Taking Contemporary Romance Cues from Comic Book Characters

By Holley Trent, author of Colleen’s ChoiceMelt My HeartA Demon in WaitingSold As Is, and My Nora

Colleen's ChoiceLast summer when the other Emerald Springs Legacy authors and I were creating the fictional Pacific Northwest town and imagining up characters to fill it with, I was coming down from a superhero high.

I had just gotten around to watching some of those awesome Marvel flicks that everyone else had already seen, the last of which was Thor. When Jaimie Alexander walked onto the screen as Lady Sif, I swooned.

For real.

Sif certainly isn’t a new character—she’s been swashbuckling in the Marvel universe for nearly forty years—but Jaimie Alexander totally owned that role. Even surrounded by a bunch of burly dudes in leather, you somehow get the feeling that she has the biggest balls in the room.

So, I had that sort of agency on the brain when I was developing the character Colleen Sanders. I had a woman whose neighbors and best friends growing up were three boys. A woman who, at five years older than her only sibling, would be the heir apparent to the family legacy.

I couldn’t very well make her demure. I needed a character with an edge…but one who struggles to maintain it in the wake of everything around her falling apart.

Colleen’s a woman who knows she’s battling uphill, not just in regards to turning her failing family farm around, but also in terms of reputation. Everyone in Emerald Springs knows her history; she was a high-spirited young woman and a fearless athlete as a teen. As an adult, people in town think she’s cold and unyielding. Heck, even her own father accuses her of being shrewish in a roundabout way.

In the romance world, we expect certainties. The biggest one is that there’s a match for everyone, and when a character finds his or hers, that partner will make them better in a way. Colleen isn’t the kind of heroine who’d want rescuing. Instead, she’d need a fearless partner possessing the kind of wisdom and confidence to prop her up. Maybe even someone who’d give her some tough love when she needed it.

I couldn’t give her a typical alpha male and expect a happily ever after. If it were as easy as that, Lady Sif would have ended up with Thor, right? I had to create a hero with the sort of warmth and charm that he could make even an ice queen smile. As a result, Alan Prevost may be the most cunning hero I’ve ever created.

In fact, Colleen’s Choice is the toughest contemporary romance I’ve tackled as an author, and not just because of the “difficult” heroine. (I write those all the time in my paranormal romances.) I took a character with the personality of a supernatural super-heroine, plopped her into the “real” world, and had to give her the perfect sparring partner. You see, Colleen’s not as cold as the folks in Emerald Springs think. Just like everyone else, she’s afraid of having her heart broken.

To find out how Alan wins over Emerald Springs’s most inscrutable beauty, dive into book two of the Emerald Springs Legacy: Colleen’s Choice. First, check out her rival Adam Whitman in the series opener Adam’s Ambition.


Holley Trent is a Carolina girl gone west. Raised in rural eastern North Carolina, she currently resides on the Colorado Front Range with her family. She writes sassy contemporary and snarky paranormal romances [usually] set in her home state. To find out what stories she has in the pipeline, visit holleytrent.com.