Evangeline Holland

Sweeping Drama ⚜ Larger than Life History ⚜ Exquisite Romance ⚜ Diverse Perspectives

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

April 20th, 2015 by Evangeline Holland

Sex and the Single (Romance) Hero

Male body builder, Maurice Deriaz, c. 1906

Male body builder, Maurice Deriaz, c. 1906 – Wellcome Library

As I have been busy writing various projects, I began to notice a pattern in my heroes. As first, I was like…nah…he’s…wait…no, he’s…him either…hmm.

All of my heroes are celibate/abstinent for one reason or another when the story begins, and it got me thinking about the sexual lives of romance heroes. It’s possible that I’ve forgotten the status of every hero I’ve read or come across, but in general, romance heroes either have a high body count or are hot, sexy virgins (has anyone come across a fumbling, nerdy virgin hero?), with little variation in experience or sexual choices in between.

Years ago I ticked off a would-be critique partner when I questioned why their hero was a rake when it didn’t even fit with his characterization or his plot arc. Their huffy response was that romance readers expect to read about heroes with tons of experience.

That stuck with me–and stuck in my craw.

Romance heroes are typically granted the license to be more well rounded than romance heroines, by dint of the whole “placeholder” theory, but based on this, they’re just as stunted and boxed into a particular fantasy that “everyone” expects. I cringe at the belief that readers would think less of a hero’s “masculinity” if he does not have a string of ex-girlfriends and mistresses in a little black book. Is it not possible for a hero to be super experienced after a couple of long term relationships –Or would that then shatter the fantasy of the heroine being The One (to rock his world, etc etc)?

Also, in historicals, the rake as the hero can be quite ahistorical after the Restoration Era. For example, I was struck by a segment in Amanda Vickery’s At Home with the Georgians, where she describes how a wife completed a gentleman. The bachelor life placed him outside of true adulthood and prominence (I want to see this in Georgian/Regency!). And though a particular social set of Victorians/Edwardians were notorious bed-hoppers, and the whole “take a lover after giving him heirs” things originated amongst this set, I have found numerous stories of love matches, and their letters, diaries, etc are illuminating.

One bit of historical media that amused and touched me was in an episode of Upstairs Downstairs. Series 4–my favorite, incidentally–is set during WWI. Edward, the footman, and Daisy, the housemaid, fell in love and married before he went off to war. There’s a bit of a role reversal in that the boasting, flirtatious Edward is a virgin, and Daisy, though one too, grew up with six in a bed, so…! And she takes the lead. It was very funny, yet poignant, and made the scene 100% true to their characters (and station)–something that is often missing in the usage of sex in (non erotic?) romance.

I didn’t set out to write all of these celibate heroes, but when I go over their backstories and where they are (personally) the moment they meet the heroine, it makes sense. This isn’t to say I’ll never write a rake, but it must fit his character arc and the story. Otherwise, he will just be a paint-by-numbers hero and it will continue to perpetuate this illogical sexual standard placed on the male characters in the genre (which in turn enforces illogical sexual standards on the female characters).

If, as we in Romland argue, sex in romance exists because it has bearing on the protagonists and the plot, and not as “pr0n,” then it should be just as much a piece of characterization as setting or occupation. It is not a shortcut for “masculinity.”

March 12th, 2015 by Evangeline Holland

On My Romance Writing Philsophy

Jeannie Lin’s latest post on her core themes spoke to me on many levels.

I’m writing my vicar hero/bad girl story and as I jumped into my hero’s POV, he turned out to be a little darker than expected. My heroine is pretty tormented, but I assumed my hero–a vicar–would be her foil. Instead, he’s got these rough edges beneath his sunny exterior that is pulling a number of layers out of the story itself as well as the romance. This is why it’s difficult for me to write small casts (and write short)–my characters require other characters to give their personalities greater context. I find it pat and easy for “love to conquer all.” In other words, the journey of my h/h falling in love and reaching a HEA is what smooths their rough edges, heals wounds, and solves conflicts. That doesn’t happen in my books without other characters (and sometimes historical events) creating friction for my h/h.

In The Rules of Surrender, my protagonists find their internal and external conflict exacerbated by a family tie they are not initially aware exists, by my hero’s parentage, by religion, and by money. I think riding off into the sunset just because they’re in love will result in major issues down the line, which would make the story unsatisfying for me. I don’t need things wrapped up in a neat bow, but I do like to end my novels knowing that my protagonists have evolved enough to have the proper tools for problem solving should future conflicts occur. Maybe I’m reading and writing too much into romance novels? I just know that I gravitate towards writing stories of understanding, grace, and respect.

My perspective might change in the years to come, but as of right now, this is what I write and why.

March 31st, 2014 by Evangeline Holland

Blog Hop: My Writing Process

Thank you Ellie Ash for inviting me on this blog hop!

What am I working on?

The sequel to An Ideal Duchess, titled A Duchess’s Heart, and a variety of other things. I’ve found that my anxiety over writing decreases when I work on multiple projects.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

First, I am writing an unrecognized genre (Romantic Historical Fiction), secondly, I write books in less popular settings (compared to Regency, Tudor, Victorian), and lastly, the romantic relationships in my books move in tandem with the familial relationships and friendships.

Why do I write what I do?

I write modern (historical) domestic fiction because the inner lives of women fascinate me. Through my characters I can explore a variety of questions and issues and watch how different types of women interact with and react to them.

How does your writing process work?

I have to allow an idea and the characters to percolate in my brain for a bit. Even if I get a burst of inspiration that results in an amazing synopsis/outline, I have to allow it to settle in my gut so I can “feel” the turning points, the themes, etc before sitting down to write. This can take a few months to a few years–and there have been stories I attempted in the past but was not mature enough or ready to write until much later. I am also incredibly analytical, and the pieces must fit together. Once all of this happens, I can bang out a first draft in a 1-2 months.