Friday, May 20, 2011

“Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful”

Earlier this week I was a guest at Sarah MacLean’s blog, celebrating the release of her latest book, the wonderful Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart. One of Sarah’s questions was which do I prefer, Wallflower or Belle of the Ball? Just to be different I picked Belle of the Ball. Don’t get me wrong: I love wallflower books (Lisa Kleypas, swoon…) and it’s easy to understand their appeal. We all like to root for the underdog. Got me thinking about whether it’s hard to love a heroine who has it all.

The first book that came to mind was Susan Elizabeth Phillips’Ain't She Sweet?  I’m always talking about this book because it’s one of my all time favorite romances. Sugar Beth Carey grew up as the modern equivalent of the Belle: the high school queen bee. She was beautiful, charismatic, a natural leader ... and a total bitch. Now, years later, she returns to her home town to face all the people she persecuted as a girl. Sugar Beth has some serious groveling to do (and we learn about the things that made her so mean), but I love her anyway.

Belles don’t need to be mean, of course, but if they are nice, as well as beautiful and popular, doesn’t that make for a dull book? There has to be something more. In Georgette Heyer’s Arabella a poor vicar’s daughter comes to London and, through an ill-considered boast, makes everyone think she’s a heiress. She becomes the toast of the season. She is beautiful and kind - she rescues climbing boys and ugly mutts. But there’s that unfortunate lie to get over before she can find her HEA with London’s most eligible bachelor.

Another (genuinely) wealthy beauty hitting Regency London is the heroine of Julia Quinn’s first book, Splendid. So what’s Emma’s problem? Absolutely nothing, except she’s, OMG, American. Never mind, she manages to overcome this appalling obstacle and land her duke.

I searched my pile of giveaway books to find one about a belle and hit pay dirt with Gaelen Foley’s My Wicked Marquess, featuring Daphne Starling, a well born beauty of the ton with a slightly soiled reputation. This book seems particularly apposite if you’ve ever seen a picture of Gaelen: she could be a super model if the writing thing doesn’t work out. No danger of that -  she’s as talented as she is beautiful AND (I’m lucky enough to have met her) a total sweetheart.

What about you? Can you love a heroine who has everything? Or do you prefer the triumph of the underdog? Can you think of a favorite book with a gorgeous Belle of the Ball heroine? What is the obstacle she has to overcome? One commenter will win My Wicked Marquess. If you don’t want to comment you can enter the contest here.

Sorry, only US entrants are eligible to win, though all are welcome to join the discussion. Contest void where prohibited. No purchase necessary. Winner will be chosen at random on May 27th.