Posts tagged with: heroes

The Darcy Factor

Hi Bandits and Bandita Buddies! Today I thought I’d talk about one of my fave historical heroes. He might be over 200 years old, but we all still sigh over Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s immortal Pride and Prejudice.

Last year, I was fascinated (and amused) when a 12-foot statue of Darcy, including nipples under his wet shirt, in his Colin Firth incarnation was placed in the Serpentine in Hyde Park, bang in the middle of London:

p and pNot bad publicity for an old guy. They don’t even do that for the latest pop star! You wonder how many current romantic heroes will pack the same punch in 2215.

As someone who writes romance (and hopefully compelling heroes) for a living, I find the world’s crush on Darcy fascinating. I wonder what he’s got that places him so high in the feminine pantheon of wonderful blokes.

I think part of it is the eternal attraction of the cool boy. Darcy’s richer than anyone else in the story, except maybe the fearsome Lady Catherine de Bourgh. And it would be a brave person who had a crush on her!

Darcy’s handsome. He has a sophisticated sense of humour. He’s impressively clever. Among the many things I love about his exchanges with Elizabeth is that those two are clearly the smartest people in the room. Even while they’re fighting fate, it’s obvious that they’re made for each other.

p and p 4Another part of his attraction is that he’s so articulate. There’s something about that historical language when it’s used to persuade and seduce that turns me to mush. How about his first, disastrous proposal to Lizzie that starts out with, “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you”? Wow!

Another heroic aspect of Darcy is that he’s willing to put himself on the line for the sake of the woman he loves. And without any expectation of reward. When he rescues Lydia from the disaster she’s got herself into with the vile Wickham, you know how it chafes at his pride to deal with his enemy. Yet, for Elizabeth’s sake, he does. Not only that, he succeeds – there’s a lot to be said for a competent hero!

We also admire that he sees beyond rank and fortune to Lizzie’s true value. We all love a Cinderella story, and Prince Charming in this particular one comes with the magnificent Pemberley as his palace.

Darcy’s generous enough to see the error of his ways by the end. We adore a self-aware hero who admits to the heroine where he went wrong. And there’s the delicious enjoyment of watching the journey as he struggles with painful change before he reaches his happy ending.

p and p 2So all round when people start talking literary heroes, I do a time slip and go back to the Regency when men wore coats, neck cloths, breeches and boots, and spoke in perfect sentences. Long Live Mr. Darcy! 201 and still going strong!

So what about you? Are you a Darcy girl? Who’s your favourite book hero, historical or contemporary? Do you think the old guys have something going for them that the current crop of whippersnappers don’t? Do you think any of today’s heroes have what it takes to last 200 years as worthy subjects of a literary crush?

Men With Bows

kevin-costner-robin-hoodI love men with bows.

No, not pink bows on their heads or bow ties on their necks, although Ducky from NCIS is rather dapper in his.

What I mean is, men with long bows and arrows. It’s something about the precision of using a bow to hit a target and especially a moving target. Then it’s the forearm strength. Imagine how defined the muscles in those arms are after all that practice. Yummo!

***Psstt*** here’s a secret. I think men’s forearms are very, very sexy. 😀

I think my lover for archers started back with Robin Hood, the one with Errol Flynn. But then I also loved Robin Hood Prince of Theives with Kevin Costner. (I loved it so much I can forgive him for the very bad accent attempt.) Oooo and then there was the one with Russell Crowe. Yeah, loved that one, too!TV_Gallery_Arrow01_53712d787bb741.46013658

So what other archers have I fallen in love with? Uhm…Have you seen the show on the CW titled ARROW? That is one sexy dark hero. OMG…and he’s lightening fast with his shots. Oh and they tend to show him shirtless just enough…but yeah, he uses his bow with great skill. 😀

Then there were all the lovely archers in the movie KING ARTHUR. While my favorite hero was Clive Owen in that movie, the archery skills by several of the other characters was enough to make me swoon, well all except Guinevere, although she was pretty badass.

Hawkeye_promoOh and let’s not forget Hawkeye in THE AVENGERS. My friend Addison Fox hooked me on Jeremy Renner and I have to confess it was fun seeing him in the movie, but then, he’s got a bow and arrows and great forearms… Sigh. I’m hoping to see more of him in the next Avengers movie.

So, let’s talk men and their weapons. If you could right a medieval or super power hero, what weapon would you give him? A sword? A Hammer? Bow and arrows? How would you arm your hero??

Robin Hood Prince of Thieves image courtesy of Warner Bros.; Arrow image courtesy of DC; Hawkeye image courtesy of

Heroes that Grow on You

The-Wickedest-Lord-Alive-by-Christina-Brooke275x450Hi all! I can’t believe it’s less than a month before my next in the Westruthers series, THE WICKEDEST LORD ALIVE comes out.

To celebrate, I’m giving away an audio recording of LONDON’S LAST TRUE SCOUNDREL today. Those of you who know how much I adore listening to books will understand how excited I was when St. Martin’s sold the series to Tantor!

Today’s post was inspired by my recent (and belated) compulsive viewing of The West Wing. I have to admit that I watch for the personal relationships and character arcs rather than the politics. Let’s not go into politics on this blog. Heaven forbid!

Anyway, the Deputy Chief of Staff at the White House is Josh Lyman. Now, while not unattractive, not even his mother would say Josh gives Brad Pitt a run for his money in terms of pure good looks.

tumblr_m145gcr7bK1rnzm51o1_500But when Amy Gardner comes on the scene, wow! The chemistry between them is almost bigger than the show. They have a feisty relationship (in the best sense of that word) and I admit, I love it when intelligent, strong lovers fight passionately.

But it’s Josh’s intensity that takes him from lukewarm to sizzling hot.

 Josh can be in the middle of an intense conversation at the office about an appropriation bill but when Amy walks by, he loses his train of thought.

That’s great acting, and that’s what we all want in a hero, isn’t it? Who cares whether the government can afford to keep running? The girl he says he’s “bewitched” by has just sashayed past.

tumblr_m2uvr6T9mn1r9i0fuo1_500Another character who would not ordinarily rank at the top of my hotness list, is Michael Westen from Burn Notice. (I know, I’ve probably mentioned him before.)

And yet, the intensity with which he loves Fiona, his partner and on-again, off-again girlfriend, is riveting. They go through a lot together and their relationship isn’t easy. He’s a burned CIA spy and she’s an ex-IRA agent. Now they work freelance, often doing bad things for good reasons, but there’s always a line they won’t cross.

No lineWhen Michael is about to violate his own rigid code of ethics, it’s to save Fiona. She says to him, “There has to be a line!” His response: “There is NO line when it comes to you.”

Give me a man who will say that and mean it over Brad Pitt any day. Of course, if Brad Pitt wants to step up… *G*

What about you?


Do you find a certain male character attractive because of his chemistry with his lover?

What couple do you think has the best chemistry on television or in the movies at the moment?

One lucky reader will win an audio copy of LONDON’S LAST TRUE SCOUNDREL!

Want to Know a Secret?

I am thrilled to have my dear friend, The Incomparable Claudia Dain back with us in the Lair today. Not only is Claudia back, she is here to share a juicy secret. So come, pull up an armchair and prepare to be delighted! Without further ado, here is Claudia…

claudia_bioWriters really do write what they know. 
It’s an old adage: write what you know. Lots of times, people assume (rightly) what that means is to write about medical stuff if you’re a MD or about Egypt if you’re an Egyptologist or about murder mysteries if you’re a serial killer.
Kidding on that last one. Or am I? Hmm. 
Writers do write what they know in that they write from their world view and belief system and experiences. They breathe life into every character, and the breath of life comes from them, from their own lungs and heart and mind to bring the characters to life for you, the reader. 
In short, writers write the books they’d love to read peopled with characters they can identify with in some way. Even serial killers. 
That’s not as scary as it sounds.
What this means is that a devoted fan of a particular author’s work will know that author in a very intimate way. 
I am a fan of lively conversation; zippy, fun, witty dialogue. This is true for me as a person and as an author. Therefore, my books are very dialogue heavy. 
I am not a fan of road trips and so there is no traveling in my books. If a character needs to be someplace else, I magically put them there. I only wish that could happen to me in real life!
British MuseumI am not a fan of food. I don’t like grocery shopping or cooking, and I’m not a gourmet by any stretch of the imagination. Therefore, no one ever eats in my books. They may take a sip of a drink or be seated at a dining table, but I don’t describe the eating experience. I once read a book where the food on the table took almost a full page of description. I still bear the scars of that. 
I don’t write shy heroines because I am not shy. I don’t write “how can he love me” heroines because I can believe that he would love me. (What’s not to love?) I write heroines who choose the wrong guy to fixate on because I have. I write heroines who feel insecure about something because who hasn’t felt insecure? I write about good friends, about frenemies, and about acquaintances that may or may not turn into something more. I write about making instant assumptions and having that assumption be wrong. And also having another instant assumption be right. Because that’s how it is in my life. 
Which brings me to Sophia, the central character in The Courtesan Chronicles. Sophia is the courtesan in question, actually, a courtesan who married out of the life and is very happily helping other women improve their lives and achieve their very deserved  happiness (because all women deserve happiness). 
You’ve got know by now that I am like Sophia. How could I not be? Some part of me, even the tiniest part, is in every character I write, but Sophia, she is the most like me. Or rather, she is the best, most exaggerated version of me. My husband says that Sophia is Claudia on steroids. He laughed joyously when he said that—good man. Sophia is complex, layered, mysterious. But she doesn’t have any secrets from me. She is me. Sort of. I only wish I were as wise, as tough, as resilient, as beautiful as she is. 
I’m going to guess that you’re like me; you like to read books that are peopled with characters you can relate to and that focus on the stuff you find interesting. Seems obvious, stated that way, doesn’t it? But isn’t it liberating to realize why you like what you like?
What kind of heroines do you like best? What kind of heroes? Does your heroic type match your dream man? 
Caren, here. Claudia has offered one lucky commenter a signed copy of her Courtesan book, Daring a Duke. And I am also thrilled to announce that Claudia’s much-anticipated Courtesan book, Much Ado About Dutton, will be out August 26!!

Heroes Who Work with Children…

MichaelFassbenderI’m in dreaming mode at the moment, having just handed in Beckenham’s book (THE GREATEST LOVER EVER).  Next in line for his own happily ever after in the Westruther family is Xavier, Lord Steyne (pronounced “Steen”, just in case you’re interested:) He’s a cold, Machiavellian character who shuns involvement in most family dramas.

I’m thinking along the lines of Michael Fassbender’s look for Xavier, although his eyes would be a darker blue and his hair inky black.


When thinking about a heroine for Xavier, I decided he needs someone who demands his involvement and engagement in an enterprise and won’t take no for an answer. And what could be more demanding than a ready-made family?

I don’t know if I’ll go down that path or not at this stage, but pondering this question made me think of all the romances I love where the hero interacts with children.

Georgette Heyer always wrote children exceptionally well, and realistically portrayed her heroes’ relationships with them. SYLVESTER is not the same book without all of Sylvester’s exchanges with his nephew, Edmund. I know, because sadly the version read incomparably well by lair favourite Richard Armitage left Edmund and all of the confusion over his Button out of the abridgment. 


When we finally see this cold, proud duke with his naughty but engaging nephew, we see the real Sylvester, relaxed and affectionate, though never in a way that would make it seem unbelievable. At one point, Edmund begs the heroine to go with them back to England from France “acos Uncle ‘Vester’s damned if he’ll deal with me afore breakfast”.

In seeing Sylvester’s attitude toward his nephew, we see how he might be with the heroine, Phoebe, once he lets down his guard. It’s an enticing picture, and one which casts his previous behaviour in a new light.


AAAALOSIn Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s MATCH ME IF YOU CAN, sports agent Heath Champion has an ongoing battle with a client’s daughter. Pippy Tucker has a penchant for cell phones and since Heath is practically married to his phone, this causes him all sorts of trouble. There’s nothing like a child for going straight to the heart of the matter and exposing someone’s weakness. By the end, Heath shows his love for Annabelle by giving Pippy his phone.

In Loretta Chase’s LORD OF SCOUNDRELS, Dain’s acceptance of his bastard child is a beautiful metaphor for self-acceptance. 

What are your favourite hero/child interactions in romance? Or would you prefer not to have children in a romance novel? 

By the way, 2 ARCs of my upcoming July release, LONDON’S LAST TRUE SCOUNDREL are still up for grabs on Goodreads. This is for U.S. residents, but keep an eye out on Twitter (@chrstnabrooke) and my facebook page. An international contest is coming up! You can read an excerpt here.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

London's Last True Scoundrel by Christina Brooke

London’s Last True Scoundrel

by Christina Brooke

Giveaway ends May 12, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.


Enter to win

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentines_SeesAhh, feel that?  That tingling feeling?  Thats love.  It’s in the air today, thanks to Valentine’s.  

I love Valentine’s.  Not just for the romancey goodness, although that does rock. But because it’s one of those crafty, show you care kind of days. From those sweet kindergarten days when we pasted lopsided doilies on red card stock and glued gilt cupids to the center of a heart, to the epically bad love poems written in middle school to boys we were too afraid to talk to directly (c’mon, was I the only one who did that?) to the excitement of champagne and val toastcandlelight possibilities as we grow older… Valentines is romance, yes.  But it’s also fun.  

At least, it is for us ladies *g*  For guys, I think this day comes with more pressure than birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas all rolled into one. Because while roses or a heart-shaped box of chocolates are traditional, oftentimes we women (while gobbling down the candy) will sigh over how unimaginative or the idea might be.  Because while we want to feel loved, we also want to feel like our guy KNOWS us.  GETS us.  That he put some effort into romancing us!!  Then again, I’ll admit, there are years I’m just grateful my guy remembers the date LOL.  

But for our romance heroes, the pressure really is on.  Because they were hot enough, romantic enough, special enough to star in a book–not just any book, baby, but a ROMANCE novel!  That means they have to step up and be romantic on Valentines’s Day.  

Luckily, our guys are up for the task… 

A SEAL's Seduction cover

My own Blake Landon, from A SEAL’s SEDUCTION, actually would give his Alexia chocolate.  Not for traditions’ sake, but because she seriously LOVES chocolate.  He’d start with a deluxe heart shaped box of hand-picked See’s (all her favorites with almonds and caramels), then while she was humming in appreciation, he’d show her the tin of her favorite hot chocolate made from Belgium shavings.  As she was sighing at his sweetness, he’d whip out a jar of very rich, very decadent hot fudge.  Then he’d suggest they set the candy and cocoa aside, heat up the fudge and go make a very special snack…



Nancy Northcott’s Griff from RENEGADE would give Val a painting of her parents, who were killed by ghouls when she was a teenager.

a3Peril in Paperpack - NYT newest 6-6-12

Kate Carlisle’s DEREK STONE would give BROOKLYN WAINWRIGHT a packet of beautiful endpapers he picked up on a business trip to Japan. That’s the official gift. His unofficial gift would be food, of course. Steak. Red wine. Chocolate for dessert.  (Come to think of it, that’s Kate’s favorite gift, too. 🙂 )

 Anna Sugden’s Jake would give Maggie from A PERFECT DISTRACTION (out Sept 2013) a mixed bouquet of real daisies and chocolate daisies, because that worked so well when he had to apologise for being a jerk *g*. He has a game on Valentine’s night, so they won’t be able to have a private celebration until really late.



Joan Kayse’s Damon would give his heroine Julia a book by a famed Roman poet Catulluss, poems of love and longing. However…. beneath the scroll page would be his real gift…a copy of the Art of Seduction by Ovid.


Suzanne Ferrell’s Matt Edgars would give Katie Myers  (hero and heroine from HUNTED) a boxer puppy.



Christie Kelley’s Colin Barrett, the Duke of Northrop would give Selina White from BEWITCHING THE DUKE, a beautiful pair of diamond earrings because he’s discovered she has an obsession for earbobs.


And from Donna  MacMeans’ THE CASANOVA CODE had it taken place in February 🙂 :  Besides being a code-breaker, Edwina Hargrove is a closet adventurer.

a2Casanova Code

     A gift!  Ashton had brought her a gift for St. Valentine’s day!  No one had ever done such a thing, at least, not for her.  She opened the box tentatively, savoring the moment, then lifted a heavy glass globe set upon a wooden pedestal.

   “It’s from the Paris Exposition,” he said.  “Shake it and snow will reign down upon the Eiffel Tower.”

    “It’s beautiful,” she whispered, though she couldn’t really see the snowflakes for the tears in her eyes.  No one had acknowledged her desire for travel before.  “I will cherish it always.”

    He smiled then cocked his head.  His finger delicately traced the moisture on her cheek.  “As I, dear Edwina, will you.”


 Awww, aren’t our heroes romantic!?  And aren’t our heroines lucky to have such fabulous Valentine’s gifts on this special day dedicated to celebrating love.   

val flowers

Share with us what your ideal Valentine’s gift would be to be entered in the drawing for this wonderfully romantic collection of Valentine’s treats. 

  • A SEAL’s Seduction
  • ARC of Renegade
  • The Casanova Code
  • Cadbury’s chocolate
  • ecopy of Bewitching the Duke



This weekend, my family and I plan on (finally!) seeing Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. I loved the first Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. The humor, the action, Sherlock’s brilliance in solving the mystery…it was all fabulous fun! But my favorite part was the love story.


After all, I am a romance writer 😉


But I’m not talking about the romance between Sherlock and Irene or even the one between Watson and his beloved Mary. What I’m talking about was the clear and heartfelt affection between Sherlock and Watson. These two men are as close as brothers who, though they often disagree, would risk their life to keep the other safe. And while Watson wanted to move on with his life with his new fiancée, he just couldn’t force himself to walk away from Holmes. Not completely. Just as Holmes couldn’t imagine his life without his trusted sidekick and did everything in his power to dissuade Watson from leaving (luckily, he came around in the end and even helped Watson get Mary an engagement ring *g*)

I love when friendship between men is portrayed so well! Nora Roberts does an excellent job of this, especially in books like her Sign of Seven trilogy about three lifelong friends who are destined to fight a horrible evil. Another favorite is the bond between the men of Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters and Tall, Dark and Dangerous series.


What are some of your favorite ‘Bromances’ in books, movies, TV and/or real life (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck? Matthew McConaughey and Lance Armstrong?)?

Dark Age Doings with Julia Phillips Smith

by Anna Campbell

What a treat I’ve got for you today. I’ve long admired Julia Phillips Smith’s wonderful A Piece of My Mind blog which covers all sorts of arcane and fascinating topics with the lightest and wittiest of touches. So when Julia asked me to read her debut paranormal-historical romance, SAINT SANGUINUS, I was delighted. This book kept me awake into the wee hours as I devoured the dramatic, passionate story of Peredur and Tanwen. After that, I just had to bring Julia into the lair to chase the cabana boys…uh, tell us about her books.

There’s a very dramatic trailer for SAINT SANGUINUS which you can see here:

Julia’s website is here: Website:

If you click on the cover of SAINT SANGUINUS, it will take you straight to the Amazon link (the book’s currently only 99 cents – BARGAIN!).

You can find the book on Smashwords at:

Julia, welcome to the lair! Great to see you here. Congratulations on the release of your historical paranormal debut SAINT SANGUINUS which as you know I loved and called “a dark, dramatic take on the vampire genre.” Can you tell us about this story?

First of all – thank you, Sven *winking as I scoop up my prosecco from the tray* – my smile is impossible to tone down today, because I’m so thrilled to be here at the Banditas Lair.

My story is a Dark Ages vampire superhero origin story. Quite a combination, but there you go.

I’m a big fan of superhero origin stories. Wolverine, Green Lantern, Thor, Harry Potter – I can never get enough of watching the genesis of a hero as he steps into the role that destiny assigned to him. The more epic the scope, the better. That’s why the superhero genre always delivers for me.

But I also love all-too-human heroes and their stories. 300, GLADIATOR, Horatio Hornblower, the Sharpe series with Sean Bean – I love watching these natural leaders emerge from among their peers. SAINT SANGUINUS follows the tradition of these stories and introduces readers to a man destined to become something quite different than he could ever have expected from the opening scene of the novel.

Here’s a taste:

An elite brotherhood stands between humans and vampires, preventing one side from annihilating the other. Who are called to this service? Only those warriors who curse God with their dying breath.

Welsh warrior Peredur falls to a spear before he can claim Tanwen for his bride. Raging on the battlefield, Peredur utters the curse that seals his fate and leads him to another life. Using the power of a saint whose bone makes up an amulet, Peredur takes on the trials to become a true member of the brethren. Yet his need for the chieftain’s daughter Tanwen still burns.

Tanwen resists her father’s command to take a husband. The only one who understands her sorrow is Cavan, the wise woman’s son. When he promises that he can reunite her with her beloved, she agrees to his terms. But does Tanwen truly understand the depth of the price that must be paid?   

Wow! Lots happening there! What were the inspirations behind this book?

My initial inspiration was the Count Saint-Germain series of books by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. As a running theme throughout her series, Ms. Yarbro addresses the more day-to-day (or should I say, night-to-night) problems of being a vampire with a long lifespan. How does one hold onto different properties stashed here and there? How would you keep leaving these holdings to a future descendant, and how would you eventually claim your homes and businesses as your own ‘descendant’ after enough generations had passed, so that the locals don’t recognize you anymore?

I just love how her main vampire character has to deal with problems that don’t usually surface in vampire fiction. Although, if you think about it, Bram Stoker dealt with Count Dracula’s transportation-of-Transylvanian-soil problems in the beginning of his story.

So this got me thinking about the kind of scenes that don’t often appear in the vampire genre. My main character Peredur’s transformation from man to vampire was the launch pad for me. I wanted to really experience how it felt to take those first vampire baby steps. 

I found the setting so intriguing. Can you tell us about your fascination with Dark Ages Britain? Did you come across anything unusual or unexpected when you were researching the period?

I can pretty much say I’ve been fascinated with the Dark Ages since late elementary school, when I went to a Christmas Tea and Sale at the neighbourhood church where I went to Girl Guides. I bought a paperback copy of Mary Stewart’s THE CRYSTAL CAVE in the used books section. Not only did I inhale every beautifully crafted line of that book, but I couldn’t get enough of her Author’s Notes detailing her historical research and her decisions as to naming conventions for towns and villages in post-Roman Britain.

I then gravitated toward all things Arthurian. Arthur Pendragon is the ultimate seize-your-destiny prototype hero for me. The Arthurian romances also whet my appetite for courtly political intrigue. But I tended to collect non-fiction research books on Arthur, ever since high school, including ARTHUR’S BRITAIN by Leslie Alcock and THE QUEST FOR ARTHUR’S BRITAIN by Geoffrey Ashe.

A few years ago I blogged about the unexpected discovery of Dark Age artefacts in Staffordshire, England:

Of course, I wouldn’t claim to know EVERYTHING there is to know about Dark Age life. Right, Anna? (ANNA: Hey, what’s a potato or two between friends?)

The power vacuum created in Dark Age Britain by Rome’s withdrawal always fascinated me. In contemporary times, the same situation replayed itself in the Eastern Bloc countries as the Soviets pulled out. I find that sort of scenario irresistible as a writer, and it’s one of the issues I’ll be exploring as I continue the series. I love to see who steps to the front of the pack to take charge of all the squabbling.    

What’s next for you?

I’ve been posting serialized fiction on my blog for a little over a year, now, following the dark fantasy tale of a boy once brought up to be a noble, but never claimed by his family when it came time to leave the nursery. Instead, he’s raised by a falconer to be his apprentice, until a fateful hunt while in his teens sets him on an unexpected and dangerous path.

I’ll be wrapping up this storyline soon, and then shaping it into novel form which is due to be released in the spring. It’s packed to bursting with deadly power plays within the noble houses, threatening to pull down servants like my hero Scorpius along with them. That will be book one of a trilogy, so I’ll have book one of two separate series out, and then continue on with both series.

You can read about Scorpius here:     

Sounds great. And another hero thrust into the role! You live in a really beautiful part of the world that one day I hope to visit. I’d love you to tell us about YOUR Nova Scotia. Do you think that dramatic landscape inspires your writing?

I grew up in Halifax alongside my cousin Julianne MacLean’s family. Our dads were both scuba divers, so we spent many dreamy days running over the granite bedrock along the Atlantic Ocean as the men went on their dive and the moms set up picnic base camp.

As you can see in these two pictures, it’s a landscape that invites gothic tales to run rampant in my mind. That’s a shot of my dad back in the day, and the other one is of the four of us: back row, my sister Daisy Piper, my cousin Charlie. Front row, Julianne MacLean and me.

(My sister’s website: )

So besides the gorgeous ocean, my favourite thing about Nova Scotia is the woods. The province is still heavily forested, with large tracts of undeveloped land, and in my own neighborhood we have a greenbelt running through the subdivision. Walking in the woods really renews me.

My local RWA chapter – Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada – has a yearly retreat which takes place at White Point Beach. These two shots were taken there and showcase both of my favorite things.  

I’ve long been a fan of your blog, A Piece of My Mind. You range so widely when it comes to topics. I’d love you to talk to us about keeping up the mojo for a long-running blog (when there’s only one of you!) and ask if you have any advice for would-be bloggers.

Thanks, Anna! I’ve actually given a workshop on blogging at my RWA chapter, because not every author enjoys blogging. Yet my chapter knows how much joy my blog gives me. And that’s really the secret.

Not helpful, I know, if writing blog posts feels like donating a kidney, minus the anaesthetic.

When I started A Piece of My Mind, a lot of the blogs I followed were written by authors about the writing life. However, I was four years away from this debut release, and my own interests ran to the full range of the arts. I decided early on to let my blog follow my heart, and after taking part in a year-long Blog Improvement Challenge in 2009 run by Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness ( I defined my blog as an arts blog.

I soon devised a weekly schedule, which I kept up solidly for four years: Poetry on Mondays, Arts features on Tuesdays, Photography on Wednesdays, Lists of 13 Things on Thursdays, Music on Fridays and Serialized fiction on Saturdays. Each of these features was attached to a meme hosted by another blogger, which carried its own readership (except for my arts feature, which is my very own.)

This year, however, as I put the push on to either sell or self-publish SAINT SANGUINUS, I realized that I couldn’t hope to keep up my regular blog schedule.  I pulled back on three of the weekly features – Poetry, Arts and Photography, shuffled the serialized fiction from Saturdays to Wednesdays, and had to cut way back on how much I visited with other bloggers.

This is where I can see the shine coming off of blogging for writers who feel that it takes away from their fiction writing time. Let’s take the cooking analogy for blogging. I come from a family of cooks, and though I adore eating delicious food, I’m not a cook. Every moment spent in the kitchen is a precious moment of life I’ll never get back.

Meanwhile, my mom lives to cook. She expresses herself through preparing food. It’s an art form for her, and each ingredient is a color or texture. That’s what my blog is for me – a way to express myself and to connect with people with similar interests. I’ve made so many friends through blogging, from all over the world. Like you, for instance, Anna!

So for writers who are thinking of attaching blogs to their websites, my advice is this. If you suspect you will run out of things to blog about in a matter of months, perhaps your best bet is to hook up with a group blog where you will only be required to post once a month.

Another idea is to find memes that interest you and take part in them. This gives you ready-made subject matter and helps your blog to schedule itself. For example, on Fridays I take part in a music meme called 5 on Friday, run by Travis at Trav’s Thoughts ( We post five tunes (which I link to on You Tube) and that’s that. Easy peasy.

Yet another way to shake up your blog schedule is to take part in a blog carnival or festival, or a blog challenge. Carnivals can be huge affairs, with literally a thousand bloggers signed up. A carnival is centred on a time-limited event, such as the A to Z Challenge ( which takes place throughout the month of April. Or the Movie Madness challenge ( I’m joining this year.

Which brings me to something I’ve bumped into on blog sidebars here and there: Blogging Without Obligation buttons, started by Tiffini at Down the Rabbit Hole ( For me, blogging is fun. My enjoyment with it is contagious. Try to capture a sense of play when blogging. It’s like a giggle – before long, your fun will ripple out to readers, who will then want to know more about you – and discover you’re an author, with a book they’ve just got to read!    

 Julia, is there anything you’d like to ask the Bandits or the Bandita Buddies?

I’ve had the good fortune to meet six blog friends In Real Life. I’d like to ask Romance Bandit readers if they’ve had the same pleasure – or if the Real Life meet-up brought surprises?

Julia has very generously offered a commenter today a copy of SAINT SANGUINUS! So get commenting, people! 

The Jerk Factor: How Low Can You Go?

I’m a slow reader.  It takes me most of a day and night—and yes, I do mean the WHOLE night, to finish a fat, single-title novel. The time investment—and therefore the heart investment–in a novel, for me, is considerable. I just finished one at about 4:30 this morning.

My downfall, you see, is that when I start a book, I can’t stop.

I read most nights before bed, and I can pull out any non-fiction book for bedtime reading, and I’ll fall asleep almost immediately.  No matter how interested I am in the subject, I’ll intend to read just a chapter, but within a page or two, I’m nodding off and dropping the book in my lap.

But with a novel?  Not so.

I’m a shameless hussy for a good story.  I never fall asleep reading a novel. 

Okay, there’s been one.  It was a mystery.   And no I’m not telling you whose it was. It was most certainly NOT one of Bandita Kate’s Bibliophile mysteries.  I can’t put those things down.  *thinks of Derek and wipes drool off chin*

So back to last night’s book. It’s by a well-known author.  And I’ll tell you something.  I almost didn’t read the second half.  I’d started the book on Sunday night.  I wanted something funny, and it did have funny moments.  Great writing.  Totally loveable heroine.

But you know what?  On Monday afternoon, when I was on the phone, I called it a wall banger to one of my close friends.  I was, frankly, pissed. 

Yes, I was cranky and tired from not enough sleep…up reading the bloody effing book, ya know?  I’d been staring at the computer, working without a break, for half the day since then.  The weather system moving through Kentucky had given me a headache.  And the whole time, I’d been thinking about that stupid book. 

Because the hero was a jerk.

Let’s pause for a moment to define “jerk,” shall we?

Lots of readers—and writers—seem to call jerks “bad boys.” 

No, no, no!

The proverbial “bad boy” is one who rides a motorcycle, wears a leather jacket, blows off convention, and wears aviator shades. Or flies a fighter plane, wears a leather jacket, blows off authority, and wears aviator shades.  Or rides a horse in rodeos, wears a leather jacket, blows off silly expectations, and wears aviator…

Okay, so the aviator shades seem to be a common thing.

But lots of folks seem to use the same terminology—bad boy– when they’re talking about edgy guys your mom would not want you dating…(certainly true)….and when they talk about guys who exhibit  jerk-ish behavior (not true at all, necessarily, in my view). I guess this is because they lump all “bad” behavior into one bucket. 

I don’t.

I like leather jackets, love motorcycles, and –hold the phone–even wear my own…aviator shades.  And I deposit my share of lust onto hot guys who wear and ride same.

Aaaaand then there are jerks. 

A whole ‘nuther category.

Jerks are selfish, inconsiderate, and treat people badly.  

Some bad boys may be  jerks, but  “jerk” does not equate with “bad boy.”

Are we clear on the definition?

Okay, good.   

Now…I know that we have to have personal growth for our heroes. And yes, I will say, reluctantly, that the worse a “hero” behaves, the lower the author can take him into the pit of despair which he so richly deserves,  and the sweeter the reward at the story’s end when finally, finally, he sees the light, and is redeemed.

Intellectually, I get this.

I have no problem at all with a hero who has to be hit in the head with the proverbial two-by-four in order to realize the heroine is an angel sent from God just to redeem him.  He’s a good man inside, and he’s just fallen on hard times and into bad behavior.  In fact, I’d be perfectly happy to step up into the “hand of God” role, in many books I read, and actually wield the instrument of smitation upside the idiot’s head.  Give the man his comeuppance, dangit!  Make him sorry!

That’s why we read romance, right?  We get to see the darkness transform into light in the hero and the heroine.  And we get to see the happily-ever-after for that couple who has gone to hell and back to earn their happy ending.   

So, honestly. I should know better, don’t you think?

I love Christina Dodd.  I sing her praises to everybody.  She’s brilliant, and she’s one of my favorite authors.  But…okay (Cassondra crosses self though she is not Catholic)…I’m about to confess.

The first of her books I read was The Barefoot Princess.  It was book two (I think) in her Lost Princesses series. 

****Forgive me Christina, for I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of being a true fangirl.  You don’t know me, but if by some off-chance, ill-handed twist of fate, you are reading this blog, please please please, read on to the happy ending of what I, one of your biggest fans, am about to say.****

I literally threw the book across the room.  It lay forlorn on the floor, having banged the wall of my bedroom one afternoon, and every time I walked by, I snarled. Because the hero was an absolute, unmitigated, total JERK!  Such. A. Jerk.  A jerk to the point that I believed I could never care about him.  Never want him to be with the brave, beloved heroine.  He did not deserve her, dangit!

I tried to move on to other books.  I read a couple, but could not get invested.  Because I kept walking by that one I’d thrown, and scorching it with my most evil glare.  (Yes, it still lay in the floor.) It haunted me, how awful that hero was. What was Christina thinking?!  I could not get my mind off of it, but I was just too mad at him to keep reading.  At last I determined I would finish it, because I had to get that book formally out of my to-be-read pile.  Lay it to rest.  Give it a proper burial.  Oh and yes, I did have to vacuum.

So I picked it up.  And was rapt. 

I cried.  And I cried some more.  And at the end of the book, I was smiling while I cried.

 Christina Dodd’s Barefoot Princess is one of my favorite books ever.  The jerk got his, and got it good.

Anna Campbell’s incredible debut, Claiming The Courtesan, is another of the most perfect stories I’ve ever read.   Her hero was so selfishly blind and cruel that I would never believe he could be redeemed.  But sweet mother of God, Anna put that hero through hell.  Kylemore had to slog through the muck borne of his own dark soul, and he had to drag himself out of that pit with his own bleeding fingernails, first to save the heroine’s life, and then to be worthy of the woman he’d so wronged.

It’s on my list of top five most satisfying reads ever. 

So wouldn’t you think I’d learned my lesson about heroes who are jerks?

Really, wouldn’t you?

*Heavy sigh*

So yesterday afternoon, I was calling this book (which shall still go nameless) a wall banger.  I stayed up until 4 this morning to finish it.  And you know what?

I cried near the end.  I’m jaded enough, now, that it’s hard to make me cry.  But cry I did. 

And I’ve been thinking about that all day long.  Not the hero or the heroine–more on that later–but on the reason why I was so mad at that book.

What the blazes is wrong with me?  Why am I so intolerant of jerks in my novels?  How in the world did my standard for “hero” get set so  blasted high?

This is really bothering me now because, as a writer who studies the likes of Christina Dodd, Anna Campbell, and yes, even the author whose book I just finished, I want my own readers to laugh and cry at the same time when they read my stories.

Now I will tell you that last night’s book…I did notice one difference about it.  It did not take the hero to what I think of as a particularly low point.  I think that’s why I was not thinking about them through the day.  Those characters are not living in my psyche as real–not the way Christina’s and Anna’s are living there, still, months, and even years, after I read the books.

Granted, last night’s was a contemporary romance, so it’s not like the hero had to ride his steed to near death while bleeding out from a wicked sword wound in order to save the heroine from the gallows or a London prison.  But still, there are emotional lows which can be fallen into,  and there is a harsh, brutal light to be shined on the ugly stained souls of heroes who act like jerks.  Last night’s book did not take the hero to that low, and the light did not shine as harshly or as brutally as I think it needed to shine. I did not witness that hero’s internal change in a way that made me go “oh, yeah.” 

I think the hero got off too easily.  Yes, I do.

Even though I cried, there was not the deep soul satisfaction that comes from watching a hero wade through his own personal hell to redeem himself for what he’s done–to fully comprehend the difference between what a good person does, and his own actions. 

And as a result, this book is not a keeper.

So now I’m worried, and I’m out to find what makes this whole thing work or not work.

Here’s the problem I’m facing. 

Most of the time, I write nice guys.  Flawed, but generally good guys, with big hearts, lousy circumstances, and a situation with choices that…well…they suck.  And I’ve started to worry that my heroes are cardboard.  That they’re not complex and won’t be real to the reader.

I write contemporary and futuristic romance, among other things.  But there is always suspense.  Always.  When you have a big suspense element in a book, it takes a lot of words—a lot of pages—to set that suspense up, develop it, and resolve it in a way that is satisfying.  And unless you’re Diana Gabaldon, you have only so many pages in a book.

So maybe, when you have suspense in the novel, you can’t really have a  guy with quite so big a hill to climb in his own soul, because after the suspense, you don’t have the pages left over to take him down to that kind of personal pit and then redeem him.  Yes, the internal growth and the external problem or plot–that does need to happen all at the same time, and a perfect writer, I suppose, would make all of it happen in the same book, every time.

But if he’s a total jerk, it seems to me that it takes more time to heal him than if he just needs to learn to let go and trust his heart and love.  He can do that lesser bit of healing while he’s saving the heroine from the vile villain.  Maybe the total jerks work better when the novel is a straight up romance, where the focus is strictly on the people and the relationship?

But then I get scared.  What if my nice guy will make a “meh” book?  Can a basically good guy—one who would not like treating the heroine badly from page one–make a reader laugh and cry at the same time?

I just don’t know.

About the middle of any novel, if the hero is still being a complete horse’s patoot, there comes a point where I throw the book across the room.  Or I want to.

Honestly it’s almost like I’m afraid to keep reading.  I’m so invested in the heart of the heroine, that if the author fails to redeem the blasted ignorant man…if she fails ME, I will simply not be able to recover.  And no matter how many books I read, that fear does not go away.

And yet, those lows, when the redemption does come, make up the books which often end up on my keeper shelf.

I want to be a keeper shelf author.

Some of y’all write, I know, but ALL of you are readers.  So I want to know from you, how far is too far?

There are authors out there who I generally do not read, because the heroes tend to always be jerks.  One of my sticking points is when the hero is simply a spoiled brat.   So self absorbed and oblivious that I just don’t like them from the outset.  The read is less satisfying for me if I think the hero has not really changed by the end of the book (this is true of the heroine as well—both must grow as people, and be better at the story’s end, but for this blog, I’m talking about the guys). A spoiled brat…he takes a mighty disaster to become unspoiled in real life.  I know this.  So it’s hard to make me believe he would change without that mighty disaster in a book.

  A good person who behaves badly because of what he’s been through, is one thing.  A basically rotten, selfish person is quite another.

 So I have a dilemma, Bandits and Buddies..

Have you read books where the hero is a complete and utter jerk, but was so redeemed in the end that you truly believed he was deserving of the heroine’s love?




 I’d love a list of books at the end of today.  I promise to read every one of them I can…So tell me–


hat books have made you say, “He’s too rotten.  There’s no way they can ever be together,” and then have made you laugh and cry and cheer at the same time when they finally are? 

  Do any of you think the heroine can have a happily-ever-after with a guy who is still a jerk? I have a tough time with that.

Come on, throw it out there. Help me understand.

 How low can a hero really go in how he treats the heroine, and still be a redeemable hero? 

How many pages into a novel can you read without seeing some light–some potential– in the soul of the hero, and still keep reading?

How far into a book can a hero act like a jerk without you slamming the book into the wall?

And…What does it take to make you believe a jerk has really changed and become a decent person, deserving of the heroine and her love?

Do you have any real jerks on your keeper shelf?

Even Better With Age

by Beth

It’s true that some things–such as wine and cheese–get better with age. And while I enjoy both, and I’m sure they’d make an interesting blog topic, today I’d like to discuss something a bit…prettier. (Or at least, more fun to look at *g*)
My top five picks for men who have gotten better with age!
1. Hugh Jackman. I think most of us could agree that the years have been kind to Hugh *g*
2. Liam Neeson. I fell hard for Liam in Love Actually.
3. George Clooney. I never watched ER but I do remember George from his days on The Facts of Life. Yes, he has definitely improved with age 🙂

4. Patrick Dempsey. The same goes for Patrick who I first saw as a nerdy teen in Can’t Buy Me Love.
5. Sting. I recently saw footage of Sting in concert and he still kicks butt up on that stage! I also love that he’s into yoga *g*
Who are your picks for men who have gotten better with age?

We have an AHA Go Red pin for one commenter today. I’m also giving a copy of Tawny’s latest Red Hot Blaze, BREAKING THE RULES!
The healthy heart tip for February 20 is: Try something new – dare yourself to try a new fruit or vegetable. Next time you’re at the store, pick up something you’ve never made before. Many grocery stores have free recipe cards in the produce section or just type the food into your favorite search engine.

Romance Writers of America and the American Heart Association have partnered to raise awareness of heart disease in women and encourage you to join us in wearing red on February 4, National Wear Red Day. Visit Go Red for Women to learn how to fight heart disease.

And just in case you missed it…

Sign up for the Go Red Better U Program and receive two free romance e-books.

From Feb 1 through May 31, 2011, receive one free romance e-book when you sign up for the American Heart Association’s Better U Program and one after you complete week six of the program. And look for the Eat Smart for Your Heart limited edition magazine (that features this offer) on newstands and in a grocery store near you.

Go Red for Women is trademarked by the American Heart Association, Inc. Romance novel downloads provided by Belle Books.

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