Yesterday, as I was polishing off Chapter Thirteen of The Passion of the Purple Plumeria, I had a Deep Thought.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t that deep, but midway through the book is usually the point where plots and patterns start to become clear to me and I begin to pick up on themes, trends, and motifs that I’ve been setting up without realizing exactly what I’ve been doing.
In this case, I was preparing to make Miss Gwen grovel. Don’t worry, she deserved it. She’d done something thoughtless and Miss Gwen-like, but, for once in her life, cared enough to know she had to make it right– albeit grudgingly. I was mentally rubbing my hands together over the groveling (and trying to decide if I could justify another coffee) when my big revelation hit me: the classic roles of romance novel hero and heroine are entirely inverted in Miss Gwen’s book.
Think about it: in most classic romances, it’s the hero who has to learn how to put aside his pride and beg the heroine’s forgiveness. I know people who rank their novels in terms of the quality of the hero grovel.
Another classic romance novel trope is the tormenting of the heroine. How many books have we read where our hapless heroine is thrown out into the cruel, cold world, subjected to all manner of indignities, pecked by pigeons…. (Okay, maybe not pigeons unless we’re talking about Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron, but you get the idea.) In The Passion of the Purple Plumeria, it’s the hero who spends the first ten chapters taking a pummeling. I’m not going to tell you exactly what happens to him, but let’s just say that this man is having a very, very bad month. He’s a charming, happy go lucky soul who is used to the universe arranging itself relatively benignly, so this all comes as rather a shock to him.
I’d noticed the Torturing of the Hero theme about a week ago and decided that it was because Miss Gwen, in her infinite prickliness, needs to see the man brought low, stripped bare (yes, figuratively and literally) before she can bring herself to trust anyone of the opposite sex. But the grovel made me realize that there was even more to it than that, that I was dealing with an inverted paradigm.
Oh, yes– and did I mention that it’s Miss Gwen, sword parasol in hand, who rescues the hero from a band of ruffians?
There’s no getting around it. My heroine is the hero of this novel.
I’m only about halfway through, so I’m not quite sure exactly how this inverted paradigm will play out– but I do know one thing. Miss Gwen is going to be a better, stronger hero– er, heroine– for learning how to say she’s sorry. My guess is that, as I get further into the emotional heart of the novel, my hero is going to play the heroine’s traditional role, breaking down Gwen’s prickly shell and teaching her that love can be a strength rather than a weakness. There’s a lot of talk in critical essays about the romance novel about the taming of the hero, the heroine softening and domesticating the alpha male. In this case, I’m willing to wager that it’s going to be the heroine who is softened and domesticated by the hero.
But we’ll just have to see how it turns out…. In the meantime, I need to go put Miss Gwen through her grovel.