The Grandmother of Guilty Pleasures


When it comes to Regency Romance, there is one name that stands out as the paragon of the genre, at whose altar all other Regency authors and readers should bend in grateful homage. That one name is the intelligent, the prolific, the unparalleled…

Georgette Heyer.

And I sincerely hope you weren’t expecting me to say Jane Austen, because she didn’t even write Regency romance. She wrote contemporary satire. (Chew on that one for a minute, if you please.)

Heyer single-handedly established the Regency subgenre of historical romance. Her heavy research of that fascinating era shows in her books, from her in-depth descriptions of lace and textiles to her era-inspired slang, to her casual mentions of assembly rooms, gaming clubs, and horse auctioneers. Jane Austen, in contrast, never so much as referenced the ton, let alone Almack’s, White’s, or Tattersall’s. She didn’t need to. She was writing to and about her peers, not recreating an era that none of her readers had ever witnessed.

Genre Background

The term “Regency” refers to a period in the early 1800s, when Mad King George III of England was as nutty as a fruitcake and his son, also George, ruled as the Prince Regent in his stead. George III died in 1820, at which point the Prince Regent George became George IV and the Regency era ended. (And all of this occurred in a greater “Georgian” period, so named thanks to the Georges I – IV ruling consecutively.)

International events of note: the United States had already won its war for independence and established a constitutional republic. There was bad blood between England and the U.S. during this period (War of 1812, anyone?), so you’re not likely to find Americans hanging around London. The French, meanwhile, had Napoleon at their helm. The Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815 with the Battle of Waterloo and the French dictator’s exile to Saint Helena, but its repercussions echoed into the years that followed.

The iconic fashion of this era, for women, was the empire waist so popularized by scores of Jane Austen film adaptations. Society behaved according to a very strict set of rules, and a decided caste system existed between the upper and lower classes.

And Georgette Heyer set the definitive benchmark for all of these elements in literature.

Drifting by Degrees

It seems like the further we get from Heyer’s writing, the further the Regency genre strays from its roots. Modern characters with their modern values creep into more recent works, spouting off anachronistic opinions that would likely boggle the early 19th-century minds they’re intended to represent.

And that’s to be expected, to some extent. Heyer’s main characters were fish out of water in the Regency era too. She wrote more than a century after that era’s close, recreating the bygone world as best she could, but in the end, her creations are still counterfeits; and counterfeits, by their very nature, get smudged by the age and environment in which they are designed.

Perhaps that’s why many more recent works lack that “Regency” feeling for me—they lack Georgette’s distinctive touch. Sometimes, when I open a newer Regency novel, I feel as though I’ve stepped into a dark room, with only a spotlight on characters and no sense of any space that might exist beyond the boundaries of their meager setting. They don’t live in an entire world, but rather within a bubble, a Regency-themed island floating around in a nebulous ether.

And sometimes, that “Regency” theme only exists because the book jacket claims that title in its summary blurb.

Languishing in Austen’s Shadow

I adore Jane Austen. Persuasion is my favorite, but of course I love all her works. She deserves every accolade that is poured upon her head.

For some reason that I cannot fathom, though, after 50+ novels and millions of books sold, Georgette Heyer still gets back-burner treatment in comparison. It seems like many Regency authors readily attribute their inspiration to Austen and only mention Heyer in passing, if at all, as though she’s the guilty pleasure that no one wants to admit they love.

And I’m not sure that she would care. She was happy to write and sell books.

As the pioneer of the genre, though, she deserve some credit. So hat’s off to you, Georgette. Your imagination sparked tens of thousands to follow.

Whether they acknowledge you or not.


PS—Heyer also deserves a couple dozen film adaptations. The rights have been sold, but the production companies that own them are, apparently, content to sit on them.

The jerks.

Whispering Sweet Nothings


Every cover sends a message, but the message intended and the message received can differ drastically. It’s the reason authors and publishers field-test their images before making a final decision. According to the Market itself, covers should have only one message: “Hey. Buy me.”

Seductive, no?

The prospective reader doesn’t receive the message in quite such succinct terms, of course. The well-crafted cover lays out its arguments more artfully:

“Don’t you love my color scheme? I see it caught your eye from across the room. My image, too, intrigues you. Go on. Pick me up. Run your fingers down my spine. Read my summary. Take me home with you and we can snuggle up together in a comfy chair for the whole evening and into the night.”

And suddenly you find yourself at the book store’s register with a hundred dollars worth of merchandise cooing at you from a plastic sack while the clerk runs your credit card and silently judges your choice of literature.

(I may or may not be speaking from personal experience.)

As powerful an impact as a book cover can have, though, the more often a particular style of cover appears, the more diluted its message becomes. The perfect color scheme gets drowned out amid thirty books sporting the same palette. Images recycled or cloned to market off the success of their forerunners might come off as desperate or canned instead. Even the artistic word-art covers so trendy right now are beginning to bleed together on the book shelves.

Some styles become so iconic of a genre that any variation is almost sacrilege. Bodice-rippers feature a beefy hero embracing his scantily-clad heroine. Regencies display a demure woman with or without her gentleman suitor. Mysteries and thrillers lean toward word art with simple motifs: silhouettes, or gunshot holes, or a story-specific object highlighted (in a pool of blood, often).

Even so, variation within the constraints of these themes is welcomed and desired. (Though perhaps not so much with bodice-rippers. I’m not sure that audience uses much of a discerning eye when it comes to covers. I’m positive the publishers don’t expect them to.) Even simple details such as typeface and title placement can mark the difference between tired-sad-overdone and crisp-vibrant-exciting.

Every variable must work in harmony to convey that all-important message.

“Hey. Buy me.”

Because, you see, that sale is the ultimate goal. The cover doesn’t care whether you actually read the book at all.

Hark! The Headless Hero!


As far as I’m concerned, the torso-only cover image serves two purposes. First, it absolves the designer from matching the model’s identifying features to any descriptors within the book. This can be a plus, as some readers (*coughyourstrulycoughcough*) don’t like their mental imagery of characters to get muddled up by a photograph or illustration. The torso-only approach, along with the cute-feet-in-cute-shoes variation, can set the tone of the book while leaving the reader free to imagine faces as they please.

This approach highlights extravagant clothing and accessories. It can invoke a sense of mystery and intrigue, depending on the pose, the lighting, the color palette, etc. “Who is this attractive person? If only you could see their face! Read within to learn more!”

Because, let’s be honest, these types of covers never have “unattractive” body-types on them.

Which brings us to the second purpose: the torso-only cover objectifies. It’s Person-as-Object in visual form.

Often, there’s no character representation on that cover. It’s not even really a model. It’s just a body, a physical object displayed for your ogling pleasure. There’s no human expression, no depth of soul conveyed in this type of imagery. It’s a piece of meat. You might as well put a horse flank in its place.

And, in this instance, the men get shorter shrift. A faceless female model acts as an avatar for the reader: “Step into this body and experience her life!” Rarely does the torso-only man on a cover fill that role. Instead, shirtless chests and six-pack abs advertise salacious details within. You can’t see the guy’s face? So what? He’s an object, the promise of a story that will titillate and arouse. He doesn’t need a face.

And you certainly don’t need to see it.

Because, to this cover, you’re an object too. The reader is an animal acting on primal instinct, forking out money for that promise of fleeting sensual fulfillment.

Kind of depressing when it’s put in those terms.

Picture, though, this style of cover used with non-idealistic body types: a fat man in a wife-beater; a granny in her nightgown; a war-torn amputee. Picture the cute-feet cover style with the calloused feet of a tribal nomad instead. Suddenly, the cover becomes compelling.

In their essence these body-parts covers create a visual synecdoche: the part represents the whole. The idealistic images, so overdone these days, might reduce their subject to a trite cliché, but that doesn’t mean the style has no merit whatsoever.

And really, I shouldn’t complain. After all, the headless beefcake on the cover gives his message loud and clear: “Kate, you don’t want to read what’s between these pages.”

Much better to be forewarned than broadsided mid-story. And for that, I thank you, Shirtless Torso.


Paging Mr. DeMille


It’s cute! It’s quirky! It’s extreme-closeup cover art!

Sometimes you only get the eyes. Sometimes only the nose, cheekbones, and lips. Sometimes a profile, or only one eye, or a comfy, cozy mug held up to obscure the lower half of the face.

In a quest for visual variety, cover artists keep this particular style around for those off-beat romantic comedies where the heroine is your average quirky it-girl. Expect awkward moments and hijinks aplenty during your reading adventures.

If the cover model is smiling, that is. A serious expression might be the cue for a different genre altogether.

This style of cover can be extremely effective outside the romance genre. For a thriller or mystery it creates intrigue; for sci-fi or fantasy, it can spark the imagination; for memoirs, it invokes honesty and frankness. The trick is not so much in the closeup as it is in the details revealed.

Fine-line wrinkles? Bloodshot eyes? Fangs? Scales? Yellow irises? Stark, blue veins?

It’s amazing the ambiance that such simple elements can produce in the mind of an inquisitive reader.

Add a second model in that extreme closeup, and you establish intimacy, tension, or a dozen other possible relationship cues.

And, typically, you make me really uncomfortable. I don’t like stumbling across other people getting that close to one another, even if it is only in a picture. Movies at least give you the buildup to that moment (one hopes), but cover art is like “BAM! Two people on the verge of making out! Guess how this book ends!”

Go on. Guess.

I get that readers go into books with a particular set of expectations firmly in place. I love a happy ending as much as anyone else. But when you’ve got a massive relationship spoiler indicated on the book’s cover, I kind of lose any incentive I might have had to read the book.

But, each to their own. Some people like spoilers. Some people read the last page of the book first to make sure it ends right. Some people like that giggly, intimate couple on the cover, two characters so absorbed in one another that they’ll never realize there’s a third voyeuristic party staring at them from beyond the fourth wall.


Sometimes I like to imagine the camera panning back to take in the surrounding scenery: a beach somewhere, maybe, with these two makey-outy people all wrapped up in one another while a mother shields her innocent child’s eyes and a creepy old man leers and a dog cocks its head to one side in utter confusion.

But I’m cynical like that.

The extreme closeup captures a glimpse of honest emotion, a candid moment, an intimate atmosphere. It invites the reader, “Come. Discover the secrets within my pages.”

Whether you accept that invitation is up to you.




(Guess that makes me the wary “stranger-danger” type, eh?)

When the Book-Cover Stars Align


Every genre has its aesthetic. Book covers act not only as visual cues for the characters and story within, but they can also preview the mood of the narrative. Women on book covers, in particular, set pretty specific expectations.

A woman smoldering in the arms of a submissive, attractive man lands the book in the realms of horror or erotica. If she’s wide-eyed, she’s the victim in a thriller. A powerful stance indicates dystopia or adventure, particularly if she’s also holding a weapon and surrounded by a lot of light flares. Classical literature leans toward classical paintings. Modern literature tends more toward word art rather than pictures. (The lack of a woman on a cover communicates expectations too, in other words.)

The patterns inherent to each genre serve as a strength or a stumbling block. Art is more than just buzzwords and trendy aesthetics, and if the cover design fails to reach beyond these points, it can fall miserably flat. One of the dangers of pre-fab covers is that, because they’re formatted without any source material in mind, they can lack the extra ambiance that makes a great cover special. Generic art does no one any favors.

But that’s not to say the ambiance can’t be tweaked into place.

One of my favorite features to look for on book covers is the color palette. (I bet you thought I was going to say “the hot, shirtless guy” instead, right? Haha.)

Just as the color of walls in a room affect our moods, so also do the colors on a book cover. A well-blended palette brings me joy. Mismatched tones create internal discord. Monochrome can be comforting, powerful, or just plain boring. Busy patterns can spark interest or translate to visual static on the brain.

Perfect color palettes are a thing of beauty.

Or maybe I’ve spent far too many hours of my life playing Blendoku.

(There’s really no “maybe” on that. It’s flippin’ addictive.)

When the book-cover stars align—perfect image, perfect font and word placement, perfect color palette—the result can be breathtaking.

Every author wants to wrap their masterpiece in pretty paper. Still, all the sparkly trimmings in the world won’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, as the saying goes. For all of my high talk of aesthetics, for all the market power a cover can bring, in the end it’s only window dressing. Covers may come and covers may go, but the words within endure.

And so, as far as books are concerned, image is not everything after all.

(But it sure is a lovely detail.)

This Book Has Got You Covered


If you’ve ever wondered what a stick figure looks like from behind, wonder no more.

I don’t really know what Average is complaining about. With cover trends nowadays, the female protagonist is lucky even to make an appearance. Romance covers in particular are trending toward the beefy-man-dominates-the-spread aesthetic, but the marginalization of women in visual media isn’t exclusive to that particular genre.

It’s almost laughable how often women are portrayed in wistful, submissive, vulnerable states on book covers. Usually, those who do have a “powerful” pose are back-facing, looking over their shoulder at the audience, or else pointedly focusing their intensity off to one side—so as not to confront the reader directly.

Because, you know, that would be bad.

Compare that to the dynamic, aggressive, authoritative stances that men usually take, and the meta-narrative gets pretty depressing. But sexism in the visual arts is nothing new.

And for the romance genre at least, it makes sense to minimize the woman on the cover. She’s not a real character. She’s an avatar for the reader to imprint upon, and the best way to establish that imprint is to ignore her facial features and identifying attributes. Is she blonde or brunette? We can’t tell, because she’s standing in the shadows. Any tattoos? Probably not, but the man can have as many as he wants. That’s hot.

(Do I need to add a sarcasm tag to that last sentence? You know my voice well enough by now, right?)

I suppose we’re meant to live through every protagonist of every book we read. For whatever reason, I’ve always kept a firm fourth wall between myself and any fictional characters. I might love them, but I don’t want to be them. I never claimed Mr. Darcy or Mr. Rochester or any of the dozens of other uncontested literary heartthrobs that so easily climb atop a reader’s idealistic pedestal. Darcy belonged to Elizabeth, Rochester belonged to Jane, and me inserting myself into those equations would have ruined everything.

(Now, whether I wanted to find someone akin to Darcy, Rochester, et al. is another story. But such men don’t exist beyond the pages of literature, because they’re the fantasies of what women want men to be rather than true records of humanity. And we can chalk up my disappointment on that count as yet another reason I’ll die alone.)

When the models on a book cover don’t match the character descriptions within the book, I get annoyed. When they’re too obscured to provide any reference for me at all, doubly so. But of course, I don’t even like people on book covers. I’d much rather get my visual cues from the written words within.

And I realize I’m probably in the minority.

Even so, the passive portrayal of women on book covers is something I lament. Show me a woman of intelligence, bravery, steadiness, intensity, and I will gravitate toward that book. I’m tired of reading about passive doormats who are led around from one calamity to the next as they’re acted upon by both the hero and the villain of the story. I certainly don’t want that aesthetic reflected on the cover.

When Presentation Is Everything


People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

I know this. So before I launch into an analysis of book cover trends, I here acknowledge that my own covers qualify for the High School Art Student’s Midterm Project Award, insofar as grading scales are concerned.

Which brings me to another old saying: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

In today’s world, this is rubbish. We all judge books by their covers. In fact, book covers affect sales to such an extent that online services like PickFu offer quick A/B feedback on this very endeavor. Heck, PlayJudgey has made it a game.

Gone are the days of monochrome-canvas-wrapped board with gold-embossed titles. Covers are a work of art unto themselves, and creators wisely use them to their advantage.

(Unless you’re me. I do what I want and reap the consequences.)

There is a growing trend in writing communities, however, that seems to place more emphasis on the cover than the content within. It’s not just the focus-group inquiries mentioned above. It’s a whole industry of pre-fab covers, where authors can claim the designs they love for books they haven’t even dreamed up yet.

Now, I’m all about finding inspiration in diverse places. The practice of acquiring book covers before a book is even minutely plotted, though, seems about as useful to me as seeing something shiny in a store window and then bringing it home with nowhere to put it.

Admittedly, where pretty things are concerned, “useful” often falls by the wayside. There’s a danger in snapping up that shiny bauble, though: design is a fickle pet. As with any form of art, it changes and transforms over time, its features tied to the era in which they came together. A great cover today might look outdated within a few years, depending on where design trends go.

Peruse any used book store for titles 8 – 15 years old and you’ll see what I mean. It almost makes a girl wish that cover art came with an expiration date as warning: “Best used before 26 Aug 2020” or the like.

In my case, the perception I have at the start of my novel draft is so vastly different when I’ve finished. After immersing myself in characters, plot twists, settings, and themes, I look back on my initial perception with that foreign-but-familiar sense of nostalgia: the me at the start knew nothing compared to the me at the end. Creation is an act of growth and change.

But that’s my overly analytical brain at work. The Market doesn’t care about an author’s growth process. It doesn’t even care whether the book is well-written. Slap a pretty cover on that sucker and stick it up for the world to admire. The prettier it is, the more copies you’ll sell.

And therein lies my struggle. My primary ambition is to write a good book.


The process is different for other authors, of course. Some have their aesthetics in place from the start and stay true to that vision. Kudos to them. Others find brilliance in the cover and transfer it to words on the page. Again, they have my admiration.

If we really take book covers as a work of art unto themselves, like any work of art, they deserve to stand as tribute and inspiration to creativity. Perhaps they even deserve merit independent of the work they aim to represent. Interesting thought, that.

The book world is full of gorgeous covers. What are some of your favorites?

That One Thing a Protagonist Should Never Do


So. The “Oops! I did exactly what you told me not to do!” plot device. It’s a fairly common catalyst to start a story moving: disobedience tumbles the first plot-domino in the row.

And I hate it. I’ve put down books and walked away from them forever because of this plot device.

I guess that’s pretty extreme on my part. I have wondered if those who use it were trying to invoke the Adam-and-Eve conundrum, where obedience meant stagnation but disobedience opened the path to knowledge and understanding. Maybe I see that story differently than others do, though. To me, Eve’s choice wasn’t a catalyst for the plot. It was the plot. God tells Adam, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2: 16-17)

Essentially, “You get to choose what you’re going to do. (You may eat of every tree.) Don’t choose this, because the consequence is harsh.”

That is not the plot device that I despise. Informed decision-making, even when the decision-maker doesn’t totally understand the full scope of their choices, is something I can respect. Instead of, “Oops! I did exactly what you told me not to do!” it’s, “Hey, I did that thing even though you said not to. When I reasoned it out, I decided that it was an appealing choice to make. And I was wrong, so I’m sorry.”

(Followed by the dire consequences, of course. The consequences are why most readers come to the story in the first place.)

When a mentor gives no information other than “Don’t do the thing” and fails to teach any real consequences of the wrong choice, I sort of feel like he’s failed in his job as a mentor.

Unless, of course, he’s done it on purpose, knowing that his pupil would disobey and start a catastrophic chain reaction.

In that case, he’s a boss manipulator. And possibly the bad guy. But mostly a boss manipulator.

And, again, I loves me some character manipulation. So maybe I shouldn’t abandon those books so quickly. Maybe they all had a plot twist where the mentor was really orchestrating events with his shoddy instructions and convenient absences.

(But oh, the disappointment when no clever orchestration is involved.)

The Three Sworn Duties of an Epic Mentor



Sometimes the Mentor-Pupil relationship comes across more as trolling than education. Don’t get me wrong: I loves me some character manipulation. There should always be a purpose behind it, though, or it falls into the territory of contrived plot device rather than logical necessity.

As a disclaimer, I love the three mentors I’m about to skewer. They are wonderful characters. However, I sort of feel like they’re a bit sadistically manipulative at the same time. (And maybe that’s why I love them. Who knows.)

Also, a warning: Spoilers ahead, but not of anything recent. Proceed at your own peril.

1. Withholding Important Information

Poster Child: Dallben of Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain.

This guy. Seriously. He’s raised Taran from infancy and has told him basically nothing. In fact, the fourth book in the series, Taran Wanderer, revolves around Taran’s search for himself. He wanders all over Prydain, seeking where he might have come from, what he’s supposed to do with himself, soul-searching, getting conned by people who take advantage of his ignorance, etc. He’s in love with a woman of noble birth, and he wants to discover whether he’s good enough for her. And he learns a ton of stuff and is a better person for it.

But freaking Dallben waits until the very last chapter of the fifth book to admit, “Yeah, I don’t know who your parents are. I found you hidden in a forest next to a battlefield where every other man, woman, and child was killed. You could be anyone’s kid.”

And yes, there’s some excuse about prophecies not turning out the proper way, but I never could see how this information would have derailed Taran’s choices or his life’s path. On the contrary, it could have given him greater confidence from the start, to know that his life was whatever he chose to make of it because he wasn’t beholden to titles or the lack thereof.

But then, half the angst of the series would vanish. Dallben’s strategic withholding of information serves its narrative purpose, but it also makes him look like kind of a jerk.

(But of course he doesn’t care, because he’s Dallben.)

2. Disappearing at Critical Moments

Poster Child: Albus Dumbledore of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

“Look, children! There’s deadly peril at Hogwarts, but I, the all-powerful wizard, am going to vanish so that you twelve-year-olds can deal with it on your own!”

I know there were always reasons for Dumbledore not to be around when the plot took its nosedive into calamity, but I also feel like eliminating a genocidal maniac from the presence of school children kind of takes precedence over any other demands on one’s time. I mean, if Zombie Hitler somehow attached himself to the back of one of my school teachers’ heads, I’d hope my principal would intervene instead of sitting back like, “Yeah, let’s see how this plays out. The kids’ll be fine, I’m sure.”

The point of the novels, though, is Harry’s growth, not Dumbledore’s prowess. Thus Harry must be an agent who acts rather than an object or appendage to the action. From a narrative standpoint, his Wizened Mentor must fade away into the shadows for this to occur.

(But part of me is still like, “Really, Dumbledore? You’re letting kids risk their lives? Really?”)

3. Dying at the Enemy’s Hand

Hmm. So many to choose from here. Gandalf the Gray? Albus Dumbledore (again)? Abbe Faria? But I’m actually going to turn to film instead and go with my ultimate example of this trope.

Poster Child: Obi-Wan Kenobi of George Lucas’s Star Wars.

I was probably five years old the first time I saw these movies. (The originals. We’ll not speak of the prequels.) I still remember watching that scene where Obi-Wan is fighting Darth Vader and Luke runs into view of the pair of them. And Obi-Wan, that manipulative old goat, simply smirks, puts up his light saber, and gets hewn down on the spot.

It’s almost as if he’s been thinking to himself the whole movie, “How can I get this whiny kid to commit to the Good Side?” and in that moment, he’s like, “Bingo!”

And it works up until Luke learns that Obi-Wan withheld some pretty crucial information from him. But that’s a throwback to Item #1.

At least Obi-Wan’s death has an emotional impact, though. I once read a book (that shall not be named) where the mentor died and the main character was blubbering over it, and I was sitting there going, “Why are you even sad? Can we please get on with this story already?”

That was not a good day.

Long story short, if the mentor has to die, make sure that everyone loves him like they love Gandalf, Dumbledore, Abbe Faria, Obi-Wan, etc.

(I’d include Dallben in that list, but he’s a combo-breaker, so cunning that he puts a secondary mentor in place to take that figurative bullet for him. RIP, Coll Son of Collfrewr.)

Pulling Punches


I love ambiguous characters. I love ulterior motives, and subtle between-the-lines manipulations, and information withheld for strategic purposes. I love characters who know more than they’re saying and who use that higher knowledge for personal advantage. And I especially love the confidence required to allow other characters to think the worst of them in their pursuit of their greater goals.

I do not, however, love when an author nullifies bad behavior with an end-of-the-story LOL, jk.

“LOL. Just kidding about all that bad stuff I said I did. I’m really good and kind and so pure I should be bottled as a drinking water.”


One of the best things about reading a novel is watching the characters learn and change and grow. This is particularly true when a flawed character achieves enlightenment and mends their ways for the better. Redemption is a powerful theme, possibly one of the most powerful themes that exists.

And the plot twist of, “Oh, I was never really that bad—I just let people think I was” can rob that redemptive angle of its power.

If poorly done, instead of a resolution it becomes an excuse. The author pulls a punch instead of hitting the reader full force, figuratively speaking. And most readers, whether they admit it or not, want the punch in the face.

If a character has a shady past, it’s okay for them to own their behavior, to acknowledge it. ” ‘Twas I, but ’tis not I,” says Oliver in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.  “I do not shame to tell you what I was, since my conversion so sweetly tastes, being the thing I am” (Act IV, Scene iii). Reformation of character is a thing of beauty, and admitting wrongdoing with a determination to be better requires internal strength and maturity. The rogue or reprobate who reforms is a delight.

The “rogue” with a manufactured shady past can be equally delightful, as long as the fabrication has occurred for a solid reason. A revelation of sainthood can backfire, however, particularly if the only reason for the roguish behavior was to create romantic conflict/tension throughout the story.

“Ooh! You’re so bad! I don’t want anything to do with you!”

“Baby, you want me! You know you do!”

“But you’re so bad! Why am I so attracted to you?”

“Because I’m hot and seductive. We should make out.”

“I cannot fight my attraction any longer! I must accept your criminal ways!”

“LOL, jk. I’m a teddy bear who donates all his extra money to orphans and runs a safe house for abused puppies. And I love commitment. Let’s get married right now.”


Boo, I say. Boo.

If the only reason a character is a rogue is for the romance of it, and especially if his roguishness gets whitewashed in the story’s resolution, shame on that author. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Choice and consequence must be as apparent in fiction as they are in real life.

Otherwise, really, what’s the point?

“Mindless escapism, Kate,” says the peanut gallery. “Duh.”

I disagree. So-called escapism that flouts natural patterns of behavior is no escapism at all. It’s an exercise in frustration at best, and an excellent reason for throwing a book across the room and never picking it back up again.