An Interview with Anne Gracie
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep... (Robert Frost)
I don't care how handsome, strong, passionate, driven or tortured he is, without honor he's a hollow man. And for me, a particular focus of that honour has to be directed toward women in general and the heroine in particular. I'm not a fan of the kind of romance where the hero hounds and mistreats the heroine for three quarters of the story and then discovers he loves her and magically changes his ways. I don't believe in that kind of happy-ever-after.
I've read and written romances in which a young boy will appear as a minor character and he'll do something and I'll think, "he'll make a hero when he grows up." I think the seeds of honour are planted young and while they might go astray for a while they'll return when the chips are down and a choice has to be made.
An honourable man is sexy. Think of The Mountain, guarding his Prudence's sleep in Heyer's The Masqueraders. And what about Eva Ibbotson's Guy Farne, in Magic Flutes, who is almost ready to sacrifice his own happiness because he gave his word, and his word is his bond. Almost. . . Yes, he wouldn't be a hero if he actually did sacrifice his own and the heroine's happiness, so he does escape, and in such a clever way that you almost cheer as you read. And still, he doesn't break his word. That's a hero to rely on.
You could tell Guy Farne was going to be a hero from the time he was a little boy, vigorously, if erroneously, defending his foster mother. I've read and written romances in which a young boy will appear as a minor character and he'll do something and I'll think, "he'll make a hero when he grows up." I think the seeds of honour are planted young and while they might go astray for a while they'll return when the chips are down and a choice has to be made.
In my latest book, Bride By Mistake, the hero, Luke, comes across a young girl being attacked in the mountains of Spain. It's wartime — Napoleon. My hero is just nineteen, a young Lieutenant, and of course, he rides to her rescue. Then he learns she's orphaned and alone —thirteen years old and fleeing a forced marriage. What's a young hero to do?
"I promise you I will look after you. No-one will take you, no-one will force you."
Her eyes narrowed. "You promise?"
"On my honor as an English officer and a gentleman." What the hell was he doing, promising such a thing?
She gave him a long, searching look, then gave a satisfied nod and mounted up behind him. As they moved off, she laid her cheek against his back and her skinny little arms wrapped trustfully around him.
Luke felt it with a sinking heart. What had he done? And how the hell was he going to keep his rash promise?
The answer came to him as they rode into a small village. The first building they saw was a small stone church. A priest stood by the doorway, as if expecting them.
It was Fate, thought Luke. Fate had looked after him so far in this war. He would trust it again. He pulled up by the church and handed Isabella down.
Yes, Reader, he married her, and eight years later, when my book starts, Luke must break the news to his mother that he's not actually available for her matchmaking, that he's already married. It's not an easy conversation.
"But Luke... Thirteen, a mere child! How could you?" She looked at him with faint horror.
"Don't be ridiculous, Mama," he said with asperity. "Of course I never touched her. What do you take me for?" And because he could still see the confusion and anxiety in his mother's eyes, he continued, "I married her to protect her, of course. And then I gave her into the care of her aunt, who is a nun."
So a promise made in haste eight years before binds Luke to a woman he scarcely knows, and sends him on an unexpected adventure. He doesn't want this marriage, but he's a man of honour and will do his duty. . .
But his bride, Isabella, has promises of her own to keep, and is just as determined as Luke. Far from the demure and obedient convent-raised girl he's expecting, Bella is resourceful, loyal, courageous and vulnerable and she leads Luke a right merry dance — which is exactly what he needs.
So, do you think honour is a prerequisite for a hero, or do you do you think a man can learn to become honourable and achieve hero status in the process. I must admit, it would be an interesting premise for a story. The trick is in making it believable, I suppose. What do you think?
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For every promise, there is price to pay. ~Jim Rohn
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep...
A promise made is a debt unpaid. ~Robert Service
We promise according to our hopes, and perform according to our fears. ~Francois duc de la Rochefoucauld