Apparently, I was the only red-blooded woman in America who had not yet read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. Published back in 1992 when I was in high school, I somehow missed this novel. I blame being THAT person who read all of the books on her college syllabi, something that has left me also deficient in the works of Catherine Coulter and Judith McNaught.
But I digress.
I really hate that I didn’t read Outlander when I was in high school. Back then I devoured epic novels with reckless abandon. I read North and South, Lonesome Dove, Gone with the Wind, Oldest Living Confederate Tells All, The Stand…oh, you get the picture. I was also reading books with violence. See the aforementioned Lonesome Dove as well as The Godfather and, yes, Watership Down. (Bunnies. . . who knew?)
Outlander would’ve fit so perfectly into that time of my life.
On the other hand, I’m glad it’s taken me this long to read Gabaldon because now I’m married and a mother. I’ve seen enough of life to be able to understand how the barbaric Highlands aren’t as different from today as we might like. I can also appreciate Claire’s joy at the thought of a warm bath. So I suppose it’s time to get on with the thoughts and feels…
**Avast, maties, there be spoilers ahead. This is the time in the post where you are to abandon ship if you haven’t already read Gabaldon’s work. I’ll go ahead and tell you that I recommend that you do so.**
Okay, on the con list:
1. OMG all of those horrifying things are going to stick with me forever. Was it really necessary to almost kill Jamie? I mean, the poor boy had suffered enough before the story even began. He was shot, flogged, beaten, raped, tortured, seasick, and I’m sure I’m missing something else. I sometimes felt like I was watching Game of Thrones against my will what with all of the beating and killing and raping and attempted rape and scheming and betrayal. (Mind you, I’ve seen about two and three-quarters episodes of GoT, but I still think that captures the gist.) Apparently anything in Highland Scotland was game for rape except maybe rocks. Wait a minute. Some THINGS happened on a rock. Even the rocks in eighteenth century Scotland could be traumatized!
2. The pacing. Oh, the pacing. I confess that I skipped things because I was all, “I don’t care about plants or genealogy or Highland politics. Where’s Jamie?” I wanted to see what Jamie and Claire were up to. Also, if you’re going to read this book–and you should!–settle in for about two-hundred pages of “When will this story kick in?” It’s all important and I probably should’ve been paying more attention, but I struggled with those first two hundred pages. And this from the crazy woman who voluntarily read “The Custom-House” before diving into The Scarlet Letter.
3. Adultery. Y’all, I have a thing about adultery–as in I don’t like it. Moreover, I’m not entirely sure why Frank is really necessary. I suppose he adds a level of angst to the dealings with Randall? And the family tree thing ties in? Beyond that, though, I don’t find Claire’s feels for him to be legit. Heck, once she meets Jamie, there is no need for her to have feels for Frank. his character did NOTHING for me. I had already decided he wasn’t the man for her long before his resemblance to Randall became a problem.
4. Jamie whips his wife. Wha? No. I had issues with this. Now, I managed to resolve them for the most part since a) Jamie apologizes sincerely, b) comes from a different time, c) is motivated by his concern for Claire’s safety, and d) did warn her. Still. Beating your wife ain’t cool. I don’t care what time you’re living in.
Now for the pros:
1. BEST USE OF CATTLE IN A NOVEL EVER. I’ll confess I sat the fence on Claire up until they went to Lallybroch. She finally started to grow on me then. By the time she engineered a dungeon escape by means of cattle and then put Jamie back together? We were cool.
2. Feminist novel for the win. Gabaldon does so much for feminism in this book. She starts off slow in this arena, but by the end of this book, man. First, older experienced woman gets to bed a virgin. Kudos to her! Second, she’s the competent healer and speaks her mind in a time and place when it is dangerous to do so. Third, she adapts pretty darn quickly to the rough Highland life and learns to protect herself and the ones she loves. Fourth, she risks her well-being to get Jamie to fight back because she’s figured out that he’ll have to get mad before he can fight to live. Claire Beauchamp is no shrinking violet, no waif to be saved. She makes things happen.
3. One of the best romantic heroes of all time. At one point, Jamie defines a good husband as one with power and money who doesn’t beat his wife. It so happens than he has no power, no money, and did, in fact, beat his wife. Even so, he is the antidote to all of those billionaire dominants out there. He may be stubborn, but he’s also loyal and compassionate. To my knowledge, this is the only literary occasion of a man offering to be tortured and raped in exchange for his wife’s freedom. As Lily and Marshall would say, “That’s love, bitch.”
4. Characterization. These are characters who, for better or for worse, will stick with me. Damn good characters which explains why we’ll all meander through dissertations on plant properties and Highland politics and Pretender thrones and goodness only knows what.
5. Romance. Outlander is a romance. And it isn’t. But it totally is. I would happily hold this book up as an example of why romance is important and why it shouldn’t be relegated to the scrap heap of literature. Love, sex, marriage–these are all an important part of who we are as people. This novel is both literature AND romance. (and adventure and history and…)
And now for a moment of truth. As I am wont to do, I flipped ahead to the back page long ago. Once I hit about halfway through the book I sneaked a peek at the summaries for the sequels to come. I don’t think I’ll be headed on. I like Jamie and Claire just where I left them and I see no reason to pull an All My Children and tear them apart. I would probably reread this book before I started any of the sequels. Does this mean I esteem Gabaldon any less? Oh, no. This is definitely one of the books that I am so, so glad I read.
All right, my pretties, did I miss anything?
The first stretch goal has been met! Huzzah!
What am I talking about, you ask? Well I said when 550 added The Happy Hour Choir to their Goodreads shelf that I would share a teensy bit of the novel. The next big stretch goal is 750, at which point I will give away a Pop-up Video copy that has all sorts of marginalia and behind the scenes info. I’ll think of something for 600 and 650, but I’m off to RT, oh, TOMORROW and thus incapable of thought at the moment.
Anyhoo, here’s a bit of a scene that I kinda liked. To set you up, Beulah has grudgingly agreed to Ginger’s plan to play piano at the church. This is also my obligatory southern people be sweating scene. At least I give a very good explanation. Of course, you’ll have to get the book and finish reading the scene to see what it is. . . .
With no further ado, here’s Beulah and Luke from The Happy Hour Choir:
I kicked at rocks in the church parking lot for a good ten minutes the next Wednesday. I’d already proven I wouldn’t catch fire upon entering the church, but that didn’t mean I wanted to go inside. Of course, the afternoon sun and several persistent gnats made the idea much more appealing.
Once inside, I waited for the cool air to hit me, but the sanctuary was too hot for anything holy. Walking through the church back to Luke’s office felt like pushing my way through invisible blankets, damp with steaming heat.
“Have mercy, Preacher Man, why is it so hot in here?”
He looked up from his desk, and I sucked in a breath. There he sat in one of those sleeveless undershirts, the last thing I would have expected to see him wearing. Stubble had taken over his jaw, and he wore a pair of glasses. He looked both domestic and dangerous in a soap-opera hero sort of way. “Beulah, I’m sorry. I lost track of time. I’m almost finished. Have a seat.”
There were so many questions I wanted to ask him. What was going on with the heat? Did he really need glasses? Where did he get those muscles? Nope. I wasn’t going to think about Luke doing push-ups so I looked to the wall. A poster of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had joined Abbey Road as well as a framed sketch of a pretty woman.
“Beatles fan?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said, wondering who the woman in the sketch could be. “I don’t play them much, but I like to listen.”
He grinned. “Good. If you’d told me you preferred the Stones, I would have had to fire you.”
“I prefer the Stones.”
“Nice try,” he said pointedly before looking down at his desk to finish writing notes in the margin of the typed page in front of him. It was easy to forget Luke was a minister when he looked like this, rough around the edges with an easy smile.
Fans self. Thanks to all of you who’ve already picked up a copy of The Happy Hour Choir. What do you think? Did I pick a good scene? *blows a kiss*
So happy to have Cecilia Dominic on the blog. I’m reading her book A Perfect Man as we speak, and she’s been kind enough to psychoanalyze my funeral director. As if that wasn’t enough, she agreed to write a blog post about Beta heroes, and I’m rather fond of them. Please welcome Cecilia Dominic!
Thank you so much for hosting me today, Sally!
The romance genre is replete with alpha heroes. Think about the Duke who runs his estates with precision or the CEO whose company is successful but could always do better. He’s portrayed with intensity, and if he wants something, no one will get in his way. Part of his character arc often involves him learning to soften and compromise as well as to acknowledge and give in to emotions that don’t have anything to do with power and drive. He’s also often portrayed as grumpy and stubborn. Change is hard, especially if you’re accustomed to being in control of your environment.
Granted, there’s appeal in taming these alphas, but I’m here to talk about my favorite hero to read and write about – the beta hero. In my upcoming novel A Perfect Man, my hero Seth is definitely a beta.
What is a beta hero? For the answer to this question, I consulted Leigh Michaels’ On Writing Romance, or as I like to call it, the Romance Writing Bible. According to her,
The alpha hero is powerful, driven, assertive, masterful, dominant, superior, successful, and charming. The beta hero is relaxed, playful, nurturing, and caring, but no less successful and no less charming. (page 50)
I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of the alpha hero. Sure, he has his place, but I don’t think I’d be able to make it through dinner without wanting to smack his self-assured smile off his face. A quick consultation of the hive mind called the Internet revealed similar sentiments and a term that makes my inner twelve-year-old giggle – alpha-hole.
One thing I’ve found in my years of private practice psychology is that everyone has something they don’t like about themselves or their lives. It’s human to want to change but also to find it difficult. Yes, alphas have their vulnerabilities, and often their alpha-hole-ness (heehee) is overcompensation for a past wound or failure. With betas, the quirks and areas of less confidence are evident, and he’s more aware of them. This makes him easier to connect with for me as a reader and writer. For example, my hero Seth knows he’s not as confident as he needs to be, especially around strong women. It was fun for me to write his struggle with having to develop more alpha-like traits, but those were balanced with his beta characteristics of sensitivity and caring.
Another core difference between alpha and beta heroes is motivation. The alpha wants power, control, and security. A beta hero, on the other hand, is more concerned with other things like intellectual pursuits or the welfare of those around him. While I am a Type A control freak sometimes and can understand alpha motivations, I’m more drawn to the beta and his interests – like Seth’s desire to be a great writer – or his need to connect with those around him.
There are plenty of other reasons to love beta heroes. According to Samhain Publishing editor Holly Atkinson,
The reason I love beta heroes is they are under-utilized in the romance industry–we get a lot of alphas, but betas are often more relatable, and more like the types of men we actually tend to fall for (or, at least in my experience). I like a man who does more than brood and growl, though brooding and growling has its place…it’s just nice to see another type of hero. I fall in love intellectually first and physically second, so if a guy is buff and hot, well, he’s eye candy, but if he’s smart and considerate, and yes, a little nerdy, he’s my kinda dude.
She nails it with the term relatable, and how a book’s beta hero needs to be relatable will differ with the heroine and her own experiences. When my clients discuss where to meet friends or possible romantic partners, I always advise the same thing – places where you’re engaged in a common interest and where you’ll encounter someone repeatedly. With beta heroes, you have a better chance of attraction through commonality rather than the brute force attraction of the alpha. It’s intellectual connection rather than lust. Yes, you can have both, but the process with the beta hero is slightly different. My heroine Karen first notices how Seth looks, but she hates being forced to work with him. Then she does find herself attracted to him for various reasons as she gets to know him, and their relationship eventually encompasses all of it.
Or does it? I don’t want to spoil the ending for you. I’ll just say that Seth comes to a more balanced place in the end.
Since Sally also writes beta heroes, and her heroine is named after a hymn, comment below with your favorite album – I won’t say perfect album because that’s hard to define – for a chance to win a $10 iTunes gift card. Yes, the prize is $10 today to kick off the second half of the blog tour. Please include your email with your comment so I know how to get in touch with you.
Oh, and my favorite album is U2’s Achtung Baby, if anyone was curious. Sally, what’s yours? It varies. Um, an oldie I’m fond of is Sheryl Crow, Sheryl Crow and a newbie is The Heist by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
Want to follow me and my characters on the #12DaystoPerfect blog hop for the chance to win more cool prizes? Join the event on Facebook for daily updates and please consider liking my page while you’re there. https://www.facebook.com/events/472007642953392/
For a full description of all the grand prizes, see: http://ceciliadominic.blogspot.com/2015/04/12-days-to-perfect-blog-hop-preview.html
How far will she go to find her perfect man? How far will he go to be one?
When Karen Hardeman sets foot on the Foothills University campus, it’s her first step toward proving her abusive ex wrong. Just her luck, her first writing assignment in Intro to Romance sends her in search of the perfect hero—a quest she’s never managed to conquer.
Worse, her professor forces her to collaborate with the most overconfident, annoying guy in the class.
Seth Sayers is also at Foothills to find new direction—preferably one that takes him far away from the family drama that’s followed him since his father’s death. He didn’t mean to humiliate Karen by rewriting her manuscript from the hero’s point of view. He blames the painkillers the ER doctor gave him after stitching up a wine-induced cut on his hand.
As their collaboration progresses, Karen begins to trust Seth with her manuscript, then maybe a little piece of her heart. But Seth’s half-brother resurrects Seth’s suspicions about his father’s death. Until he finds the truth, he can’t be the hero in anyone’s life. Even his own.
Warning: Some alcohol consumption. Okay, writer amounts of alcohol consumption. There are also some adult situations, but nothing too explicit. It is a romance-writing class, after all.
A Perfect Man will be released May 12 from Samhain Publishing. If you’d like to read the first part of the first chapter, please check out: http://ceciliadominic.blogspot.com/2015/04/a-perfect-man-first-chapter-and.html
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-perfect-man-cecilia-dominic/1121228853?ean=9781619229464
Samhain (on sale at the time the blog post was turned in): https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5430/a-perfect-man
Cecilia Dominic became a clinical psychologist because she’s fascinated by people and their stories, but she couldn’t stop writing fiction. By day, she helps people cure their insomnia without using medication. By night, she blogs about wine and writes fiction that keeps her readers turning pages past bedtime. Yes, she recognizes the conflict of interest between her two careers, so she writes and blogs under a pen name. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with one husband and two cats, which, she’s been told, is a good number of each. She has been published in short story and novel-length fiction and currently writes urban fantasy, new adult contemporary, and steampunk for Samhain Publishing.
You can find her at:
Web page: www.ceciliadominic.com
Wine blog: www.randomoenophile.com
A Perfect Man will be released on May 12.
I need a handy spot for links to the places where you can find the book, so here we go:
Kensington (I <3 them)
Marietta Book Exchange (drop by or give them a call at 770-427-4848)
Indiebound (I’m still not quite sure how this one works, but I think it connects you to possible independent booksellers. I’ll add more as I find out.)
Target (Red card, anyone?)*
*Only online. Don’t get too excited.
Whew. Everything in one spot. No muss, no fuss. Be sure to comment if I’ve missed someone or one of the links isn’t working. Oh, and be careful of said spots. I hear book pirates abound, and, if you buy books from them, the authors get no money and sits around dejectedly asking why the rum’s always gone.
Imma start something new. From time to time, I’ll feature a writer pal because we all have to FLOCK together, you know. We’ll call it #birdsofafeather. I haven’t read this particular book YET, but I did enjoy Mary’s book Incandescent, so I’m looking forward to it. Ladies and gents, I present to you a blurb from Illumination:
The Chairman left as abruptly as he’d arrived. Xander let out a breath and released the glamour. He looked around at the thirty or so origami birds and animals he’d created over the last six hours. Mindless little decorations he always made when bored or under stress.
Six hours spent on them and still not a clue what he was going to do about Voda. There had to be something he could do to save a man whose only crime was to try to end a war that promised to destroy whatever fragile bonds were left between the three races.
Xander stretched, feeling the joints in his shoulders pop. A little origami bird flew by his head. He jerked back, momentarily confused, and then an origami elephant lying next to his hand picked itself up and walked across the desk, its trunk waving snakelike in the air. “The hell?” With a soft whoosh, the rest of his creations suddenly sprang to life — stumbling, sliding, and lurching toward him with a sort of deranged enthusiasm, leaving him in little doubt of the spell
“Hello, Mina.” He flicked a giraffe off his arm and then sat back in his chair, resigned.
“I almost thought you forgot how to make them.”
His gaze followed the sound of her voice and found her curled up on his window seat, shadows wrapped around her slender body like a blanket.
“What the hell are you doing here?” He was being too harsh with her; he knew that. It was just that the girl always had the worst timing.
What if the Chairman had seen her?
“I didn’t have anywhere else to go.”
Had he heard tears in her voice? It gave him pause. In the dozen or so years he’d known Mina, he’d never seen her cry.
“What makes you think you’re safe here, Mina?” Xander tried to keep his tone brisk, wanting her to understand the brevity of her appearance here. “Under your uncle’s nose isn’t the best choice for you. Mikhail already chase you away?”
“It wouldn’t be safe for Misha and Laurie. You’re the only one that can handle this.” Mina scooted forward until the light revealed her face. It was covered in blood, dripping from open wounds where her silver piercings had been ripped out. Two deep slashes laid open
the flesh along both of her cheekbones.
“Jesus, Mina.” Xander stood and moved across the room toward the Darkling. “What the hell happened?” His stomach knotted at the ravage to her delicate heart-shaped face, her lean dancer’s body tensed at his stare as if poised for flight. Her generous lower lip trembled
and, for a moment, he forgot they were on opposites sides of a war.
Mina’s fathomless black eyes slid from his to a point behind him; she was likely tracking the origami still in motion around the room. Some flew, others scuttled around. He’d have a devil of a time finding them later. On his desk, a yellow frog jumped into his coffee mug with a splash. She smiled and then winced in pain.
“What’s going on, Mina?” Xander whispered. He knelt in front ofthe Darkling, trying not to startle her as he gently touched her chin to wipe away the blood. She flinched, and it made him go cold inside.
Who would’ve hurt her like this? Someone wanted to make a point, to humiliate and maim. For all Mina’s faults, she didn’t deserve this.
She focused back on Xander. “I need your help,” she said.
It would be a death sentence if he assisted her. Their people, the Mages and Darks, were at war; any aid by him would be an act of treason. He watched her sway. Always pale, she now appeared ghostly.
“What do you need?” he said, and as the words left his mouth, Xander knew he was damning himself. Just as he did the first time he defended her, years ago.
“It’s my mother,” Mina whispered. “I need you to find out why she’s trying to kill me.”
Author Bio: M.V. Freeman lives in North Alabama. A nurse by day, at night she enjoys creating and exploring alternate worlds within our own. She gravitates toward stories of determined heroines and anti-heroes who push the boundaries as they both fight to find their light in the dark.
M.V. is represented by Victoria Lea from The Aponte Literary Agency. Her award-winning and best-selling debut novel INCANDESCENT is the first in the Hidden Races Series. Currently she is working on the third book in the series, while plotting others. When not writing, she can be found reading, cooking, throwing around kettle bells, or making coffee.
What is this book called and where can I find this book of which you speak? Since I’m feeling particularly helpful, let me assist you with that, too!
Capricious and free-spirited, Mina Tepes is forever trying to intervene. Some would say she interferes. Her attempt to save a friend worsens a war already waging between her people, the Darks, and their reviled overlords, the Mages. Desperate, she turns to the man who saved her life as child–an enemy Mage named Xander.
As part of the ruling class, Xander Fjordson should never have taken notice of Mina, but even as boy, one look into her large dark eyes and he was lost. As an adult, involvement with her has ripped his world to shreds. Though the war she unintentionally instigated has made them enemies, when she comes to him bleeding and injured, he is unable to say no. He puts at risk what is left of his status and his family as he follows her, knowing in the end he’d have to betray her.
Together Xander and Mina begin to unravel terrible secrets as the war escalates. Soon Xander must choose: save his family or the woman who’s come to mean more to him than his own life.
That’s really swell. Why don’t you have some questions and answers? Well, see, Mary and I had books release this week and we’re a little, um, busy. Maybe later we’ll Q&A. OR you can ask questions now, and we’ll both answer them. I keep asking for silly questions and not getting them….you could be the first to make my IFAQs (INfrequently Asked Questions page)
Oh, and congrats, Mary! Thanks for stopping by.
This would be my t
hird fourth attempt, and I can’t promise it will be last. Having your debut novel come out? Well, that’s something you can only do once.
I like to call The Happy Hour Choir my Eff It Book. In other words, I wrote this one my way after many other frustrating attempts to get published. I didn’t play by the rules. It’s not the sort of story that fits neatly into a box. It’s. . . . me. I believe in happy mediums and complexity and looking for common ground instead of picking sides. Here’s hoping The Happy Hour Choir resonates with you because it does all of those things.
The other day I had the most humbling thought: if you choose to read my book, you are doing me the kindest of favors. I have no doubt that several of you have To Be Read piles that look like mine. For anyone to choose to read my book out of all the books that are out there? That’s magic, and I thank you. You have no idea how much I thank you.
Finally, the whole crazy story may have come from my demented imagination, but it would’ve never made it to book form without agent and editor, friends and family. I am humbled by the amount of support I’ve received. The Happy Hour Choir would not be what it is without all of the incredible beta readers and fellow authors who’ve read it and offered suggestions and encouragement. *I* would’ve never made it to this point without my parents, my bonus parents, my kids, and especially not without Ryan–you guys have all made it possible to for me to do what I love. So many people told me I should go it alone, but I really thing this book is all the better for all of the input of Nikki and then, of course, Peter.
As for today? Today we celebrate. I’ll be going around town hunting for my book in the wild, knowing that it may not be there because I used to work in a bookstore and. . . oh, there are more reasons than you want to know. You can, however, bet your bottom dollar on this: I shall stalk my book like the Crocodile Hunter and say “Crikey!” in a very bad Australian accent. Often. It’s time to be silly because I’ve already put in the work.
Speaking of silly, I cordially invite you to join me from 3pm until 5pm for #HappyHourSelfies. Pick a beverage, any beverage. Pick a time zone, any time zone. Lift your glass and selfie away! Don’t forget to add the hashtag because I’ll be looking for you on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Oh, and believe you me, I’ll be raising a glass to all of you!