Australian author Annie West decided to write romance after reading it for so many years during job changes and travel. Described as "a Sexy author" (see below *g*), Annie has a new release out -- Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife. Please help us welcome her to The Romance Dish as she asks . . .
Who Do You Like To Read About?
I’m so thrilled to be here at The Romance Dish. Thanks girls, for inviting me! It’s especially great to be here in the lead up to Christmas. Despite the rush and bustle, I love this time as my mind is already thinking ahead to those lovely days when I get to relax (with all that leftover food so I don’t have to cook) and read and chat and read some more!
There are stories I love, others I enjoy and some I don’t take to at all. Before I began writing fiction I’d probably just have said some books were more gripping or more believable or more entertaining. But I’ve discovered a lot of this is about the characters. Unless they are people I’m willing (or even want) to identify with, the best plot in the world won’t carry a me along.
As a romance reader I have strong preferences on who I want to read about. No, I’m not talking about a wishlist for the perfect guy (or gal for that matter). You know the sort of thing. Must be over 6 ‘, nice eyes/smile/shoulders/pecs (all right – great bod!), good sense of humor, non-smoker, likes kids and dogs, doesn’t live with his mother, can fix cars/shelves/plumbing, knows how to use a knife and fork, kind, courteous, strong, sensitive, financially independent…
I’ve read characters who should have been perfect romance heroes but they lacked something. And heroines I just couldn’t warm too. Not just because their hair wasn’t the right colour or they didn’t put the lid back on the toothpaste.
As a general rule I want someone I can like (even if they don’t always behave terrifically well) and who behaves consistently or believably in their circumstances. Someone who isn’t totally absorbed in themselves and their own problems, but who has the capacity to care for others.
I’m not a fan of a character who has everything, wants for nothing and gets her own way all the time. I’ll happily read about a woman who’s rich and beautiful but throw up a roadblock so the going isn’t too easy for her, please. Give me a heroine who is doing it tough and I’ll probably be sympathetic. Particularly if she shows herself to be strong and determined and not give up despite the pressures weighing her down. I want her to prove herself against the odds and behave the way I’d like to think I would in similar circumstances! Even if I’d probably be a wimp in reality and run a mile.
I think it was Emma Darcy who suggested writers start a romance story by putting a heroine up a tree then throwing rocks at her. Give her a problem then make it worse. That way the reader is likely to (a) wonder how she got up the tree in the first place and (b) be eager to see her get down safely. I love a heroine who has a lot at stake.
When I started ‘Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife’ I got an image in my head of a woman going to her wedding, sick with nerves. She has an inbuilt distrust of marriage but the repercussions if she doesn’t marry are too awful to contemplate. She has to go through with it so she turns up, reconciled to the fact that she must wed a man she doesn’t love. At that stage I knew nothing else about the story.
Then my writer’s mind decided that, sadly for Alissa (she had a name now) the man she’d agreed to marry, a man she knew and trusted, isn’t there. He’s jilted her. Trouble is she still needs to marry. Instead there’s another man waiting for her - one she didn’t expect. I love to make life difficult for characters, I admit it. So naturally the man waiting for Alissa was the one man in the world she absolutely, categorically never wanted to see, let alone marry. Poor woman. She was definitely up a tree with a whole barrage of stones being thrown in her direction.
By the time I knew this much of the story I had to start writing because I wanted to find out what happened!
As for Dario, my hero, his icy control hides a blood hot passion that rises when he thinks about how he’s been forced into marrying the woman who epitomises everything he dislikes. He’s been pushed into a corner and he doesn’t like it. As a result he does things he later regrets. He’d never have done them if he knew all the circumstances. But I, for one, forgive him because it’s through those mistakes and the actions he takes to make amends, that we see his true decency. When he first appears it seems he has everything and the world bows to his will. It’s only as Alissa gets to know him through their marriage of inconvenience, that she realises he too has spent his life fighting against the odds, weighed down by obstacles that would have destroyed a lesser man. Best of all, to my mind, is the fact that despite his ruthlessness and his drive to succeed, he’s a man who tries always to do the right thing, even if he does out of the public eye. He genuinely cares for others. Most of all, he eventually discovers he cares for Alissa. Yes, please, that’s what I want in a hero!
I LIKED both these characters and though they sometimes acted impulsively, they were true to themselves. They strived to do the right thing as well as survive in awful circumstances. They both had a rough time but they rise above that. Perhaps most of all, they both show a capacity for love which made me want them to find happiness.
Writing this blog it sounds a little as if I sat down with a checklist and tried to tick every box with my characters before I started. I wish! Writing the book might have been simpler. In fact it’s only now as I sit back and review the story that I see what it was I liked about Dario and Alissa so much and why the story grabbed me instantaneously then wouldn’t let me go till I’d written it.
What do you like best in a romance hero or heroine? Do you have favorite characters that shine above all the rest? Could you love a heroine or a hero who didn’t have to struggle against the odds?
To enter into the Christmas spirit, I’d love to give away a copy of my current Harlequin Presents Extra release: BLACKMAILED BRIDE, INEXPERIENCED WIFE to a person chosen at random from those leaving a comment. To find out more about the story, visit Harlequin Amazon or my website to read an excerpt. If the winner has already read Dario and Alissa’s story then of course they can choose one of my other titles.
Aussie author Annie West is a bestselling author for Harlequin Presents/Modern/Sexy (depending on which country you’re in). She gets a kick out of going to Australian writer and reader conferences where she gets described as ‘a Sexy author’! She’s won and been shortlisted for several reader awards and is just finishing what she hopes will be her 12th book for Harlequin. Annie loves her work, spending days fantasising about gorgeous men and their love lives. It’s a hard job but she has no regrets. Annie lives with her family on the east coast of Australia between the Hunter Valley’s world class wine country and some of the state’s best beaches.