I read two books this past weekend (it seemed much more appealing than cleaning the garage). One was a keeper and the other probably not; one had a historical setting and the other was contemporary; but both had something in common: a realistically vulnerable hero.
First off was Lori Foster’s Under Pressure, book 1 in her Body Armour series. It was one of the freebies from the recent writing conference and, since I’d read and enjoyed her books before, I figured it would be a relaxing way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Though I’m pretty sure I’m not the target reader for this particular series, there were a couple of elements that I thought worked really well. The first was the chemistry between the hero and heroine. It can be difficult to capture instant (or very quick) attraction between characters, but in brief brushstrokes the author did just that. The story features a resourceful heroine (Cat), a hunky bodyguard hero (Leese), and a nefarious Bad Guy threat.
As the story opens, Cat has been on the run for a period of time, she’s exhausted, the hero rescues her, and she falls asleep against him as they are driving off to (temporary) safety. Her vulnerability – falling asleep with her head in his lap, even though she isn’t sure if he is a good guy or another bad guy – catches the hero and sets him on his way down the path to a real connection. The story goes about its merry way but what keeps the hero from just being one dimensional is his own vulnerability. Though he might be a hunky, competent, protector now, he was apparently a jerk before who made some very bad choices. That vulnerability, along with the fact that he obviously learned from his mistakes and grew, nicely sets up confidence in a believable HEA.
Sunday’s reading took me back a few hundred years. Having read my way through Georgette Heyer’s mysteries not that long ago, I decided it was high time to give her Regencies a try. Based on reviews I’d seen, I figured The Grand Sophy was a good place to start (it was an excellent choice). Unlike Cat in the story above, Sophy, the heroine in this story is not on the run or in danger. She’s merely staying with her relatives while her father is out of the country. Being a clever, resourceful, managing heroine, she can’t help but straighten up some of the tangles she finds her cousins in while she’s there, whether they involve regrettable betrothals, gambling debts, or the family chain of command.
While Sophy’s vulnerabilities are minimal, one of the best things she does is uncover her cousin Charles’ (the hero) own vulnerabilities. At the beginning of the story he is rather tyrannical and has, under the weight of heavy responsibilities, become somewhat dull and humourless. He and Sophy clash like flint and tinder and he is alternately appalled by and drawn to her. As the story progresses, we see his own vulnerabilities exposed when those he loves are ill or in danger and it makes him more human and appealing,. One can’t help but root for him to get his own HEA by the end, despite what an unlikely hero he seemed in the beginning.
Sophy and Charles spend the entire story battling wits and, from time to time, working at cross-purposes, but there is little doubt that they are growing on each other. The exciting wrap-up of the story leaves one certain that they will have a long, happy, exasperating, humour-filled, life together.
The lines below wrap up the book may not be the most romantic, but they were just right for this couple.
‘Charles!’ uttered Sophy, shocked. ‘You cannot love me!’
Mr. Rivenhall pulled the door to behind them, and in a very rough fashion jerked her into his arms, and kissed her. ‘I don’t: I dislike you excessively!’ he said savagely.
Entranced by these lover-like words, Miss Stanton-Lacy returned his embrace with fervour, and meekly allowed herself to be led off to the stables.
As always, reading the work of others has given me a few ideas to attempt to implement in my own stories. Now that I know what my hero and heroine are doing, thanks to last week’s Ah-ha Moments verb exercise, I think it’s time to dig a little deeper into their vulnerabilities and see where that leads me.
So, while I’m working away, what stories have you read that had appealingly vulnerable characters? I can always use some more examples to learn from.