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.


  1. I love them both, but I will give the edge to the herione who is the underdog...I always love the companions who get the guy or the tomboys who excel in manly things..Thank you!!!!

  2. I'm not sure if she was considered the belle of the ball but one of my favorite heriones is Jemma the Duchess of Beaumont from Eloisa James's This Duchess of Mine. She has it all style, money, popularity, everything except the love her husband. This is a story how she fought for her one true love. Thanks for sharing with us today!


  3. I agree with Leisa...I like the underdog to come out ahead :) I know you posted that one of the best lies to tell an author is that you have all of her books. Well, I don't have enough space to store them, but I have READ all of your books and love them!! I make a point of either pre-ordering your books or getting to the store the day your new books come out and then nothing is done for the remainder of the day......

  4. I agree, everyone likes the underdog but sometimes the belle of the ball is an enjoyable story as well. Sometimes the girl who seems to have it all isn't happy. Something is missing -- good true friends, supportive family, freedom to do her secret enjoyments. That is until her hero comes along (at least in romance books) :) Then all bets are off.

  5. i always tend to root for the underdog a bit more but i like them both. there are good arguments up above me. i cant think of a bell of the ball currently i blame my headache but i do love a good question such as this.


  6. Leisa - I think most people do prefer the underdog but it is good, as gamistress says, to have a change.

    Johanna - I loved, loved Gemma. As you say, no one has everything - and she was a great fighter and a truly wonderful friend. I loved the way she supported all the other women in the Desperate Duchess series.

    Bridgit - a great lie to tell an author! You had me going for a moment there :)

    Gamistress. You make the excellent point that no one really has a perfect life, however much it may look that way. Of course in romance they get close at the end of the book.

    Lindsey - hope your headache goes away. If you have an idea later, please come back

  7. I like any good romance! I prefer the wallflower or underdog but also love a great Belle of the ball story like Julia Quinn's " What happens in London".

  8. I liked the heroine in Sara lindsey's Promise me Tonight .She was beautiful ,but she had to strive for her hero. what I liked that she loved her man from the start and was not afraid of admitting it.

  9. Coupongallery - I adored What Happens in London. Julia Quinn is so brilliant at making you like her characters, no matter what.

    Meghna. Sara Lindsey's book is a wonderful example.

  10. And the winner is...Bridgit. Send me a message with your mailing address and I'll send you Gaelen's wonderful book.