Jane Jorgenson & Patricia Rice on Nobody's Angel
LLB: Patricia Rice contacted me after reading Jane's review. She had an interesting idea to present to me - would it be possible for she and Jane to engage in a dialogue about this book? Knowing that both Patricia and Jane are articulate and could engage as grown-ups in such an endeavor, I told her I'd ask Jane and if she were amenable, I'd arrange for their discussion. Without further ado, here it is:
Patricia Rice: I'm only willing to do this because the review was so intelligent and intriguing, that I couldn't help but wish to question the reviewer so I could have better insight into what sets a reader off about a book. (Although, admittedly, as a straight A student, I want to whine and pout about that D and tell my mommy on you and she's gonna report you to the principal and you're gonna be really, really sorry! Pblfft! Sorry, my inner child needed to be expressed.) There are several things in the review I'd like to question, but there is one I understand, and I can see that it was my fault in not making clearer my perfect understanding of this complex character. It's my job as an author to clarify, but I fail when I get into the character so much, I expect the reader to see him as well as I do. The line quoted about Faith's husband: "He didn't gamble, and he didn't drink. . ." irritates the reviewer because having a mistress is as reprehensible to Jane as drinking and gambling. I'll not argue with that, but I was seeing this through Adrian, and never thought to explain his opinion of vice deeper. Gambling and drinking, to Adrian, are like drugs that can lead a man to criminal actions. Women--nothing criminal about having women. He had those himself. It wouldn't even occur to Adrian to include a mistress in a list of activities that could lead to crime. Mea culpa for not making that clearer.
I don't want to go through the review item by item but some things I don't know how I could have expressed better. Obviously, I got across Adrian's stubborn determination (pigheadedness). He's not entirely certain about Faith, has no reason to trust her, and his family comes first and foremost. She's the only way he can save his family, and he's been locked up for four years, helpless to do anything. He's not going to let a little thing like a ritzy boutique shop not having anyone running it bother him too much--although he does find someone to run it when he cools off.
So I suppose my question is: Why is Faith's life more important than Adrian's driving need to save his family? Is it unheroic for a man to think of his family before a woman? I'll admit, had this been a historical, there might have to be a different perspective on this, since a gentleman was required to protect women as the weaker sex. But Faith had proved herself strong, and this is a contemporary. How should Adrian have behaved that would have been heroic, if not doing whatever he thought necessary to find the criminals who'd stolen his career?
Jane Jorgenson: First Patricia, I wanted to make sure you were aware of my much more positive review of Merely Magic. It was funny, after Laurie contacted me about the idea of a dialogue I went back and looked at that review. At the time I wrote the Nobody's Angel review I wasn't positive you were the same author and once I was aware of this I wanted to look at the two reviews together. Once I did so I saw that the heroes did share some common traits, both strong, pigheaded at times, frustrated by their families yet very protective of them, etc. So I had to ask myself what worked and what didn't.
I think the major factor for me is that Adrian's, let's call it pigheaded stubbornness, lasts long after he's fallen for Faith. You talk about his being stubborn and determined to do whatever was necessary to prove the wrongs done to him. That was true, and definitely came through in the book, but he keeps up the cycle way too long. He's still treating Faith's life as less important far into the book. He's got his reasons, I never disagreed with that, but he doesn't seem at all willing to stop the cycle. Which leads me to the other problem I had with the characters.
Although I didn't get into this as much in my review (it was already pretty long), Faith's responses to Adrian's behavior are as much of a problem. In some ways I could understand (not always like) Adrian's behavior far easier then I could Faith's. He does have reasons for his distrust and stubborn determination, I totally agree, but Faith doesn't have the same strong reasons for letting him treat her the way he did. In the instance I quoted where he's talking about the possibility of Tony's drinking or gambling, it's not just that he doesn't see how this might be an offensive thought to say out loud to Faith, it's that she doesn't even call him on it. So, yes it was realistic that a Adrian might think such a thing, drinking/gambling way worse then keeping a mistress, I didn't think much of Adrian's saying it to Faith and I definitely didn't like her the better for not calling him on it.
It seems such a little scene to make mention of, but it is a good illustration of what went wrong for me throughout the book. You ask why is Faith's life more important then Adrian's driving need - Well why is Adrian's driving need more important than Faith's life. She's done nothing to him, and he realizes that pretty quickly. Yet he kidnaps her, leaving her wondering how her shop will survive. His driving need is important to him, I totally accept that, but why does this give him the right to bulldoze through her life. And again, she lets him. You say that Faith had proved herself strong, but she didn't prove it to me. Time and again his needs and feelings come first.
Patricia: Ah, excellent! This is the kind of thing I need to hear. Interesting that you also read Merely Magic and enjoyed that. I'll go back and pull up that review later, but knowing it isn't the hero's strong determination (pigheadedness --and I fully realize I write a pigheaded characters because that's what I am and it comes through much too often!) that's setting you off clears up some of my questions.
It seems, then, that the problem for you is in the chemistry between the two characters. I tend to develop characters who are opposite ends of whatever spectrum is in my head for a particular book. In the case of Nobody's Angel, (and I don't see this when I first start writing, I only analyze some of it when I'm done) I was working out emotional issues, apparently. Adrian is a short fuse waiting to explode. Faith had already reached her explosive point, got past it, and moved on. The point/counterpoint between them was that she was reasonably serene with herself, while Adrian was still busy castigating himself and rethinking his life. She'd rethought hers, knew precisely where she was at, and had decided her priorities. Faith was the wall Adrian bounced off of. She didn't see a point in fighting or arguing--that was Adrian's gig. She'd accepted that men could be scum, that Adrian had potential, but she didn't hold out a lot of hope that he would wake up. And he didn't, not for a long time. He's one of those guys who have to be hit over the head with a brick because they just have to be right. I try not to write heroes that thick-headed most of the time, but Adrian came out that way because of his passionate need to be perfect for his family.
I can see you would have preferred a heroine with more spunk, one more willing to argue. In Merely Magic, the heroine had a driving need to fight the hero's despotic tendencies. Faith didn't. She's one of my less confrontational heroines. (You ought to love Almost Perfect if you're into fighting heroines! But that won't be out until next January.) Faith placed her priorities in solving the problem at hand, without any "faith" in Adrian ever coming around. (You really should have complained about her name--it was just too much fun to play with.)
Would it be possible to say that you would have much preferred this book with a different sort of heroine? One who pushed back? Faith had her moments, she wasn't a wimp. I think she did exactly what she wanted to do, when she wanted to do it, she simply didn't argue about it. Even in the car lot scene, she didn't confront him with his attitude, but argued about cars. But her deep down desires had to do with love and children and family, and she saw no future in that with Adrian. I don't think her career was ever particularly important to her, except to prove that she could do it. She enjoyed working with things she loved, but I see Faith as a gentle soul who really and truly wanted love and family more than a career.
So we may really not have any major differences in our views of the characters, so much as our preferences for certain types of characters. I can't say that Faith is the kind of person who would be my best friend, but then, I would probably kill a man like Adrian. I may put parts of myself into my characters, but definitely not all. Would you say, as a reader, you're looking for characters with whom you identify?
Jane: Yes, I do think it would be fair to say that Faith's behavior in response to Adrian was a big part of the problem. I do think that Adrian will always be problematic for me because he is such a bulldozer when it comes to others. It does take a brick to the head for him to get the point, not only with Faith but with his family as well. But, Faith is the kind of heroine who doesn't appeal. I get that she is expressing her 'faith' in Adrian, but it wasn't enough.
I think Adrian came through so strongly in the review because he does in the book and there's nothing to counteract him. You talk about Faith being the opposite end of the spectrum, and that may be the case, but I always think of opposites as having a little more heat, these two didn't together. Adrian has a lot of anger that overpowers most other aspects of the book. But his anger doesn't work as a positive energy in the book, and since Faith isn't able to counteract his behavior with some energy of her own.
Patricia: I can see your point. I wanted Faith to be the soothing influence, the one who isn't afraid to tell Adrian to shut up when he waxes hot, and who can make him see reason when no one else can. And Faith needs Adrian's energy, because even though she's turned her life around, it lacks the love and family she craves. She's existing. It takes Adrian to make her see what she's missing, and when she thinks he won't give her what she wants, she goes off to find it on her own. She takes another giant step into the real world.
I know that in romance, one character of necessity has to have more to learn than the other, further to go, so to speak, or the book would be twice as long. I think I tend to start a book with the character who has the longest path. The character who has already started along the road to change plays more of a supporting role, as Faith did in this book. I'm trying to think how I could have done something different to make her come through more fully for the reader, but Faith simply isn't one of my more out-on-the-edge characters. She's the foil to Adrian's rage, and she needs to be to teach him how to handle that rage in a productive manner.
You said you liked Merely Magic, where we have more balanced characters, ones who aren't so far apart on the passion spectrum but differ in their "thinking" patterns. Would it be fair to say you would prefer the "passion" (emotion?) levels to be more equal on both sides? Both characters be spirited or both characters be logical and dispassionate? I suppose that's difficult to answer. Sorry.
It looks as if we may just have to agree to disagree on this one. I like understanding why people react to certain books and characters as they do, but sometimes, it's far too subjective to understand. Did you have anything else you'd like to discuss with me?
Jane: I don't have any more questions, although I do have a couple of comments. I don't think different levels of "passion" as we're calling the emotions that drive characters, has to be exactly equal. Not in the sense that equal means both are angry or both are spirited, but instead a balance needs to be there. And in this case I just didn't see that balance. It's okay for Faith to be in a quieter, more accepting phase of her life then Adrian is, but she shouldn't be a doormat. If at some point she proved her strength by saying 'stop' I could have enjoyed their relationship.
Even though characters have different levels of "drive" and even though one may have more to learn then the other, there can still be a balancing out of each other's personalities. If there's not, then not only does the relationship come through as one-sided, but I have a hard time believing these two people could ever be happy together.
In this dialogue I may have sometimes veered into talking about the book I would have liked you to write and not the book you did write, if that's the case just ignore those bits. I have enjoyed discussing this with you and can assure you that I'll be checking out your next book.
Patricia: I definitely see your point and take your preference seriously. Normally, I try to do a book where the intimacy between the characters becomes evident in small ways, at least, so the reader can understand why the yin and yang are so perfect in the couple. This book had more of a suspense twist driving it, and it was difficult to add the niceties with all the action around it. As a writer, it's not only my job to balance storyline and characters, but the levels of emotion as well. It's an interesting juggling act at the best of times .
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me and lend some insights for me to ponder. And thank you, Laurie, for giving us the opportunity to talk about something that bothered both of us. Jane's is the kind of review I like to read, even when I disagree with her!
||Links to Patricia Rice at AAR