Thursday, 3 December 2015

Cardboard Cut-Out Heroines

Post by Lily Harlem

Dare to be Different

Over the years I've chatted many times with my fellow Brit Babes about 'cardboard cut-out' heroines. There's no doubt about it, they sell books. Why? Because many readers enjoy a female lead who is sweet, sensible and makes the right decisions. This is because readers can identify with them, they're predictable, their moral compass is on the right track and any mistakes they make are quickly recognised and corrected - in other words 'they do the right thing'!

I'm not saying I don't have any heroines like this, I do, and the reason for that is as a writer I can identify with them too (I like to think my moral compass is on the right track!). But occasionally I get a plot bunny, an idea, a character in my head who is off the rails, she only wants to do what's right for 'her' and is prepared to take risks, live a life less ordinary.

When this plot idea happens it's impossible to ignore and the story grows, the female lead dictating where it goes. My latest novel Rule Breaker is an example of this. Lacey is a prison nurse, something one of my friends did for many years, and is lusting after one of the in-mates who's coming to the end of his sentence after serving time for armed robbery.

Which isn't so bad in itself, Miller has paid the price for his crime, he's been 'reformed' in the eyes of The Crown and the Judicial system. There is no reason why he can't rebuild his life - but would you be the one to get involved with him? Would you take that risk? That's where it's interesting, he's a bad ass, he's rough and tough, and yes, many women find this type of hero alluring, irresistible, especially when combined with devastating good looks. Put it in a novel and it's perfectly safe to indulge in the bad boy fantasy.

Lacey doesn't stop there though and flirts with what's ethically acceptable in other ways. For example she's got a very intimate relationship with her cousin, Shay (they're cousins by marriage). He's the opposite to Miller, a lawyer, and has fed her lust as she's bided her time waiting for the man she believes she's fallen in love with to be free. Shay knows nothing about Miller, she keeps him completely in the dark as she enjoys his skills between the sheets.

So how will a (perceived) incestuous relationship sit with readers and of course reviewers? I could have made Shay her real cousin, that would have been legal and still made Rule Breaker publishable, but I didn't, I was happy for there to be no blood ties. What's more daring in this book is how Lacey uses Shay. He's smart and kind, he wears his heart on his sleeve. She keeps him exactly where she wants him, in many ways, using his affection for her like a shield. I'm not saying she doesn't love him, she does, but not the way he loves her.

A heroine who emotionally hurts someone is less likable than the sweet, cardboard cut-out female lead, I agree. But in life, people get hurt. That's a truth. And there's always someone doing the hurting (intentionally or not) so why not put that in a story?

People also have sex with people they shouldn't, fall in love with the wrong person, get caught up in crimes the way dominos fall -one thing leading to another - and stir up a load of trouble without meaning to.

I hope readers will embrace heroines who break the mould, step out of their comfort zone and jump into stories that take them on a wild ride. Books aren't meant to all be the same, nor are the characters which in turn means they're not supposed to make you feel the same. But feeling differently about a new heroine doesn't make her bad, likewise if she doesn't do the things you'd do, it doesn't make them wrong as long as you understand why she's doing them. Seek out a new style of female lead, dare to be different and lose yourself in plots that are unique and unpredictable, it's the way forward...

Rule Breaker is available from the publisher, Amazon and all other good ebook retailers. Here are a few reviews just in...

Sigh... Another great book by Lily Harlem. This was totally different than I thought it was going to be but I just freaking loved it. 

If you like a bit of rough with your hot then you will certainly love Miller.

One of the characteristics I have come to associate with author Lily Harlem is versatility. Whether penning solo or in collaboration with author Natalie Dae, this author consistently delivers a panty-melting erotic experience.

Hotness abound with scenes that will make your skin tingle and glow, mix in an edge of your seat story, shout at your kindle moments and a twist in the tale and it all adds up to a fantastic, gripping book.

Thank you for reading, feel free to leave your thoughts I'll be checking in to read them.

Lily x


  1. Great blog and so true, shared.

  2. Ooo Lily - a bad girl! I look forward to reading this! I loved your very bad girl in Anything For Him... so good!
    Looking forward to meeting Lacey x x

  3. Ooo Lily - a bad girl! I look forward to reading this! I loved your very bad girl in Anything For Him... so good!
    Looking forward to meeting Lacey x x


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