Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Revving Up for the Kate Quinn Giveaway!

Have you read this?

My Review and Giveaway for Kate Quinn's new book, THE SERPENT AND THE PEARL  is Tomorrow!  
But First...

To kick off this event, the very talented, Best Selling Author, Kate Quinn has written this post for us:)

Too Many Beautiful Heroines!

So here's a pet peeve of mine when it comes to books: I'm tired of drop-dead gorgeous heroines.

I have nothing against attractive characters in books, mind you. We watch movies in part to enjoy the sight of pretty people, after all, and books have a similar escapism. But too often in bad books, we have to wade through a lot of repetitive rhapsodizing about the heroine's flawless profile and perfect skin, and she can never enter a room without every man in it falling with a thud at her feet. In real life, beauty that spectacular is rare—so why does it have to be so common in books? (I suspect it's something to do with wish fulfillment.)

For my own novels, I prefer a heroine who is more realistically good-looking. My leading ladies are attractive girls, but like most of us, it takes a little time and effort before they're stopping men dead in their tracks. Nobody stops to rhapsodize over my slave-girl heroine in “Mistress of Rome” when she's scrubbing out the tiles, but when she moves up in the world and gets a decent hair-dresser and some good clothes, suddenly people notice she looks lovely. I have some drop-dead beautiful characters, but rarely the heroines: in “Mistress” it was the villainness, who needed to be that beautiful because it was one more weapon in her arsenal. If she hadn't been that good-looking, she wouldn't have gotten away with half the stuff she did!

That's been my MO with three books, as far as fictional beauty is concerned, but in “The Serpent and the Pearl” I struck a snag. Because my heroine really was that spectacularly beautiful, and since she was a historical figure, there was no getting around it. Her name was Giulia Farnese, and her jaw-dropping good looks were well documented by history: a surviving letter from her brother-in-law gushes about her floor-length hair (“The most beautiful hair imaginable!”) and an envoy of Cesare Borgia's described her as having “black eyes, round face, and a particular ardor.” The Borgia Pope himself fell madly in love with her, and she was known all over Italy as Giulia La Bella, or “Giulia the Beautiful.” Can't get much more unequivocal than that; the girl was her century's Angelina Jolie. And that left me scratching my head for a while, because how do you make a heroine like that more accessible to us more average readers? I don't need to feel prettier than the people I read about, but it's a bit hard to empathize with a girl so stunning she can get up in the morning with bed-head and a runny nose, and still make Uma Thurman look like a troll in comparison.

Then I realized I was doing it all backward. Maybe not many of us ladies know what it's like to have hair the stretches all the way to the floor, but I could give Giulia a problem that many of us ladies do have. The girl known as La Bella might be a stunner who can stop (Renaissance-era) traffic—but she also, in my version of her life, gains weight easily. And she might live in an era where voluptuous = beautiful, unlike today's Size 2 ideals, but she still has to watch what she eats. “My dresses get tight if I even look at a plate of biscotti,” she says gloomily at one point. “So very unfair!”

And that ended up being the perfect running joke for her, because not only is Giulia a girl who loves delicious food, but delicious food is a constant in her world. My co-heroine in “The Serpent and the Pearl” is Giulia's cook, a working woman with a genius for gourmet dishes who is constantly sending up treats for Giulia's sweet tooth. Tourtes of caravella pears and summer strawberries; grilled baby peaches with rose-water whipped-cream, candied apple blossoms, and marzipan cakes—just to name a few. But Giulia is constantly having to sit back and watch the plate go by with a sigh, because she's once again watching her figure. And that's something most women can sympathize with. Maybe most of us become nationally renowned as “____ the Beautiful” by age eighteen, but we do know what it's like to be on a diet!

So, the too-gorgeous heroine—that's my pet peeve in historical fiction. What's yours?

Kate Quinn
Author of historical fiction
"The Serpent and the Pearl"
"Empress of the Seven Hills"
"Daughters of Rome"
"Mistress of Rome"

Thanks Kate!  My pet peeve is not so much the beauties...I just can't stand the swooning that some authors insist on having their heroines succumb to!

BE SURE TO COME BACK TOMORROW for the GIVEAWAY!  AND, in your COMMENTS, please let us know :


  1. I have a few pet peeves, one, is the good looks of the characters (like Kate described) two, the names that are used to describe er parts, some of the funniest examples, lance, honey sheath and the list goes on and on!
    Thanks for the giveaway! I shared on facebook and twitter.

  2. I agree with you. A woman who is confident, happy in her own skin, and intelligent can exude an enormous amount of sexiness that attracts many men, regardless of her "classic beauty" status. My pet peeve: when a heroine goes from being strong, independent, and smart, to weak, needy, immature, whiny, and air-headed. Thanks for the giveaway!

  3. I really don't know how to describe it but I call it "seeing the strings", as in a puppet show. Like you know the writer is just trying too hard to write by structure rather than from the heart. There is one very (very ,very ) prolific romance author who does this and I cannot abide her books.