Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An Interview with Anne Gracie

Today it is my very great pleasure to welcome award-winning Regency author Anne Gracie to the blog! Anne's fabulous new book, Bride By Mistake, is out now. Described as "a love story with an unforgettable twist" by Romantic Times, from whom it garnered a four and a half star review, and as "an incredible stand-alone read" from Night Owl reviews where it was a Top Pick, it is indeed a terrific read. Now, over to Anne!

"Anne Gracie here, thanking you for allowing me in to blog with you.

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep... (Robert Frost)

One of the most important qualities I look for in a hero is honour. Of course it goes without saying I also want him to be devilishly attractive in his own unique, masculine way, but I look for honour in a man, even though I suspect it's regarded by some as a bit old-fashioned.

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?

Thank you so much for letting me visit.

Thank you for joining us today, Anne! Anne is offering a copy of Bride by Mistake to one commenter on the blog today!

Anne Gracie

Join me on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/1annegracie

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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...
~Robert Frost

A promise is a debt. ~Proverb

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

Promises are like babies: easy to make, hard to deliver. ~Author Unknown

Promises are the uniquely human way of ordering the future, making it predictable and reliable to the extent that this is humanly possible. ~Hannah Arendt

When a man takes an oath... he's holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then - he needn't hope to find himself again. ~Robert Bolt


Cassandra Samuels said...

I loved your post Anne. We are so lucky as readers to have such an array of heroes to choose from but most of them (the good ones) all have that trait you talked about - honour.

Thank you

Cassie P

Prue Batten said...

Wonderful post Ann.
I suppose I'm one of those who believes in the possibility of redemption for the anti-hero. That said, there has to be some tiny part of his soul which shows humanity and valour.

Thank you again.

Anne said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Cassandra. It is lovely to have an array of different fictional heroes to play with, but yes, I think, deep down the good ones do have that core of honour.

Anne said...

Thanks, Prue. You know, writing this post has made me want to write a hero who really needs to be redeemed. It's such an interesting question — can he really be redeemed or not? I think he'd have had to have honour at some point, and then lost it somehow.

Are there any good examples in fiction, do you think?
Maybe Dain in Lord of Scoundrels. Damerel In Venetia perhaps... though I think that Damerel never lost his honour, just buried it a little. Lost his reputation rather than his honour. It certainly popped up the moment Venetia appeared at his home.

Julie said...

I do have a huge soft spot for the anti-heroes, but you're right: there has to be something there that allows readers to connect and root for him. I love story-lines that feature a hero who believes himself irredeemable and a heroine who strives to prove him wrong, because of that core honor. No matter how buried.

Anne said...

Julie, a trope I really enjoy is where the hero believes himself irredeemable, and the heroine shows him he's not — directly or indirectly, consciously or simply by making him feel something.

The redemption plot is one of my favourites.

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Gosh, Anne, what a story! Your Luke is what I call a proper hero. Can't wait to read it.

Anne said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. He is a hero, but a bit of a tortured soul, nevertheless. Hope you enjoy it.

Eli Yanti said...

Hi Anne,

i think dont have too, it's just 'an additional value' for the hero being honourable sometimes i found a bastard hero can be so adorable ;)

Anne said...

Hi Eli

I must admit, I'm not a huge fan of the bastard hero, though a touch of arrogant swine can be sexy, I agree.

Nicola Cornick said...

Thank you very much for visiting us today, Anne, and for a fascinating post. For me, honour and integrity are essential qualities in a hero. The honour might be buried deep and the hero may think he does not possess it but it definitely has to be there. I love reading and writing redemption stories.

Julie B. said...

I've been a huge fan of Anne Gracie since Gallant Waif and Bride by Mistake looks wonderful.

I'm rather fond of the rakish hero myself and they are not always honourable, but even the most dastardly of rogues has to have something that makes him worthy of the heroine's love. There's nothing worse than reading a romance where you don't think the hero loves the heroine enough!

Laurel Hawkes said...

Arrogance is not a sign of a lack of honor. Though integrity and honor are not interchangeable, I do believe they go hand in hand. A man can be a jerk and still be honorable. A man, or woman for that matter, cannot be malicious and be honorable. A person who grows up in an environment that does not value honor may not be honorable at first, but there must be goodness within them, in which an understanding of honor is possible, however late in life they discover it. Loved the book!

Liz said...

If more people were honorable, the world might have less need for heroes. But, it is perhaps unreasonable to expect perfection. So, a protagonist must be redeemable.

Anne said...

Nicola, thanks for inviting me here to this most excellent blog. I think my favourite kind of redemption story is one that starts when the hero who doesn't think he's honorable any longer, that whatever his fall from grace, he doesn't think he deserves respect any more.

There's actually an element of this in Luke's story in Bride By Mistake, but only an element.

Anne said...

Thanks for those very kind words, Julie...

Yes, I like a rakish hero, too, but you've nailed it — he has to deserve the hero. One of the pleasures of reading popular fiction is silently cheering on the participants, so they get their happy ending, and when a hero is too mean or brutal or selfish or dishonorable, I can't cheer for him because I just don't believe those last 20 page conversions of brute to nice guy, and I don't think they'll last — the moment they're crossed again, back will come the bully-boy.. So I always want to find the heroine another hero.

Anne said...

Hi Laurel, I'm so glad you enjoyed the book.

I'm not talking about arrogance — I like a touch of arrogance in a man, especially if it's well founded in capability.

And I'm interested in your view that integrity and honour aren't interchangeable — I've always thought they were very close. I do think that different cultures (and by that I mean subcultures within the same society — eg class) have different codes of honour, and that can change as people grow and change. But that core of goodness is crucial to redemption, no matter how deeply it's buried at first.

Anne said...

Hi Liz, I don't think being honourable and being perfect are the same thing. To be honest, I think perfection would be fairly unbearable to live with.

But certainly if more people behaved honourably most of the time the world would be a much better place.
Thanks for joining in the conversation.

Melanie said...

Oh I so hope I'm not a day late and a penny short...or some such!

First, thank you Anne for giving us another great story (no, I don't have it, haven't read it YET, but I know it will be good); Now for your question:

Honour HAS to be a prerequisite for a hero.

Case in point: I am having a HELL of a time understanding a hero that was brought up a Nobelman (in both France & Englund!) yet ADMITS to 'lack of morals' and uses the war as an excuse to seduce a gentlewoman. I just could not 'warm' up to the character such as he.

I would be over the moon if I win this book :)


Anne said...

Not sure about your pennies, Melanie, but you're not too late. :)
Thank you for your kind words about my other books.

I completely agree with your assessment of your so-called hero who seduces a woman for the hell of it.

That doesn't mean some heroes who start off that way in a story can't be redeemed. People can go off the tracks for various reasons. But it sounds as though your fellow was never on the tracks in the first place. I tend to believe redemption is only possible if there's a core of goodness/honour/kindness there in the first place, albeit deeply buried at times.

Thanks for adding to the discussion.

Anonymous said...

Anne, I am 2/3 of the way through your new book and I completely love it. I was supposed to be rationed to one chapter a night but stayed up till 3am to get to where I am :-) I *love* your hero.
I really like anti heroes - though there has to be something that makes them honourable even if it is not immediately clear (imo). I just love a bad boy made good:-)
Thank you for the wonderful read - am going back to it tonight.
Carol Marinelli

Anne said...

Carol, I'm so pleased you're enjoying it. When it comes to anti-heroes making good, you're one writer who can bring that off successfully, I think. But yes, they do need that core of honour there to start with. Thanks for popping in.

Alison said...

Reforming a rake does sound like hard work - would you ever be able to trust him if you couldn't chacek his email, facebook, Blackberry...!

Anne said...

Alison I would never check a man's email, blackberry or mail of any kind. I think if you have to check, the relationship is already on the rocks.

As for reforming a rake — only one person can do that — the rake himself. It's like that old joke: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

One, but the lightbulb has to want to change. ;)