There’s been a lot of talk on Inspy Romance about swoon-worthy heroes. A good romance novel depends on a hero that the reader can fall for. Sure, she knows he’s fictional! But she can imagine falling in love with a guy like that, and she can definitely see why the heroine will do so. Being as she (the reader) can’t get the guy, she’s thrilled to see him on one knee, popping the magic question to her new BFF at the end of the book.
But what about the heroine? As a reader, how much do we identify with her? There’s little worse than having a to-die-for hero and finding him fall for a woman we can’t stand. If we are going to share our (new) favorite guy with someone else, she better be worthy!
Anyone with me here? Ever tossed a romance novel aside, unfinished, because you didn’t think the girl deserved to get the guy? Yeah, me, too.
Our heroine should be a loyal friend. She should be nice, but not a pansy. She should be pretty, but not so gorgeous or perfect we’d hate her on principle. She should be tough enough to face down the hero at his worst, yet gentle enough to cradle a sick infant. She should have opinions, but not be a jerk about forcing them on others.
Josephine Shaw is the heroine of my first Farm Fresh Romance novel, Raspberries and Vinegar. She’s a passionate environmentalist and new farmer, absolutely convinced that her way is the best way, and everyone else should simply agree. Do you know anyone with that personality?
Jo might not have been the best choice for a debut novel. One reviewer (my only 3-star) said, “We would not have been friends, despite our shared ideals.”
Ouch! Others “got” her a bit more:
“This book is about Jo. She is one frustrating young woman. She is the type that knows everything and is determined to make sure that you do it her way. So many times I wanted to just tell her to get real and listen to what people are telling her.”
“Jo is so passionate about treading lightly on the planet that she tends to do just the opposite with people, coming across as overbearing and pushy in her zeal to convince others to live as healthily and thoughtfully as she does.”
I could easily give you a dozen similar quotes from 4 and 5-star reviews. To me, that means that while readers found Jo frustrating at first, they understood why she was the way she was and found something in her to identify with, at least enough that they kept reading. Maybe in hopes she’d improve!
One reviewer said it this way:
“Valerie manages to take a fanatical character and teach Jo there’s more to life than her goals, while also giving her reason to consider whether brow-beating is the best approach to teach better caretaking.”
Here’s a short snippet from the second chapter. What do you think?
Jo straightened her back, pasted on a smile, and consulted her clipboard. Ellie, at the desk, had informed her the resident of Room 224 lived in the present, at least some days. She tapped the door lightly and nudged it open. “Hello, Mrs. Humbert?”
An old woman, white hair floating around her face like a halo, sat in her wheelchair by a small table. A man swiveled at the intrusion from his seat facing the window.
Jo caught her breath. Zach?
“Please come in, my dear.” The old lady peered at her through rheumy eyes. “Do I know you?”
Jo closed the space. She could block Zach from her thoughts. This was her job. She took the soft white hand in hers. “I’m Josephine Shaw, the facility’s new nutritionist, and I’m here to talk to you about food.”
Zach chuckled. “Be careful, Grandma. She’ll toss your stash of candies in the garbage.”
Thanks a lot, buster. Jo shot a glare at Zach. Just her luck he felt the need to interfere on his grandmother’s behalf.
Jo turned her back on him and tried for a light tone. “Unless you have any fair-trade organic dark chocolate in there. That stuff is hard for me to resist.”
Mrs. Humbert’s poufy hair shimmered as she shook her head. “Now that’s something I don’t have, but John can pick some up for us if you like.” She patted Jo’s hand. “Then I can bribe you to be nice to me.”
John? Jo shot a questioning look at Zach, but he just lifted a shoulder and shook his head. She squeezed the old lady’s hand. “I don’t need bribing.” Not with anyone who needed help, and the fact that this was Zach’s grandmother clinched the deal. “It’s my job to make sure you’re getting the best possible nutrition, though, so let’s keep those empty calorie snacks at a minimum, shall we?”
If it hadn’t been directed at her, Jo might have enjoyed the deep, full sound. But no. It was at her expense. She gritted her teeth and swiveled to face him. “May I ask what’s so funny?”
He waved a hand. “Really, does it matter? Why make big changes? Let these folks enjoy the remainder of their days and eat what they like. It’s not like a diet change is going to make that much of a difference.”
She narrowed her eyes. “It’s my job. I’ve been hired to improve the menu.”
Zach leaned back in the chair and ran his gaze down and up her. Not, sadly, in a romantic way. More like an intimidation attempt.
Sweet like Raspberries. Tart like Vinegar.
Josephine Shaw: complex, yet singleminded. A tiny woman with big ideas and, some would say, a mouth to match. But what does she really know about sustainable living as it relates to the real world? After all, she and her two friends are new to farming.
Zachary Nemesek is back only until his dad recovers enough to work his own land again. When Zach discovers three helpless females have taken up residence at the old farm next door, he expects trouble. But a mouse invasion proves Jo has everything under control. Is there anything she can’t handle? And surely there’s something sweet beneath all that tart.
Would you like the chance to encounter Jo and Zach for yourself? Tell me about a favorite romance heroine and why you like her—or one you disliked, and why! I’ll draw one name to win a digital copy of Raspberries and Vinegar: A Farm Fresh Romance, your choice of Kindle or ePub file.