physical, but also based on Morgan’s instinctive urge to rescue damsels in distress. Quinn is in some pretty hot water through no fault of her own. When Morgan steps in to help her out, they are thrown together in a manner which allows a romance to bloom pretty quickly.

Although I am at the beginning of my career as a writer, I can safely assert I will never kill off one of my heroes or heroines. I just don’t have the stomach for it, but I admire Kristen Heitzmann for being willing to go out on a limb with this one. If you are in the mood for something a little different, check out Breath of Dawn. You don’t need to read the earlier books to make sense of it.