I’ve always loved romantic heroes, be they highwaymen, pirates, Regency bucks or men in kilts.
I think the element of ‘costume’ removes the hero from the real world and transports both him and the reader into the realm of fantasy. The costumed hero is, generally, aristocratic – and while he does not have to work to earn his daily crust, he often has emotional scars which only the heroine can heal. And, in the case of men in kilts, there is the additional tease of whether or not they’ve gone ‘commando’ , in true Scottish fashion. So, while I loved the Wicked Lady, Frenchman’s Creek and the Scarlet Pimpernel, my favourite books and movies are Scottish-themed.
My interest began as a child in Scotland, reared (courtesy of Saturday morning cinema) on the exploits of highlanders featured in such movies as Rob Roy, Bonnie Prince Charlie, The Ghost Goes West (one of my favourites) and -sob- Grey Friar’s Bobby. After the movie (or fil-um, as we pronounced it) the children in my street would re-enact Rob Roy’s leap and subsequent escape through the waterfall, and the scene from Kidnapped, where Davie Balfour is almost murdered by his evil uncle. Our dogs were dragooned into being “Bobby”, loyally guarding his master’s grave on Grey Friar’s kirk. But they never quite ‘got’ what was required of them and were always wandering off, much to our annoyance.
The girls, of course, loved to act out Flora Macdonald helping Bonnie Prince Charlie to escape over the sea to Skye.
In June we visited Scotland, travelling as far as Skye to see the Fairy Pools and Flora MacDonald’s grave, amongst other things I wanted to research/double check before publishing for my forthcoming novel SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS.
The written word had its place, too; we knew Young Lochinvar off by heart and would declaim:
“He rode all unarm’d, and he rode all alone . . .
He staid not for brake, and he stopp’d not for stone,
He swam the Eske river where ford there was none;
But ere he alighted at Netherby gate,
The bride had consented, the gallant came late.”
I frequently found myself in trouble because I wanted to be Lochinvar, and wouldn’t take my turn as ‘the Fair Ellen.’ Nothing much changed there, then.
Those images and the tales of brave Covenanters and Jacobites stayed with me as I grew up and read more Scottish themed novels . . . The Jacobite Trilogy by D.K. Broster (falling in love with Ewen Cameron), The Lymond Chronicles (who could resist Francis Crawford?) and, more recently, the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon featuring uber-hero Jamie Fraser. For me, he is the ultimate kilted hero and has it in spades – looks, sense of honour, loyalty, is sex-on-legs and can speak Gaelic. If you’d like to see images of Jamie Fraser, check out my Pinterest board and you’ll see what I mean. I’ll even admit to subscribing to Amazon Prime so I could watch the TV Series: OUTLANDER. For me, a hero wearing a suit, carrying duct tape, rope and plastic ties just doesn’t cut it. Give me an exiled, Jacobite laird every time.
Which brings me full circle to my novels. In Tall, Dark and Kilted my hero is sexy laird Ruairi (Roo-ary) Urquhart who has to fight to safeguard his land and inheritance.
In Scotch on the Rocks I give you kilt-wearing, gorgeous Brodie – an American with auburn hair, who arrives on Eilean na Sgairbh on the back of a storm wind and turns my heroine’s life upside down.
Share with us your favourite ‘hero’, whether in book or film.
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At 13, when I started getting interested in boys, all the heroines in romances seemed to be head-turning, heart-stopping beauties, with bee-stung mouths. Long hair tumbled to their shoulders or was worn in a carefully tousled chignon, like Brigitte Bardot.
One look, one flutter of those eyelashes, and the hero would be smitten.
I’d already suspected that this was how things worked, because my best friend was beautiful, like a young Elizabeth Taylor.
When we started Grammar School, cool fifth-formers with Elvis quiffs would pass her crooning, ‘Wh-a-a-at is luurve, five foot of Heaven and a pony-tail.’ (The song goes on, ‘the cutest pony-tail, that sways with a wiggle when she walks.’ )
I, on the other hand, was more Beryl-the-Peril – small, sturdy, self-conscious, blessed with hair that frizzed in damp weather and a tendency to flush easily.
How could I ever inspire love?
Because this was how the world worked, wasn’t it? So cruel, so unfair! It was a terrible blow.
Then, I read Jane Eyre.
Here was a heroine, as plain and self-conscious as myself (and Charlotte Bronte!), who still sparked passion in the hero. I started to see that passionate relationships could be generated by great conversations, argument and humour.
Ever since, I’ve been drawn to books by Carol Shields,(Republic of Love, Happenstance) Anne Tyler,(all books!) Barbara Trapido,(Temples of Delight, Noah’s Ark) all confirming that belief.
So, I’m afraid my own heroines are condemned never to be beautiful! Too easy for them! Too dull, too predictable!
In An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy – Annie has a limp. I’d been tempted to give her a stutter, too, but thankfully was talked out of it!
Gerardina, in The 20’s Girl, is no beauty, either.
So, is it just me? Does anyone else prefer plain heroines?
If you do, I’d love to hear about them.
‘I have always maintained the importance of aunts.’
‘Aunts are not bad but they are inclined to be soppy and call you darling chiz chiz chiz.’
‘Aunts,’ someone said recently, ‘seem to have starring roles in all of your stories.’
Do they? Well yes, I suppose that they do.
I think the stiff-as-sticks Beatrice and Eugenie, from An Englishwoman’s Guide, were probably summoned-up by Lady Bracknell – Algy Moncrief’s awful aunt in The Importance of Being Earnest.
Lovely Leonie, from The 20’s Girl – who taught her niece to dance the hoochie coochie and the turkey trot, while wearing ostrich feathers and waving an Egyptian cigarette in a long ebony holder – is possibly more like Auntie Mame, who sent her nephew to a school where all classes were held in the nude, under ultra-violet ray!
I adored my own aunts. I was the first girl in my mum’s family, and her sisters completely spoiled me – sitting me on their knees, twirling my curls around their fingers. Sigh.
PG Wodehouse seemed to have a thing about aunts, too. As a schoolboy, he was passed around between quite a few of them, apparently.
In his stories, they keep being blamed for all ills and failures.
‘Behind every poor innocent blighter who is going down for the third time in the soup,’ Bertie Wooster moans, ‘you will find, if you look carefully enough, the aunt who shoved him into it.’
Then, there are Agatha and Dahlia – sister’s to Bertie’s father in The Mating Season. Agatha, according to Bertie, ‘is the one who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth.’ She has ‘an eye like a man-eating fish and wears barbed wire next to the skin.’
Who could resist characters like that?
This picture of my mum and her sisters, Nell and Kath was taken in Somerset, when they were all in their late eighties. We were spending a few days together at a hotel in Somerset. I have never got through so much brandy in my life. ‘Ooh, just another nip, ducky! Helps you to sleep, y’know.’ All three lived well into their nineties.
I think of them every day.
Eccentric, exotic, mad, bad or dotty – for me, aunts do seem to offer a new angle on the world and on my writing. Does anyone else feel the same attraction?!
What would YOU like Santa to leave under the tree, apart from a food hamper and an army of staff to serve Christmas dinner for you? Maybe a nice armchair to curl up in with a good book . . .
Talking of which – here is the latest selection from The New Romantics 4: BOOT CAMP BRIDE, A CHANGE OF HEART, 20’s GIRL, THE GHOST AND ALL THAT JAZZ, TWINS OF A GAZELLE.
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Boot Camp Bride by Lizzie Lamb
Take an up-for-anything reporter. Add a world-weary photo-journalist. Put them together . . . light the blue touch paper and stand well back!
Posing as a bride-to-be, Charlee Montague goes undercover at a boot camp for brides in order to photograph supermodel Anastasia Markova. At Charlee’s side and posing as her fiancé, is Rafael Ffinch award winning photographer and survivor of a kidnap attempt in Columbia. He’s in no mood to cut inexperienced Charlee any slack and has made it plain that once the investigation is over, their partnership – and fake engagement – will be terminated, too.
Soon Charlee has more questions than answers.
What’s the real reason behind Ffinch’s interest in the boot camp? How is it connected to his kidnap in Columbia?
In setting out to uncover the truth, Charlee puts herself in danger. And, as the investigation draws to a close, she wonders if she’ll be able to hand back the engagement ring and walk away from Rafa without a backward glance.
Twins of a Gazelle by Margaret Cullingford
Only fifteen months since her low-key wedding, anxious, lonely, Calista Blake begins to realize she should have followed her instinct and not been persuaded when Adam Burgess sweet-talked her into marrying him. Feeling guilt for what she believes was her role in the break-up of his first marriage, she suspects Adam goes along with the premise, marry your mistress, you create a vacancy. She hopes their holiday on the magical Greek island of Ithaca will banish her disenchantment. Instead there Calista is spellbound by P.J. Wood – ‘I take photographs. Tell stories . . . True ones. . . . Where-ever there’s trouble.’ Meeting P.J. added to what Adam reveals when she questions him, makes Calista’s previous angst seem mild compared with the cauldron of trouble she falls into, the consequences of meeting P.J. Wood.
Read TWINS OF A GAZELLE to discover how Calista resolves her dilemma.
The Twenties Girl, The Ghost, and All That Jazz by June Kearns
1924. The English Shires after the Great War – all crumbling country houses and no men.
When her jazzing flapper of an aunt dies, Gerardina Mary Chiledexter inherits some silver-topped scent bottles, a wardrobe of love-affair clothes, and astonishingly, a half-share in a million-acre ranch in south-west Texas.
Haunted by a psychic cat, and the ghost voice of her aunt Leonie, Gerry feels driven to travel thousands of miles to see the ranch for herself.
Against a backdrop of big sky, cattle barons and oil wells, she is soon engaged in a game of power, pride and ultimately, love, with the Texan who owns the other half.
A Change of Heart by Adrienne Vaughan
‘Maeve Binchy meets Jackie Collins’ says one fan of Adrienne Vaughan’s latest novel A Change of Heart, the standalone sequel to her highly-acclaimed debut, The Hollow Heart.
Escaping to a remote Irish isle, journalist Marianne Coltrane had not bargained for a tumultuous affair with movie star Ryan O’Gorman.
When Ryan leaves to pursue his career, Marianne remains on the island to care for those who need her most, but Ryan soon realises he cannot live without her and returns to woo her back.
Tricky enough without his problematic ex-wife or the contract he cannot break, but when a good deed puts all they treasure in jeopardy, it’s time to take stock and fight for what matters most …or is time running out for this charismatic couple and everything they hold dear?
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So, tell us, what would YOU would most like to find under the Christmas tree.
The most amusing or original reply will win an Amazon voucher which will enable the winner to download one of our novels onto a kindle.