Thursday, September 10, 2009
Birds, Beasts and Rotten Relatives
by Anna Campbell
Have you all read Gerald Durrell? His two books of memoirs about his childhood on Corfu, MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS and BIRDS, BEASTS AND RELATIVES are among the most beautiful books I know - and they always make me kill myself laughing. Seriously if you want a treat, get them!
But strangely, I'm talking about neither birds nor beasts today (well, perhaps tangentially, the birds and the bees, but they always get a look-in in the lair!).
I actually want to talk about rotten relatives.
Specifically rotten relatives in romance novels.
It struck me last week how often romance novel plots rely on the device of the truly horrible relation. I only had to think of my own work.
In CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, you wouldn't want Kylemore's mother for quids. She makes a hissing cobra look like Mother Teresa. No wonder the poor boy's so mixed up. Actually his dad left something to be desired as a parent too!
In UNTOUCHED, the bad guy is another relative. Gorgeous Matthew's horribly evil uncle, Lord John Landsdowne, has imprisoned our hero as a madman and is making hay with the family fortune. He's also the guy who kidnaps our brave and virtuous heroine Grace and gives her to Matthew as a sex toy. Not someone you want to move into the house next door, I feel!
By the way, this is the Spanish cover of UNTOUCHED, out in September from Random House Mondadori. Isn't it just SOOOO gorgeous? Apparently Por Primera Vez means "for the first time". Nice, huh?
In TEMPT THE DEVIL, Olivia is blessed with a brother who would make you want to be an only child.
And things are even worse on the family front in CAPTIVE OF SIN. Charis, our brave but virtuous heroine (hmm, seeing a pattern here), meets up with the gorgeous Gideon (yep, definitely a pattern!) when she's fleeing her stepbrothers who have beaten her within an inch of her life. They're trying to force her to marry their degenerate friend so they can split her fortune between them. And Gideon's family, frankly, isn't much better.
Oh, well, at least these two have something in common! I'd hate to think my hero and heroine had nothing to talk about on those cold Cornish winter nights when the sea thunders in and the wind howls.
Mind you, talking isn't exactly their first choice of time filler! Snork, as Duchesse would say! I think this is where the birds and the bees come in!
I can think of hundreds, even thousands of books that have relied on evil family members to push a plot along and to provide antagonists for our protagonists. You don't have to look much further than Cinderella or Snow White!
I have a theory that it's something to do with the promise of the family being a haven of love and security. Sadly, it's not always true, but we all think it should be! When someone in the family does the dirty on us, it really raises the stakes.
So my questions for you are:
Why do you think baddies in the family are so popular in romance novels?
Do you have a favorite baddie in a romance novel who's a relative of either the hero or heroine? Why?