Sunday, November 30, 2014

Guest Blogger - Amanda Hough (Author)

 I've had several readers tell me that while the SPECTRE Series is great for its plot twists, action, and adventure, it also has a romance component that romance readers enjoy. Although I never really thought about it as I was writing, I think it's an interesting premise.

So this week, I asked romance novelist Amanda Hough to give readers a woman's perspective on Cal "Spectre" Martin and his exploits. 

I hope you enjoy it!

 

Spectre of Romance

By Amanda Hough

I’m not sure how many female readers will admit this but, when they read a romance novel, they want to see themselves as the lead female protagonist. In fact, I would argue that it is the single most important point in engaging the reader. Well, that and a hero she can look toward to make it all better. That’s where C.W. Lemoine’s Cal “Spectre” Martin comes in. I will get to that in a moment.

Women want the hero and heroine in romances to be interesting and emotionally complex. They want them to ‘feel real’. Even if they are soldiers with bravery to spare, there must be an element of believability. The reader must engage with the hero. See yourself in him or in the man you imagine. C.W. Lemoine, somehow manages to do just that. Spectre can fly an F-16 and disarm a terrorist in a nanosecond, but he’s still human. The reader, somehow, can still imagine himself or herself as him or with him.
Spectre brought the paper up to his face as if to get a better look. It was time to kill. As his hands reached his eye level, he dropped the paper and instantly grabbed the man’s right wrist with his right hand and the barrel of the gun with his left. Falling to his side while securing the weapon, he flicked off the safety, squeezed through the double action of the fourteen-pound trigger, and fired at his shocked captor. The bullet struck the man in the throat and sent him stumbling back into the camera as he gasped through his last breaths.
           -AVOID. NEGOTIATE. KILL. 

What woman wouldn’t find that romantic? If he can do that with his hands, just imagine the possibilities.

As a romance novelist, I am consistently warring with my female characters. In fiction, as in life, I need her to be all things but still accessible. Smart yet self-deprecating. Strong but a little vulnerable. Adroit but not completely self-sufficient. She needs to be stunningly beautiful, exotic, sexy but somehow still the girl next door. You see, she needs to be an impossible combination of every woman and one woman. The woman reading the book.

For the longest time, I felt it was only the female characters who had to strike this balance. Spectre has changed my mind. Spectre without the humor, modesty and humanity wouldn’t be Cal. Instead he would be a man no one could relate to. Someone… unlikable. But Cal is supremely affable. In a deadly, hunted hero way.
As time has marched on (mostly on my face) my taste in heroes and heroines have morphed, as it should. I still read romance novels, of course. Frankly, I don’t know what I would do without them. However, the men and women seldom live up to the expectations I have for them. Even the women I write tend to acquiesce to the hero at one point or another.

At least physically, the heroes in romance novels have changed very little over the years. He’s strong, tall, dangerously clever, brave and achingly handsome. Of course, what the reader perceives as handsome varies nowadays. A tattooed ex-con who’s the leader of a motorcycle club is a new norm. Moreover, it is quite popular. The bad boy concept isn’t new. A lot of the heroes from my favorite novels years ago had bad boys. 

Sometimes they got the girl but often times they didn’t. He’d try to steal the fair maiden from the white knight only to lose the woman and his life at the end of the narrative. Typically, his death would come in the form of a rapier through his gut. But in his dying breath, he would see the proverbial light and repent. Realizing that the woman’s love would have been the prize, not her body.

Today the hero often lacks the qualities that I found so appealing in my youth and now my adulthood. Consequently, my disillusionment has drawn me to other genres, to feed the need. And no genre does a better job at heroes than thrillers. Military and espionage novels in particular.

In fact, I liken a good thriller as the flip side of a well-written romance. The POV in romance is often the females because, let’s face it, it’s our point of view that matters. In thrillers, we often get the male POV. When I read one of these stories, I get a glimpse into the inner workings of a man’s mind. But not just any man,  a real hero. A male protagonist with conviction, daring, loyalty and a kinship to both his country and his brothers in arms. Like Cal “Spectre” Martin.

I’ve had a favorite character for many years now, Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon, an art restorer and former Israeli assassin. For heaven’s sakes, he can kill his enemy with his bare hands and appreciate the differences between fauvism and impressionism. What’s not to love?

It is that same contrasting balance that draws me to C.W. Lemoine’s Cal Martin.
We start with a soldier, dedicated to his nation who is much maligned by a bloated, corrupt system. He is a hero whose dedication to service is used against him. We all feel, at times, a victim of the political/social system that we built through balloting, shortsightedness or apathy. Cal fights that power to restore a balance in his life. He doesn’t concede his moral center. And his resolute, fearless stance wins him the woman. And Michelle Decker is quite a woman.

She is a heroine who would be utterly at home in a romance novel today. What female reader wouldn’t want to imagine herself as Michelle? She has all the desirable physical attributes a man craves. However, she’s also steadfast, brave, clever and funny. A perfect combination.

Together she and Cal could (and may) take the story beyond thrills and add an element of romance. Knowing C.W. Lemoine’s work, I’ve no doubt he will avoid clich├ęd overtures that do little for the plot, but I can see these two working together to save the world. What a dynamic, and dare I say romantic notion that could be?

Amanda Hough is a romance novelist from Ohio. She is the author of The Mikhailov Trilogy, The Ferrara Brothers Novellas and Fight to Win, a military romance with proceeds proudly going to K9s for Warriors. She welcomes email at Houghromances@gmail.com, visit her website at www.amandahough.com or find her on Facebook.

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