Thanks so much for having me Ana, Debra, Jennifer and Paula! I’m very excited to be here, and I’m very much looking forward to sharing my thoughts with your readers. As this blog is called “Heroines with Hearts,” I’ve decided to share a little about heroines, not typically the first element that comes to my mind when I’m considering writing, or reading, a romance novel.
So, how important is having a strong heroine? If you’re anything like I was when I first began writing, you might think that the heroine’s strength of character is not all that important. Or perhaps you’re so distracted by the hero you find it difficult to focus on anything else. Well, if you feel this way you’re probably not alone. However, I urge you to pay attention to this very critical element, one which is significantly more important than you might think.
When I was first began writing romance, I thought the most important thing I could do was to create danger. Danger enhances plot, and it creates a feeling of urgency and suspense. Aside from the fact that I wanted to write romantic suspense, I was trying to create opportunities for my hero to come to my heroine’s rescue. Because that’s what we’re all reading for, right? To see the hero strut his stuff, to see him be…a hero? This is very true, and it’s something I agree with strongly. But a hero is only as good as his heroine. And consequently, a heroine must be equally as strong as her hero.
The first story I ever wrote, the original version of Dangerous Proposal, looks very different from the finished project. There were many things I needed to change about this story before it could be published, but one in particular stands out in my mind. My heroine, Lena, was weak.
But I want her that way, I said. How else can the hero, Alec, save her? How else can I give him an opportunity to make her go weak-at-the-knees, come to her rescue? Well, there are a lot of ways to do this. And in fact, it’s a lot more interesting to see a strong heroine brought to the point of vulnerability, by virtue of a scary plot, and her inexplicable attraction to the hero, than it is a weak one. It’s just that simple.
I submitted the original version of Dangerous Proposal to contests and critique partners, and most were in agreement that the heroine, Lena, was weak. But something else about her was pointed out to me, and that was something that made a tremendous difference as I began the editing process. Namely, Lena wasn’t likeable.
Lena’s not likeable, I gasped. Why the heck not? She’s sweet. She’s smart. And she’d do anything to help the people she loves. But just as the old adage goes, it’s difficult for others to like a person who doesn’t like them self. And apparently, Lena did NOT like herself. If she did, why would she remain engaged to a fiancé that she had serious doubts about, a man she was almost positive was doing cold and underhanded business dealings—a criminal?
And so, I set out to fill in the blanks. It didn’t take too long. Lena’s parents were overbearing. So overbearing that they’d set her up on dates with one arrogant blowhard after the next, made it their mission in life to find her a husband. They drove her so crazy that dating a psychopath was practically a break from the monotony. Not that Lena knew Lucas was a psychopath, exactly. She knew enough to have some doubt about the relationship, but when she learns what he’s up to—trying to get the two of them married without her consent—she does what any strong heroine would do. She runs, not looking back.
Strong heroines propose an opposing force to the heroes that challenge them. And typically, that opposing force is needed, both to balance a story as well as to help the hero grow as a man.
In my debut release, Dangerous Ally, Lilah (heroine, New York Times Reporter, and also Lena Benson’s younger sister) takes a job in the Ramone Mansion. A hard-nosed journalist, Lilah is hoping to expose Lucas Ramone (her sister’s ex-fiancé) for his crimes, and write the story of a lifetime. But what Lilah doesn’t realize is that from the first moment, she actually begins to transform Lucas in a positive way.
Telling himself he’s only trying to sway the savvy journalist’s opinion, Lucas finds himself sticking his neck out for Lilah on several occasions, coming to the aid of his own sister and half-brother, and making a sizable donation to a charity. This strong heroine impacts this tough-as-nails hero in a major way, causing him to look inside of himself and make a complete transformation.
But…if my heroine’s too strong, will it be believable for her to come into danger’s path, consequently providing opportunities for the hero to come to her rescue? Absolutely! Once I got over the notion that only weak heroines need saving, I realized that there was a whole world of opportunities for my heroines to be saved.
For instance, in Dangerous Proposal, strong and independent heroine Lena Benson attempts to hide in the remote town of North Conway. But danger is never far away. A witch, whose identity and significance are a mystery to Lena and the audience alike, is hot on her tail. And of course, Lucas is never far away either. Despite the fact that Lena is a strong heroine, these villainous elements offer her a world of danger, and consequently, opportunities for hero, Alec, to come to her rescue, are numerous.
As romance novels are typically read by women, the heroine is often the protagonist. Sometimes the protagonist is weak, but let’s face it. Isn’t it disappointing when that is the case? As our readers essentially see the story through the protagonist’s eyes, they’re looking for someone who inspires them, someone they can identify with, and someone we want to emulate. When that character is strong, we in turn, are inspired to be strong. And aren’t we all trying to be strong heroines when the day is done?
At two years old, Jessica became a devoted fan of both listening to and reciting the books her parents would read to her at night. When she was a little older (about four), she sought a greater challenge in her life, and began making up stories of her own, acting them out with her dolls. “When the dolls got “boyfriends,” she says, “I knew I was getting too old for dolls!”
As a romance novelist and a reader alike, Jessica is most intrigued by dark heroes, who have many demons to conquer…but little trouble enticing female companions into their beds! She feels that the best romances are those where the hero is already seducing the heroine from that first point of contact. “Isn’t it the hero’s job to seduce?” she says with a grin.
Jessica loves to see the sparks fly when a stubborn, domineering hero crosses paths with a bold, feisty heroine, and uses the combination frequently in her stories.
When she’s is not writing, Jessica enjoys listening to as much80’s music as possible, watching the same re-runs of Smallville over and over, shopping for exceptionally unique cameos, and taking long walks in nature where she can daydream about anything romantic. Though she resides in Central New Jersey, her heart belongs to the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.
Blurb for Dangerous Proposal:
For ten agonizing years, Alec Westwood has been keeping a secret from the world. At nineteen, he nearly committed the most horrific of crimes—murder in cold blood—and narrowly escaped the assigned task with his life. When a stunning young woman crosses his path wearing the insignia for the underground organization that recruited him, he vows not to let fate get a second chance. But when the enchantress gives him a kiss that leaves him spellbound, Alec realizes the power she holds is greater than all his strength and fortitude combined…
On the run from her psychotic fiancé, Lena Benson vows to forge a new life, even if that means befriending a witch, and practicing the craft of the devil. But when her new friend Jack tells her to stay away from Alec Westwood, the man she believes her fiancé hired to track her down, and the handsome stranger she kissed in a tavern, Lena vows to take matters into her own hands. Alec may have the charm, but she’s calling the shots this time, even if that means resisting the man responsible for giving her the most intimate kiss of her life, a man who’s eyes and touch rob her, literally, of sense…
Excerpt for Dangerous Proposal:
Lena looked at Alec. He was smiling softly, no longer criticizing. His eyes were full of intent. They suggested one thing. Come with me. And your desires will be fulfilled.
Anticipation consumed her. She reached for his hand. Excitement melted into warmth. Warmth became security. They began to walk together along the moonlit path.
She felt…safe. As if for the first time since she’d left Westchester, everything was going to be all right. No one could hurt her. Not when she was with Alec. Her skin tingled with warmth as he brushed his thumb across the surface of her hand.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“I thought we were taking risks tonight,” he said with a grin. “You want to be surprised, don’t you?”
Her cheeks were flushing. She was grateful for the darkness that masked her anxious demeanor.
He smiled. “Don’t worry. I think you’re going to like this.”
She imagined she would, considering how much she had enjoyed everything he’d done so far. A part of her was still afraid, but a larger part wanted very much to know where he was taking her.
Alec stroked her knuckles as they walked. The feeling was intoxicating, like sweet, dark chocolate. The longer he did it, the more it seemed this simple touch was no longer enough.
She was drawn from her thoughts as Alec stopped beside a bench. He took a red-and-blue-checkered picnic blanket and slung it over his shoulder.
“Is that yours?”
He shrugged. “I just thought you might want something to sit on. Some of us tend to”—he cleared his throat—“dress up a little more than others.”
Lena laughed. With his hand around hers, she was almost appreciating his wit. “I guess some of us do.”
He leaned in, his warm breath coming against her ear. “I didn’t say I didn’t like it.” He gave her hand a squeeze. “It’s just past those trees. No peeking. I want you to be surprised.
“I promise I won’t peek.” She smiled and shut her eyes. A shiver shot up her spine when she realized he was kissing her cheek.
Lena took an uneasy breath as she walked forward, unable to see what was in front of her.
Keeping her arms at her sides, Alec moved her in slow steps. She was taking quite a risk, allowing him to lead her along like this. He could do anything he wanted to her with her eyes closed like this. Oddly enough, the idea was more exciting than it was frightening.
Guiding her by the shoulders, he walked forward a few more paces. Then he stopped. “All right,” he said. “Open your eyes.
Lena did as she was told, looking out at the biggest, most beautiful lake she’d ever seen. It was vast in size, extending out as far as the trees that surrounded it. Moonlight shined against an uneven surface. Dark ripples glittered beneath a starlit sky.
She turned, looking up into two eyes as blue as the water. “It’s beautiful, Dr. Westwood.”
“Say my name, Lena,” he commanded softly. “I love the way it sounds when you say it.
Lena bit her lip. Once she did this, there was no going back. It would break the unspoken barrier between them. But how could she deny him anything when he was looking at her the way he was?
She suddenly became aware of Alec’s arousal pressing against her back. Her pulse quickened. He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, tightening his hold on her.
She took a deep breath. “The lake is beautiful, Alec.”