Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"The Complicated Heroine" with Guest Blogger Victoria Dahl

hosted by Jo Robertson

We are so fortunate to have Victoria Dahl, whose debut book To Tempt a Scotsman was released last year. Her newest release from Kensington, A Rake's Guide to Pleasure, is absolutely wonderful. Victoria writes my kind of historicals -- spicy, sexy, and smart. If you like clever heroines with nefarious backgrounds and a hero who's able to sift through her exterior layers, you'll love this book.

Victoria: It's so great to be back with the Romance Bandits! Thanks for having me again. I'm glad I didn't wear out my welcome the last time I was here. My first heroine, Alexandra Huntington in To Tempt a Scotsman, was a scandalous woman. A very naughty heroine (though that wasn't QUITE the word used to describe her in some emails I received). I've blogged plenty of times about writing a scandalous heroine, but today I'd like to talk about a different kind of heroine. Let’s call her The Complicated Heroine." (Some people might call her The Unsympathetic Heroine, but I’m not talking to them right now, so there.)

So who is this complicated woman whose story is told in A Rake's Guide to Pleasure? Well, her real name is Emma Jensen, but she has a few aliases. Actually… her real name isn’t Emma. Even I’m having trouble keeping track of this slippery girl. Her real name is Emily, but she goes by Emma, as well as the Dowager Lady Denmore… not her real title. And the widowed Mrs. Kern… also completely false. You may be catching on to a bit of the problem here.

Jo: I gotta tell you, Victoria. Emma sounds like my kinda heroine.

Victoria: So what do I mean by the complicated heroine? Well, she’s not simple, obviously. She’s not necessarily easy to love. Her darker motivations aren’t offset by grand, selfless ideals. You probably don’t want to be her when you grow up, even if you love her hero (Mmmm… Hart). Hell, I wouldn’t set foot in Emma’s shoes if you paid me. So what’s up with this chick? What’s so complicated about her?

Jo: I want to remind our readers that Hart, aka Somerhart, is the brother of our heroine in To Tempt a Scotsman. To have a sister like Alexandra, you know he's got to be one strong Alpha male and a perfect match for Emma.

Victoria: Let’s take a look at the complicated heroine in A Rake's Guide to Pleasure.

Complication #1: Emma is a liar. Seriously. I’ll let Somerhart, the hero, put it in his own words: “She was a liar. A consummate liar. A woman who lied about important things. Her life, her past, her feelings, her thoughts.”

Ouch! Emma isn’t mentally ill or anything. She’s lying for a reason. A good reason, though it has nothing to do with generosity. She’s not trying to save the widdle orphans or rescue her sister from a brothel. She’s lying for her own benefit. Sooo… I guess that makes her selfish as well.
Ha! Emma is simply trying to protect herself from a world that has been awfully cruel to her. She has a plan, and part of that plan has to do with pretending to be somebody else. The other part of the plan is…

Complication #2: She’s an unrepentant gambler. She will bet on anything as long as she feels she can evaluate the odds properly. A foot race, a card game, or an upcoming duel. If she thinks she can turn a profit, she’ll place a bet. In fact, the whole reason she is in London is to gamble her meager inheritance into an amount that will support her for the rest of her life and free her from dependency on anyone.

Complication #3: Her sexuality is a tangled mess. Emma is a virgin pretending to be a mature widow, and she’s very good at that pretense because she might be the least innocent virgin you will meet in a (non-erotic) historical. She witnessed her father’s orgiastic house parties from a very young age and is interested in trying some of that stuff out for herself. But she’s a virgin who’s not supposed to be a virgin, so she can’t really indulge her curiosity.

Or can she??? *snicker* You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Jo: Okay, you had me at "orgiastic house parties." I just finished the book and our readers have GOT to read it. It's an amazing historical with lots of pathos, emotion, and, yes, sex, the good kind with the person you're in love with even if you don't know it. Ooops, sorry, Victoria, I got carried away.

Victoria: It's okay, Jo.
Complication #4: Well, Emma can be cruel. When she pushes the hero away, she’s not screwing around. As Eloisa James said about this part, “This is no nimby-pimby novel where the heroine wails, ‘Go away,’ and the hero walks around the block before going back. Emma is a grown woman and she makes him go. Really go.”

Jo: This is a wonderfully heart-breaking scene too.

Victoria: I’ve already seen a few complaints about this scene. Emma is deliberately cruel to Somerhart, but she has a reason; she is terrified. Why?

Complication #5: She has trust issues. This probably goes without saying. *g* She’s scared to death of loving the hero and even more afraid he might love her. God, this is all making me tired. This was kind of a draining book! I think Eloisa James, in continuing her review, summed it up nicely when she called it a “complicated, somewhat demented love affair.”

Jo: I know what you mean. I had to put the book down and walk away for a moment or two, reminding myself "It's only a book, it's only a book." So much emotion!

Victoria: I love Eloisa's quote. I think it captures the feel of the book perfectly. If any of you have read it, you’ll have to let me know what you think.

Do you like your heroines complicated? If so, who’s your favorite complicated (maybe even unsympathetic) heroine? Was she redeemed by the end of the book? (FYI, mine is Sugar Beth from Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Ain’t She Sweet. I thought she was completely unredeemable at the start of that book.)

Or if YOU were the heroine of a romance novel, would you be spicy and complicated or sweet and lovable?

We'll be giving away a copy of A Rake's Guide to Pleasure to one random lucky commenter, Banditas included, so be sure to leave a comment.


Kim said...


Kim said...

Hey Victoria and the Banditas!!

If I were a romance novel heroine, I'd be spicy AND lovable. Oh wait, I already am. LOL

hmm, I'd have to say that Emma is my favorite unreedemable heroine, Victoria. She's a naughty girl and I definitely don't think she deserves Hart. Maybe you should give him to someone else. A friend of yours who is spicy and loveable. Say....ME! Whadya say?

I second Jo, y'all NEED to go out and read this book. Its uber yummilicious.

Dina said...

Good job Kim. :)

Hi Jo,

I'd be the sweet and lovable heroine, only becaue my life now is complicated most of the time. ;)

jo robertson said...

Wow, ya'll are FAST! I was still editing the post.

A big welcome to Victorial Dahl who has become one of my favorite historical writers recently. If you haven't read any of her works, be sure to try them. I think she's an amazing writer, and no, she doesn't pay me. I wish!

Congratulations, Kim, for capturing the chook. And you're soooo modest LOL. Ah, but you're wrong about Emma. She DOES deserve Hart because he's really as damaged as her.

Besides, I really don't think Victoria is gonna give him up to you, girl!

But yes, "uber yummilicious" says it all.

jo robertson said...

Aw, Dina, does being sweet and loveable help you get through the complicated times? Or are you looking for the fantasy that's NOT your life right now?

I tend to think women are far more complicated than men, but Somerhart might change my mind. He's got some complicated backstory.

Kelly Krysten said...

If a book was made about me I fear I would be a bit...unlovable.lol.
Anyway,I can't wait to read this book. I love complicated people in general. I also loved Sugar Beth but her half sister(her name escapes me) was pretty unlovable to me as well.I think they were both redeemed nicely.

Pat Cochran said...

This is a speedy group! I just wished everyone a good night at the
last post, swung over here, and WOW there's already a crowd here!!

Pat Cochran

jo robertson said...

You won't be disappointed in Victoria's book, Kelly. I agree. I'd rather be a complicated heroine than a simple one. It makes life much more hecticf, but give shades of meaning to a person's character, don't you think?

My family accuses me of making complications out of simplicities, however. Hmmm, maybe I see a pattern.

jo robertson said...

LOL, Pat. That's because we have so many readers Down Under. Plus there are always those East Coasties who think bedtime is 3:00 a.m.

I'm heading for bed myself, so don't ya'll have too much fun until I get back in the morning and Victoria joins us.

Minna said...

Sspicy and complicated, of course.

Victoria Dahl said...

Holy cannoli, the party's started without me! I think I'm running with a fast crowd!

Jo, thanks so much for a great interview and your amazingly kind words about the book. I'm pretty thrilled that I tortured you enough to make you walk away. *evil grin* Ha!

Thank you too, Kim! (Kim C.???)

Btw, I never answered my own question. I'm going to cheat and say I'd be spicy and lovable at the same time. Lovable when all is well and hell on wheels on special occasions.

(And don't tell anyone I told you this, but I can NOT spell the word "occasion." Two C's? Two S's? I have to look it up every time or just use a different word. I need to make up a ditty to help me remember.)

jo robertson said...

Minna, not surprised at all. Nope. Not. Spicy and complicated, indeed.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Victoria! I didn't think we'd see you till morning.

And when I really like an author, I must admit to gushing. I'm a big gusher. But ONLY when I love the writing and story. Otherwise I'm tellingly silent.

OMG, "occasion" is one of the very often misspelled words. What's up with that? And SHHHHHH, in the vault and in the lair, but I'm reading the latest book by a VERY BIG author whom I adore who's an amazing Vampire writer and she spelled "separate" as "seperate." I'm soooo disappointed -- not in HER, but in her editor!!

Sue A. said...

Spicy and complicated! I won't want the hero attracted to sweet and loveable, because he would probably be uncomplicated and bland.

Jane said...

Congrats on the GR, Kim.

I wouldn't mind be a spicy heroine. I don't want to be so complicated that I'm always misunderstood, but a little mystery is good thing. I'm not sure how I feel about an unsympathetic heroine. I can't wait to read the book to see what compels Emma to drive Hart away.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Victoria, a huge bandita welcome to the lair! You know, I love me a complicated, flawed heroine. I especially love it when I look back on a book and can't think of one good reason why I should have rooted for the heroine, even though I was behind her 100% all the way. That is good storytelling, IMO. On heroine who wasn't redeemed but incredibly powerful, was Philippa Gregory's heroine in Wideacre. Loved that book.

I'm looking forward to A RAKE'S GUIDE TO PLEASURE. It's going to be one of my rewards when I meet my deadline on Sept 1.

Oh, and as ALL the banditas know, if I were a romance heroine, I'd not only be spicy and complicated, but a hard-faced beyotch, to boot.

Hiya, KimPossible! Congrats on snaffling the rooster!

Helen said...

Well done Kim have fun with him

Great post Ladies this sounds like my kinda book hot and steamy and with a complicated heroine. I gotta get me this book.

If I was a heroine in a book I probably would be spicy I have had lots of tutoring from the books I have read LOL and yes fun and lovable I try hard not to be difficult (doesn't always work) I am me and most of all I like to have fun.

Have Fun

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Congrats Kim!
And congrats to Victoria, sounds like I am going to be buying even more books. I have been quietly reading through a tremendous TBR pile, (actually it is a full bookcase now) so I may as well buy more right??
I suppose I would be more spicy than sweet. Maybe a little of both, more like you Victoria, a little of both depending on what was happening.

Maureen said...

I do enjoy a complicated heroine because they make sense. You put someone in bad situations and to survive they are going to adapt. We are so forgiving of complicated heroes who have had it tough so why not the heroine. I just started Linda Howard's new book and these characters are not good people at all but I'm liking it.

Kestrel said...

Hi everyone! The book sounds lovely, I have to add another to my TBR pile now! I do like complicated heroes and heroines. They are more believable, because whose life isn't complicated??
On the other hand, I like characters who are what they are, and be damned what anyone else thinks, who end up in situations where they have to set their own desires aside to accomplish their goals, and there comes their complications.
My ladies normally have honorable intentions no matter how badly they behave, and their men have to take second place, until they realize they are stronger if they work together.

Eva S said...

Welcome Victoria,
I loved your first book and can't wait to read this one.I want my heroines to be complicated and spicy(and my heroes too of course!), sweet and lovable sound a little boring...
My favorite is from the book I'm reading, Annique Villiers from The Spymasters Lady.

Joanne Lockyer said...

Hi there! I am defintely with Christine on this one. Beatrice Lacey, in Philippa Gregory's Wideacre...I'd never even thought anyone would publish a heroine THAT evil! Scarlett O'Hara - but completely psychotic!

Thanks for the great post - looking forward to reading Victoria's book!

Christie Kelley said...

Welcome to the lair, Victoria!!! Always nice to have another Zebra deb in the house.

You're books sound great and now I'll have to hit the bookstore again. (like that's a terrible thing)

I love a complicated heroine but find them so difficult to write without them coming across as unsympathic. It's a tough line.

Any suggestions?

PJ said...

Hi Victoria! (waving wildly) Great to have you here in the lair.
"A Rake's Guide to Pleasure" finally showed up in my local store this weekend and is now at the top of my tbr pile. As soon as I write one more review I'm settling in with Emma and Hart. Can't wait!

I probably fall more to the sweet side but I like to think there's some spicy mystery lurking under my surface too.

I can think of a few unredeemable heroines who were never redeemed in my opinion. I didn't like them at the beginning of their story and liked them even less by the end. My hat is off to you authors who can take someone so unlikeable and mold her into a heroine I can root for.

Gannon Carr said...

Hey Victoria! I'm still dying to read A RAKE'S GUIDE TO PLEASURE. I'm in the middle of reading some books I'm reviewing for RNTV, so I'll reward myself with your book when I've finished my "assignment."

Spicy and lovable sounds like a great combination to me! And I have to agree with the choice of Sugar Beth. I wasn't sure if I would ever like her, but she redeemed herself quite nicely in the end.

Congrats on nabbing the GR, Kim!

Joan said...

A rather uncomplicated snatch of the chook there Kim :-)

Victoria, welcome back to the lair. (The cabana boys are still reeling from your last visit. Boys! Boys! Settle down)

Your book sounds fabulous and I can't wait to read it. The writing of complicated heroines OR heroes is a mark of a master storyteller IMHO.

As to what type I would be? Fiesty and wonderful....my hero will love that...whenever he finds me!


Nancy said...

Kim, congratulations!

Victoria, welcome back to the lair!

Jo and Victoria, this is a great interview--lots to think about in it. I definitely prefer complicated characters, and a touch of real darkness (as opposed to darkness covering up for more "redeeming" motives) doesn't bother me. Complicated characters tend to complicate the story arc in a believable way, which leads to a meatier book, which I like. Hmm--not sure that made sense.

Joanne's example, Scarlett O'Hara, works for me. She's essentially selfish and more than a little short-sighted, but I rooted for her anyway.

I would definitely be a complicated heroine.

terrio said...

I love complicated heroines and I can't wait to read this book. As soon as I read the question of who your favorite unsympathetic heroine would be I thought of Sugar Beth. How SEP made us fall in love with her by the end of the book is a master lesson in writing.

If I were a romance novel heroine today, I'd be one on the verge of a nervous breakdown so I'm not sure if that would be good or bad. LOL!

terrio said...

Forgot to say congrats to Kim on the GR. Don't let the kitties torture him too much.

And Jo - my father has been telling me for years I could complicate anything. I forgot about that until your comment. I guess that answers the question right there. LOL!

jo robertson said...

Good point, Sue. If the heroine is too biddable, what does that say about the hero if he's interested in her? BORRRRR-ING!

jo robertson said...

Good point, Jane. If a writer makes her heroine SO complicated, SO misunderstood, SO . . . well snarky, maybe? that the reader throws the book across the room, who wants to read that.

Emma has these nuances, I think, moments where there are little shards of vulnerability that the reader picks up on. I say "shards" because she quickly flips back to that sharp protective shield she had.

Plus we KNOW we're going to get our HEA becuase this is a romance.

Victoria Dahl said...

*yawn* What time is it? Man, I'm gonna be in a world of hurt next week when I've got to get the kids ready for school. Where's that boy with the mimosas???

I have managed to write one sweet and lovable heroine... but only for a novella. I don't think I could sustain that for a whole book. *big grin*

Christie, my CP and I have an awful time trying to balance "complicated" with "sympathetic." It's a very fine line, as I'm sure you know. It's even harder because we are both apparently inclined to like heroines that others don't like. We exchange a lot of emails like, "Really? Unsympathetic? I think she's totally hilarious!"

jo robertson said...

Christine said, "I especially love it when I look back on a book and can't think of one good reason why I should have rooted for the heroine, even though I was behind her 100% all the way."

Well said, Madame Christine!

I'm hanging my head in shame because I haven't read Gregory's WIDEACRE. Are you saying the heroine was NEVER redeemed in the book?

Victoria Dahl said...

terrio, my mom once said this about me: Victoria is very manipulative, but she's so up front and open about it that you can't even resent it.

What? Manipulative? I contend, to this day, that this is called being CHARMING! Good Lord, woman.

jo robertson said...

LOL, Helen, on you getting your "moves" from the books you read. I think we writers practice on our husbands or boyfriends to make sure the moves work right!

jo robertson said...

LOL, Helen, on you getting your "moves" from the books you read. I think we writers practice on our husbands or boyfriends to make sure the moves work right!

Victoria Dahl said...

Btw, have you ever noticed that good romance heroines are always early risers? There's a reason I'd be complicated. i sleep late and my house is a mess!

jo robertson said...

Dianna, you must be a fast reader to get your TBR pile down to a single bookcase. I have an entire room full, had to move out of my office and turn it into the BOOK ROOM! But Victoria's latest is a keeper.

jo robertson said...

Maureen, Linda Howard does love doing those twisty characters.

You pose an interesting question: Are we more forgiving of our complicated (read bad) heroes than our heroines (read complicated)?

jo robertson said...

Hi, Victoria. I knew you'd have kiddies demanding unreasonable things like breakfast and maybe a diaper change (uh for a baby, not YOU) so I've kept the chatter going.

So, I have a question. Writing Emma and Hart's story must've been emotionally draining. How did you keep your emotion-well full? Do you like to change up with your stories, like write a complicated, dark story and then switch to a lighter one?

Victoria Dahl said...

>>Are we more forgiving of our complicated (read bad) heroes than our heroines (read complicated)?<<

This is definitely true among a lot of readers, I think. I found that the readers who thought Alexandra (my previous heroine) was a whore, always thought Collin was dreamy. Even though HE was the one with major issues in the marriage.

Btw, I think the most complicated HERO I've ever read (AND loved) was in Linda Howard's CRY NO MORE. It took me a good half of the book to admit that he actually was the hero!!! Loved it.

Victoria Dahl said...

Writing Emma and Hart's story must've been emotionally draining. How did you keep your emotion-well full? Do you like to change up with your stories, like write a complicated, dark story and then switch to a lighter one?

Hi Jo! I forgot to say Good Morning to you! You know, I did find this book draining to write. But I was thinking last night that it might have been less tense to write than it is to read. I write about five pages every day, as opposed to reading a good hundred or two, so I got a breather between the ups and downs.

But this was one time I was THRILLED to move onto a contemporary I was writing because it's basically a romantic comedy.

jo robertson said...

PJ, I hate that, don't you? I'm willing to reserve my judgment on a complicated, on-the-surface unredeemable character, but by gosh and by golly, she/he'd better be redeemed by the end of the book!

Bottom line for romance is that HEA, or at least the promise of it on the horizon.

Now, if I'm reading mainstream, I have no such expectation, but with romance. Nope. No. Nada.

kimscastillo said...

Hey Victoria, yup, its me :D The Banditas let me come out and play with the cabana boys occasionally ;) We couldn't let you be the first to your own party. Again. LOL.

Jo--please don't burst my bubble. Pretty please?

Terri--the chook's doing just fine. Max chased him around a bit but Ginger protected him just fine. He's taking a nap with Precious now in my office. All sauces and charcoal briquets are locked up.

*waves* Hi Christine!!

jo robertson said...

Victoria said, "Have you ever noticed that good romance heroines are always early risers?"

OMG, I never thought about this! Does rising early equate with goodness? And conversely, is late rising a symbol for decadence?

If so, I've got my place in heaven reserved for sure!

jo robertson said...

Nancy said, "Complicated characters tend to complicate the story arc in a believable way, which leads to a meatier book, which I like. Hmm--not sure that made sense."

Makes perfect sense to me, but then you and I probably share a Machavellian (sp?) brain LOL.

Do you think sometimes we readers want less meaty, though, a kind of wind-down book? I'd have a hard time reading, say four or five gut-wrenching books back to back.

jo robertson said...

Terrio said, "My father has been telling me for years I could complicate anything. I forgot about that until your comment."

Great minds and all that. But seriously, I'm always leaping ahead to think of the possible -- and disastrous consequences of something. I call it planning ahead; my husband calls it borrowing trouble.

While reading does anyone else find her/himself planning ahead in your brain and trying to create a reason/justification for the heroine's misdeeds?

jo robertson said...

Kim said, "Jo--please don't burst my bubble. Pretty please?"

Uh, okay, sure! What bubble am I not bursting? I DO SO love to burst bubbles!

And, although, I'm up early, I can't be accused of being ALERT early LOL.

jo robertson said...

Victoria, can you tell us a little something about your romantic comedy? It's coming out soon, isn't it?

Louisa Cornell said...

Cockadoodledoo!! Kim! Have fun with the GR. There's a party in the Lair. You KNOW how he can be!

Hello, Victoria! Loved your last book and can't wait to read this one. It sounds fabulous!

Are you kidding? I am a retired opera singer and an aspiring writer - does it get any more complicated than that? My late DH was a saint for putting up with me at times. Musicians, especially singers tend to be an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, shrouded in shadow. He was like the eye in my storm, so to speak. I miss him every day.

I have read some heroines that I thought were completely irredeemable at the beginning of the book. Almost all of them were redeemed at the end and I attribute that to a really great writer. It is a VERY thin line between unsympathetic and WITCH with a B!

There was one book that everyone raved about that I read and found the heroine COMPLETELY irredeemable even at the end. By the end of the book I was thinking she needed to do an Anna Karenina and throw herself under a train for the book to satisfy me. The hero was not a great guy, but he became one in the end and he had all of my sympathy. He stayed with her and I thought "Poor guy, you are really in for it!"

On the other hand, the Incomparable La Campbell's Verity was NOT a terribly sympathetic character at the beginning of CTC, but the gradual revelation of who she really was quite frankly was a masterpiece. Those are the kinds of complications I like. I like for an author to make me work to find something I like about the characters, but NOT to the point that I am too exhausted to appreciate the story. Does that make sense?

Virginia said...

Hello Victoria, Hmm, I think I would want to be lovable. This would be the best way, not complicated. Sweet and lovable is the way to go.

Victoria your books look fantastic!

Cassondra said...

On the run today but I have to say welcome back to the lair Victoria!

And yes, I like complicated heroines. I like complicated PEOPLE in my books because..well..that's how real people are.

My favorite unredeemable heroines are SEP's Sugar Beth, and I thought, at the beginning of Claiming the Courtesan, that Verity might be unredeemable, so I still put her in that category.

She turned out not to be quite so much but she's still one of my favorites--a strong woman who has done what she has to do and damn the consequences and what other people think.

The thing is, I think this whole "unredeemable" thing has been taken way too far. Almost ANYTHING is redeemable if the reason is good enough (save a few things like hurting a child or deliberate cruelty)

I think the more "unsympathetic" the heroine is (or the hero) the better the read IF the writer has the skill to redeem the character within the scope of the book--and I mean REALLY redeem the character--not just in the last two pages to wrap it all up in a nice bow, but I have to see them hit bottom and take a long hard look at themselves and see a reason to change.

I can't wait to see how you've written Emma!

Victoria Dahl said...

Thanks again to everyone for the warm welcome!!!

Jo, my first contemporary, TALK ME DOWN, will be out in January 2009. You can read about it on my website and see the spectacular cover the cover gods have blessed me with. www.VictoriaDahl.com

TALK ME DOWN is the story of Molly Jennings, who returns to her small hometown and causes a stir with a secret career and a burgeoning relationship with the town's sexy chief of police. The book is chock full of hot sex and dirty jokes. I love the tagline HQN came up with... "What happens when the girl next door isn't so innocent?" Ha!!!

jo robertson said...

Sounds great, Victoria, and I did go read the excerpt on your website for Talk Me Down. I like the tension between Ben and Molly and the whatever secret that has them both blushing and awkward.

And HQN did a great job on that cover.

jo robertson said...

Another question for Victoria or anyone else. Which do you prefer writing -- historicals or romantic comedies? Why?

Which do you prefer reading?

Victoria Dahl said...

Re: Reading... I find it much harder to stumble across contemporary voices that I love. I have a theory that historical characters are a bit removed from us personally. They are of another age. But contemporary characters... these have to be people I'd ACTUALLY want to hang around with. I have a lot more trouble bonding with them. It absolutely depends on the writer and voice. Anyone else?

This theory came to me during a conversation with Kalen Hughes (a historical writer) who said "I don't know why, but I usually only like contemporary romances that are written by my friends."

jo robertson said...

Victoria said, "But contemporary characters... these have to be people I'd ACTUALLY want to hang around with."

I think you hit the nail on the head. I find myself being very critical of contemporary stories. In many ways I think it's harder to satisfy a wide range of readers in a contemp voice. I'm much more accepting of the historical voices.

And the romantic comedy is even trickier. People have such differing ideas of what's funny. I'm definitely giving TALK ME DOWN a try, though, because it sounds like my kind of humor.

TJ Bennett said...

Victoria, I have read the book, and you write heroines the way I do--complicated with an inner darkness that makes them hard to pin down. I LOVE those kinds of heroines (and heroes), and I LOVED this book. I hate to admit it, but I finished it all in one sitting--took me until 6am to do it, but by gosh, I did. What a story! Sexy, dark, and fabulous.


Cheri2628 said...

If I were a romance heroine I would be spicy and complicated and sweet and loveable, and of course, gorgeous, witty, sexy, intuitive, brave, intelligent, a skilled horsewoman, a crack shot, a fencing master, and a force to be reckoned with! Did I leave any other fantasies out? ;-)

Victoria Dahl said...

Hi all! I'll be off line for a couple of hours while I take the kids ice skating and go to the grocery store.

Here's a tip for all you women out there still trying to reach the pro-levels of poor housekeeping. If you run out of clean summer clothes, bust out the jeans and long-sleeve shirts and go to the ice rink!

Anna Lucia said...

Wow. This sounds FANTASTIC!

And I have to say, so coincidental, too. I'm busy writing a heroine who's a liar and uses everything in her personal arsenal to get what she wants. She's a real departure for me, but she is so amazing to write - utterly fearless in action, if not in heart, and completely uncompromising.

I have NO idea where this character has come from...

Can't wait to read about your complicated heroine!

Gannon Carr said...

Here's a tip for all you women out there still trying to reach the pro-levels of poor housekeeping. If you run out of clean summer clothes, bust out the jeans and long-sleeve shirts and go to the ice rink!

LOL!! I like the way you think, Victoria.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Joanne! So glad you could make it to the lair! Wasn't Wideacre a great book? Scarlett on steroids.*g* And Jo, no she doesn't get redeemed. She really is evil! But there's a great romance in it and a point where you think she'll turn the corner, but she just keeps going to the bad. It's a very powerful story, but not one for a romance reader who only likes happy endings. There *is* a happy ending at the end of the trilogy, though. I hope I'm not spoiling things, but I'd hate someone to read Wideacre thinking it was going to end with everyone wreathed in roses. I was looking for my copy the other day but I've lent it to someone who hasn't given it back. Sigh. I have to stop doing that. Or at least keep a list.

Louisa Cornell said...

I never loan out books any more, Christine. I have lost too many favorites to do so again. That is why when my Mom admired your coverflat for Scandal's Daughter and started rummaging through my bookshelves in search of my copy I said "Freeze! Back away from the bookshelves!" I bought her her very own copy and mailed it to her! She doesn't fail to return them on purpose. She just lends them to her friends who do!

Now one of the minor characters in Lost in Love is the heroine's sister, Clementine. Everyone who has read her HATES her with a deep abiding hatred. So, What will the last book in the Lost in Love series book be? The story of Clementine and her long-suffering husband, Viscount Edgehill. All of the male characters in Lost in Love when they speak of Edgehill end every comment with "Poor devil." because he is married to Clementine. I will need a few more books under my belt before I attempt to redeem her, but I really want to give it a shot.

How difficult is it to create a truly unsympathetic character and then go back and redeem her, Victoria? Is it something you have to sketch out in any way or does it just come organically?

Keira Soleore said...

Victoria, skidding in for a quick: CONGRATULATIONS!!! I loved seeing you at RWA.

Kim, cluckgrats to you.

Keira Soleore said...

Banditas, I'm going to be out of town for the next couple weeks. Don't be too wicked and naughty in the Lair while I'm gone, OK?

Trish Milburn said...

Vicki! Good to see you here, and it was good to see you for the approximately four seconds I saw you on San Fran.

Your heroine does sound like she has issues, but I think this is great because it shows that she has a good story arc and growth ahead of her.

Have to say I'm not terribly spicy or complicated. :/

Beth said...

Welcome back, Victoria! Your books have just moved to the top of my TBR pile and I can't wait to read them *g*

I love complicated heroines and Sugar Beth is definitely one of my favorites. I tend to write complicted, heroines who have a bit of an edge to them but the heroine in my second Superromance is more sweet than spicy. Writing her was difficult as I kept wanting to toughen her up a bit :-)

Trish Milburn said...

I know I've told you before, but your contemporary cover is awesome. And I still want that chick's shoes. :)

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

jo robertson said...
Dianna, you must be a fast reader to get your TBR pile down to a single bookcase. I have an entire room full, had to move out of my office and turn it into the BOOK ROOM! But Victoria's latest is a keeper.

That in itself is the problem Jo, I keep getting more and more books that are keepers, I am up to 4 bookshelves (books are 3 deep)of keepers. LOL

Anna said...

Complicated is usually better than sweet. If she's sweet, then she at least has to be able to think. But when heroine's are *too* spicy, the person in the book reads false to me and I put the book down (or throw it against a wall, as appropriate) and pick another from my huge t.b.r. stack.

Too much of any one character trait without a bit of the opposite to balance out the personality makes me annoyed at any hero or heroine.

The book looks like a treat; I can't wait to pick up my copy! :)

Victoria Dahl said...

Jo, you'll have to let me know what you think of the contemporary! It'll be quite a leap for my current readers. *g*

TJ and Trish, thanks for stopping by to say Hi! It was so good to see both of youer (briefly) in SF! And TJ I'm awfully honored to have kept you up all night long! Oo-la-la.

Victoria Dahl said...

How difficult is it to create a truly unsympathetic character and then go back and redeem her, Victoria? Is it something you have to sketch out in any way or does it just come organically?

Hi Louisa! For me, it was all about Emma's backstory. It's her motivation, of course. But it's also the thing that creates sympathy. I figured that most people would understand why she would hurt Hart so deeply just to keep from being hurt herself. But I still kept asking my critique partner, Jenn, "Are you SURE she's sympathetic?"

Anna Lucia, good luck with your heroine!!! It's fun to write someone so different from yourself, I think. Believe me, all the risks that Emma takes in this book would leave me shaking. I seem to be giving lots of people a stomachache from the tension. LOL I could't live that way in a million years.

Victoria Dahl said...

Have a good trip, Keira! I don't know how you do it. I'm still recovering from San Fran!

Victoria Dahl said...

Btw, Kim, I just realized we gave the same "spicy AND lovable" answer. HAHAHAHA

Christine Wells said...

Louisa, what a darling you are to buy your mother her own copy of Scandal's Daughter. Thank you!

I LOVE the sound of that 'poor devil' refrain in LOST IN LOVE. I think I would really enjoy your books. Looking forward to seeing them in print.

Keira--would we EVER be naughty?? Take care and we'll see you when you get back.

Victoria, thanks so much for joining us today and thanks to Jo for a great interview:)

jo robertson said...

TJ, how did you read "A Rake's Guide" in one sitting? I had to back away from it and take a deep breath it was so overpowering. Hmmm, maybe I'm a pansy?

Great list, Cheri2628, I'm stealing your fantasy heroine, except for the horsewoman. Horses are scary.

jo robertson said...

"Pro levels of housekeeping," Victoria said.

I say, "What's housekeeping?" We don't do housekeeping in the Lair. Off limits.

Anna Lucia, that's a good question. Where DO these dark traits of heroines or evil villains come from? The writers I know are, to a ONE, sweet, kind, sympathetic, refined -- okay, maybe not so much refined -- women.

jo robertson said...

Louisa and Christine, I don't lend out books any more either unless they're NON-keepers. You can tell my non-keepers because I -- SHHHHH -- turn down the page corners. Bad JoMama!

Ah, Kiera, you're not extracting any promises from us. There's NO WAY we Banditas could be sweet and simple. I'm afraid naughty is our A-game.

jo robertson said...

I read your excerpt of Talk Me Down, Victoria, and I think it sounds great. I'll definitely let you know what I think.

Was it more "fun" to write than the two historicals?

And I've been meaning to ask you. Were some of your readers critical of Alexandra in To Tempt a Scotsman? I thought she was wonderful, so forward in her thinking (and her actions -- VBG). I can't imagine anyone not liking her.

Pat Cochran said...

I would probably be a a combination
of all the characteristics listed.
Mostly complicated, to go along with
all the twists and turns that life
tosses at us!

Pat Cochran

Victoria Dahl said...

Jo, remember I said "pro-level of POOR housekeeping." I've raised it to an art form. Every night I deliver one pair of clean socks (because I just matched them) and one pair of underwear (because I just pulled them from the dryer) to my husband's dresser. He calls it "the visit of the sock fairy." When he goes to bed, the drawers are empty. When he wakes up... Voila!

Yes, I got emails from readers calling Alexandra a whore and a slut and a bitch in heat. Hmm. I wonder why her Scotsman liked her so much? *snicker*

I had a GREAT time writing TALK ME DOWN, but i had a hell of a time coming up with the idea. For me, conflict is so easily built into historicals. There's so much easy drama to pull from.

With contemporaries... well, if someone's in a bad situation, I just expect them to get up and move, you know? Leave the asshole boyfriend, stop taking phone calls from the life-sucking mother, call the cops if the creepy guy won't leave you alone, and get yourself some fabulous! And I know this isn't always possible in real life, but when you're trying to build a strong, vibrant, sexy contemporary woman...
It's harder for me to build real conflict that she can't get around.

Geez, I hope this makes sense.

jo robertson said...

Yes, Pat, complicated is really like real life, isn't it. But besides that I'd hate to think I was so easily read by other people.

Well, except I do love it when the hero can read all the heroine's little "tells"; it's like he knows her from the get-go in a way that other people don't or can't.

Sigh, I know my husband like that, but unfortunately he doesn't read me all that well. Hmmm, maybe that's just a female fantasy?

catslady said...

I have to go with the spicy and complicated. Sweet and loveable in a story would eventually get on my nerves lol.

jo robertson said...

Ha, ha, Victoria, I totally misread that! Shoulda known.

Wow, that's harsh on Alexandra. Those readers definitely would not like my recent heroine. She's a Wellesley grad (1909) and she wants to explore all the facets of a woman's sensuality. She's read books and listened to her classmates stories, and that's only piqued her interest.

I guess we still have that old double standard we've been trying to get rid of for, oh about a million years.

jo robertson said...

Catslady, you're hilarious. Sweet and lovable would get on your nerves. What a hoot! But I know what you mean. I have a friend who's soooo sweet you'd hardly know she's human. Hmmmm, maybe she's a Stepford Wife?

jo robertson said...

That makes perfect sense, Victoria, and perfectly said. I never thought about it, but it's true and maybe that's why I generally don't like contemporaries. I find many of them "silly" because -- HELL-O -- what would you or I do in that sitch? At least talk to the BFF for some ideas.

So I know what you mean. It's much easier to write heroines in romantic suspense because the villain, if drawn well enough, is a real challenge to the most capable heroine.

Kammie said...

I go for the complicated heroines. It makes the story more enjoyable. One of my favorites is Eve Dallas from the J.D. Robb series. She started out not looking so good, making you wonder why Roarke would even be interested and now I can see why.

Your book sounds really good! I'm adding it to my wish list so I can read more about Emma.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Kammie. OMG, I LOVE Eve Dallas. I didn't come to Nora Roberts' books until I was older and I love the complicated, tough but fragile person Eve is.

limecello said...

Great post! I'd love to be "sweet and lovable" - but ... with how I am I'd be spicy and complicated. So - can I be sweet, loveable, spicy, AND complicated? ;)
I like a good mix anyway, so characters with a lot of depth are my favorites.

jo robertson said...

Limecello, you can be anything you want!!

Victoria, thanks so much for visiting us today.

Readers, be sure to check out who the winner of Victoria's autographed copy of "A Rake's Guide to Pleasure" is.

Victoria Dahl said...

Jo, and the rest of the Banditas, thanks for having me!!! Once again, I had a great time. You ladies are smart and FUN!

Caffey said...

Hey Victoria! Love to visit you where you are blogging!! Gosh I'm going to love this. I so love complicated and this is going to be one emotional read! Its already getting to be getting to know about Emma, I mean Emily.... For me, I'd want to be complicated, but not in that I'm doing it in a negative way. I want to be complicated so I don't let others take advantage of me, my feeling, and my younger age to give me room and time to be independent and do what I have to do for my sister. I think tho the complication I would take away is to let others help me so I would let the hero in on it but so that he could help but not take over. I want to be with another and give myself fully but that I can still stand whenever I need to.

Ann M. said...

If I was a heroine.. I'd be spicy and complicated although I'd love to be sweet and lovable. I'm nothing if not an intense person now... I'd be that as a heroine. :)

kimmyl said...

I'd have to go with spicy and complicated. I love a real story that keeps you going.

Nathalie said...

Complicated heroines... Love them!

And seems yours are quite complicated. My fav must be the Amanda Quick ones, especially Rendez-vous

robynl said...

I honestly could be all four; it would depend on the circumstance that day as to what I'd be.