Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Two Good Books and more on heroes

The Babe Magnet is a generous man - he likes to share. And what he's shared with me recently is germs. He had a nasty stomach bug that flattened him all of Saturday and Sunday - so, having had that passed on to me, I was flattened some of Sunday and all of yesterday. And it was not fun
Oh well, I needed to lose some weight

But there are silver linings to being flattened - because I couldn't do anything else, I could at least read. I have a batch of books to read and judge for the RITA contest but as I was feeling so rough I thought I'd indulge myself and so I read so tried and tested favourites, thinking that quality reading would distract me from the other unpleasantness of the day.

I was right. I read two great books, relaxed and enjoyed myself - and if you have to be sick then being sick in the compny of Michelle Reid and Anne McAllister is not a bad thing at all.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I make no secret of the fact that no only are these two authors two of my favourite friends, they are also two of my favourite romance writers whose books I have enjoyed longer thatn I've actually had the warm friendship of both of them in my life. In fact they are the proof of the fact that most authors whose books I've loved turn out to be people I like too - and Michelle and Anne are perfect examples of that.
Michelle Reid hasn't had a book out in a while - The Italian's Future Bride was out in January 2007 and since then I've been getting withdrawal symptoms. So it was a real thrill when Michelle gave me a hardback copy of her upcoming book - The Markonos Bride. And as with all of Michelle's books, I opened the first page, sampled a line or two - and then found that hours later I emerged, blinking into the real world, reluctantly leaving behind intense, sexy Andreas Markonos and his vulnerable but feisty estranged wife Louisa. Reading a Michelle Reid is like being swept along on a tidal wave of emotion - her heroes may be strong to the point of ruthlessness, autocratic and sometimes domineering. But she leaves you in no doubt about the vulnerability underneath that power, and the need that drives these men to behave in this way.
I'm not going to give away spoilers for this - or the other book - but knowing that Andreas and Lousia have been torn about by a tragedy in the past, a tragedy that left scars on both of them, you know it's going to take time to heal and rebuild what they had before when the only thing that seems to be holding them together is the intense physical passion they have always shared.
Which is much the same sort of journey that Flynn and Sara have to go on in Anne McAllister's One Night Love-Child, the second of the books I devoured yesterday. I was in 'at the birth' of this book - or at least as part of its gestation when Anne and I toured Ireland last February and it was fun to see the way that our travels, and our stay in Ballyvolane House Translated into Dunmorey - with the constant, pouring rain as well. But a book by Anne is a very different sort of experience from a book by Michelle and Flynn Murray is a very different dort of hero from Andreas Markonos.
He's every bit as strong and intense - he feels the same passion for his heroine - but his campaign to win her back after 5 years' absence is - as he describes it - a process of 'courting' rather than confrontation. Flynn needs to prove to Sara that this time he's here to stay and that can't be done in the blink of an eye and with a protestation of love - no matter how ardent.
Flynn has his own demons to fight - demons that had made him the man he is - and the demons of the other dermands that life makes on him. For some he might not be the expected sort of Presents hero - he has money worries that he struggles with, he's not confrontational or autocratic and - oh yes, he's Irish, not Greek or Italian or a Sheikh. But he is strong and honourable, determined and loving - and those are the things that make a true hero in anyone's book.
But in the true strength and scope of the Presents line there should be room for both types of her - and more. The Alpha hero is not, as I have said so many times before, Alpha because he's cruel or snarling or a bully or domneering - in fact, quite the opposite. An Alpha hero is the man the heroine can rely on the be there for her through thick and thin, cold and heat. The man whose strength will support her, whose courage will defend her and whose love will be with her now and for the rest of their future together 'for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.'
And that's another reason why I enjoyed both these books - because, reading them with the current Instant Seduction Contest in mind, I was thinking of so many questi0ns I've been asked about creating an Alpha hero and how to make him hard and forceful and have the impact a hero needs - without losing the vital sympathy that is also needed to make him a hero for the reader too.
These two very different books show just how to do that - and they go a long way to prove that there is no right way or wrong way to write a hero - but that it is, as the late great Editorial Director of M&B Jacqui Bianchi once said to me - if you create the hero who excites you, who you could fall in love with, and you communicate that excitement and that attraction then the reader will fall in love with him too.
I think that in many of the attempts at writing for M&B, in the scripts I've read and commented on, too many people aim for the 'Mediterranean Billionaire' hero - I'd almost say the 'Hard Cruel Bastard Billionaire' - and forget that these guys are also men that the heroine is supposed to fall in love with - and hopefully stay in love 'till death do us part.'
In The Markonos Bride and One Night Love-Child, there isn't a hint of revenge - there's no blackmail, no forced marriages, no suspicion that the heroine might be a gold-digger, or in some other way 'no better than she ought to be' - the only 'traditional' Presents theme is the 'secret baby' - that one night love child in Anne's book. But both of these books pack an emotional punch that is what the Presents line is all about - the intense, emotional punch that comes from two people wrenched apart by the past coming together again and needing to rediscover each other, to find out what love is really all about, in order to go into their future together.
And so for my money anyone wanting to enter the Instant Seduction contest could do no better than to read these books so as to see that there is more to that much sought after 'emotional punch' than threats and suspicion or demanding retribution. The real emotional punch comes from seeing the chasm of distance that has come between two people who should have a future together and wondering just how the hell they are ever going to bridge that yawning gap so that they can find that future together. That emotional distance can stab as sharply to the heart every bit as much as - in fact more so - than any ferocious anger or callous demanding of retribution.
Thank you Michelle and thank you Anne for two great reads that absorbed and delighted me even under the rather difficult conditions that were yesterday.
The Markonos Bride is published in M&B Modern and Harlequin Presents in May 2008
and One Night Love-Child is published in Presents in March and M&B Modern in April.
PS I have no idea why the paragraphing and the spacing of this is all to pot - I've tried and tried to correct it, but Blogger is just not having it!


Anonymous said...

Hope you're feeling a lot better Kate.

I've loved every one of Anne and Michelle's books that I've read in the past and can't wait to read the two you've mentioned.

Thanks for all of your tips and advice for the Instant Seduction contest. Very helpful as always.


Anne McAllister said...

Thank you, Kate, for the wonderful 'review' and for finding Flynn a good sort of hero. He's one I fell in love with, and I did my best to communicate that. I'm glad you shared the experience.

As for Michelle, there is almost no one who can equal the emotional intensity of a Michelle Reid book. I will be looking for Andreas when he crosses the pond, believe me.

And I'm always glad when there is plenty of scope for heroes to be themselves. I, as a reader, do not want all my heroes the same. Variety is one of the joys of reading. So I'm glad there is room for both Andreas and Flynn and all sorts of heroes in Presents/Modern.

Get well soon!

lidia said...

Kate, Hugs on your stomach bug -- those are nasty. Hope you are feeling better.

Since both Michelle and Anne are 'auto-buy' for me, I can't wait to read the books.

Michelle's books are always 'emotionally intense' and you have me wondering what happened to them in the past.

As for Anne, her heroes are not always the "strong alpha" males that everyone assumes all HP heores are. I recently told her on her blog, that my favorite of her's is Alec in "Island Interlude" and he also wasn't the typical alpha.

Anonymous said...

CarolC said...

"The real emotional punch comes from seeing the chasm of distance that has come between two people who should have a future together and wondering just how the hell they are ever going to bridge that yawning gap so that they can find that future together."

Great quote Kate, I've printed that one and stuck it to my computer screen as it's the stage my characters are at now.

Hope your tummy has recovered and I can't wait, as always, to read Anne's and Michelle's books.



Home Bio Books USA Readers Writers Contests Events Blog Links

Join Kate's Newsletter

Email Kate

Modified and Maintained by HR Web Concepts