A Man with a Past, by Anne McAllister

by Anne McAllister, author of The Virgin”s Proposition (Harlequin Presents, September 2010)

Many thanks to Amy for inviting me to come play …er, blog … at I HEART PRESENTS today.  It”s always fun to visit with you guys and talk about writing and, particularly, about Presents books.

My own which is out this month, THE VIRGIN”S PROPOSITION, is my first venture into writing about “royalty” and I had  such fun with Anny — or Princess Adriana — who was trying to be herself while she dealt with the demands of her royal position.

And I discovered that when you write about someone with as many demands on her life as a princess, you need a particularly strong hero to hold his own. Demetrios Savas was just such a man.  On the surface he appeared to be one of Hollywood”s “golden” boys  — the ones who have all the looks, charm, talent, drive and success, the ones for whom nothing ever goes wrong.

Only for Demetrios it has.  Everyone thinks that what went wrong is the tragic death of his  gorgeous talented actress wife three years ago. Only Demetrios knows that the real wrong  began when he married her in the first place.  That marriage colored his world, his outlook on life, his hopes and dreams for the future.

He was definitely “a man with a past” when Anny met him.

And Anny, like everyone else, thought she knew what drove him only to discover she had a lot to learn.

That”s the thing about men with a past. They keep it hidden. They are often the “wounded heroes” Annie West wrote about so eloquently in her blog piece in July.  These men don”t wear their hearts on their sleeves. Kate Walker has said that very often these men don”t have the emotional vocabulary to give voice to what they feel.  I agree. But I also think that sometimes they simply don”t want to.  They are self-contained, silent men because talking  has never solved anything.

They are motivated to do what they do, but they don”t bother to tell anyone else why they”re doing it.  It”s no one else”s business, they reason.  They need no one else”s approbation. It”s enough that they know that they are doing the right thing.

However driven they are, and however incommunicado about their feelings, Presents heroes Do The Right Thing.  They do the honorable thing.  It might not always be in their own best interests, but they do it anyway, because someone else”s good (usually the heroine”s) is more important to them than anything else.

All well and good, unless you happen to be the heroine dealing with a hero like this. Then you want to strangle him — or at the very least knock some sense into his head.  Mostly, though, you want to reach him on a level no else else can. You want him to open up so you can understand what on earth is making him behave this way.

Certainly Anny wanted to know why Demetrios was determined to walk out of her life, when any fool — even she — could see that he loved her.

A man with a past! Sheesh. What can you do with him?

Well, if you”re a Presents heroine like Anny, you can love him unconditionally.  When he behaves honorably, you can trust him.  And you can be there for him — so that he dares to trust you.  You can be honest with your feelings so eventually he might learn how to be honest with his — and share them with you.  Then,  with luck, he will have learned to hope and dream and believe in a future with a happily ever after — with you.

Men with pasts make great heroes because they have internal conflicts, issues to overcome.   Their battles are not only with outside circumstances or even with the heroine, but also with themselves.  They grow as a result of this battle. They change.  They find new depths, they develop new inner resources. They learn that the past is past — that it”s a part of who they are, but not the whole.  They learn that they are so much more than that, that they have so much more to give — and receive.

And when they — and their heroines — finally get to the happily ever after stage, they have earned it.

Who are some of the most memorable “men with pasts” you”ve encountered?

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Comments ( 17 )
  1. Rachael Johns
    September 14, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Cannot wait to read this book! And this post was very timely as the hero of my current wip is a man with a past 🙂

  2. Kate Walker
    September 14, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Oh I love a man with a past – and the ones who don’t have the emotional vocabulary to say what they feel – or the emotional inclination to do so. I also just love watching their heroines pick their way through all those defences that these guys though were so impregnable and work thier way right into that carefully protected heart! And then, yes, they just have to Do the Right Thing. That’s what makes them heroes – that honourable (well, that’s the way we spell it this side of the Pond!) thing

    I loved The Virgin’s Proposition – loved Anny and Demetriios and loved the way that it was so obvious from the moment they met that he was going to have to put that past behind him and look to the happy ever after future – even if it took him a little while to see it. (and even longer to talk about it)

  3. Anne McAllister
    September 14, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks, Rach. Hope you enjoy it when it gets to Oz. I hope you are enjoying your own ‘man with a past’ as you write him. They provide lots of great backstory to dig into.

  4. Anne McAllister
    September 14, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Kate, so glad you enjoyed Demetrios and Anny’s story. You’ve written so many wonderful men with pasts that it’s obvious you find them as appealing as I do! Your Zarek in The Good Greek Wife? was definitely a man with a past — and he was one of my favorite Kate Walker heroes!

  5. Sarah Morgan
    September 14, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Anne, I love a man with a past too – it keeps me turning the pages because I’m hungry to know all their secrets. I like your Kate Walker quote – that very often these men don’t have the emotional vocabulary to give voice to what they feel – how is it she ALWAYS defines everything so neatly? It’s perfect.

    The Virgin’s Proposition is next on my TBR pile and I can’t wait to read it.

  6. Annie West
    September 14, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Anne, yes, men with a past are so fascinating. Team that with a Presents hero who, as you say, always does The Right Thing, or what he believes to be TRT even if it’s not in his own best interests, and you’ve got a great story. This one sounds intriguing, with him keeping secrets it will take a while for Anny to uncover. As Kate says there’s something utterly gripping about watching a heroine pick her way past all the hero’s defences to the heart of the matter and him!

    I’m thrilled you found something useful in my July post about wounded heroes!

    I’m looking forward to reading your first royal story, Anne. It sounds a cracker and I know it’ll be a real treat.

  7. Robyn Donald
    September 14, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Anne, I enjoyed Anny and Demetrios’s story enormously – I’ve just finished it, and they’re such intriguing characters I might have to read something boring to get them out of my mind so I can concentrate on my own hero (also a man with a past) and heroine. We’re in the midst of campaigns for local body elections, so I might try a few of the handouts for that…

    And Kate’s quote is perfect! Thanks for reminding me, and thank you Kate.


  8. Anne McAllister
    September 14, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Sarah, yes, Kate does have a way with a phrase, doesn’t she? She must be a writer!

    Annie, your post on wounded heroes was brilliant. I was aiming to write about that, then did a search of the site and found yours, and thought “um, back to the drawing board!” I hope you enjoy Anny and Demetrios when you have a chance to read them.

    Robyn, Thank you so much for the kind words about The Virgin’s Proposition. I am glad it is, in your eyes, more entertaining than the local election handouts! I tend to line my bins with those! I’ll look forward to your “man with a past.” I love reading Robyn Donald books!

  9. Trish Morey
    September 15, 2010 at 12:46 am

    Anne, I have The Virgin’s Proposition loaded on my Sony ready to go and your great blog has just seen it shoulder its way up the schedule! I look forward to your first royal. Do love your Savas men:-)

    Wonderful comments from Kate and everyone too – I’m at the beginning stages of a story, and it’s all deliciously going into the pot. Not the local election flyers though – they’re all yours, Robyn!

  10. Christina Hollis
    September 15, 2010 at 1:04 am

    Great post, Anne. Their lack of words is the key – hidden depths, misunderstandings and intrigue all make for fascinating heroes.

  11. Anne McAllister
    September 15, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Trish, yes, I was thinking Robyn could keep the election flyers, too! I hope you enjoy The Virgin’s Proposition when it makes the ‘active’ list on your e-reader. Don’t have one of those, but am seriously tempted. I could use some extra space on my bookshelves. And good luck with the new book — they’re always the most fun when you’re just putting things in the pot and stirring! Oh, and thank you for saying nice things about my Savas men!

    Christina, Yes, the lack of words is very important. Then you’re left to guess what they’re thinking — which may or may not be accurate. I’m dealing with another one right now and he’s getting to the throttling stage! He’s definitely a guy who, as Kate said, doesn’t have the emotional vocabulary to get the words out. Not that he even knows he thinks them yet!

  12. Kate Hewitt
    September 15, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I too love a man with a past. I love figuring out what made him the way he is now, and then seeing how the heroine is the only one who can redeem him, and help him to understand himself. Great stuff. I’m looking forward to reading The Virgin’s Proposition, Anne.

  13. Anne McAllister
    September 15, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Hi Kate, Thanks for stopping by! I agree about the redemption angle. I discovered long ago that virtually all my books are ‘redemption stories’ of one sort or another. I hope you enjoy the book!

  14. margie s
    September 15, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Hi Anne-I’m looking forward to your first ‘Royalty’ story, sounds fabulous! I really enjoyed this post and would like to read more. You mentioned Annie West blogged about wounded heroes in July. Could you please let me know the name of that blog. Thank you, kind regards. ms

  15. Sharon Kendrick
    September 16, 2010 at 11:14 am

    A man with a past, and the darker the better….what a challenge!
    I like the fact that you suggest unconditional love as the answer, Anne.

  16. Caitlin Crews
    September 16, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Sorry to come in on this conversation a bit late!

    I love a man with a past. The more upsetting and scarring the past, the better. Because there is no better way to open a man like that up than the heroine’s love… And no better way to get my heart pounding as a reader than to pull me along through a hard-won love story, as the heroine teaches the hero that he really can trust her. *happy sigh*

    Great post!

  17. Anne McAllister
    September 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Ah, yes … “The darker the better.” A woman after my own heart. I like the ones who don’t think they have anything left to give — for whatever reason.

    Caitlin, yes, I think the journey to love is definitely a heart-pounding trip for me as the writer, so I’m hoping it is for the readers, too. And heroes who need healing are definitely winners for me.