Elley Arden asks the question… can bad girls go good?
Women are hard on each other. I wish it weren’t true, but after forty-one years I can’t deny it. After all, I’ve been on both the giving and receiving ends of snarky, judge-y, and jealous behavior. It sucks. Maybe that’s why for so long there’s been a preponderance of sweet, naïve, good girls as heroines in romance novels. Oh, they can be feisty. They can be sassy. But at their core, they are kind and decent human beings worthy of our admiration. Heh. Too bad they can be boring and a little annoying, too. It’s true. Otherwise, no one would’ve coined a clever label like “too stupid to live.”
I’m not saying I don’t like nice girls. I value kindness above all else. I just don’t buy that anyone can be singing-while-cleaning, talking-to-the-woodland-animals, that-word-made-me-blush sweet all the time. Not in real life. Yeah, yeah. We’re talking about fiction. I know. But, realism in fiction, especially in contemporary romantic fiction, is valued these days. Thank God! Now, it’s possible for a heroine to be a recovered drug addict, an ex-con, and … wait for it … a cheater.
Oh, no she didn’t.
Yep, I did. I went there. I wrote a heroine who was engaged to one man and cheated on him with another man. We should hate her, shouldn’t we? I mean, nobody likes a home wrecker. The other woman is pond scum. Low self-esteem gone terribly wrong. Sure, it takes two to tango, but we seem to blame her more. (Is this like a sub-category of slut shaming?) She’s the most irredeemable creature of all. Isn’t she?
I don’t know.
I’ve never cheated or been cheated on, unless you count a couple kisses in eighth grade. But, I’ve loved people who have been on either end of the stick. Friends. Family. I’ve seen the upheaval and devastation caused by indiscretions. The fallout is no joke. I’ve also seen that life goes on afterward. And everyone — for the most part — finds joy again. It’s the incredible resilience of the human heart and spirit.
I’m not saying that infidelity is no big deal. (If ever I were cheated on, I’d end the relationship. After kindness, I value trust most.) I’m saying it happens for various reasons, and it’s possible that those bad decisions and actions won’t forever define the people involved — even the cheater.
There’s inspiration in that. We all make mistakes. Some are big. Some are small. We all want forgiveness. We all want love. We all want redemption. I’m inclined to believe — except for the rarest of cases — we deserve it, and romance novels are an excellent place to explore the matter.
This doesn’t mean we should throw morality out the window. Certain things can’t be redeemed. Thrill killing. Ick. Rape. Ugh. Harming a child. Ew. And I’d put “active cheating” on that list. I can’t imagine a romance novel working for me if either the hero or heroine cheated on someone in the first few chapters of the book only to fall in mad love with another person and wind up committed by the end of the book. In real life (in the instances with family and friends that I mentioned above), it takes years for good things to happen again — for the people involved in the affair on both sides to begin to separate themselves from the hurtful actions. Normal romance novel chapters don’t span years.
In my latest book, Marrying the Wrong Man, three years have gone by since the cheating incidence, and a lot has happened. The man who had been cheated on is happily married. The woman who had been the cheater has received her comeuppance in many different ways. She’s beaten, hollowed out, and ready to be somebody different, somebody better. It’s really a fascinating journey.
So, the next time you pick up a book and realize the heroine isn’t a classically clumsy, sweet beyond measure, girl next door, I beg you to keep reading with an open mind. She’s worth a shot at righting her wrongs.
Aren’t we all?
Morgan Parrish returns to Harmony Falls after her spectacle of an almost wedding and her father’s colossal fall from grace. She’s broke and infamous. But that’s nothing compared to the secret she’s been keeping.
Life is finally on the upswing for Charlie Cramer. He’s sober and chef of Chargrilled Bistro. But his peace is shattered, when the woman he loves — the woman who left him — shows up in town with shocking cargo: the baby he’d begged her to keep and raise with him. When fate steps in and Morgan takes a job working in Charlie’s bistro, things heat up — in and out of the kitchen.
Can they learn to trust each other enough to love again? And is that love enough to keep them up when everyone else is trying to tear them down?
Elley Arden is a born and bred Pennsylvanian who has lived as far west as Utah and as far north as Wisconsin. She drinks wine like it’s water (a slight exaggeration), prefers a night at the ballpark to a night on the town, and believes almond English toffee is the key to happiness. Elley writes provocative, emotional, contemporary romances, where Mr. Not-My-Type ends up being Mr. Right.