Teaser Tuesday: Inversion of the Tropes

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.


  1. jeffrey on August 7, 2012 at 8:14 am

    You may be at odds with my opinion on this because it may be more predictable than you wish…BUT…I kinda thought Miss Gwen would require her prickly defenses to be penetrated by a charming and loveable rogue! Your fans may see this coming but I know you will put your own unique and creative stamp on the issue! Full speed ahead on Miss Gwen’s come-uppance!

  2. Julie H on August 7, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron, lol. Gotta love JQ’s fiction within fiction.

    I have to say that ever since I heard you were going to do a novel about Miss Gwen, I’ve had a hard time picturing Miss Gwen as a heroine. It fits that she’s decided to be something altogether different after all.

    I’m most looking forward to reading about Miss Gwen’s backstory and seeing what makes her who she is. I have a feeling that under all that bluster she has some deep-seated insecurities and sensitivities.

  3. Leslie on August 7, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Great post!

  4. Maggie on August 7, 2012 at 11:08 am

    I agree with Jeffery; Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew was the first thing that leapt to mind as I read your description.

    Miss Gwen could never be some simpering violet. So if love is going to come her way; she’s going to have to be the one in control. Otherwise Cupid might find himself impaled on his own arrows!

  5. Katelyn on August 7, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I tend to agree with you, but have you ever noticed the different approaches books and movies take toward this subject? I find that in books, while the hero does end up groveling, the reader is still left to feel that he was in the right and that heroine had committed the greater blunder. Movies,on the other hand, tend to depict a more righteous heroine who may have made mistakes but fully deserves every ounce of boot kissing from the hero.

    Take for example the Scarlet Pimpernel, in the movie (with Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour) Percy shuns Marguerite based solely on the testimony of de Batz and then proceeds to treat her far worse than he ever did in the book. Compare that with what we learn about their estrangement in the book, where it turns out that Percy asked her about about the St Cyrs and Marguerite flat out refused to even make up an excuse rather than admit she’d made dumb, tragic mistake. Percy’s suspicions and distrust all seem far more justified in the book and he never treats her badly as in the movie, making him the more injured party.

    The allocation of wrongs seems to be a pretty consistent difference between romantic comedies and romance novels. In books the hero is far more “perfect” than the heroine and much more likely to gain and keep readers’ sympathies. Movies tend to make the heroine more identifiable and sympathetic to the audience by making her the more justified party in the misunderstanding. My one good exception to this rule: The Far Pavilions, probably because its about impossible to get across the difference between how Ash feels and what he often says with film, and Juli was already pretty darn righteous in the book.

    Or am I just crazy?

  6. AngelB on August 7, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    I’m not sure I like Miss Gwen’s prickly shell being too broken. Maybe a small crack for love? She’s not Miss Gwen if she doesn’t have some prickle and waving a parasol.

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