Technically I should still be promoting my December book, More Than A Convenient Marriage. It’s on the shelves for one more day and is a two-in-one, so great value as we all start our post-Christmas belt-tightening.
But since bending the rules is what the heroine of my February release does, I’m going to do the same and chat up A Debt Paid In Passion.
Sirena and Raoul’s story was a tough one to write. I knew I wanted that edgy revenge trope. It gives me shivers when the hero has an axe to grind and the heroine has to battle past it to get to his heart, but I quickly discovered it’s a very fine line to walk when you’re telling the story.
Sirena has done something we all know is wrong. At first I had her theft a misunderstanding and false accusation, but my editor said, “What if she really did take it?”
Oh, that upped the stakes! But gulp! That means Sirena deserves to lose her job as Raoul’s PA when she steals borrows for a really good reason his money. It’s tricky to keep the reader rooting for her when the heroine is genuinely in the wrong.
Of course, the injustice of Raoul’s overreaction goes a long way to bringing the reader onto her side. He tries to jail her for the loss of a fairly small sum (in his world) but now we have a hero who is being an absolute jerk.
Let’s be honest, though. Revenge stories are delicious because you know the hero has an awfully long fall coming from that high horse of his. There is a lot Raoul doesn’t know about his former PA, mostly because he stubbornly refused to ask. The whole time Sirena worked for him, Raoul struggled against attraction and tried to keep things professional by keeping her at a distance.
Sirena did the same, thinking he wasn’t interested, but the one day he did reveal his attraction, they came together like planets colliding. The very next day, Raoul finds out about the embezzlement, and not long after that, Sirena finds out she’s purloined a few of his chromosomes along with that other bit of larceny.
I probably couldn’t have brought them together to sort it all out if they didn’t have a baby between them. They’re both pretty angry, but Raoul can’t help revealing some soft spots as he meets his daughter and learns what Sirena has done to bring her into the world.
From there, they have quite a journey, both literally: London, New York, California, Milan, Sydney, and emotionally. Read the excerpt below to see how far they have to go. Raoul has just learned Sirena won’t go to jail for stealing.
~ * ~
Why wouldn’t she look at him? It was the least she could do: look him in the eye and acknowledge they both knew she was getting away with a crime. But she murmured something to her lawyer and left the man packing his briefcase as she circled to the aisle. Her sexy curves were downplayed by one of her sleek jackets and pencil skirts, but she was still alluring as hell. Her step slowed as she came to the gate into the gallery.
Look at me, Raoul silently commanded again, holding his breath as she hesitated, sensing she was about to swing her gaze to his.
Her lips drained of color and her hand trembled where she outstretched it, trying to find the gate. She stared straight ahead, eyes blinking and blinking—
“She’s fainting!” He shoved past his two lawyers and toppled chairs to reach her even as her own lawyer turned and reacted. They caught her together.
Raoul hated the man anew for touching her as they both eased her to the floor. She was dead weight. He had to catch her head as it lolled. She hadn’t been this insubstantial the last time he’d held her. She hadn’t been fragile.
Raoul barked for first aid.
Someone appeared with oxygen in blessedly short time. He let himself be pushed back a half-step, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the way Sirena’s cheeks had gone hollow, her skin gray. Everything in him, breath, blood, thought, ground to a halt as he waited for a new verdict: that she would be okay.
It was his father all over again. The lack of response, the wild panic rising in him as he fought against helplessness and brutal reality. Was she breathing? She couldn’t be dead. Open your eyes, Sirena.
Distantly he heard the attendant asking after pre-existing conditions and Raoul racked his brain. She wasn’t diabetic; had never taken medication that he’d seen. He reached for the phone he’d turned off while court was in session, intent on accessing her personnel file when he heard her lawyer answer in a low murmur.
The words burst like shattered glass in his ears.
~ * ~
Where do you stand on the revenge trope? Will you accept some ruthlessness in your hero, knowing that he will be turned inside out by the heroine when the truth comes out? What about the heroine being in the wrong? Will you accept her doing something less than honorable if it’s for a very good reason?
~ * ~
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