Poor Patty is about to learn that heroines who drag a reluctant hero into marriage is usually one of the most unlikable heroines in romance novels.
Patty Dixon: What’s this about me not being likable?
Ruth: It’s true, Patty. Since you are forcing Greg Wilson into marriage, there’s going to be some people who will be very upset with you.
Patty: I’m not forcing him into it.
Ruth: You’re placing him into a position where he doesn’t have a choice.
Patty: Nonsense. He could have said no at any time.
Ruth: And have you end up in the hands of someone like John Meyer?
Patty: Well, that is what he would believe, but I was never in any danger of anything from John, unless you consider those sloppy wet kisses he insisted on giving me to “show” Greg how serious he was about marrying me to get my pa’s land. At all you had to do was write it. I had to live through it. *shivers* My poor tongue will never be the same.
Ruth: But see, that’s the point. You never actually were going to be forced to marry John. A lot of people will argue that your lie is going to make you unlikable.
Patty: I’m totally likable. And despite what people think, Greg thought so to when we were younger. It’s not my fault they don’t know the backstory right away.
Ruth: Putting the character’s backstory at the very beginning of a novel is a horrible storytelling technique. People aren’t interested in a character’s past until they get attached to the character.
Patty: But if people knew there was a time when Greg did want to be with me, then what I do at the beginning of the book makes sense.
Ruth: I hate to say it, but even then, some people won’t like you.
Patty: I don’t understand why. It’s not like I go around killing people or sleeping with other women’s husbands.
Ruth: Because Greg didn’t want to get married. You see, there’s this double standard you need to be aware of. The hero is given way more grace and forgiveness than the heroine ever is. If the situation was reversed and Greg concocted some scheme to trick you into marriage, people would still like him. But that’s because he’s a man.
Patty: That makes no sense to me. Since when does someone’s gender affect whether or not their actions are held against them? Shouldn’t it be equal?
Ruth: Ideally, it would be, but the sad fact is, it’s lops over into the real world. I mean, men can sleep around and they’re called “studs” while women sleep around and they’re called “sluts”. If a man is assertive and stands up for himself, he’s self-assured. If a woman does it, she’s a you-know-what. If a man has gray hair, he’s distinguished. If a woman has gray hair, she’s old. The two people can be doing the exact same thing but if the person is a woman, people won’t be as accepting of it. But, on the flip side, if a woman slaps a man, it’s forgiven because he must have been a jerk to deserve that slap. If a man slaps a woman, he’s considered an abuser. If a woman stays at home to take care of the kids, that’s her right. If a man stays at home to take care of the kids, he’s a lazy slob who refuses to work. If a man is portrayed as being stupid on TV or in the movies, that’s considered funny. If a woman is portrayed as being stupid in the same venues, that’s considered insensitive and rude.
Patty: None of that is fair.
Ruth: I didn’t say it was. It just is what it is, so when the 1-star reviews roll in because you tricked Greg to marry you, insisted on staying in his house when he wanted you to go back to your father’s ranch, and lassoed him in front of others so he had to stay in the house with you… Well, I’m afraid they’ll think you’re a you-know-what.
Patty: But I’m not a you-know-what. Is it my fault that the love of my life didn’t magically land into my lap like they did for Heather in Mitch’s Win or Eva in Boaz’s Wager? I tried the whole “doing it nice” thing in Mitch’s Win when I was at a supper with Greg. But it didn’t work. Nothing I’ve tried before that worked either. I made things he liked, wore dresses, and smiled in the most charming way whenever he was around. But did any of that work? No. For some reason when we were sixteen, he changed his mind and decided he didn’t want to get married anymore. But he did want to be with me, and he still does at the beginning of my book. I’m as sure of that as I am of my own name. It’s not my fault that you gave me a hero who is so stubborn that none of the traditional methods worked. If I didn’t trick him into it, I would have had to tie him up, gagged him, and had the preacher marry us that way.
Ruth: Patty, that last statement will only enforce the reason why a lot of people won’t like you.
Patty: But didn’t tie him up and gag him so I could marry him. That ought to be noted. I did still give him a choice. He could have let me “marry” John Meyer. He didn’t. And you know why? Because deep down, he wanted to marry me. I didn’t do this to punish him. I did it because it was the best thing for him. I can’t help it if he let something in his past blind him to the truth.
Ruth: Well, Patty, for what it’s worth, I love you. You got a lot of spunk. You stand up for what you want. You don’t sit by and let life happen to you. You go out and make your own destiny. You’re a happy person, overall. And to be honest, there’s a lot of me in you.
Patty: Then am I to assume a lot of people don’t like you?
Ruth: Actually, this rule pretty much applies to romance novels, not real life, although I’m sure my own husband is up to receiving sympathy cards if anyone’s inclined to send them.
Patty: Well, I got Greg in the end. By the end of the book, he is happy to be with me.
Ruth: And on some days, my husband is happy to be with me, too.
Patty: On some days?
Ruth: In romance novels, there’s a happily ever after. In real life, the details of every day living filter in and couples have their moments where they think, “What did I ever see in this person?” But overall, yeah, my husband and I are happy. And good news, Patty. Your book will be out right before July 1.
Patty: Am I supposed to say “yay” when I know people won’t like me?
Ruth: Just go out horseback riding and spend time with Greg. Do things that make you happy.
Patty: I can do that.
Ruth: Good because in the end, the only person you can do anything about is yourself. 😀