Thursday, May 23, 2013


Romance novels tend to have a formula for the plot, as well as a prototype for the hero and heroine. There's nothing wrong with this plan, because those who read and love romance expect certain aspects in the novel.

A problem might arise, though, if all our heroines are gorgeous and have flowing lovely hair, and all our heroes are six feet tall with jet black hair and blue eyes. Still, if these attributes fit the character, that's well and good.

To be honest, though, the most memorable romances I have read have something in common: an unorthodox hero or heroine. It wouldn't do, though, to make both different from the norm.
Where's the conflict in that?

Author Pamela Morsi is a master at writing romance with characters that don't fit the mold.
Simple Jess--I read this long ago, but I still remember the characters. The heroine, Althea Winsloe, is a young widow with a young son and a farm with the finest corn bottom on the mountain. Knowing she must marry, she chooses Simple Jess, and very big young man who happens to be a little slow, but is strong, handsome, and friendly. However, he learns quickly what love and sex are, and makes a fine husband.
Ms. Morsi's romance novels almost always showcase characters that do not fit the norm.

Author LaVyrle Spencer, as you may know, is my favorite romance author of all time. Most of her characters do conform to the standards--at least to some degree--but some of her books have unorthodox characters.
And Then Came Heaven--In this novel, the hero is Eddie Olczak, a young husband and father of two beautiful little girls. His wife, Krystyna, dies in a tragic accident, leaving Eddie mourning and forlorn with a broken heart. Sister Regina teaches the children in the church school, and she has already learned to love them--which is against the rules. She also cares for Eddie, for she has always felt a special affinity for him, his wife, and daughters. She becomes concerned about the church's strict rules while worrying about the family. She and Eddie continually cross paths, and one day, both frightened and thrilled, they discover they have feelings for each other.
This is one of Ms. Spencer's novels I have read several times, and I experience the same deep emotion for these characters every time.

The Great Escape; Natural Born Charmer; and First Lady--Susan Elizabeth Phillips has no rival in the super fun/super sexy novels with quirky characters: An ex-President's daughter and a menacing-looking guy on a motorcycle; a Chicago Stars quarterback and a young woman who is wearing a beaver suit when he picks her up on the road; Female President of the United States runs away, is picked up by a stranger driving a beat-up RV, and travels incognito across the country with him.

Phantom Waltz--Catherine Anderson has written more than one novel about an unorthodox heroine, mainly those with physical or mental handicaps: a paraplegic heroine, a young woman who is blind regains her sight after most of her life, and a young woman with severe traumatic disorder.

None of my own novels feature unorthodox or unusual heroines, but I would like to write one--maybe. I think, though, I'm still stuck in the orthodox, the normal, the familiar.

Have you read a novel with a heroine or hero who differs from the norm? I'm certain this description has varying degrees, depending on our own perspective.

What do you think, either about your own novels or another author's novels?


  1. I've read most of Susan Elizabeth's books, and love them. She's actually a member of our Chicago-North RWA chapter, although we never see her at the meetings. I guess she doesn't need chapter help with her writing. lol

    She did speak at our last Spring Fling Conference, and was very entertaining and helpful.

    Morgan Mandel

  2. I remember a few historical male characters but none of the heroines. Maybe because they were all alike! I don't think about how to make my characters. They just define themselves at the moment.

  3. Morgan--I've read all her books--all are very good, but a couple are truly great. I always know I'll read something weird when I start one of her novels.
    She appears to be a very nice person, too.
    There's a young woman here in town--she was raised here, went to high school, etc.--who writes Regency romance for one of the Big Pubs.
    Her nose is about as high in the air as you can get. She has a sharp tongue and doesn't mind telling you off. I've learned more about her from her FB page.
    So, when I encounter a successful author like SEP, and learns that she really is a nice, fun person, then I like her books even more.

  4. Mona--I agree!
    Mary Balogh writes regencies--and she has the ability to write heroes and heroines who don't quite fit the mold. Not anything outrageous...just a little different. Usually I shun regencies, but I do like her books.

    Funny how we think we know our characters, but they can change before our very eyes, as you say, they define themselves.

  5. I have been enjoying Kris Tualla deaf hero series that are set in Norway in I believe 1600 or thereabouts. She shows the hero and his cousin making their own hand signs to communicate. This is all handled so beautifully and I highly recommend the series. I've read two of the three.

    The Discreet Gentleman Book One: A Discreet Gentleman of Discovery

  6. I love unorthodox characters, especially if they both are. I think only a couple of my characters are what you could call orthodox romance characters. It's more fun to stray away from the line. ;-)

  7. Paisley--how interesting. I never knew. Imagine writing a novel with a handicapped hero or heroine. I can't do it, but others have done so gracefully.

    I read one years ago about a young woman who probably had some mild form of Autism, and she could perform beautifully with animals...and a man who was patient with her. It was a fascinating story, and I adored the hero by the end. They ended up having a beautiful love affair, and he helped her find ways to care for animals. So sweet.
    Thanks for your ideas.

  8. LK--yes, it's probably better if both are unorthodox, but those I've read had only one of the two as "different."
    You do have a knack of creating wonderful, unusual, captivating characters. One of a kind author, you are.

  9. I never describe my characters, as I know that what is handsome or pretty to me may not be to the reader. If I describe a heroine as tall, long-legged, with a figure like an hour-glass and long, flowing blonde hair, the reader may look it and say: "I prefer short, dark-haired women."
    I do describe a character if it is necessary to the plot, but that's all. Adrian Scott

  10. Adrian--then you are like Ernest Hemingway. In one of his novels, something about elephants, the only description of the female he gave was, "She placed her hat on the table."
    I can't keep from describing characters, from the hero's POV, or the female's. I don't narrate, she had this or that, but he looks and thinks, she's like my Aunt Bessie, tall and thin, a little willowy...etc.
    Thanks for your comment. I always like to hear what others think and do.

  11. Jude Deveraux in Legend wrote a heroine who was plump, but she loved to cook and everyone, hero and all loved her.
    Lindsay Townsend's Snow Bride has a hero that is scarred and missing a hand and a foot. At first I was put off by him, but as his loving charm became more evident, I loved him, too.
    I am so entrigued by main characters who really catch my attention through their deeds and personal spirit. It is boring to have every heroine and hero beautiful and flawless.
    I have a particular fascination for heroes who once were villains, too.
    Great blog subject Celia.

  12. Sarah--Susan Mallery wrote a story--for a sisters' series--of a soldier who had lost a leg. The Heroine really fell for him, but he saw himself as handicapped. I thought she did a good job with it, but I couldn't have written it. Probably she knew someone in this situation.
    The one that bothered me the most was the novel with a blind hero That one really got to me.

    Delores Beggs writes for Desert Breeze, and she's been my guest on Sweethearts. She is hearing impaired, not completely deaf, but so much so that she is considered handicapped. She openly talks about it,not making a big deal out of it, and her first book has a heroine who is hearing impaired. I loved the novel.
    I'm sure I read that novel by Jude Devereaux.
    Thank you for commenting...

  13. I love unusual characters. Men who aren't afraid to cry, women who refuse to be squeezed into a mold by society, and yes, handicapped characters. Probably because i'm handicapped myself, I relate to the barriers such heroes and heroines must overcome. It makes their story more interesting and emotionally charged.

  14. Thanks, Lyn--I didn't realize you were handicapped.
    I can't bring myself to include a true handicapped person, mainly because I probably wouldn't get it right. Delores Beggs gets it right, because she is hearing impaired. I was fascinated by how her character coped with a bare minimum of hearing. Like Delores herself, the heroine tried to stand right in front of the person speaking because she partly read lips as she partly heard the words. If she had to listen while walking beside someone, she always have her "good" ear next to the person. Very interesting, her coping skills.
    Thanks for commenting....