By Sheila Claydon (Guest Blogger)
I’ve just returned from the past and what a journey it’s been. No, I wasn’t in outer space, nor did I travel through a time portal. All I was doing was re-reading the books I wrote more than a quarter of a century ago because a publisher wants to reprint them under a Retro Label.
Now before I go any further you have to understand that I’m talking about sweet romance…the ones that were mostly published in paperback and read avidly by women who wanted to escape from their mainly domestic lives for an hour or two. There were other books and other genres, so don’t think this was all that was available, but I wrote the sweet romantic fiction that was popular at the time. I loved it…it was my escape from my own mainly domestic life, and I sold to two different publishers. It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d sold to another dozen, though, because the rules were always the same:
- Macho hero meets heroine early in first chapter (usually page 5)
- Feisty (virginal) heroine is instantly attracted to hero but fights it
- Macho hero kisses heroine against her wishes, usually after an argument
- Feisty heroine fights him off and then spends time regretting it
- Macho hero becomes moody and troubled
- Feisty heroine tames macho hero
- They marry and live happily every after
Okay so that’s a bit of a caricature but it’s close enough. So has anything changed over the years? Well not that much and yet everything.
The protagonists still meet in the first chapter, and yes, they are still usually instantly attracted to one another.
This time around, however, the heroine doesn’t always fight it. Sex is allowed even without the surety of marriage at the end of the book, and even in a sweet romance.
The hero is a lot less macho though. Now he’s much more of a metrosexual: good with children and animals, kind, thoughtful, caring. He’s nice to old people too and he has some of the softer skills as well. For instance he might be able to produce tasty meals, take care of someone who is sick, deliver a baby (I’ve just finished reading that one!) or be a sensitive son of the soil. He’s good with his hands too, and that’s not a double entendre. If he doesn’t know how to build and repair things then he can forget all about being a hero and settle for a secondary character. And if he doesn’t know how and when to restrain his baser passions then he can forget about it altogether. He’s even learned how to tame the heroine (yes, she’s still feisty) without resorting to a forceful, uninvited kiss. Nowadays he shows more respect. He can still be moody and troubled of course, and lose his temper, and behave irrationally…but so can the heroine.
She’s a real person these days. Unlike her sisters from the 1980s, she is no longer half a person searching for a man to make her whole. Instead she is independent and self-sufficient, and she is often far too preoccupied with her own worries to think about men at all. When she does find him it’s because he just happens along and she is frequently the one who resists the growing love between them, often because she’s been let down in the past. (That hasn’t changed!) Today’s heroine expects more than just a hero. She wants her career as well, and she wants someone who will support her dreams. Marriage, finding her soul mate, loving someone…they all have their place in her life but they are not the end of the story.
And here’s another thing; when I re-read all my books from the 1980s I discovered something unexpected. I like my modern heroes much more than I did the macho men of old. Somehow the development of all those soft skills has made them far more desirable. Even though the heroines are not holding out for marriage and children any more, somehow they are ending up with men who are a much more interesting and attractive proposition. The hero of today is someone who I’d be happy to meet at the breakfast table every morning, and the fact that he might just be able to whip up a berry and buckwheat pancake for me is an added bonus.
I truly didn’t realize how much relationships had changed between the sexes until I re-read those books. I was expecting the hero and heroine to live in a time warp because it was before cell phones, before the Internet, even before home computers. In the UK in the early 1980s, typewriters were commonplace, people wrote letters, and meetings were arranged via landline telephones. The food was different too, much less cosmopolitan. An Italian trattoria was the height of sophistication. Now though, along with modern technology, equality has crept in. Twenty-five years ago the hero would have kissed the girl and worried about the consequences later. Now, he waits to be asked…well maybe that’s a bit of a stretch because this is romance after all, but he usually waits until he’s sure he won’t be rejected, that it really is what the heroine wants…and you know what…I like that.
And if this is before your time, well look at the covers of my book Golden Girl for some proof. In those days I used the pseudonym Anne Beverley. Due to be republished by Samhain in August, it is the story of an ingénue who is persuaded, against her better judgment, to model a range of cosmetics. In the 1980s cover she looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck, whereas in the modern version she is quite obviously a young woman with spirit who is enjoying the effect she is having on the men around her.
Then, for even more proof of how times have changed, look at the cover of one of my latest books, Pathway to Tomorrow (Books We Love). On this the heroine is not only very obviously sexually turned on but she is also fully prepared for some alfresco loving while, in the background, the horses that play such an important part in her life and her career, are never far from her thoughts. And what about the hero? Is he another modern man? I think so…he’s sexy that’s for sure, but is he metrosexy? What do you think?
Blurb for Pathway to Tomorrow:
When musician Marcus Lewis buys the derelict farmhouse next to Jodie Eriksson's riding school he doesn’t know whether to be amused or irritated by her angry reaction to his plans. Then her sister Izzie visits him and makes things a whole lot worse…or is it better…because now he has an excuse to see Jodie again. Although, when he sees her, it’s not exactly a meeting of minds, they do discover they have one thing in common; they both believe they know what’s best for Izzie, and for Marcus' son Luke.
It turns out they’re wrong. The children they thought they were protecting need to be set free. It’s Jodie and Marcus who have the problem; but can two broken hearts make one whole one? The battle lines that were set when they first met have long since been breached but the war won’t be over until Jodie learns how to trust again, and until Marcus allows himself to believe in his son.
Later, they pulled one another up a wooded slope, leaving the lake behind them as they searched for somewhere to sit and enjoy the spectacular scenery. Long before they found it though, Marcus tumbled Jodie into a grassy hollow that was hidden from view by the green fronds of new fern and the black skeletons of dried heather.
“I thought walking by the lake would be enough, but I was wrong,” he told her, supporting his weight with his hands as he leaned over her.
She smiled up at him, her eyes dark as sloes in the shadow of the ferns. He felt his breath hitch in his throat as he claimed her mouth. This wasn’t how he’d imagined their first time but he wasn’t strong enough to fight it, not when she was so eager and willing and the sun was so warm on his back. With a muttered oath he sat up and pulled his T-shirt over his head.
The touch of Jodie’s fingers as she stroked his shoulders was the final straw. He covered her hands, stilling them. “Only if you’re sure Jodie. It doesn’t have to be like this.”
“Yes it does,” her voice was soft as she pulled her hands free, sat up, and unbuttoned her polo shirt.
He helped her take it off and then he unhooked her bra, releasing breasts that put his imagination to shame.
He didn’t touch her though. Instead he removed the band at the end of her plait and gently unwound her hair until it tumbled down her back in blue-black waves.
“I’ve wanted to do that ever since I first saw you,” he whispered, tangling his fingers in the thick skeins and pulling her towards him. He took his time after that, savoring her lips and the soft curves of her body before lying down and lifting her above him so the thick curtain of her hair screened them both from view. Then he took her nipples into his mouth and kissed them from pink to a moist, beckoning red.
Lost to everything around them they didn’t hear the voices until a small black and white dog burst through the ferns and started barking. Ignoring the angry commands of its owner, it darted at them, trying to nip them with its sharp little teeth.
With a muffled exclamation Marcus struck out at it. A lucky blow sent it yelping back to its master, and moments later they heard laughter as a group of hikers speculated about what sort of animal it had disturbed in the undergrowth.
PATHWAY TO TOMORROW is Book One of my Pathway Trilogy. It is available via Amazon at http://amzn.to/18P0ywe and Smashwords at http://bit.ly/13cp2ky.
Book Two: PATHWAY TO SUCCESS will be out later this year.
You can find me at on my blog at http://sheilaclaydon.com Also on twitter, facebook and at Books We Love
About Sheila Claydon
In the 1980s Sheila Claydon wrote a number of romances under the pseudonym Anne Beverley. Then a busy career and family life got in the way and before she knew it, she had turned her back on the characters who were begging to be liberated from her imagination.
Now she is back to writing fiction again and, considerably older and no longer shy, writes under her own name.
Her motto is a quote by author Ray Bradbury: 'First, find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him.'
She starts with plots, chapter outlines, characterization; she knows all the rules and faithfully follows them each time she starts to write a new story. Then the hero takes over and she follows him instead.
Although family remains central to her life, she still finds the time to read, to write, and to travel. Many of the places she has visited feature in her books. Her fans say that reading them is like buying a ticket to romance.