I am rescheduling my normal Monday book review to answer Mariah Avix‘s question: “What would have made you like these characters?”
That is fuel for thought and helps me better understand what I like to see in a character.
Stephanie Plum Series – I would’ve liked to see her become tougher, more bad*ss as the series progressed. I was on book four, and there had been absolutely no character growth. Part of the joy of a series is seeing the character grow into the challenges life has sent to them. Have her enroll in a fitness program. In a formal gun care and target practice program. Have her learn how to hide her family and friends from the bad guys. Let her become an amazing bounty hunter.
This changes who she is, and maybe she’s not entirely okay with it. But it’s part of her story. You have a series. Give her a character arc worthy of one.
Journey’s End – This is actually a really tough one as it basically forces a rewrite of the entire story. If it were me, I’d begin the story when she was already in the US rather than on the boat through Ellis Island.
I’d show her as a cold, ruthless woman that has done whatever it took to get to the top. All so she can tear down her grandfather. We’d see this through her actions. See her as a shadowy figure with a name that could be male or female so everyone would take her seriously. No one knows who she really is, but she is feared and respected. We see the wits and cunning she developed on the streets on London in her business dealings and take-no-prisoner behavior.
She has built this, done this, all so she can destroy the man that ruined her mother and left her to rot on the streets. He enjoyed wealth beyond imagine while she picked pockets to eat.
Let her be self-conscious of her low-brow accent and manners that she slips into even after years of trying to drill them out of herself.
Let us see that she fought for every scrap of knowledge she has. Yes, she can read, write, and is a numbers genius. But she fought for it. Every bit of it.
Give her a jaded eye on American upper crust society. People being foolish because a woman wore the same dress twice. Let her mock them ruthlessly. Let her be as cold and callous as someone from the streets would be over these “worries”.
As she is building up to finally being able to destroy her grandfather, to stepping from the shadows and revealing who she is as she takes him down, let her then and only then consider the price of revenge.
Is this who she wants to be? Is revenge worth the price to her, to the people who’ve come to depend on her? Will it cost her the man she loves? (Romance novel, remember?)
And if she does decide to put revenge on hold, make it cost her. She doesn’t get a happily-ever-after ending right away. She has to earn it.
After living her life for revenge, the sole driving force that got her through some of the darkest days of her life, she has to find a purpose and goal worthy to keep her going. Love will be part of it (this is a romance novel), but it has to be more. Perhaps jobs for those that were once in her straights. Perhaps education for the poor. Perhaps a crusader for workplace safety. Whatever.
You’re not going to convince me a woman like this will ever be happily simply as a top 1% wife.
Earl Next Door – I liked the heroine quite a bit, until she lost all of her personality and became the proverbial doormat in front of her mother.
I’d have liked to seen the heroine stand up to her mother, send the woman packing, whatever. But then the mother would’ve needed to be a more robust villain to continue to have a part after this. She’d have either needed something actual to use against the heroine, or she’d have needed to be far more scheming.
Perhaps the mother needed to arrange an “accident” for her daughter. Yes, murder is quite the villainy, but this author already had mustache twirling villains, so add it to the pile.
Mad about the Marquess – I liked the heroine until she started robbing coaches. Yup, she goes from petty theft to full-on armed robbery.
I think this was the author being in love with the idea of her heroine robbing stage coaches. Rather than earning this with an appropriate villain, back story and the rest, (think Robin Hood – you hate the Sheriff of Nottingham, and you’re fine with Robin Hood stealing given what the poor have been through), she just sort of tosses it in there.
Ruining both the heroine with the action, and the hero with how he responds to it.
She already had a perfectly good plot going on. She didn’t need to escalate to the nuclear option.
I’d have rather seen the conclusion of what happened after the hero figured out the heroine was the one stealing the bits and bobs at parties. Liked to have seen the author resolve that, have the hero force himself to learn why etc. Maybe respect her for it, and love her all the more for her compassion and ingenuity.
I mean, he had no actual proof he could bring before a magistrate (not that this appeared to matter later int he story w hen he knows she’s robbing coaches and still not doing anything about it). But he could’ve convinced himself he was looking for this proof as he learns more about her.
Study of Seduction – I have no idea how to reconcile a rape victim to her world and how to help her find happiness. So, I would’ve never had the heroine raped. There could just as easily be another reason that the gentleman who raped her had something bad happen to him.
Perhaps he attempted to take liberties, and that’s when her brother called him out. But then her brother wouldn’t have been banished, and that gets rid of the reason to have the hero with her. Of course, her brother could be otherwise indisposed all these years later, and the earl steps in for his friend. Wouldn’t take too much creativity to come up with something.
Or, perhaps something she inadvertently says or does gets him killed. whatever. Be creative, but make it something other than rape.
Than you can show me this effervescent, witty young woman who feels some guilt over the man’s death. That may have dimmed her a little, but it doesn’t become this huge and massive thing that ruins the rest of the story.
Deliver Me from Darkness – I hated this heroine and hoped the author would find some interesting way to kill her by the end.
The heroine desperately needed to channel some Buffy. She needed to be as awesome as the author tells me she is. Maybe not at the beginning, but by the end? I want to see her staking vampires and holy-smiting demons. I want to see the rest of the Paladins staring at her in awe as she brings down the holy wrath of the One God.
This means no stupidity.
This means not tearing apart a guy’s apartment in a childish fit of rage and impotence. It means surveying your surroundings, figuring out what you can do to take him down. When he wakes up, she almost gets him. And this is the beginning.
When the rapey paladins try to mark her against her will? Let her tear the mark apart and leave the man that did it lying in agony on the floor. Let her tell them if any of them ever do it to her again, she will send them to the One God. Let her mean it, and let the threat be real. She is super powerful, after all.
It means no being dumb and going out after dark alone. Or if she does, let the demons that try hunt her learn just how much of her powers she’s come into. No being stupid and leaving her vampire bodyguard to go into the sunlight. Make the bad guys who want her earn it. Big losses as they throw wave after wave to take her down.
Better yet, don’t let them get her. Let her save herself and her vampire bodyguard.
If the author so desperately wants to make her a vampire rather than redeem the hero, this is the spot to do it. She saved them both, but she’s dying.
Given that this is a series about Paladins, I’d rather see him bite her to change her to a vampire and her blood redeem him. Once redeemed, he can now channel the One God to heal her.
Goblin King – I didn’t much care for the heroine in the beginning when she acted like a doormat to her controlling and abusive fiancee.
To get me to really like the heroine, the author needs to give me a better reason as to why she’s marrying the jerk. Maybe she was adrift after her father’s death and he offered the illusion of protection and love. An illusion shattered when she finds him with another woman. That could be the opening of the story.
Or maybe she’s marrying him because it’s who her father wanted her to marry him and she doesn’t want to disrespect him even in death.
Whatever. Just make it something that doesn’t make her look like an idiot. Also, make sure she graduated from law school. C’mon.
Give the heroine more in the solving her lover’s issue. Let her find the cure. Let some insight she has lead to the cure. The entire second half of the book is a lot of sitting around whining about their plight and doing nothing.
Make them do something, and give her an integral part in it. Then, let their actions resolve the curse.