One of the things I love about romance novels is the escape from reality they provide. The hero can never get it up for another woman after falling in love. The heroine easily pushes asides the advances of other men. And everyone finds their happily ever after. It’s a classic formula that, honestly, I hope never goes away.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate seeing something different in a romance every now and then. My last book, Worth the Wait, followed the traditional troupe of the virgin falling for the playboy. In an unorthodox manner I believe, but still a familiar theme. Something you don’t always see in romance is a heroine with a playgirl past. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to tell the story of “bad girl” Shayla Monroe after introducing her in Worth the Wait.
In my current novel, A Heart to Heal, Shayla returns to her hometown with her name shrouded in scandal. She’s taken a media punch to the face after an affair with a prominent and married politician. I knew going into this that it may be hard for some readers to like Shayla, so I tackled the issue of her affair from the very start. My hero, Devin, confronts her about it early and even though she realizes that she made a mistake, she doesn’t let that one mistake define her.
I like Shayla because she’s “real”. She’s imperfect. She’s been used, taken advantage of and gotten the short end of the stick for most of her life. While she craves love and tries to be good, her selfishness comes through. When she wants to do something eventually she talks herself into doing it sometimes with results that aren’t in her best interest.
I wrote Shayla because every once in awhile it’s good to get a healthy dose of reality in a romance novel. All women aren’t perfect. But even the imperfect ones have a side to tell and deserve a happy ending. Shayla learned to accept who she was, that she would never get everyone’s acceptance and approval, and that some people would always look at her and see her past. Even though I don’t claim to write stories that convey a deeper message, I hope that readers respect Shayla’s journey and maybe take a second to think before throwing a “bad girl” under the bus.