Villains in Romance
When I started writing the first book in the ‘Her Highland Hero’ series, I had to decide, obviously what sort of book I wanted to write. Having been a person who voraciously devoured everything from Harlequin romances I got from my grandma to teenage male warrior-fantasy indulgence novels like the Dragonlance series and everything in between, there was plenty to draw on.
I decided, for better or for worse, to let the book do whatever it wanted to do. Now – before I let that statement go, I better describe what that means. I’m not one of those authors who can just come up with a couple characters and let them go on their merry way. First of all, it drives me crazy when that happens in books I’m reading, because I can almost always tell, and then in my own writing, I find that it leaves the story a little loose, a little unhinged, and unfocused. I prefer to present a tightly woven, and fast-paced narrative, which given the reaction the first book got, seems to be the right thing to do. I plot, I outline, and all that, but in this series, I decided to let the characters develop their own approaches to problems I laid out for them.
In a happy bit of serendipity, this included the villains as well as the heroes. As Gavin developed his James Dean, Will Scarlet attitude, and Kenna grew quite a bit more head-strong and intense than I thought she would when I began the story, the villains – Laird Macdonald, and Sheriff Alan – took on a life of their own. Whether it was the often strange and sometimes grotesque sheriff, or the conniving Laird, I was incredibly pleased with how they developed. In fact, in rewrites, I toned the sheriff down a little, because at the behest of one of my editors, ‘there’s gross, and then there’s this’.
This book is a little different. It’s more intense, both in emotion and in plot. That’s not to say it’s deep and dark and heady, because it isn’t. There’s just more emotional maturity at play because of what our characters went through in the last book. Therefore, the villain(s) had to also become more menacing, and more complex. The two featured in Passion and Plaid – and I won’t spoil anything, but everyone’s favorite sheriff makes a glorious return – have much bigger plans, and pose a much larger threat to Gavin and Kenna than Laird Macdonald ever did.
Of course, this mirrors a growing intensity in Gavin and Kenna’s relationship, and the worse things get for our stalwart heroes, the more they come to realize that their strength alone is nothing compared to what it is together. The world around them, and the bad guys they have to overcome serve as a perfect mirror for what is going on in the hearts of our dashing, be-kilted hero, and the flame-haired love of his life, and that’s just the way I like it, both in my romances and in my movies. I hope you do too!
EXCERPT of Passion and Plaid:
“When I say to you ‘wedding’, Kenna, what is it you see?” Gavin looked across the top of the saddled horse, smiling at his bride-to-be, who couldn’t be more pleased. He walked around to the wagon they were pulling and looked in on Sheriff Alan, who the two of them were taking to Glasgow so he could stand trial. After that, they were going to Fort Mary, the place the both of them called home, where they were to be married.
Gavin very much liked that idea.
“Oh, I dinna,” Kenna said smiling. “Just something small, supposing my Da and Ma would want to go, and your father.”
In the back of her mind, she had images of a tremendous royal affair, a hall decked in white sheets and colorful plaids to mark the mixing of their families, and a drum, fife and pipe band to play as they danced. She imagined a big, swirling, poofy-skirted gown, and on Gavin, a fine Macgregor great-kilt with a huge sash, brooch, and a beautiful sporran that she’d make for him before the wedding. With their friends all around, John and Lynne, Red Ben and Alice, Rodrigo, Elena and of course Olga, the minister would say solemn words in front of the entire kirk congregation; they’d both take very solemn vows. Then, when it was all finished, Gavin would lean in and kiss her, and suddenly the whole place would explode into music and dancing and drinking and fun.
“You’re sure about that, wee li’l lass?” Gavin said with a smile. “Looks like you’ve something else in mind, ach?”
“No,” she said and laughed. “No, just a small ceremony. I canna imagine a big to-do.”
Behind them, in the wagon into which they’d packed a few supplies – and one very angry Sheriff Alan, who just wouldn’t stop sputtering and swearing – a crash interrupted their tender chatting.
“I better go see what he’s done,” Gavin said, but couldn’t tear himself away from Kenna and her big, semi-tamed mop of red hair, or the tiny freckles that dotted her cheeks and the bridge of her nose, or her big pale-blue eyes. “You know, actually, he’s probably just fallen over again and is making his best at a big scene to get attention.”
He stepped closer to her, she took his hand in hers and squeezed. “I canna believe this is all happening, Gavin. As a wee girl, I dreamed about it, but I didn’t even know you then. Not really, anyway. And now, here we are, about to go home and…”
“Aye,” he said sliding his arm about her waist and pulled her to his chest that was bare, save for the sash of his kilt. A few drops of water remained from the bath he’d just taken and she smelled the tiniest hint of cologne that Alice Black gave him to use, saying that it would make him seem more rugged and manly. She wasn’t quite sure how he could be any more attractive than he already was, but the scent was nice anyway. Curling her fingers against Gavin’s chest, Kenna purred softly and kissed his collarbone. He slid his hands up her back, and his thumbs along either side of her face.
“I canna believe it’s really happening either,” Gavin said. He stared straight into her eyes, straight into her soul, Kenna thought. His gaze warmed her and the two thumbs brushing along her cheeks made a grin creep across her face. Suddenly, she began to blink, fighting back tears she didn’t want to ruin the moment. “I canna believe it, but now I think I have to, because you’re right here and so am I. Nothing better has ever happened so long as I’ve lived, Kenna Moore.”
With that, she couldn’t hold it anymore, not for one second longer. Kenna threw her arms around Gavin’s waist and hugged him so tight that a moment afterward he began to act like he couldn’t breathe. The Sheriff made another whining noise and another crash, but they both ignored him, lost in their own little world.
“I’m choking you am I, Gavin? A wee girl like me keeping big, strong Gavin Macgregor who stole and stole from the English, from breathing? Gavin Macgregor, who every single Scot in Edinburgh sees as a mythical hero is being smothered by a tiny girl?”
“Ach! You’re no tiny girl! I’ve seen you fight!”
They held each other for a moment longer before Gavin bent his head to hers and kissed Kenna first behind the ear, and then on the jaw. As he ran his fingers up the back of her head to hold her close, Kenna felt his lips part around hers, and gently caress her full bottom lip. When he pulled away and gave her a gentle, playful little nibble, she let out a giggle and then squeezed him again before she let him go.
Before I let you go, I’d love to invite you to enter the giveaway that Nikki has so graciously agreed to host. I’ll be giving away ten e-book copies of this book (Passion and Plaid), in whatever format you prefer! And, of course, none of this would be possible without you fine guys and gals – the readers – thank you from the bottom of my heart.
*Giveaway open until 5-21-13 at 11:59 EST with winners announced shortly after. Open internationally
Thistle and Flame is part one, and Passion and Plaid part two. I’ve been assured by my editors that they are both perfectly standalone, although if you enjoy the first one, you’re sure to love the second that much more.
See you in the highlands!
-Anya – (Anya’s Amazon Page)