Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Making the Belle of the Ball a Sympathetic Character

         Were you the most popular girl in high school? Perhaps you were the prom queen or head cheerleader. Most romance readers never had that experience. It is no wonder they enjoy a down and out heroine, the wallflower, or the overlooked bookworm. How about a heroine who is the bell of the ball? The girl all the other girls hated because she snatched up all the available men. Who would make such a woman the heroine? Not me, that’s for sure, not until I attended New York City RWA conference where I found out the head cheerleader can be a heroine, if she suffers enough first. Pays her dues so to speak, is broken in a major way, and grows through the experience.

            This is how I came up with the idea of Eileen, Emily’s older sister from Undercover Rebel, a beautiful heiress who refuses all the men who want to court her. To those on the outside, it appears as if Eileen is an arrogant female by her behavior. Her only redeeming feature in the first book, Undercover Rebel, is she genuinely loves her family, especially her little sister. This keeps her from being a total witch, but Eileen hasn’t suffered, yet.

            Eileen suffers physically through the Civil War, but her major suffering comes from the realization she’ll never married or have children in the post war South. Eileen wanted someone special, a man who would stand up to her, a man she’d dreamed about, but she wasted her time waiting. Her future as a spinster aunt looms before her. In desperation, she becomes a mail order bride by writing letter after letter about yearning to be an obedient, doting wife to an unknown man. On her way out to her fiancé, she witnesses a train robbery. Enter Marshal Colt Shepard who believes Eileen might be in cahoots with the bank robbers.



“What has your pretty little brow all furrowed up like that?” he asked with a touch of laughter in his voice.

“Well-I-well…” This was her favorite type of man, one who would flatter her with words of her beauty. Without thinking, she fell into her normal flirtatious attitude, batting her eyes coquettishly. This should be easy.

“Maybe you’re deciding which lies will work on me best. Is that it?” He put one hand on a seat and leaned forward, closing the distance separating them.

He called her a liar. “How dare you!” She hissed the words, pulled her back ramrod straight, and narrowed her eyes. She learned how to project indignant from the best, her mother. Never mind the fact she’d been contemplating which lie to use on him.

His laughter unnerved her, but not as much as his hand touching her cheek. She looked up into his suddenly somber eyes. What was he thinking? He looked so serious. She blinked twice. Her eyes must be playing tricks on her because his face seemed closer, closer still, until he grew unfocussed. She closed her eyes briefly, hoping to clear up her vision.

Lips landed on hers, warm and firm. Her eyes popped open. Sure enough, his slightly out of focused nose and a hunk of blond hair filled her vision. Once she conquered her shock, she decided to let him kiss her. It wasn’t as if she could stop him. Unlike her previous beaus who made awkward attempts she naturally foiled, this was nice. Her skin felt warm despite the wind seeping around the window. Her heart kicked up in an odd flutter, and her toes curled. Could this be what her sister talked about when she described kissing Gray? To think she scolded her sister, calling her no better than a light skirt. Did that make her a light skirt too? She couldn’t afford to be one. She pulled away from the kiss.

“Unhand me sir!”

His eyes crinkled in suppressed laughter. “Look at where my hands are.”

She looked at one large hand still rested on the back of the seat, the other hung lax against his side. Hard to argue with him on that, but still he kissed her. He shouldn’t have done that. “You shouldn’t have kissed me. It was unpardonable of you to take advantage of a war widow.”

Colt crossed his arms and shook his head slowly back and forth. “War widow, my foot. I doubt that very much. Don’t know why you’re parading around in weeds, but I am interested in finding out.”

“What makes you think I am not a widow?” Eileen was miffed over her costume not deceiving him. It could be widows did not go around kissing strange men or at least recent ones didn’t. She’d heard there were some friendly widows in town, but their deceased husbands served only as a name, making her wonder if they ever existed.

He eyed her up and down, smiled, and then let loose a bark of laughter. “Ah, if you were ever married, then your husband should be horse-whipped for his failure to kiss you properly. You do not kiss like a woman with experience. You are more like a love-starved virgin than a widow.”

Eileen stiffened her spine. His words were true, but she resented them just as the same. “Sir, I beg you not to speak poorly of my husband.”

“Ma’am, I can’t speak for a man who doesn’t exist. If you were my wife, you would be well kissed, well handled, and well pleasured.” He said the last word in a suggestive growl.

Ready to read more? A lucky commenter can have a free copy of Rebel Bride.


Anonymous said...

Great post and nice excerpt! I was thinking as I was reading your post that sometimes as a reader, I sympathize the same with popular and wallflower characters because all characters are flawed. As a reader looking into their world, I know they have problems, so that overshadows sometimes if they're popular or not.

morgan said...


I think if you can see that everyone is flawed, then you are doing well. :) Halle Berry is a good example that beauty can't buy you love, or a stable guy either.

Josie said...

Wow, what a wonderful excerpt. Can't wait to read the Rebel Bride. Great writing!