Today it is my Pleasure to Welcome Harlequin Presents Author Kate Hewitt to HarlequinJunkie...
Kate has a special Post for us today...
Santina's Scandalous Princess: How Flawed Can A Heroine Be?
By Kate Hewitt
A few years ago I took part in another continuity, The Balfour Brides, which centered around eight sisters and their various heroes. My heroine, Zoe Balfour, was a spoiled, rich, wild-child it-girl and generally not all that likable. My book Zoe and the Tormented Tycoon was about how she came to grow up as well as fall in love. I enjoyed writing that book, but I received a lot of feedback from people who didn't like Zoe. Fair enough, I already said she wasn't that likable. But it made me think about how much readers are willing to accept in terms of the heroines they read--how flawed can a heroine be? How sexually experienced? How spoiled, self-centered, insecure, indulgent, or whatever adjective you choose to insert? I like to read about characters who grow and change, and I think most people do, but when it comes to heroines in romance novels... well, my experience as an author has been readers don't like them to have to change too much.
So enter Natalia, my princess heroine from Santina's Scandalous Princess. Natalia is... wait for it... a spoiled, rich, wild-child it-girl. Again! This time round I thought about what I'd learned from writing Zoe's character. I decided Natalia could be even more outrageous than Zoe, but she was also proud and refused to pity herself. She had weaknesses that she hid and she refused to back down. And I think Ben Jackson found his match in her!
Here is a little excerpt to give you an idea of Natalia's character:
‘A month,’ he clarified, and she narrowed her eyes to slits.
‘I can count, Mr— Ben. Thank you very much.’
‘Glad to hear it. Read and count. You’re really quite accomplished.’
She said nothing, but her eyes blazed fury and something even deeper. Darker. Hatred, almost.
The emotion in her eyes surprised him; the princess had been giving as good as she got. He felt a stirring of unease at the possibility that he’d actually hurt her.
‘If you manage to stay the required month,’ he said after a moment, keeping his voice mild, ‘required by your father, I should add, then our original bet still stands. I’ll be yours to command for the day.’ Last night that had seemed an almost enticing possibility. Now Ben rather thought that if he was under Princess Natalia’s command she would order him to carve out his own liver with an oyster fork.
She stared at him for a moment, her expression still closed and really rather remote, so he had no idea what she was thinking. It was almost as if she’d physically, or at least emotionally, retreated from him, so even though she still stood in this room, her lithe figure splendidly encased in the pink shift, she was in actuality a million miles away. Ben was surprised to feel a little pang of regret. Despite her aggravating personality, he’d enjoyed their sparring.
‘You don’t think I can do it,’ she said at last.
He could not keep himself from replying, ‘You have given me little cause to believe you can.’
Another flash across her features that he couldn’t quite discern before her expression closed again. ‘You don’t know me.’
‘I’ve read about you—’
‘Do you really believe everything you see in the papers?’ she scoffed, although he still detected a trembling thread of uncertainty underneath her disdain. ‘Your family has been fodder for the tabloids plenty of times. Maybe you’re the pot calling the kettle black now.’
Ben stiffened. He hated the kind of press coverage his family generated, had been trying to rise above it for, it seemed, his entire life. And he particularly hated any personal media exposure, having been dogged by it all too often when he was younger. Even now he could remember the look on his mother’s face when she’d read the papers. She had never been able to resist reading them, seeing and even studying the photos of Bobby Jackson with his latest mistress. Seeing the photo of Ben himself, his tear-streaked face, only four years old.
She’d let out a cry of anguish then that still reverberated through Ben thirty years later and made him avoid reporters and their invasive cameras as much as possible. ‘It’s true my family has fed the British press for far too long,’ he told her evenly, ‘but it’s been my experience that even the most outrageous stories hold a grain of truth.’
‘Are you saying you’ve been maligned?’ She pressed her lips together.
‘I’m saying I’ll do it,’ she finally said. ‘Clearly I have no choice, and in any case I look forward to winning this ridiculous wager of yours.’ She drew herself up, her eyes glittering, her cheeks high with colour.
She really did look magnificent.
‘I look forward,’ she told him, ‘to telling you just what you can do with yourself for an entire day.’
Ben let out a reluctantly admiring laugh. ‘And I look forward to obliging you, I’m sure.’ He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out the T-shirt he’d reserved for her. ‘Here’s your uniform.’ He tossed it to her, and she caught it on reflex, staring down at it in incomprehension.
‘It’s a shirt,’ he explained kindly. ‘You wear it.’
She stared at the logo on front, her brow furrowed.
Was she really going to object to wearing a shirt with his name on it? From what he’d already experienced of her, probably.
‘Jackson Enterprises Youth Sports,’ she read slowly. She glanced up at him, gave him a wicked smile. ‘You’ve got your name all over this project, haven’t you?’
‘What should I have called it?’ Ben snapped.
He leaned forward, suddenly goaded into proving himself, even though he knew it was ridiculous.
‘These camps mean a great deal to me, Princess, and I’d advise you not to stretch my patience too far. You have no idea what I’m capable of.’
She stared at him, the T-shirt clutched to her chest with one fist. ‘And I’ll say the same to you,’ she said quietly. ‘You have no idea what I’m capable of, Ben Jackson.’
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