Eileen Dreyer – Romance and Victory

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The Joy & Victory of Romance

The joy of romance for me? One word. Victory.518sIJnjreL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

I know. It sounds odd. But in no other genre, is the heroine the assumed focus of the book. In no other genre is she always the main protagonist. In no other genre, in no literature of any kind, is she always the winner.

Always? Always. And that’s pretty powerful stuff. Think about it. What do you go to romance for, time after time? Is it the sex, or the exotic locals or the babies? It might be. But one thing you can always count on is that no matter what else happens, the heroine will get her wish. She will win her hero. She will find the person in the world who sees how special and unique she is, which maybe the rest of the world hasn’t noticed. She will find the man who would never think to change her or, by the end of the book, silence her, chastise her for who she is, or quash her hopes. She won’t just find her hero (or heroine), but her champion.

Too often in the rest of the literary world, the women are either victims, seductresses, cliches (the virgin or the whore? Pick), or, my personal favorite, the interchangeable Too Stupid To Live airhead whose sole purpose is to make the hero save her (you know the one. The ‘hottest FBI agent in the country’ who keeps meeting the serial killer in a basement with no back-up. The oblivious dolt who doesn’t figure out that the bad guy is that serial killer until she sleeps with him at least twice and the detective at least once). And yes. I’ve seen my share of TSTL heroines in romance. But they don’t last. The romance heroines who last are the ones who stand toe-to-toe with a hero who terrifies everybody else. The Maureen O’Haras who face off with John Wayne in The Quiet Man, demanding his respect as much as his love. Beauty who tames the beast.

One of the classics in romance is Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, in which Jessica lord of scoundrelsTwain faces off with Sebastian Ballister, Lord Dain. Is the book a classic because he’s quite the alpha male? (he is). Is it because she is plucky and fighting for her family? (she does). I’ll tell you why I think it’s a classic. When Dain goes so far as to unintentionally ruin her and refuse to take responsibility, what does she do? Huddle in her house in shame? Run for the family home? Ask some other hero to save her? Nope. She shoots him. I usually don’t cheer when I read a book. I did then. It’s one of the most memorable scenes in romance for me. And best of all, because she shoots him, he begins to change. She tames the beast not with her love, but with his love for her. Victory. 

For a long time people have assumed that the reason romance changed so dramatically with Rosemary Rodgers and Kathleen Woodiwiss, is because of all the sex. I disagree. I think it is because for the first time in all of literature, the heroine not only participates in the adventure, she instigates it and triumphs over it. Even in the Scarlet Pimpernel, one of the great adventure stories, in which you’d think his wife Marguerite would play a pivotal role. She is, after all, being blackmailed by the French spy Chauvelin. But no. As Percy is having one adventure after another, Marguerite either spends her time in their London townhouse or a fishing cottage on the coast of France, waiting for him to get back. Ick. If that had been a modern romance, she would have been buckling her swash right along with him. She wouldn’t have waited to be rescued and forgiven. She would have fought alongside him and shared his triumph. He might have saved her, but she would have saved him, too. She would have won.

Now, if you’ll pardon me, I have to get back to Pippin Knight, who has to remind the love of her life, Beau Drummond, that he really doesn’t want her to be like the other passive, languishing women of the ton. He wants the feisty, courageous girl who fought him as a child and yearned for a cause to fight. (Guess who’s going to win that argument?)

Eileen recommends:

Well, obviously I’d recommend Meredith Duran. I really liked that book.

I would also recommend Tina DeSalvo, who writes a lovely indie series set in the south.   

Questions for the Author:

Tell us about a moment in your life when you experienced sheer joy. 

I have been so lucky. I’ve felt sheer joy a lot; at a perfect piece of music (Mozart’s Requiem, Porgy and Bess, Eric Clapton in concert….), a place (Clogher Head on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland, sitting atop a mountain in the Andes in Chile, sharing a cabin with my extended family on the beach in Michigan, art (Vermeers, Van Gogh, Carravaggio, Cezanne…).

But I will single out one moment. I had the chance to go to Bruges last month. Now, as you can tell, I like art. I like history. And I thought I knew a lot about both (I was, after all, on Jeopardy!). But when I saw the movie Monuments Men, I discovered a work I had no idea existed; the Bruges Madonna by Michelangelo. In this statue, Jesus is older, about the age Prince George is now, and he’s pulling at  his mother to be free. She holds him so gently, as if she knows exactly what his future is, but knows she has to let him go anyway. She really spoke to me in the movie.

Well, I got to go to the Church of Our Lady in Bruges last month. And there she was, tucked back in an alcove above a small side altar, bracketed by much larger statues. The church itself is in tattered and worn, and is in the middle of renovation. The Madonna is cordoned off, and you need a ticket to get in. A woman stands to the side of the altar to make sure no one gets too close. And people come and go, most with absolute reverence. But when I turned the corner and saw her, I stopped dead in my tracks. I don’t know how to explain it. As I said, there are larger statues around her, flashy paintings the size of barn walls. Exquisitely carved pulpits. But the minute you see her, you can’t take your eyes from her. You swear you can feel her heart breaking. I stood there in the middle of that old church with people swriling around me, and I cried. And I couldn’t leave. Not for I think an hour. And I came back the next day, and it was the same. It was as if Michelangelo had pierced the heart of every mother on earth, because we all know what that mother was feeling. I want to go back and just sit on the floor and watch the light play across her face, across the unbelievably intricate folds of her gown and stole and the soft, sweet plumpness of that little boy. Yeah, that was sheer joy.

Tell us about a place that brings you joy, or is attached to a memory of joy.

That’s easy. Ireland. My heritage is Irish. We’ve been in the states since about 1880. But every generation since has yearned to go home. And I’m no different. Like a salmon who has to swim upstream, I have to return every 2-3 years, or I swear I dry out like a husk. The first glimpse I had of those legendary green fields as we circled Shannon the first time was shattering. I’ve never felt as if I was home until that plane landed. I feel at home, at peace every time I go. I found family, whom I love. But joy for me is about a four mile patch out on the Dingle Peninsula by Dunquin. No matter where else I go on the island, I must end up there, or I feel unrooted and fretful. I plant myself out over the headland and I just sit, and absorb the place like light, like heat, like grace. Like joy.

Tell us about a sound that brings you joy.

Music. All music. Any music. I think, though, especially Handel’s Messiah, because I was lucky enough to sing in the chorus for a few years with the St. Louis Symphony, and singing a sublime piece of music like that with top-notch musicians absolutely fills your soul.

What recent book have you read that brought you joy. (Or a book you read in your life that brought you so much joy you’ve never forgotten it.) Why?

Actually, I just finished Meredith Duran‘s Fool Me Twice, and had to sit back afterwards for a while before starting another book. Not just because the characters were great, or the plot amazing. Because, as an author I so appreciated the high wire act she performed with such complex and compelling characters. It was a visceral joy to read something that surprised me so much.

And for fun, the joy of choice ~

Pick your Chris! Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt, Chris Rock, Chris Evans or Christopher Plummer (circ. 1964 aka Capt. Von Trapp?) – trying for a little diversity! ;o)

Ooh, tough one. But I’ll go with Chris Pratt. Give me that impish sense of humor any day. It’s always the eyes for me, and his just sparkle (the rest of him ain’t bad either).

Eileen is generously giving away something, but I’ve been so busy I just realized she didn’t tell me what. Leave a comment here or on the Facebook post (or both) to enter. (Facebook post here.) I don’t know what it is but I’m sure it will include at least one of Eileen’s great books!

headshot 600New York Times Bestselling author Eileen Dreyer, Kathleen Korbel to her Silhouette readers, is  a proud member of the RWA Hall of Fame. With forty books and ten short stories under her belt, she is published in a plethora of subgenres in romance and suspense, and now includes historical romance to the list with her DRAKE’S RAKES series for Grand Central Publishing, her latest being TWICE TEMPTED.

A native of St. Louis, where she still lives with her family, Eileen is also an RN with sixteen years experience in trauma medicine, and training in death investigation and forensics. A seasoned speaker, she has taught in venues that range from Washington University in St. Louis to the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy (which might have been an excuse to travel to Italy, since travel is her real vice and favorite passtime after writing).

Find Elaine at eileendreyer.com or visit with her on Facebook.

Buy Elaine’s books:

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