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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*Please note that the Amazon button, most cover images and many text links connect to an affiliate portal that supports Read-A-Romance Month. Thanks so much for your help!

  • Linda Henderson

    I do enjoy a more strong independent female character who knows what she wants and goes after it.

  • Patty Vasquez

    I’ve read several Georgette Heyer books this summer. One of the joys of Heyer’s books is that she wrote strong, independent women who were very adept at putting their men in their respective places. She wrote a scene in Devil’s Cub in which Mary Challoner shoots Vidal, and like Lord Dain, Vidal begins the transformation from hopeless rake to hopelessly in love. Victory goes to the woman!

    • Pattty–I didn’t read Heyer until I was long published in romance, and it was such a delight. Like reading the geneology of my own genre. Heyer is a goddess, as far as i’m concerned. I especially love her dual couple stories, where the mature couple looks at the ingenues wit such fond amusement. One of the wonderful sides to my tour of the battlefield at Waterloo, was that I was with British military officers. And they admitted that Heyer’s An Infamous Army was research reading at Sandhurst Military Academy. I reread it as I visited the battlefield and all the memorials, and it was like losing family members. She did such a beautiful job.

      • Patty Vasquez

        I haven’t read An Infamous Army, yet, although it’s on my TBR list. At this point it will probably have to wait until next summer, because I’m back in the classroom on Monday. I want to have time to read and really think about the details and ramifications of the events of the story.

  • Sue G.

    I loved the movie Monuments Men. It was such a great story of what those men did back then.

    • I admit it was a real surprise to me. What a lovely story most people didn’t know. I’m grateful Clooney found it.

  • catslady

    I’ve enjoyed her books and surprises are always nice!

  • Kim

    I enjoyed The Scarlet Pimpernel. I never tire of that story.

    • After reading the book, I have to say that i consider the movie much better. They let her participate much more than the Baroness d’Orcy did.(and I adore the Leslie Howard version. “They seek him here, they seek him there….”

  • Dorothy Salvagin

    I saw you on Jeopardy and was so pleased to see an author I recognized.

    • Thanks! I had the most amazing time. They are, honeet-to-God, the nicest people I’ve ever met.

  • Kareni

    I’ve read and enjoyed your DRAKE’S RAKES series, so thank you for writing them. Your story of seeing the Bruges Madonna touched me. Now I’d like to see it, too.

    • Kareni–thank you so much. I admit i’ve had more fun with the Rakes–and their heroines–than just any other book I’ve written. I hope you get to see the Madonna some day

  • Karen Mikusak

    I enjoyed your interview. Would love to win!

  • Dawn Anderson

    I’ve enjoyed reading about spunky women and the men who loved them since I read Little Women when I was in the fourth grade.

  • Diana Michelle Tidlund

    oh I love surprises

  • Debbie Fuller

    Great post. Thank you for more reading material.

    • My pleasure.There are never enough books to read.

  • infinitieh

    In high school, one piece we always performed for the winter concert was Handel’s Messiah. The orchestra would play and the choral group would sing. It would always bring the audience (mostly parents, of course) to their feet, clapping and cheering. Never mind that most of the kids and their parents were Jewish, they played, sang, and cheered just the same.

    • I don’t care who you are. You can’t help but respond to such exquisite music(of course, the text is all Old Testament, so I’m sure it helped). I so love what handel did with those words.

  • Quinn Fforde

    “Buckling her swash” — that’s hilarious! I totally agree with you.

  • Carol Luciano

    You touched me deeply describing the Madonna. How lucky for you to have seen her . Just beautiful. Thank you for you sharing. Love Drakes Rakes series.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    • Thank you, Carol. I’m really delighted. Believe me. I know how lucky I am. It was really serendipity. I was going to the continent for the Battle of Waterloo, and happened ot see the movie with her right as I was making plans. After that there was no choice. I’ve now seen 3 Michelangelo madonnas, and each shows a different moment in her relationship with her little boy. incredibly powerful and sweet.

  • Elizabeth ‘Liza’ Schroedle

    The Quiet Man is my favorite movie. I love the interaction between Sean Thornton and Mary Kate Danaher. I love the line when she tells her brother, “They’ll be a fine wake in this house tonight!” and “Wipe your feet!”

    • Being an Irish woman myself and coming from a long line of them, Mary Kate is very familiar to me. ;0} I can do the movie line by line,a nd have been lucky enough to see where it was filmed.

  • LSUReader

    Your moment of joy had me stopping mid-blog to go research information and images of the Bruges Madonna. She is very special. Thanks for a wonderful post.

    • Thank you. If you can, watch Monuments Men(George Clooney is going to owe me a commission; I swear). She is a centerpiece, and they really refllect well on her.

  • “Eileen is generously giving away something, but I’ve been so busy I just realized she didn’t tell me what”. Bobbi, I love you! A big big hug!!! You truly rock!

    • I’m not sure yet either. ;0} Although if you guys are interested, I just got back from the 200th anniversary and reenactment of the Battle of Waterloo. And the Belgium government struck 2.5 euro coins commemorating the battle. And they are definitely a limited edition. Would that be as fun as I think it would?

      • Sure! So special!! 😀

      • But please…some books too. It’s so wonderful to receive a book in your mailbox…it’s like Christmas and Valentine’s day all wrapped up in a glorious moment. And we love you authors and your books! 😀

  • Victory and power of the women are wonderful aspects of the new era of romance! Thanks so much!

  • Your words on Michelangelo’s Madonna are fantastic!

  • Ellen

    Thanks for sharing your story about Michelango’s Madonna. It touched my heart.

    • Thank you, Ellen . I want everyone to see her through my eyes. And I admit that the script of Monuments Men does a gorgeous job as well(I think it might be from an original letter, but I haven’t read the source material yet)

  • Aye Lopez

    “The romance heroines who last are the ones who stand toe-to-toe with a hero who terrifies everybody else.”

    I totally agree with what you said 🙂 You are a new author to me, so I0m lookinf forward to read your books!

    • Thank you, Aye. It’s why I love John Wayne/Maureen O’Hara movies so much. she stands right up to him every time.

  • Sheryl N

    Enjoyed the post, especially about the Madonna

    • Thank you. If you can’t get to Bruges, at least watch the movie. She is exquisite.

  • Julie Ford

    Nice to meet you. Thank you for sharing.

  • Pamby50

    I love Handel’s Messiah. Chicago used to hold the do-it yourself Messiah. People would gather at the Civic Opera House with their instruments and music sheets to play and sing. Everyday people, no practicing. Yet it was mesmerizing. It is sad that they stopped doing it.

    • We’ve had that every so often. I do know I can’t go to a regular performance, because I start singing. It’s irresistible

  • Molly

    I love your books

  • May

    Love your books. 🙂 The stories are great! 🙂

  • Emmel

    Singing is something that truly brings us joy. Well, that, and heroines shooting recalcitrant heroes. 🙂

    • I know. Right? It was a seminal moment for me as a reader

  • Erin F

    I love Eileen’s books!! thanks so much for the awesome post!! I totally agree with the character stereotypes you listed. I will DNF books with TSTL heroines. Life’s too short to spend it yelling at fictional characters 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • Aleen D

    I liked this post. I love that all the heroines are not pushed aside. They cause the story to progress and that’s why I enjoy historical romance.

  • Gretchen Miller


  • mariannewestrich

    Absolutely love your description of the statue and your reaction. I could feel your emotion. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Amy Livesay Hart

    I love surprises! You have fantastic books!

  • Anna

    Yay, surprises!! What a lovely essay today. Thanks! 🙂

  • So true. Love the heroines in romance novels. They’re the absolute best. Great post.

  • I hope it’s international 😉

  • marypreston

    I do love it that the focus is on the heroine.

    • It’s one of the TV review comments I find so amusing about why Outlander is so popular. “But…the heeroine is the hero!”

  • Bernadette Long

    Yes you are right about the heroine in romance novels.

  • kirsten west

    Beautiful memory of the Madonna.

  • Violet Bick

    I know there are several Baroness Orczy novels featuring Percy and Marguerite, but I always wished there was one detailing their courtship. Just how did a French actress and English baronet meet and marry in 18th century France? There is a great story there that only gets a bare mention in The Scarlet Pimpernel.

  • Carlene Reeves

    I love stories where the woman is a strong, capable person. Nothing frustrates me more than watching a movie where the woman makes stupid decisions that no one in their right mind would ever do in real life.

  • Michele H.

    I just dawned on me that the books I gravitate to- both romance and cozy mysteries- have the same key feature… the heroine is the hero! She takes charge of her world, sometimes with a hero, sometimes alone. She takes ownership of her choices, good and bad, and sometimes has to reconcile those choices with her partner.

  • Diane Sallans

    it’s really important to remember to take pleasure in things as they occur

  • M.l. Leigh

    Monuments Men was a great movie exposing a piece of WWII history I had not heard of before.

  • Connie Reynolds

    Love Eileen’s attitude toward love. She also pointed me in the direction to a novel I must buy. (Loretta Chase).

  • Range Girl

    Well said. It’s so interesting that the one genre written really for women by women always gets trashed.

    I was fortunate enough to follow your trip on Facebook, and I got to experience that moment vicariously through you. Thanks for sharing it.


  • Texas Book Lover

    I love a good strong heroine too. One of the most frustrating things to me is a heroine who sits back and whines.

  • Alyn Yang

    I believe I have actually read a romance novel where there was no HEA. The heroine and the hero ended up married, but they still didn’t like each other in the end. The book ended with the heroine accepting that she was in a loveless marriage and that she wouldn’t see her husband that much. That book was such a downer.

  • Marcy Shuler

    Your description of seeing the Madonna was so moving.

  • Janie McGaugh

    I love the romance genre, as it currently is, with its strong heroines.

  • Martha B

    I am particularly fond of Drakes Rakes! Thanks for giving those stories to us.

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    I have enjoyed your books and fb posts and meandering and blogs and . . . You are full of surprises, just like many romance books are. Thank you for sharing your essay.

  • Glenda

    You’ve just added another thing to my bucket list – go to the Church of Our Lady in Bruges to see Michelangelo’s Madonna.

  • Carin Shaughnessy

    How funny that I am reading this the day after we watched Monuments Men! I too was mesmerized by the Madonna and now want to go there. Your response reminds me of the time we went to Tulum, a Mayan city on the Yucatan coast. It was shortly after my upper level Latin American class taught in Spanish with the text in Spanish. That was an intense time of really working hard to keep up in that class and that intensity transferred to the subject matter. So when we walked through the narrow single file arched doorway and the city spread out before us I started crying at actually being here, a place I had read about, and here it was, really was.

  • Joanna Moreno

    Isn’t it true that in romance the heroine is always the winner? I believe that also goes for the heroine reading the book. One thing I’ve learned since I started reading romance is that not only provides that happy feeling, that joyful, and “they got their HEA” feeling. It’s also empowered me as a woman. The more I read about strong, feisty, intelligent women the more I want to emulate them, and not only that but when it comes to my own real life heroes, I may not still unsure of what I want, but I sure as heck know what I DON’T want, and I owe it all to my strong, determined heroines.