(Guest post by the author)
What do we want from a heroine? I’ve scratched my head over this for many years and I daresay I’m not alone. The stereotypical heroine is beautiful, feisty, possibly downtrodden (or, alternatively, a spoiled princess) and probably under the age of 30. Which, if we’re honest, cuts out a whole lot of women who are potential heroine material.
Of course I’m oversimplifying. There’s room for variation. But in much romantic fiction we look for a certain something from our heroines.
The heroine of my new book, Looking For Charlotte, is a long way from the stereotype. At forty-eight she can only look back at her youth, knowing that she’ll never see it again. And after bringing up three children alone after her husband walked out, she probably doesn’t really remember much about the decades that should have been the prime of her life. And her job as office manager in a solicitor’s firm in the Scottish city of Inverness is far from the glamorous occupation into which many heroines seem so comfortably to fit.
So what makes Flora a heroine? It’s the fact that she sets off on a quest and that challenge, not offered but totally voluntary, is one that leads her to challenge herself and those around her. It asks for sacrifice. In deciding to seek out the body of a murdered toddler when the police have given up on finding the girl so that she can bring closure to the girl’s mother — who is unknown to her — she undertakes a very noble act.
And actions have consequences. Flora’s quest pits her determination to do something good for someone else against her own relationships, not just with her grown-up children but also with Philip, her colleague, friend and potential lover. It forces her to re-evaluate who she is and what drives her and it brings her to some uncomfortable realisations about herself. As she hunts for the body of little Charlotte Anderson in the bleak winter wastes of Scotland’s Cairngorm mountains, Flora’s journey takes her into deeper, darker psychological terrain.
Flora is different. She’s a romantic heroine for sure, because her story is a romance as well as a quest. But she’s a heroine who got it badly wrong the first time round and has a lot to do if she is ever to earn the future to which she aspires… a future which is happier than the past.
On the way back, she dropped in on Philip’s office, opening the door without bothering to knock — a familiarity which extended to no-one else in the firm. ‘Looking forward to the party then?’
He was sitting at his desk, loosening his tie in preparation for exchanging it for the falsely jovial Christmas one he kept in his drawer, next to the black one for funerals. ‘Oh yes. Everybody drinking too much and me spending all my time supplying their legal drug of choice in a way I wouldn’t be allowed to do if I worked in a bar. And then making an excuse to go home early and having to wander through the streets with whatever plastic embarrassment they give me in the Secret Santa. Why have you got your coat on?’
‘I don’t feel well. I’ve got a headache. I’m going home. I’ve just told Luke.’ ‘What did he say?’
‘He doesn’t think I’m very corporate.’
‘No, he’s big on community spirit, is Luke. I don’t imagine he relishes having to
listen to Maddy murdering My Way at the karaoke any more than I do.’ He got to his feet, a tie festooned with holly in his hand, hesitating. His cool gaze travelled over her anxiously. ‘Flora, you aren’t going out anywhere, are you?’
Blue sky was visible over his shoulder, tempting. That was exactly what she’d intended, but her courage failed her. ‘I was going home to bed. Or a lie down, anyway.’
‘You’ve been looking pale for a while. You really shouldn’t overdo it.’ He ran the tie through his fingers, then draped it round his neck and began, with swift expertise, the transformation from respected senior solicitor to good time Charlie. ‘I’ll ring you after lunch.’
‘Thank you. And keep a watch for your virtue. The girls are out hunting and single men are vulnerable.’
‘Married men, too, I daresay. But I can look after myself,’ he said cheerfully.
She withdrew with a sour feeling. She should have said, Come back and stay at my place, but she had a headache and he knew she had a headache. If she had, what might have happened then? Who knew?
He’s just a friend, she chided herself, and you’re too old to behave like a teenager.
And anyway, such an invitation would have been nothing more than a manifestation of a niggling, unnecessary jealousy, because she had no claim over him, except that of a friend. But it didn’t mean she didn’t feel proprietorial. It didn’t mean she didn’t mind.
Divorced and lonely, Flora Wilson is distraught when she hears news of the death of little Charlotte Anderson. Charlotte’s father killed her and then himself, and although he left a letter with clues to her grave, his two-year-old daughter still hasn’t been found. Convinced that she failed her own children, now grown up and seldom at home, Flora embarks on a quest to find Charlotte’s body to give the child’s mother closure, believing that by doing so she can somehow atone for her own failings.
As she hunts in winter through the remote moors of the Scottish Highlands, her obsession comes to challenge the very fabric of her life — her job, her friendship with her colleague Philip Metcalfe, and her relationships with her three children.
I live in Edinburgh and I write romance and contemporary women’s fiction. I’ve been writing all my life and my first book was published in February 2014, though I’ve had short stories published before then. The thing that runs through all my writing is an interest in the world around me. I love travel and geography and the locations of my stories is always important to me. And of course I love reading — anything and everything.
Make sure to follow the whole tour—the more posts you visit throughout, the more chances you’ll get to enter the giveaway. The tour dates are here: http://www.writermarketing.co.uk/prpromotion/blog-tours/currently-on-tour/jennifer-young-2/