Lisa Kleypas ([email protected]):
I was interested to read Rebecca’s comments about the kinds of characters and stories that touch her emotionally, and I agree with many of her points. I understand her reaction to my heroine Lily in Then Came You, as this character has always been a controversial one. Readers’ reactions to her are either strongly negative or positive. In a way, you could almost call Lily an anti-heroine – she is very different from the kind of sweet, loveable, loopy heroines that have become so popular in the romance genre over the last few years.
Because of the terrible circumstances of having her child abducted from her, Lily has become bitter, manipulative, fearful, angry, afraid of commitment, and even slightly crazy. The point of the novel is that she is redeemed by her relationship with a steady, compassionate and patient man, who eventually brings her back to a condition in which she is able to love and trust again. Throughout most of the book she is certainly unlikeable, but by the end, I think she has evolved into a warm, loving person.
It is unfortunate that most romance writers are not “allowed” to create a fuller spectrum of female characters. As I look back over the heroines I have created over the years, I can see that the sweeter, younger, loopier, more likeable female protagonists usually sell better. Virgins are liked better than experienced women. Sweet, spirited klutzes are far more popular than smart, tormented heroines. I’m generalizing, of course, but if you look at the genre as a whole, I think you’ll agree. We forgive a hero for being arrogant and angry–we just call him an alpha, or a “classic” hero. But how flawed can a heroine be?
As a reader, I buy different kinds of stories according to my mood. Sometimes I like to read about winsome, happy heroines, and sometimes I like a woman to be troubled, lonely and defensive, such as Christina Dodd’s Mary Fairchild, or selfish and smart, like Judith Ivory’s Louise Vandermeer. I ask this sincerely : Do most readers feel that the heroine has to be likeable in order for their emotions to be touched? I really don’t. I like “unlikeable” women, as long as the story is wonderfully written and their motivations are solid. While I have the greatest admiration for Julie Garwood (and do I love her work!), I don’t want to read her kind of heroines exclusively. In fact, whether you’re talking about heroes or heroines, there is not enough experimentation in our genre. It is far too easy for an author to be a prisoner of “numbers”, and to write what they know will sell, rather than explore facets of their characters that may not be popular.
This is what I love about “All About Romance”–where else would I be able to discuss something I feel strongly about?
LLB responds: One of the things I strive for here at All About Romance is presenting different sides to an issue. There are at least two sides, and often more. Then Came You is one of my Desert Isle Keepers – I love Lily, and loved the character in the Garwood book that Rebecca also found hard to feel sympathy for. There are two things to remember for all of us – the first is that the genre is big enough to provide something that works for everybody. The second is that we can disagree and take value in what one another believes. I enjoyed Rebecca’s segment even though I didn’t agree with everything she wrote – but that is what All About Romance is about.
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