Bad Girls Make Great Heroines
Thanks for having me to visit, Bells! I’m excited to be talking about flawed heroines today, because hoo boy, do I ever have a flawed heroine for you.
In my first book, I wrote a flawed hero. Tom, the hero of Ride with Me, had a Past with a capital P, and he was grouchy and moody and an all-around pain in the butt sometimes. But readers loved him — and I love him — because we give our romance heroes lots of latitude to be wounded and difficult.
Heroines, on the other hand? Not so much. Which is why it’s a bit scary to me to have written Cath Talarico, the flawdiest of flawed heroines. But I love her so, and I hope readers will, too.
Here, let’s meet her. This is Cath at a train station, negotiating with a woman she knows to get an artifact she wants for the museum exhibit she’s helping to curate...
“You really want that jacket,” Amanda said. “It’s important to you.”
Cath stared at City’s broad shoulders beneath his suit coat and shrugged, feigning a nonchalance she didn’t feel.
Should’ve known it wouldn’t be that easy. Nothing ever is.
“We’re friends, right?” Amanda asked, throwing an arm across the back of the bench.
They weren’t friends. They’d had a handful of mutual acquaintances a few years ago. These days, Cath pantomimed familiarity when they ran into each other around Greenwich so that she could legitimately harass Amanda for the straitjacket.
Cath didn’t have any friends. She had a roommate who didn’t like her, a socially awkward boss who did, and an empty life that revolved around her job.
“Sure,” she said, because it was what she was supposed to say.
“And you need a favor.”
Just smile and nod, Talarico.
She tamped down her temper, refrained from pointing out that she’d just won her favor fair and square, and did as her good sense instructed.
“We’ll do a trade.” Amanda grinned, a smile that announced, This is the best idea anyone’s ever had. “Eric and I are going to a concert tonight at a club with his cousin. He’s in town from Newcastle for the weekend. We could really use a fourth.”
A garbled announcement of the train’s approach came over the loudspeaker, and Cath kept her expression neutral as she stood and shouldered her bag.
Christ on a crutch. She’d walked into a blind date.
For any normal woman, this wouldn’t be a problem. No one wanted to be set up with some random warm body from Newcastle, of course, but spending an evening being hit on, ignored, or bored out of her skull ought to have been a fair exchange for getting her way.
For Cath, though, Amanda’s proposal was worse than a problem. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
She hadn’t been on a date in two years. No concerts, no bars, no men. These were the rules that set New Cath apart from her irresponsible predecessor—the restrictions that kept her from making the kind of mistakes that had necessitated the creation of New Cath in the first place.
Cath didn’t want to break the rules. She needed the rules.
But she needed that straitjacket more. It would be a coup for the exhibit, which meant it would win Judith’s gratitude, and Judith’s gratitude was Cath’s ticket into a permanent curatorial position.
She had to do it.
“Sounds like fun,” she said, her cheerful tone the first of many frauds the evening would no doubt entail.
Surely she could spend one night with a guy in a club without doing anything she’d regret.
Can she, in fact, spend one night with a guy in a club without doing anything she’ll regret? Uh, no. She can’t, and she doesn’t. But what happens next is she gets rescued by a really great guy, whose name she doesn’t know so she calls him City (long story), and whom she describes thusly:
Of all the guys in London, she’d gone home with City.
Cath relaxed, relieved to know whose bed she’d slept in—and to confirm she’d only been sleeping. Even drunk, lonely, and out of her head, she wouldn’t have thrown herself at City. He wasn’t her type at all. When she fell, it was for the bad apples, the unapologetic scoundrels with funny stories, wiry bodies, and battered guitar cases. Not for guys like City. Not for men who were good.
And she’d been watching City long enough to know he was definitely good. He was the sort who helped mothers carry their strollers down the station steps and gave up his seat on the train to anyone female, old, or less fit than himself.
Come to think of it, he didn’t sit much.
Of course, Cath’s self-assessment needs a little work, and so does her assessment of City. She’s not as broken as she thinks she is, nor is he as perfect as she assumes. And what follows, as they court and fall in love and have sex (but not remotely in that order), is that a flawed woman slowly, painfully learns to trust again, and in the process she figures out how to reevaluate herself and to live with the mistakes she’s made with her life.
I wonder how I would feel about Cath if I hadn’t written her. Since I did, I love her, and I believe in her — but I’m as guilty as the next romance reader of judging heroines, hating heroines, getting fed up with heroines . . . and yet I don’t want them to be bland, either. I have very high expectations for them — expectations they often don’t meet — whereas I’ll let heroes get away with just about anything short of murder.
Is this like the whole Man Cold thing, do you think? We want women to deal with illness and injury and all the horrors life throws at us with cheerful competence, whereas men are allowed to turn into sniveling, whiny wreckage, and we still think they’re adorable? I’d love to hear what you guys think. Discuss among yourselves! ;-)
(Oh, and here’s the Man Cold movie, if you haven’t seen it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbmbMSrsZVQ. Definitely worth a watching or seven!)
About Last Night, coming from Loveswept (Random House), June 11, 2012!
Sure, opposites attract, but in this sexy, smart eBook original romance from Ruthie Knox, they positively combust! When a buttoned-up banker falls for a bad girl, “about last night” is just the beginning.
Cath Talarico knows a mistake when she makes it, and God knows she’s made her share. So many, in fact, that this Chicago girl knows London is her last, best shot at starting over. But bad habits are hard to break, and soon Cath finds herself back where she has vowed never to go . . . in the bed of a man who is all kinds of wrong: too rich, too classy, too uptight for a free-spirited troublemaker like her.
Nev Chamberlain feels trapped and miserable in his family’s banking empire. But beneath his pinstripes is an artist and bohemian struggling to break free and lose control. Mary Catherine — even her name turns him on — with her tattoos, her secrets, and her gamine, sex-starved body, unleashes all kinds of fantasies.
When blue blood mixes with bad blood, can a couple that is definitely wrong for each other ever be perfectly right? And with a little luck and a lot of love, can they make last night last a lifetime?
Preorder/order links -- only $2.99, releases June 11
Ruthie Knox figured out how to walk and read at the same time in the second grade, and she hasn’t looked up since. She spent her formative years hiding romance novels in her bedroom closet to avoid the merciless teasing of her brothers and imagining scenarios in which someone who looked remarkably like Daniel Day Lewis recognized her well-hidden sex appeal and rescued her from middle-class Midwestern obscurity. After graduating from Grinnell College with an English and history double major, she earned a Ph.D. in modern British history that she’s put to remarkably little use.
These days, she writes contemporary romance in which witty, down-to- earth characters find each other irresistible in their pajamas, though she freely admits this has yet to happen to her. Perhaps she needs more exciting pajamas. Her debut novel, Ride with Me, came out with Loveswept (Random House) in February.
One lucky commenter will be randomly chosen to win a digital preview copy of About Last Night. Winners will pick up their copy through NetGalley. Good luck to all!