My naughty heroine (with excerpt & possible spoilers)

    In a reply to my last post, Chez said that romantic fiction for her isn't about being politically correct, it's about fantasy. And I so agree. I would add that romance is about fantasy, but it needs to be believable fantasy. That's why characters need to have flaws. Books about perfect people doing perfect things aren't fantasy, they're boring.

    So I thought I'd give a few hints about the choice my heroine, Sophie, just made that's going to get me slammed. How do I know it's going to get me slammed? My experience with Tessa from Hard Evidence.

    Tessa Novak is one of my favorite heroines because she's smart and courageous, and she's also very girly, but not stupid girly, not "Oh, I chipped a nail!" during a shoot-out girly. And her girliness, together with one decision she makes that endangers her life resulted in some readers hating her and posting all over the 'Net about it. Yep, poor Tess — she got herself some playa-hatuhs out there. And yet the stupid decision she makes is not only essential for bridging the gap between her and Julian, the hero, it's also provides an essential piece in resolving the mystery of the shooting she witnessed.

    Now, every reader needs to decide for herself what the thinks about a story. It's not the author's job to tell readers which parts of the story are significant or how it fits together or how an action fits a character. The reader has the privilege of making those decisions based on the words the author gives her to read. So if people decided that smart Tessa is TSTL, then for those readers Tessa was TSTL. So I'm not criticizing those readers who disliked her. I'm just using that experience to predict how some readers will respond to Sophie.

    Sophie isn't quite as girly, but she's still very feminine—something I think some readers don't like much. (I say this as a card-carrying feminist, okay?) And she also makes a choice, this one very personal. The man she will eventually admit she loves (see photo two posts below) is LWOP — that is to say, he's been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Although he broke out of prison (see excerpt below), they both know he'll eventually be caught and will wind up in the Big House doing the Long Ride. When he dies nothing of him will be left in this world. So what does Sophie do?

    After their first sexual encounter, which is unprotected, she opts not to take Plan B, the morning-after pill. In fact, she spits the pill into the sink. But why tell you about it? I'll show you. (Helpful hint: Sophie calls Marc Hunter by his high-school nickname — Hunt.)

    From Unlawful Contact

    Making a to-do list in her head, she finished combing her hair, put on her makeup and slipped into the blue cotton T-shirt and gray boxer briefs Hunt had given her to wear until her clothes made it through the washer and dryer. Then she took the packet of Plan B out of the bag and opened it, reading quickly through the directions.

    She’d never had to use it before because she’d always been ultra careful — no mistakes, no lapses, no slip-ups. But last night had taken her completely by surprise in so many ways — how badly she’d needed him, how intense the sex had been, how connected she’d felt to him from the first kiss until she’d fallen asleep with his arms wrapped around her. She hadn’t thought about protection until this morning.

    Which is probably why they call it the morning-after pill.

    She read the directions, then walked out to the kitchen to get a glass of water, pill pack in hand, the grinding beat of Nine Inch Nails drifting up from the basement where Hunt was lifting weights. She searched the cupboards till she found a drinking glass, filled it with water, and popped the first pill from the packet into her hand. The drug wasn’t foolproof, but it her only option now that…

    I always wanted… to be a father… to have a family.

    She brought the pill to her lips, then hesitated, Hunt’s words coming back to her. Once the police caught him — and it could happen at any moment — it would be over. He would never have another chance to do what they’d done last night. He would never again have the chance to make love, to lose himself inside a woman, to make her pregnant. He would never have another chance to be father, and she would never have another chance to…

    Have Hunt’s baby?

    God, she could not be thinking what she was thinking!

    The pounding of her pulse, the little wave of dizziness, told her that she was.

    But she couldn’t have a baby now. Her entire life was a mess. Bad guys, good guys, heroin, prison, guns — all that stuff. If she lost her job, if she lost her career, she wouldn’t even have a way to support it. And if she was exonerated and got her job back, how would she handle working at the paper with a newborn? If she went to prison…

    She stared at the pill where it lay, bright white, in her palm.

    What if right now egg and little spermy were on a collision course? What if they were about to merge? What if she was only hours away from becoming pregnant?

    This pill could stop it all.

    That’s what she wanted, wasn’t it? Of course, it was!

    No way had she gone to college to wind up being some man’s babymama, even if that man were Hunt. Hadn’t she thought through this the other night at the grocery store? Yes, she had — although pregnancy had been part of a little fantasy then, not a real possibility.

    Sophie put her hand on her belly, imagined it getting big and round like Tessa’s, Hunt’s baby growing inside her. Her womb clenched, signaling its approval, a shiver of something like desire pulsing through her pelvis. Obviously, her biological self was into the idea.

    But what about the baby? He or she would grow up without a father, either because daddy was living in Mexico or rotting in prison… or worse. Sophie had witnessed first-hand the shame that children of inmates carried with them — the stigma, the anger, the deprivation. It wouldn’t be fair to bring a baby into this mess.

    There’s no "happily ever after" for us, Sophie. There’s now. Only now.

    She raised her hand to her mouth, dropped the pill onto her tongue, took a mouthful of water to wash it down… and spat it in the sink.

    It slid into the garbage disposal and was irretrievably gone.

    Quickly, as if afraid she might change her mind, Sophie popped the second pill from the packet and dropped it into the sink, too. Then she turned on the faucet.

    Heart pounding, she shut off the water, turned away from the sink and leaned back against the counter, trying to catch her breath and wondering if she was crazy.

    God, what had she done?


    My son said this makes him lose respect for Sophie and ruins the story for him. But he's a 17-year-old male who's not one bit interested in babies and who might not understand the way that a child can enable you to hold on to someone you loved. I see what Sophie does as a symptom of the love she feels for Marc and of her willingness to sacrifice for him to give him something he otherwise would never have a chance of having — a child. Even if he doesn't get to be a part of the kid's life, he would at least know he had a son/daughter. Put yourself in a lifer's shoes and see how that fits. (BTW, this novel draws heavily on my years of covering prison issues, including my own 24-hour stay behind bars as a bogus felony arrest complete with strip search. More on that in another post.)

    So that's the controversy. Maybe it won't be so controversial. Who knows? But I knew when I wrote that scene with Tessa, someone would say, "TSTL!" And I was right.

    I hope everyone is having a wonderful day!

    And just to make sure it's wonderful, how about another photo of Daniel Bueno, aka Marc Hunter?

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