Yesterday I borrowed three books from the library. With only two new books to write this year, I'm not so pushed for time. For the past few years, I have written in a vacuum, thinking it's best not to read the genre I write. It's very hard not to pick up someone else's voice or style and I want to stick to my own.
I'm not going to be naming names but I brought home a stack of historical romances, most of which for various reasons I can't read. Why, you ask?
On the whole, these stories were nicely written, and the flow was very good. The authors had light voices and a talent for drawing readers into stories. They have noted the tropes and characters readers like and have presented perfect examples.
In the first book, the heroine is looking for a duke to marry. I would say I have started at least five stories beginning this way in the past few months. I doubt dukes are as thick on the ground as, say, handsome men. Cal, the hero of Ella, is a handsome man from a wealthy family and if Ella knew who he was, she would snap him up if she could, but she can't. She has sisters to support and sheep station to run.
In another book, the heroine was told by a friend that she was insanely beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful female of that season but No One Will Ever Know, because she insists on wearing ghastly gowns and glasses.
If no one will ever know, how does the friend know? If clothes and gowns make a beauty ugly, well, she isn't beautiful. For example, Lavender in Starling. She has no idea how to dress and yet she can't hide her beauty. Starling herself was a plain woman, but she knows how to dress, at first to emphasise her plainness, and later to do the opposite.
I would be really interested in a truly plain heroine wearing glasses, especially if she has a wild sense of humour. The most attractive people I know are not beautiful, but clever, or kind, or funny. You can't hide beauty with frumpish gowns (example; half the women on the Oscar night red carpet) or glasses (example any woman who puts on sunglasses).
Then there was the misunderstood hero who was clearly not the father of bastards. I suspect he had a charitable bent and adopted a few, because I've seen him before in other stories, the same as I've read about heroes who drink too much because they are rich and wild.
These well used but shallow characters don't interest me. I like stories about people with character who don't chose their husbands or wives for their looks or titles.
Nick Alden, the hero in Charlotte, drinks too much because he sees no reason to keep living, until Charlotte, whose beauty he completely disregards, gives him a reason and a happy ending.
Rather than reading about those who were born rich, beautiful, and titled having a happy ending, I would rather travel along with tough heroes and strong heroines who have real lives and credible goals, and see them earn their just rewards.
Virginia Taylor is an Australian writer of contemporary romantic comedy, romantic suspense, historical romance, short stories, and children's stories.