Teaser Tuesday: Breaking the Rules

On internet message boards and at writers’ conferences, one hears all sorts of bizarre do’s and don’ts about novel writing.

I’m very glad I didn’t know about any of these before writing the first Pink book, since that book, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, broke several of those so-called rules. It was set in France, not England; the hero was blond (apparently that was a faux pas?); and the hero and heroine didn’t even meet until four or five chapters into the book.

These days, I know about these “rules”, but I still find them more interesting to break than to observe– for example, Turnip. The rule was that only alpha heroes sell. Turnip isn’t an alpha. He’s not even a beta. As my little sister is fond of saying, Turnip is a gamma hero. But people seem to like him just the same, despite his lack of all the obvious alpha attributes.

Which brings us to now. The Passion of the Purple Plumeria (70,000 words down, fifty thousand left to go!) is definitely another rule breaking book. Two points leap most obviously to mind. 1) My hero and heroine are older than the normal run of Regency misses and rakes. My heroine is 45. My hero is 54. This doesn’t seem to be slowing either of them down. (I was trying to think of other heroes and heroines who are out of their twenties, particularly in historical novels, but other than one Jo Beverly short story, I’m drawing a blank. Susan Elizabeth Phillips does a lovely job with middle-aged couples, but they’re always an auxiliary romance, not the main focus, and those are contemporaries.)

2) My hero is a redhead. Sounds silly even to bring that up, doesn’t it? But, apparently, that Is Not Done. Red is not among the approved hair colors for heroes. (I’m very glad no one has told Jamie from Outlander about that. It would be a shame to see him have to run out for some hair coloring for men.)

Fortunately, no one seems to have told either Miss Gwen or Colonel Reid that they’re supposed to be anything but what they are. If they did, Miss Gwen would probably go after them with her parasol.

Which are your favorite novels that break the rules?


  1. Carolyn Witt on August 14, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Amelia Peobody was in her 30’s when she met Emerson….whose age I never remember learning! She was definitely “on the shelf”, however a woman of gumption!

  2. Lauren on August 14, 2012 at 10:38 am

    I’d forgotten that! Later she goes back and has Amelia say she was in her late twenties when she was married (because the series went on so long, and she needed to make Amelia a little younger), and it was the revision that stuck in my head, not the original….

  3. Nikki on August 14, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Rules are meant to be broken…and it is to our benefit as a reader that they are. Who wants the same hero / heroine every single time? And considering Jamie would NOT be Jamie from Outlander with any other hair color…enough said…so keep writing your lovely characters as you (or they) see fit 🙂

  4. Carly on August 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Hooray for gamma heroes! If Turnip is a gamma, does that mean Miles is a beta? They are my two favorites.

  5. Jessica S. on August 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Team Redhead all the way!

  6. Phyllis on August 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    I can’t think of an older couple in historical fiction (though a lot of Stephanie Lauren’s heroines are 30-ish and the men older. And Mary Balogh’s latest, they’re both in their 30’s)

    Jennifer Crusie’s Fast Women are in their 40’s.

  7. Am7 on August 14, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    SEP’s heroines are often 30 something as opposed to 20 something. Nobody’s Baby But Mine, Breathing Room,etc.
    Irene Hanno,n whom I like a lot, has used thirty-something heroines in every book I have read by her and heroes the same age.
    I prefer thirty something heroines/heroes myself for some reason. But I look forward to PPP.
    Agatha Christie has a light-hearted series of detective books featuring a couple where the hero has red hair. The couple is Tommy and Tuppence and the first one is The Secret Adversary.

  8. Leslie on August 14, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Leigh Michaels’ main heroine in Just One Season in London is in her 40’s.
    Elizabeth Boyle’s Memoirs of a Scandalous Red Dress main characters are in their mid to late 40’s.
    In her earlier books Amanda Quick often had older secondary characters that began a romance along with the primary H/H.
    Mary Balogh’s Claudia in Simply Perfect is in her late 30’s.
    Christina Dodd also had an older heroine in her Rules series, the older couple’s romance starts in the first book and continues on through the last one.

    Rule breakers are my favorite kind of authors.

  9. Ashley on August 14, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    While I agree that breaking the rules leads to many enjoyable hours of reading, do you think it is easier to break the rules when one already knows the characters? By the time Turnip becomes the hero, we already know and love him. And as for Miss Gwen, we have had plenty of time to fear her and go along with whatever she wants!

  10. Pat on August 14, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Russ has hit 50 and Clare is in her 30’s in Julia Spencer Fleming’s series. And Longmire is in his 50’s in the books; don’t know yet about a love interest. I think he is slowly working up to dating.

  11. jeffrey on August 15, 2012 at 5:58 am

    From Edmund Persuader by Stuart Shotwell: The best friend of the heroine and a major player in the story and is named Evelyn Brownton. She is very beautiful but manifests a classic autism spectrum disorder which is, at various moments, amusing, sad, but ultimately draws the reader to love her uniqueness totally. The hero, Edmund Persuader, also has a torried but forbidden inter-racial love affair with an Antiguan mulatto slave. Maybe if I keep plugging this grand romantic epic, it will pique interest in others to read it too!

  12. jeffrey on August 15, 2012 at 6:07 am

    Oh, sorry! Just thought of another one:
    Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. Off-beat romance between a 65 year old retired English military officer and a 50’s-something Pakistani shopkeeper. Breaks two rules? Age and Religious barriers. This wonderful heart warming story still succeeds on ALL levels and I highly recommend it.

  13. CĂ©line on August 15, 2012 at 8:17 am

    I guess we could add to all those heros and heroins Jane Austen’s own Anne Eliott… Although she was only 28, it was kind of already old for the period and she had been considered off the shelf for quite some time… Giving her a second chance in love was, I guess, unusual for the time. Jane Austen could be considered as a rule breaker, couldn’t she?

  14. Lee on August 15, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Sherry Thomas also tends to have older characters in at least their late 20’s if not early thirties. She also likes to use the “We were/are technically married 10 years ago” trope too. The three of hers I have read are all set in Regency/Victorian periods.

  15. Larissa on August 18, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Speaking of Outlander, Jamie and Claire are both in their 50s now, yes? Double rule-breaking! And Jamie was the virgin when they met – triple rule-breaking!

  16. Lucy D-G on August 18, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    The Night-Blooming Cereus, by Joan Hadley (AKA Joan Hess) has balding, mild-mannered retired florist Theo Bloom and kibbutznik Miriam Adler, a widow with a grown son. Both have to be well past forty,and I’m pretty sure that a hero has to have all his hair. A fantastic novel, well worth seeking on the used market.

    In a short story, no less than Georgette Heyer has a woman of forty discover that the eligible gentleman of her generation has been calling at the house for her, not her daughter. I’ve always believed that such would have been a valid alternate ending for Sense and Sensibility, with Mrs. Dashwood marrying Col. Brandon. When men old enough to be my stepfather tried to date me, I always informed them that my mother was available.

  17. Emily on August 27, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    I loved Elizabeth Peter’s heroes. The heroines weren’t perfect either, but I liked the most that the heroes greatest attributes would be a sense of humor. Or they’d have big noses or be clumsy or have awful tempers. It was nice that they seemed like real people.

  18. […] me about Lauren’s post on her website about breaking the rules as an author. That post is here if you want to take a look. I am so grateful that Lauren broke the “rules” when she made Miss […]

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