Jilly: A Snippet and a Question

How likeable do you like your main characters? Will you take strong, interesting and flawed, especially if they grow and change during the story, or do you prefer them sympathetic from the start?

And do you think readers set the bar higher for heroines than heroes?

In the recent Duke University romance forum, Ilona Andrews said that in her experience, romance readers are more forgiving of male characters than female ones. A male character can do appalling things but with the careful application of a little tragic backstory, he can still become a hero. A heroine, not so much.

That set me to wondering about one of my favorite contemporary characters, a super-rich bitch called Sasha Montgomery. She’s on ice for now, but not forgotten. She’s not a nice woman, but I love her a lot and I’d always planned to turn her into a heroine one day. Now I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.

Below is a snippet from the life of Unredeemed Sasha. She definitely has a challenging backstory. I’d be very curious to know whether you think she could be turned around.

Sasha Goes to Work

This day had been a long time coming, and Sasha Montgomery was more than ready for it. She sat in the back of the limousine, eyes fixed on the distant Docklands skyscraper that housed Montgomery Media and Leisure. Beside her Rick Young, her newly appointed Chief Counsel, sat ramrod-straight, checking and re-checking his paperwork. From his neatly barbered salt-and-pepper hair to his shining black dress shoes, he looked more like a retired soldier than a top city lawyer. It would be interesting to see if he could stomach a twenty-five year old woman as his commanding officer.

At precisely 8am they arrived at MML Tower. The chauffeur sprang to open her door, and Sasha stepped out into the morning sunshine. It was already late in the world of ordinary people, and a stream of bodies flowed in and out of the building. She ignored the revolving doors and stood with Rick at her shoulder outside the double height glass entrance. Far too late, the security guard leapt to attention and opened the door for her. His name badge was askew but at least it was easy to read. His would be the first name on what would undoubtedly be a long list of casualties.

In the lobby she found two receptionists. Jean and Jane. Both were moon-faced, middle-aged, badly dressed, and smiling as though they asked no more of life than to sit behind a desk for forty hours a week. She didn’t know which annoyed her the most.

“Good morning, Miss—” They waited politely for her to announce her name.

She folded her arms and waited for them to realize the gravity of their mistake. When Jean or Jane’s smile finally started to waver, Rick cleared his throat and started forward. She stopped him with a hand on his arm. “Remember what I said.”

“Of course, Sasha, but—”

Comprehension dawned. “Oh. Miss Montgomery, welcome to MML.” Jean/Jane smiled as though her mistake was somehow amusing. “Please sign in here and I’ll make you a temporary security pass. Guests must wear their pass visibly at all times while in the building.”

It was beginning, and she was glad.

She walked forward until she was directly in front of the woman, enjoying the metallic click of her heels on the marble floor. “I am not a guest. I do not wear a pass.” The receptionist gaped like a stranded fish. She spoke slowly and clearly, as if to an idiot. “This is my building. You are sitting at my desk. If you want to continue sitting at it, I suggest you take me to Mr. Greenaway. Now.”

The woman sat, frozen, but the other receptionist scrambled. “Yes, Miss Montgomery. At once. Please follow me.”

That was better.

Jean/Jane led the way to a small private elevator, pushed the button and squashed herself into a corner, putting as much space as possible between herself and Sasha. It was a pathetic victory, but it was a start.

The fiftieth floor was like something out of a museum: deep carpets, custom-woven to fit the corridors, dark wooden paneling, and gilt-framed bucolic landscapes that confirmed beyond any doubt that Sasha was at the heart of her late father’s empire. Wherever she looked, lusty shepherds chased nymphs in diaphanous gowns. The image was totally inappropriate for a twenty-first century media business, but worse, it epitomized Alex Montgomery. She’d personally burned similar paintings of much better quality when she’d moved in to the Kensington house.

“Thank you, my dear. We can introduce ourselves.” Rick smiled at the terrified receptionist, undoing much of the good work of the past few minutes. The woman fled. Rick opened the door and stood courteously aside.

She’d been expecting a meeting room full of people, but there was just one.

George Greenaway, her father’s chief crony and boot-licker, remained seated in an oversized leather chair behind a dark-paneled desk that made her want to send out for an axe.

“Hello, Rick. And Sasha: how lovely to see you. Happy birthday.”

“Thank you, Mr. Greenaway. This is a special day for me.”

She turned a slow circle, taking in the panoramic view and the sheer size of his lair. There was an antique-style telephone on his desk, an embossed leather blotter and fountain pen, but no sign of a computer.

“You’re a very lucky young lady.” He smoothed back his wavy white hair, gave her a patronizing smile over his rimless glasses, emerged from behind the desk, and slouched on a dark brown Chesterfield. “Now, come and sit down and tell me how I can help.”

His chalk-striped suit was cut to disguise his spreading middle, but nothing could conceal the beginnings of the second chin or the pudginess of the hand that patted the sofa cushion. She scanned the office again, decided on one of the straight-backed dining chairs and indicated it with a gesture. “Rick, would you…”

Ever the gentleman, Rick set the chair where she requested and seated her before taking an armchair for himself.

She’d chosen to mark the occasion by wearing a new body-hugging fuchsia wool suit with a very short skirt, and black alligator pumps with five-inch heels. Her father would have loathed the ensemble but George’s eyes were everywhere. She sat upright, feet together, legs neatly aligned, thankful for a lifetime of deportment training.

“Where is everyone else, Mr. Greenaway?” She’d faced bigger challenges than this cockroach. She knew no hint of her feelings showed on her face. “I was expecting to meet the whole Executive Committee, not just you.”

He tore his gaze away from her legs with reluctance. “I decided that wasn’t necessary, my dear.” He smirked. “I can tell you anything you want to know.”

“You’re the CEO, so I suppose that makes sense,” she said. “Would you please explain to me how MML measures up against its competitors?”

“Dear me, what a boring way for a pretty girl to spend her birthday, even if she did inherit a company.” He smiled at her again, a displeasing combination of uneven, off-white teeth and watery blue eyes. She stared unemotionally at him until he continued. “It’s rather complicated. We could talk for hours about how to define our competitors, and then—”

“We’re a private company and this isn’t precise, but let’s say the companies in our sector of the FTSE 100 or the Dow. When my father died we were second largest and closing in on the top spot.” It had been his obsession. “Nine years later, we barely scrape into the top ten.”

Greenaway sat up in surprise, started to say something, hesitated, started again. “That’s overly simplistic, my dear.” His jowls quivered. “We have a quite different mix of businesses and geographies.”

“Your competitors have moved into new markets and taken advantage of changing technologies,” she said. “Or, to be simplistic, the world has moved on and MML hasn’t.”

Greenaway turned on Rick. “Is this your doing, Young? Somebody’s been filling this girl’s head full of nonsense.”

Rick didn’t look happy but he stuck to his brief, made another note and said nothing.

“I did it myself, Mr. Greenaway.” She pressed home her advantage. “What’s your strategy for the developing markets? MML isn’t even present in India or China.”

MML’s CEO – her CEO – narrowed his eyes and stared at her with dislike. “Your father said he’d moved to the English-speaking world and he intended to stay here.”

“My father was a bastard, but he was a winner.” She was pleased to hear not a hint of emotion in her statement of plain fact. “I doubt he’d have paid you a king’s ransom to sit in his aerie and do nothing.”

She folded her hands in her lap and looked him square in the eye. “In any case, I certainly don’t intend to.”

He was out of the chair and on his feet in a split second. She rose in a more controlled fashion, wondering if she should have brought a bodyguard after all. On balance, she thought not. Most likely Rick would get in the way before Greenaway got around the table, and if he didn’t, well, Evan had taught her a trick or two.

“Is that a threat, Miss Montgomery?”

“A statement of fact, Mr. Greenaway.” She turned to Rick, keeping an eye on Greenaway’s hands, which were bunched into fists. “Rick, please make a note. I am disbanding the Executive Committee with immediate effect. I’ll be making a number of new hires.” Her type of people. Smart, presentable, ambitious, disciplined, and pragmatic.

Rick took out a handkerchief, mopped his brow, and noted her instructions.

Greenaway’s face was the same color as her suit. He was breathing heavily, and she wondered without interest whether MML had an in-house medical team.

He spat the words out. “You may be the majority shareholder, but I’m the CEO. You can’t do that, you stupid spoiled bitch.”

“Rick, please make another note. Mr. Greenaway is suspended with immediate effect pending investigation of financial irregularities in his expense claims.” Her tone was cold, clear and conclusive, exactly as she’d rehearsed. “He is not to set foot in the building or contact any other employee of MML until matters are resolved. I will personally assume his position as CEO pro tem.”

“Sasha—” Rick scribbled a hasty note, put his pad on the table and stood looking from her to the livid CEO. Greenaway took a step toward her and Rick moved to intercept him.

“How dare you, you fucking stupid spoiled bitch.”

“I can see why you got on so well with my father, Mr. Greenaway.” She allowed herself the indulgence of a small smile. “My team of forensic accountants will arrive later this morning.”

He swallowed hard, threw her a final look of pure hatred, and began the long walk to the door. “You’ll be hearing from my lawyer.” His voice was shaking so hard she barely understood him.

“I suspect they’ll start with your two-week fact-finding mission in Thailand last January.” She inspected her manicure. It was flawless. “I don’t think flying your mistress out to meet you in New York was a good idea either.”

He made a strangled sound that required no translation.

“Rick, would you please escort Mr. Greenaway out of the building?” she said. “Then kindly meet me back here. I have further instructions for you.”

The door closed behind them and she was alone. There was a life-sized portrait of her father hanging behind the desk and she crossed the room to stand in front of it as she used to stand in front of him as a child. She felt the goose-bumps break out over her skin, just as if he were present and still found her lacking in every respect.

“You’ll see,” she said to the empty room. “This is just the beginning.”

*****

What do you think?

Do you see any potential to redeem this woman, or is she too vile to love?

If you think she could be turned around, I’d love to know why and what it would take.

Thank you!

28 thoughts on “Jilly: A Snippet and a Question

  1. Sasha has wonderful potential. I loved the “she wondered without interest whether MML had an in-house medical team” line. For the most part, she comes across as someone who is strong and not willing to be pushed around by anyone else. I get the feeling that there is some good backstory there. The Jean/Jane part feels a little mean, but if it’s not just throw-away meanness, then it’s not problematic.

    I agree that the bar is set higher for heroines than it is for heroes. The bad-boy-hero-to-be-tamed is a pretty popular trope, but I don’t think there is anything comparable for heroines.

    • Thanks, Elizabeth, I’m glad you think Sasha has potential 🙂 . She has a powerful backstory, and major daddy issues. The Jean/Jane thing is more than spite. She is wholly unforgiving of herself and can’t tolerate less in other people. She can’t bear people who are overweight, or badly groomed, or lazy, or lacking in ambition, and worst of all, people who are *happy* with their less-than-perfect selves. People who are happy at all, I suppose. She’s chilly outside and very, very angry inside.

      I have a lot of material about her–even added a little more last year while I was in California for RWA–and I definitely want to use it some day.

      Ilona Andrew was very funny on the heroines v heroes thing. She has a character, Hugh, who’s been the right-hand man to the Big Bad for most of the Kate Daniels series. He’s done many terrible things. But when Ilona and Gordon dangled the idea of giving Hugh his own series, there was much enthusiasm on their blog. Then they posted a snippet about his childhood and how he came to dedicate his life to serving the Big Bad, and now there’s Big Love for his story. I have to say, I know it’s going to be dark, but I really want to read it.

  2. The Jean/Jane thing was a deal-breaker for me. People with a lot of resources and power who bully those with no power or resources are not people I want to spend time with.

    If she starts to do this, is tempted to pull back ,but is then spurred on by some inner barb that I, the reader, would also find irresistible, I might let it slide and read further. Otherwise, no dice.

    I had no problems with the way she treated the CEO, who has resources and power.

    Blake Snyder has a great book, Save the Cat, where he talks about how to get readers//viewers to accept flawed characters that might be helpful to you.

    • Thanks. At this point in her life Sasha wouldn’t consider pulling back. It wouldn’t cross her mind. She is consistent–equally harsh with everyone, regardless of power or resources. When I go back to writing those contemporaries, she has several books worth of humiliating comeuppance heading her way between the scene above and getting her own story. Even so, I suspect I might have to write it as a freebie or even just for my own satisfaction.

      Thanks for the reminder about Save the Cat! In fact it was Ilona’s comments in the Duke discussion about rehabbing her character Hugh, who has committed murders and other despicable acts a-plenty, that set my Sasha brain ticking.

      • I have a suspense novel sitting in my dead manuscript drawer that features a protagonist on the run from an abusive husband. He wants her back for continued abuse, but even more he wants the $4MM she stole when she ran. Aside from some serious plot holes (given that the $100 is the largest bill in American currency, how would she even transport $4MM,why didn’t she just leave the country, etc.?) a big problem I ran into with early readers was they found her determination to hang onto her ill-gotten gains unsympathetic.

        • Interesting! And without knowing more it does muddy the waters/give her a motive for running that’s not as clear-cut as getting out of an abusive marriage. Out of interest, why did she steal so much money and hang on to it (as opposed to burning it or giving it to needy people or something sympathetic)? Would it have spoiled your story if she didn’t keep the money for herself?

          PS off the top of my head, I think she’d have turned the $4mm into top quality diamonds. Still requires some logistical work, but highly portable, tried and tested methodology of refugees and money launderers, so I’m told 😉 .

  3. I have to agree with Jeanne. The Jean/Jane thing stopped me cold. I might be overly sensitive to characters who inherited everything they have ‘punching down’ on people who didn’t win the birth lottery; we each have our hot buttons. There will probably be some number of readers who will react the same way (especially given the current US political climate). But that’s true of everything we write, and only you can decide which parts of the character ring true to you and must be kept.

    • No, I agree with you both–in real life that’s a hot button of mine, too, which may partly be the reason I wrote her this way. My question is–if she starts this way but learns some very hard lessons over the course of several books (and years), does that make any difference? If her utter disregard for other people (especially those less privileged) costs her something really important to her that acts as a life-changing wake-up call? Or is she so far beyond the pale it doesn’t matter?

      One of my favorite SEP books is Ain’t She Sweet, which is about the reformation and redemption of the town’s spoiled princess. The difference is that we only see Sugar Beth (the heroine) behaving badly in retrospect. By the time she comes to town, she’s humbled and ready to make amends.

      • Again, just speaking for me, several books and years would be way too long for me to stick with her given this particular issue. If I trust the author (and it’s Jilly Wood, so I do!), , or if this is not the first scene and I’ve seen something else to make me truly empathetic toward her OR deeply fascinated by her, I’d probably give her a few chapters.

        • The several books/years are because she’s the primary antagonist (stronger, more powerful, etc) in Ian and Rose’s story, and she continues to play a role in subsequent books. Ian chooses love, and low-rent Rose, and a happy life, over wealth and commercial success. Sasha is genuinely unable to comprehend why he would make that choice, so she didn’t allow for the possibility, and she loses. That defeat is the beginning of the making of her life, but it takes time.

          If this doesn’t sound too perverse, in a way I’m pleased that you’re so appalled by the Jean/Jane issue because it means I’m getting her across exactly as I see her at that stage of her life. As Alea said below, hard row to hoe 😉

        • Forgot to say, this scene is from the time when she is Ian and Rose’s primary antagonist (when she’s at her most ruthless). I originally gave her a POV in Ian and Rose’s book, and this was part of that version. Then I cut it and saved it as backstory for her own book.

  4. Given the Jean/Jane discussion above, it may be key to show early on how she’s equally hard on herself. I agree that this is a hard row to hoe, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. Done well, it could do well over the long haul.

    • Thank you, Alea–I think you are right. She’s totally unforgiving of herself and applies that same harsh standard to others. Must take care to show that clearly right from the start, even when she’s the driven, take-no-prisoners antagonist.

      Learning to behave with compassion to other people is how she eventually allows happiness, and weakness, and human frailty, into her own life, but it’s not how she was conditioned–it’s a behavior she has to make a conscious effort to acquire, and it’s hard-earned.

      I think it would make me happy to help this bitter, damaged woman grow into a happy human being. That’s an excellent reason to give it a shot.

  5. i don’t think she’s awful in that she cares about the business and isn’t afraid to show it. I do think the way she handled the CEO was kind of 1980s romance novel in that it did not represent how business works. If you intend on firing someone you just do it, with a lawyer in the room, after talking extensively with HR, with things for them to sign, with a severance offer, with deadlines, with prep with IT (locking down password protected stuff, email, etc). You have a PR meeting as well. This is not a bitch about something vague (vs profit numbers) and then threaten blackmail situation. But then I actually have been a media company CEO and have fired plenty of top execs in my day ;-).

    What I found far more disturbing was her outfit and the way she viewed the receptionists outfits. That’s internalized misogyny. She’s sexually objectifying other women and dressing in a super trashy way because she thinks it’s professional and powerful. It’s distressing – especially for me because I have largely lived the job she aspires to. Unless you are going to tell me that her humanizing process turns her into a more professional dresser, I would not read this book.

    And that’s sad because high powered businesswomen are not portrayed often in fiction. I want to see more women of my type in books. Just not in four inch heels and tiny skirts pontificating in vague generalities about foreign markets.

    If you want to know about women running businesses, you’ve got my email. ;-).

    • Hi Rhode Red, and thank you so much for this comment. I’m going to post my reply in three parts–first my general thoughts, then one for the business and another about her clothes.

      Most of all, I’m sad that you found the snippet inauthentic, as opposed to simplified and exaggerated somewhat (because at the end of the day, this is a romance novel). My experience is not yours, but I am not a business outsider. I am an English chartered accountant (CPA) by profession, and my working life splits into broadly three sections, each of a decade or more: in one of the biggest blue-chip accounting firms, as European CFO for an international advertising agency, and as CEO for the business and personal interests of a high net worth entrepreneur.

      I think this is worth explaining in the context of my comments (to follow). I know it doesn’t change your response to the scene. When we were in class at McDaniel, I remember Jenny Crusie told us she got a letter from a reader about Crazy For You, saying that her portrayal of the teacher heroine was inaccurate. I guess the heroine was drawn from Jenny’s own experiences as a teacher, but as she told us, you don’t get to stand in the bookstore arguing with readers about what you wrote. The reader brings her own knowledge and experience to your story and they find it credible (or not) based solely on what the writer puts on the page.

      I used to work with someone who runs her own PR firm, and I remember her telling me that she went to watch The Devil Wears Prada with her family. While they roared with laughter, it made her feel ill because although it was exaggerated, it was too near the knuckle for her. She said it was more documentary than fiction. I’m not aspiring to that, but I’m sad to think my snippet came across as wholly implausible.

      I’m not working on these stories right now (busy with the horses-n-swords books) but I do intend to come back to them. If your closing comment was a serious offer to read and critique, I’d most definitely take you up on it 😉

    • Regarding the business–of course, you are right: the way you describe above is the correct and proper way to fire a senior executive in a properly run company. I spent a large chunk of my life hiring and firing senior execs in the UK and across Europe (though not in the US, where I believe it is much easier). We did not do it Sasha’s way 😉 .

      MML is not a public company. The shares are entirely in the hands of the family. It was built by Sasha’s father on dubious foundations (he and his money relocated from Eastern Europe in circumstances that are somewhat murky) and he ran the place as his personal fiefdom. Then he died an untimely and questionable death and Greenaway has been filling his boots (as we Brits would say) ever since. Nothing about this company is professional or exemplary.

      Sasha already has billions in the bank. She does not care a damn about MML or the corporate world. She does not aspire to a career and she does not want the CEO’s job for herself. She has one interest in the company–making it the biggest and the best at what it does, in a strictly measurable way–because it was her father’s obsession and he never achieved it. Her own obsession is to prove that she can do what her father could not. Once she accomplishes that, she’ll be free of her childhood and her father, and she’ll have no further use for MML.

      She hates her father and everything he stands for, including Greenaway. She’s not stupid. She is in a hurry. She would have done her research and would know exactly who she wanted to keep at MML (very likely, almost nobody) and she’d know who she wanted to hire, at every level (the best, and damn the expense). She is not a rule follower and would never talk to HR. Nobody tells her what to do, ever. She does have a lawyer (and he has his reasons for sticking with her) but his role is to figure out how to help her do what she’s going to do anyway and deal with the fallout.

      Her first day at MML is a kind of shock and awe assault. It’s very Sasha, and it works. She wants Greenaway out, immediately, without negotiation and without compensation. And at least in Europe, the way to achieve that is to catch him in misconduct. Stealing from the company is the quickest and easiest, and he’s been doing it blatantly for more than a decade. Her discussion with him is personal, not professional–for her it’s deeply personal, and he only has a veneer of professionalism.

      The comments about strategy, technology, markets etc are simplistic shorthand, but they are a true summary of the way Greenaway has been running the company. He doesn’t even have a computer or type his own emails (I swear there are people like that, even in this day and age). Basically he was one of Sasha’s father’s cronies and he’s wholly unsuited to be CEO–he just got lucky as a consequence of Alex Montgomery’s untimely death–and he’s spent a decade taking the money, going to lunch, entertaining his mistress and running the company into the ground.

      This snippet is background/backstory, though it is important. Sasha’s plans for MML turn her into the antagonist for a contemporary romance that also has a business setting, but a small-scale, low-tech one.

      Long story, but there it is, for anyone who may be interested 😉

      • I’m undoubtedly deep in tl;dr territory here already, but I should have pointed out in my reply above that Sasha does not actually fire Greenaway. She suspends him pending investigation of reported irregularities, which is an entirely proper course of action, though they both know exactly where it will lead. Her team of investigators will find many irregularities, which will be cause for dismissal (and may be criminal), so Greenaway will choose to retire immediately on personal grounds. And that will most definitely be handled by legal agreement and PR and whatnot.

    • Long reply, Part 3: Sasha’s outfits. That’s not Sasha’s idea of business dress, it’s how she dresses, all the time. She always wears heels. Her outfits are always form-fitting and often aggressively sexy but it’s both battle dress and camouflage. She is not a sexy being. She has no sex life, doesn’t think of herself or others in sexual terms, and is not comfortable with intimacy either physically or emotionally.

      Those receptionists hit most of her triggers–lack of discipline (sloppy bodies), lack of effort (ill-fitting clothes), lack of ambition, and happy in their mediocrity. The last is probably the worst, for her. As MML is now her company, whoever sits on that desk is the embodiment of her, and I can tell you for sure that those nice, happy receptionists are toast.

      I should point out that she also hates the doorman, because he isn’t alert and his name badge is askew. She’s repulsed by Greenaway’s pudgy body. She’s comfortable with Rick, because he’s in good physical shape and military-standard neat.

      Eventually Sasha’s dress does change, but not into something more professional. Something more human.

  6. I don’t like people who are mean to others, but you see behavior like that in real life all the time—sometimes directed against yourself—and you learn to live with it. So I think whether I stuck with the character would depend on the book and how she’s written—is mean all she is? I mean behaviors, not just back story. I could stick with her if I thought she was interesting enough. One character I couldn’t get enough of was Salendar in the Steig Larssen books. She wasn’t mean, but she was hard-edged and difficult.

    • You got it spot on–she’s more than mean. In fact she’s not deliberately mean at all. It’s more that she has extreme tunnel vision and doesn’t care how much collateral damage she inflicts as she pursues her goal. The challenge is to make her interesting enough to stick with.

  7. Without reading comments, here’s my thoughts:

    I love Sasha. I always have. She’s an angry young woman, and let’s face it, deservedly so. Greenway’s patronization is just the tip of the iceberg — and she’s seen the whole thing her whole life, I’m sure. What’s unusual about her is that she sees the BS for what it is. She knows what she wants, and she’s going to go for it. I’d love to see her rip through the whole corporate structure, BURN IT ALL DOWN, and rise like a triumphant phoenix from the ashes.

    But since I first saw Sasha on the page, we’ve moved into the Trump era. And I have a pretty bad feeling about burning it all down, now.

    Although, towards the end, Sasha does show that she’s done her homework. She’s not just firing the guy — she’s done her homework and knows exactly how to get him OUT of her company. If she’s also done the rest of her homework (and I think she has), she’ll know.

    Part of the joy of Sherlock Holmes is that although he’s a complete jerk, he is frighteningly efficient. He’s a joy to watch as he solves crimes and runs right over mere mortals. Note: he never gets the girl. IIRC, there’s only one time where he even wants the girl, and that was a disaster.

    If you try to water down Sasha and make her “likable”, I’m afraid you might destroy the character (and piss off your Girls in the Basement, as well!).

    If you are taking the Sherlock Holmes model, you need a Dr. Watson to provide some balance, and you might consider short stories so readers don’t overdose on Sasha unless they really want to. Sherlock Holmes had justice as his passion. What’s Sasha’s passion? Is it simple revenge? Or is it justice, too? Justice can come in many forms.

    OK, off to read the comments.

    • OK, Jean/Jane thing was mean, but that’s what Sasha is: mean, mean, mean down to the bone. She’s mean to everyone. I could see her sucking up to someone for approximately 30 seconds, but only in order to put a knife (probably figurative, possibly literal) in his/her back.

      I am bothered a little bit that she doesn’t see the value of the cogs in the machine; I think that’s what brought on thoughts of Trump (even though Trump is probably nice to his secretary). I can see her not caring at all which one is Jean or Jane, but she’d care that they were efficient and do their jobs well — and recognize a new force of nature when it cycloned into the lobby. She’d want tough cookies in all the positions, not babies. (Although, I think it would be part of her arc to realize that those “babies” are the ones who grease the cogs, and make things happen as much as the cold, emotionaless ones.)

      BTW, I was over on reddit the other day. I think the thread was something like, what are the warning flags when things are going to go south? Some described a restructuring at a major company. People were called into meeting rooms A, B, C or D. And when the meeting was done, nobody from meeting room B came back. I may be conflating things, but some group of people fired en masse were allowed 15 minutes and one copy machine paper carton to gather up their personal belongings before they were escorted off the premises.

      If this sort of thing is real, lotta people out there with family and friends who may harbor revenge fantasies. I loved seeing the evil CEO get kicked in the teeth. One of the best parts was that he didn’t see it coming, either. He thought he had Paris Hilton with a Lobotomy on his hands. He must not have been paying much attention, or our Miss Sasha was very canny indeed. It’s more delicious if it was the former.

      I really don’t know if you have a romance on your hands here, but I do know great story when I see it.

      • She sees the value of cogs in the machine, all right, but she wants smart, driven, disciplined cogs, from the guy on the door to the women on the desk. Not kind and smiley but brilliant and ambitious, who’ll work the desk for a wardrobe allowance, superb after-hours business education and a fast-track into a career. It doesn’t matter which one is Jean and which one is Jane. They’ll both be gone by the morning.

        At this snippet stage, Sasha isn’t romance material. She’s antagonist material. Bigger, badder, smarter, stronger. So of course, she loses. She gets some hard knocks and a lot of food for thought over the next few books, until something happens that changes her perspective on everything. That’s her book–for Reasons, she tries not to be that woman any more, and it doesn’t come naturally.

        And for your kind comment–thank you 😀

        • I think she definitely deserves a workplace like that (-:. Seeing how it plays out in real life, where everyone is in it for themselves, and willing to stab her in the back to get where they want to be might be a huge influence on her future change — or it could harden her stance on humanity. Either way, comedic value can be had.

          (-: I’ve always really liked her, though. She just takes over the book and grabs one’s attention.

    • I’m glad you love Sasha. So do I, though she is a monster. An angry monster. She wants to burn everything down. This is who she is. There is no way to water her down and make her likeable.

      She’s the antagonist (without POV) in Ian and Rose’s book and I’d say she gets about a quarter of the story real estate. Less in the books after that (a sprinkle here and there) until she gets her own story. And even then, she doesn’t simply turn likeable. She’s still goal driven. She tries to behave better because it’s the *only* way to get something she desperately wants. And then she makes some surprising discoveries.

      I hear what you say about the Trump era, so it’s probably just as well she’s not likely to see the light of day any time soon–though since she LOSES, every time, defeated by the forces of love and humanity and kindness, perhaps she should get an airing sooner?? 😉

      • IDK, really. It’s such a hard call. She’s going to have to learn that some of the nicer, softer, fuzzier people in the workplace have their uses, too, if she’s going to appeal to a libtard like me. At some point, she’s going to have to get over her anger, get her revenge, then turn that high-powered laser beam toward bettering the world. But I can wait for that.

        The thing is, too, that in the Trump era, there are a whole lot of very, very angry women out there. They might see a super-hero in Sasha.

        I’m trying to think of other “heroes” who are assholes. Sherlock is the only one I’m really familiar with. Possibly Dr. House, but I’ve never watched Dr. House. There might be some transwomen out there in fiction or reality TV who have the “tough-but-right” vibe going for them, too.

        • I must add that I sympathize much more than I’m actually comfortable with with the “burn it all down” attitude. After seeing my president make so many compromises and still not get what he wanted, I am sick of compromising. The very, very important thing is that if one intends to burn it all down, one has a solid plan for building up the new thing. That plan may have to be re-thought in the aftermath, but I can’t stand irresponsible people who want to burn it all down, and then think it’s going to somehow regenerate naturally.

          Or that God is going to come down and fix it all if we screw it up terribly. Historically, that has not proven to be the case. The best we got from Him was a promise not to flood the entire earth again . . . . Humans who think they can hasten or in any way help the End Times come are really deluded, and wreck things for the rest of us who would like to see a new and improved world. I think there’s a Bible quote somewhere that says none of us humans can predict when the end will come. So, I wish these doomsday people would stop trying to do it!!

          Anyway, I think anger literature is going to have a solid place in the world over the next few years. If it helps us understand the anger, and devise ways of coping with anger, I think it’ll be well worth it. Not sure if it will be a lasting sort of literature, though.

  8. Pingback: Elizabeth: March Regency Story Snippet – Eight Ladies Writing

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