Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Here Come the Grooms - Anne McAllister's Groom

This is turning into one of those days - not it a bad way, just a hectic sort of - 'I thought I knew exactly what I was doing today but things keep cropping up and I'm losing my grip on the reins' type of day.

So, I meant to have written this hours ago and got it posted all ready for you to read. . . and things started to intervene. Not that I'm complaining. There have been some interesting and rather exciting developments happening behind the scenes, one in particular that I'm really delighted about -. But nothing's finalised so I can't say anything yet. I will when I can - but for now I'll continue with what I had planned.

And what I had planned was to write about the book I've just been reading - and enjoying. And that's Anne McAllister's contribution to the Here Come The Grooms Contest, Antonides' Forbidden Wife.

Lovely book. I really enjoyed this one - an Anne McAllister classic. I'd say it was a keeper but then all of Anne's books are keepers for me. In much the same way that she's a keeper as a friend. But the best thing about this book is the important lessons that it has for would be writers.

Let me go back a couple of steps. I recently had an interesting conversation on a separate loop with some not yet published authors who were discussing the way of writing for Presents. And some of these writers had, as many of the would-be Modern/Presents writers I talk to have - strong opinions on what a Presents novel 'should be'. As many of you know, I read for the Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers' Scheme (have I got all those apostrophes in the right place? I hope so). Anyway, many of those writers too have the very definite opinions on what a Modern Romance writer should write. They tend to be fixated on the wham bang impact of the novels - and I do NOT just mean sex here - they look at title buzzwords like revenge and forced and blackmail and unwilling and focus on the flash and anger and explosions of some of the stories. And the sex.

But the whole point about a romance is that it is about the emotional journey. It's the story of two people finding each other - and finding themselves along the way. And the word in EMOTION. Not revenge. Not anger. Not sex. Not even passion - unless as a passion. One of many passions. The range of Modern Romance - of all romance - is (and in the cases where it's not, it definitely should be) bigger and wider than the 'angry' emotions and the melodramatic moments that sometimes seem to dominate the stories - they certainly seem to dominate the stories that I get to read and critique.

Melodrama isn't emotion. Passion - sexual passion - isn;t an emotion. It's what that creates that is the emotion. The things, the responses it triggers off inside the mind of the hero or heroine. An alpha hero - we've been here before - isn't a bad, cruel, hard wicked man who has to be 'redeemed' by the discovery of love. He is a strong, powerful, hard, man who is sometimes driven by circumstances, by mistakes, by events, to make the wrong judgements and maybe even be cruel as a result. But he is above all a man of honour. A man who is capable of love (even if, like Santos in Cordero's Forced Bride, he doesn't actually believe it himself). He just needs to learn the way to get past the obstacles that keep him from recognising/believing in/expressing the love that is already there in him.

On Michelle Styles' blog today, she makes an interesting point about putting emotion into a novel:

It is the old 10 percent rule -- the vast majority of readers will only get 10 % of the emotion you put in the book.

It's my experience that the emotions most readers do get are of the flashing lighting and banging thunder sort. Sometimes these drown out the softer, deeper, gentler - but infinitely powerful emotions that are what really make a romance what it should be - a love story and a relationship story. An EMOTIONAL story.

Which is where, to come back to the point of this posting, I would want to say to would-be writers - read Anne McAllister. Because it's in those emotions that Anne's writing excels. She creates wonderful strong, powerful, loving human beings in her heroes in particular. She doesn't write much - if at all - about revenge or blackmail or anger - but the emotions her heroes feel are strong and deep and very very masculine, very alpha, all the same. She creates honourable, strong (that word again) emoitonal men who are in conflict with themselves often as much as with their heropines. And the emoitonal reasons why they can't come right out and declare their love are as deep and important and powerful as any other more dramatic events.

Because very often the thing that keeps them quiet and hold them back is love itself.

Antonides' Forbidden Wife is a perfect example of this. You might start of wondering why on earth PJ ever let the past happen - but as the story goes on you begin to see exactly why he did. Exactly what his motives were. And you see that, just as conflict or strength sometimes shows itself in the quiet, deeper things rather than the storming thunder and lightning, so too love can show itself in a deep moment of silence, of giving that is stronger than passion.

I wish more of the would-be writers of Presents would study Anne McAllister's books and see the reasons why she's published in Presents and what her characters and stories add to the lione. A little more of that and little less clash and anger would add a great deal more emotion - and as the editor once said -

There are three things that sell - emotion, emotion, emotion.
Thanks for a great read Anne.


Anonymous said...

You make some very good points, Kate. I've loved every one of Anne's book that I've read so far, she's a wonderful writer.


P J Antonides said...

Thanks, Kate. Glad to know you understand. Sturm und drang is not my style.


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