When my editor asked if I’d like to be involved in a continuity series involving the lives and loves of the eight daughters of a wealthy and powerful English patriarch, I confess I was a bit of a pushover. I loved the premise. I loved the idea of the heroines. Heck, I really loved the other authors who were on board. And, when I received the booklet of story outlines (or the ‘bible’ as it’s blasphemously but quite appropriately called) I loved the stories.
The only thing I was not so enamored with was the so-called hero of my book. Luis Cordoba, Crown Prince of a small island principality off the coast of Brazil, was described as an ‘incorrigible playboy bachelor’ – so far so sexy – but the outline went on to say that the previous year at the Balfour Charity Ball he had tried to seduce Emily, the youngest Balfour sister, with ‘more haste than charm’ and make her another notch on ‘his considerably-scored regal bedpost.’ Poor Emily, fresh out of the cloistered environment of the London School of Ballet and utterly naïve where the opposite sex is concerned, resisted fiercely, shocked to the core. And as a mother of three girls myself, I was right on her side. First impressions count, and it wasn’t looking good for me and Luis.
The thing is that everyone loves a bad boy – as long as he doesn’t appear in your own kitchen draped around your daughter – and although I didn’t approve of Luis I have to admit I did find myself feeling pretty attracted to him, against my better judgment. In previous books I’ve tended towards writing heroes who are troubled and tormented, so I found the prospect of writing a man who had no demons to slay or shadows in his past strangely liberating. Luis was a playboy prince, not-so-pure and very-simple, and he didn’t bother to disguise this or apologise for it. Shallow as a puddle, he was all about pleasure and hedonism the word conscience wasn’t in his vocabulary - or so he wanted me to believe as I started to write the book and he wisecracked his way through every scene he was in and refused to say anything remotely serious or revealing.
Which actually began to seem rather significant.
And so I had to ask myself – and him – what it was that he was trying to hide? I knew that his father was in poor health and that his older brother had recently died, plunging him into a position of unwelcome responsibility as the new heir to the throne and providing his conflict. However, his mother wasn’t mentioned in the outline at all, and I kept returning to this gap in his life, wondering what had happened to her and how it might have affected him. And that’s when my disapproving heart began to melt.
I don’t know any royals, and I’m rather sad to admit that my address book is kind of lacking in playboys too, but in the end Luis came to resemble the men I do know in real life more closely than any of my previous heroes. He loves football. He’d rather run a marathon, naked, with a hangover and a rucksack of rocks on his back than talk about (*shudder*) feelings. He kisses women because it means he doesn’t have to make conversation with them. He takes them to bed because when he’s having sex he’s not having to think. To him, shallow is good. Safe. And he behaves like an iredeemable bastard simply because he believes that’s what he is. Beyond redemption.
Luckily for him, Emily Balfour sees it differently. She was the perfect woman for him because she understood the need behind the nonchalance, and the boy behind the man. And she was also happy to stand graciously to one side while he took over her book, without once stamping her foot and saying ‘Wait a minute – It’s my name on the cover!’
By the end of the book I hadn’t just warmed to Luis, I’d come to adore him almost as much as Emily does, and I wonder if you’ve ever completely revised your opinion of someone – and maybe even fallen in love with them? Did that first impression turn out to be wrong, or is it always wise to trust your initial instincts? What do you think?