Looking for a Villain?

Actually, I don’t think there is a villain in this story, certainly not Mr Rankin. He had to say something, poor chap. He went for short and funny. And Romantic Novelists Red in Tooth and Claw is number one in the Crime Writers’ Joke Book.
It surfaces again and again – in Harrogate last year, at a local conference this;  in print, in after dinner speeches;  year after year, after year.

Rankin said it himself, a few weeks ago, interviewed by The Independent on Sunday. ‘”Crime writers,” he explained, “are usually very well-balanced, approachable people, because we channel all our crap on to the page. In the crime-writing community we joke about romantic fiction writers and how they’re all evil, backstabbing bitches because they don’t have that outlet …” ‘

As I said yesterday, it would be a great story if it were true – rather like Georgette Heyer in Devil’s Cub, saying that ‘Mr Comyn, for all his prosaic bearing, cherished a love for the romantic which Lord Vidal,a very figure of romance, quite lacked.’

But I have just sat reading the RNA Archives, moved to tears sometimes by the affection, the respect, the support these romantic writers have shown for the last fifty years to the new writers (the ‘pre-published’), authors both struggling and  successful, and sometimes the damn near post published.

For instance, five years after she died, people were still writing of ‘our dear Mary Burchell’, the ebullient, romantic and supremely generous second President. (Heroic, too. With her heart in her mouth, she and her sister helped Jews escaping from Germany and Austria before the War. Read her autobiography, republished last year as Safe Passage by Ida Cook. )

So – I don’t want to demonise Mr Rankin, or any other writer, of crime or otherwise, and I apologise to anyone who thinks I do.  (Really sorry Paula and Eileen, if you think I was carried away.)  I don’t even want to stop them telling the joke, if they enoy it. I just thought that someone, sometime, should say, actually it’s not true.

If not now, when?

If not me, who?

The Alpha, The Frivol and the Kindly Young Man

Oh, I love Freddy in Cotillion. He’s so kind. I don’t think many of Georgette Heyer’s heroes are.  He’s not just kind to Kitty,either;  he’s pretty good to his sisters and I love his relationship with his parents.

But I’m not sure I’d call Freddy a Frivol, exactly. He’s not mischievous. Though I agree with Liz, Jan, Evonne and Jane, there are a lot of other similarities. And he’s certainly a charmer, not least because he doesn’t know it himself.

There are hints of  Heyer’s other daffy young men in Freddy, of course. Think of Viscount Dashwood in The Convenient Marriage or the whole crew out of Friday’s Child.  (Sherry and his friends always reminded me of William Brown’s Outlaws, actually.  But then I was quite young when I read Frdiay’s Child). But I’m sure Jane is right, Freddy is unique as a romantic lead. 

Cotillion must have been a real challenge to write. It has got an Alpha hero in Jack.  Only, for once, we see the Alpha as he really is: wilful, impatient, arrogant, as well as sex on a stick. And he gets his come uppance. Ultimately he doesn’t deserve Kitty – and she sees it before he does!   

covers for blog 001

Cotillion may not be High Romance but it is amazingly touching – especially when you realise that Freddy has known all along what Kitty was up to and has fallen in love with her anyway. And then, when he asks her to marry him but doesn’t expect her to say yes because he isn’t romantic, there is a whiff of real pain. 

Actually, I think Georgette Heyer undersold herself when she said all her heroes were either Mark I or Mark II. My favourites are all pretty unique.  I adore Sylvester, who is very high in the instep, occasionally arrogant, but kind, too, if he chooses to be. Much more complicated than an unadulterated Alpha.  Of course, wicked, wonderful Damerel is pretty Alpha but I forgive him.  And then there’s glorious Hugo in The Unknown Ajax who winds up his estranged family by talking like his groom and pretending he went to a scrubby Dame School instead of Harrow.

Now I come to think of it, Hugo just might be a Frivol after all.  I thought Georgette Heyer didn’t get the full enchantment of the Frivol, but I may have done her unjust.  I can just see Hugo getting the giggles.

Liz, Jan, Evonne, Jane, you are geniuses.

The Frivol as Romantic Hero

Loving them as I do, I would love to write a romantic hero frivol. (See previous post.)  But can it be done? Even the Incomparable Georgette Heyer did not quite bring it off.

Lord Rupert Alastair – ‘Solitude’s the thing. Solitude and a fat ham’ – is undoubtedly a wondrous Frivol. But he is also a resolute bachelor.

Lovely Sherry in Friday’s Child has a touch of the Frivol but marriage sobers him – along with making him a warmer and more wonderful human being, of course, and capable of slugging slimy Sir Montagu.

I love that book – but I’m not sure romance quite takes with Frivols.

covers for blog