Our heros. The men we spin our tales around – they’re tall, dark, handsome, rich in wit/money/clothes/etc. These men often find themselves needing a significant other, a girlfriend, fiancée, wife, but don’t know it on page 1. We know them, we love them and want them to succeed. Romance!
But how do you portray your hero and heroine? How real do you make them?
Romance stories are our escape from the real world. It is easy to fall for them basically because we know the equation: they find each other, deny it, fight against it, are torn from each other or separated some way, only to find they love each other, etc and live happily ever after. <sigh>
Many times, we as readers love the bad boy who realizes the error of his ways and must fight to win the love of heroine. But can we love a hero, despite his devilish looks and seductive ways, who is a male courtesan in Regency England? A damaged hero who finds himself unworthy of love? And to survive, he turns to the only ‘profession’ that can earn him the finances to live? To throw another wrench into the works, what if he must continue his “profession” after he’s met the heroine? Is he still likeable? I argue this type of man, this hero, is because it is the realities of life that force him into this lifestyle. It is the character development of him, his change that make us read, hoping for his success. Or can he redeem himself enough for the heroine to love him?
In a setting where seduction is the key to salvation, let me introduce you to Evan Warth, Marquis of Wrenworth –
The Wicked Bargain (TBR June 2014)
England c 1815
Ethan pulled the emerald out of his top dresser drawer and held it carefully. The tear-drop stone glittered in the firelight but it was cold to his fingers. His other hand pulled the metal cuff it had been attached to those years ago. The dark heavy ankle band weighed slightly above one pound, a lighter version of the one that he wore initially, weighing over twice the poundage. The dark metal was smooth and its edges were rounded with a loop at one end, where the emerald stone hung.
Staring at the objects, his mind tumbled over the turn of events. He should have followed through and made the girl leave. This place was not for a good and pure. Sin poured out of the woodwork and corrupted the soul. Whatever persuaded him to relent? The answer angered him. She did. Those tears and her obvious terror tugged at some hidden part of him, compassion maybe? He’d laugh if that wasn’t so ironic. His compassion died tragically years ago in the sands…No, she ran from something. Or someone. He saw the fear in her eyes. But for her to remain ….
Toying with the emerald, his mind returned to her at a more base level. She was rather plain looking. Oh, her blonde hair was attractive, her sapphire blue eyes vivid but she was too thin, her face angular and gaunt, sickly pale and, well, common. Her legs, hidden underneath that hideous gown, must be long, he gathered, from her height, hopefully long enough to wrap around a man’s waist. No doubt her body lacked the padded curves to entice a man, her breasts, if there were any hidden behind the bodice, probably absent any flesh to hold. He grunted in disgust. It would take a lot of work to make her into one of his ladies.
What was he thinking? She was way too innocent and terrified in demeanor – obviously a sign she was not meant to fill the vacancies in his income. Besides, Edith sent her to him for her protection. He scoffed. As if that wasn’t a jest… Why did Edith send her to a male courtesan to present her to Society? And with no dowry to support her on the marriage mart, exactly what was he to do? Make her one of them, for a wealthy protector?
The feel of the anklet and jewel let his mind wandered beyond the problem of Arabella. Back to a time and place that was hard and demanding, a time of survival at all costs, even at the condemnation one’s soul. Of a beautiful woman who owned his existence at the flip of her hand and of a life destroyed by his own deed… Oh, Zahrah….
“What are you doing?” Elizabeth stood in the doorway, watching him.
“Yes, Elizabeth, how may I help you?” He rolled his eyes. How did she always seem to know when melancholy of days past arrived?
“You met her?”
He dropped the anklet and emerald back into the drawer and closed it.
“Yes.” He walked to his washstand and pulled his cravat off the towel rack. Looking into the mirror above to tie it, his hands fumbled. He so hated the damn thing…
With a frustrated sound, she walked to him, turned him to face her and snatched the tie’s ends. “And what do you think, my luv?” she asked, quickly manipulating the fabric into the latest knot and fluffed the ends appropriately.
“She has potential,” he commented drily. “If she were amenable, she could earn quite a fortune.”
“Yes, probably enough to finish your debts and rebuild your estate,” she concluded with a smile.
He stepped away from her, anger building within him. Gazing out his window at the mews behind the house, his horse waited for him. He’d jump on his back and escape everything. He refocused. “You put her in that room last night.”
“She needed a place to sleep, Ethan.” She came up behind him. “I couldn’t turn her out.”
“But you didn’t tell her what type of house this is, did you?” The question was cold, flat and blatant. He knew what her answer would be and it only made the girl more damaged.
“No, luv,” was her cool reply.
He shut his eyes, feeling the walls close in on him. “I followed your advice. I went out, arranged new interest for the girls, even a new contract for myself.”
“So I had thought,” he turned to her, his voice tense. “I had company, Elizabeth. I didn’t know I had to worry about the next room.”
“Ah, so she came to see,” she surmised, but the grin on her face showed she wasn’t the least bit perturbed at his anger. She laughed. “I fail to see why you are so upset. Being watched isn’t new to you.”
“That’s not the point,” he argued. She never saw this from the perspective of a woman client. Jane might have turned furious and demanded a refund. He could not afford that. “It might have caused problems with the lady I was with, who thankfully, didn’t appear to notice.”
“See, you haven’t lost your touch,” she smiled.
He threw his head back. “Elizabeth, ladies do not come here looking for ordinary work and find I only employ high priced courtesans. But you let her stay and if she stays much longer, she may have no choice in the matter but to become one herself. Her reputation may already be beyond any repair.”
“I’m sure you can help her,” she said soothingly, her hands back on his shoulders as she reached up behind him and kissed the side of his neck, her hands stroking down his back and over his hips. She tried to deflect his anger. “Come, my luv, let us have one last time before I am committed to Clemson.”
He turned towards her, took her hands off him and forced her to take a step back.
“I think not, sweetling,” he said quietly, kissing her hands lightly.
She sighed. “You never seem to desire me any longer, luv.”
He looked into her eyes. “It is not that, my dear,” he commented quietly. “I just won’t because you’ve already signed the papers.”
“It has been years and I can’t help but worry.”
“Do not be upset,” he said. “I can’t.”
“You know, Zahrah’s no longer around. You won’t be “caught”. You’ve been freed now for two years.”
His smile disappeared, feeling his past lash out at him but he smothered it. “I know. Come. We have dinner with our new doctor.”
***So just how wicked are your heros??