Tag Archives: heroes

PGW and the Romantic Novelist

Just over a week ago I asked an expert why     P G Wodehouse seemed so out of sympathy with the romantic novelist. Did he know one?

romantic novelist Barbara Cartland

This is where I should probably admit that I have a sneaky image of a young Barbara Cartland pursuing him. Well, PGW was a big name when he visited London in the 20s and she was a newbie author and playwright.

If they did meet,  I would put good money on him evaporating sharpish. He had perfected the technique. His family called it the Wodehouse Glide. But nobody I’ve come across has offered any evidence of Wodehouse encountering a romantic novelist in real life.

The expert said, quite rightly, that PGW was pretty brisk on the subject of all sorts of pretentiousness. And, anyway, PGW handed out as many knocks to male poets as he did to female novelists.

PGW, The Expert and The British Library

PGW, romantic novelistThe expert was Tony Ring, enthusiast, indefatigable researcher, co-founder of the Wodehouse Society and authority on all things Wodehouse.

Indeed, my opportunity to question him arose at a very jolly talk he gave to accompany the British Library’s current exhibition, to which he acted as adviser.

P G Wodehouse, the Man and his Work ends on 24 February, by the way. So if you fancy going, you’d better get a shimmy on.

As I must, myself, as a matter of fact. It has pages of ms with his own edits. Written or typed by PGW in person.

More Than One Romantic Novelist

There was a blooming of English romantic novelists in  Wodehouse short stories in the 20s. Indeed, one became a serial offender. But more of her later.

PGR Romantic Novelist Honeysuckle CottageFirst of the stand-alone authoresses was the seriously schmalzy Leila J Pinckney. She made herself felt from the grave in Honeysuckle Cottage. The Saturday Evening Post published it in the US in January, the Strand magazine in February 1925. It appears in Meet Mr Mulliner.

A blameless young writer of gumshoe crime inherits his romantic novelist aunt’s cosy nook and find that his plots, and even his prose, lurch into the saccharine under her incorporeal influence. Worse, real life follows suit.

“The damned funniest idea I’ve ever had,” PGW wrote. Many people, including the philosopher Wittgenstein, seem to agree.

PGW romantic novelist Lady WickhamThe second is Lady Wickham, the forceful mother of noted hell raiser, Bobbie Wickham. Lady W endeavours to woo an American publisher with a restful stay at her idyllic country seat. Mr Potter Takes a Rest Cure is one of PGW’s rare ironic titles.

Bobbie plots. The gods of farce preside. Poor Mr Potter leaves, a broken man. And Lady Wickham doesn’t get her publishing deal. Strand magazine took this one, too (February 1926), preceded by the US magazine Liberty in January. It is in the Blandings Castle and Elsewhere collection.

I remember weeping with laughter over it, as disaster piles upon disaster. The reader can even see the next one coming, as none of the characters can, not even the impressively evil Bobbie. My ribs ached for hours afterwards.


PGW romantic novelist, Short story Best SellerBut it was in another story from the Milliner stable that PGW plumbed the dark depths he imagined with dreadful precision — those of writing and of publishing and even of inspiring romantic fiction.

First published in Cosmopolitan in 1930, Best Seller is a terrible warning  on many fronts: the hollowness of fame, the crippling price of success, cultural delusions, writer’s block, deadlines… It’s all there.

Evangeline Pembury’s first novel, Parted Ways, against all expectations, knocks the in-house opposition at her publisher’s into a cocked hat. Therefore, neither publisher, nor her agent, nor the public can get enough of her. She has contracts and cash coming at her from all sides. And she sobs “like a lost soul.”

romantic novelist busy editing“But I can’t. I’ve been trying for weeks, and I can’t write anything.  And I shall never be able to write anything. I don’t want to write anything. I don’t know what to write about. I wish I were dead.”

Phew! From the heart, or what? I tell you, it sends chills up my spine just typing that.

romantic novelist reading aloudAnd PGW doesn’t just focus on the writer’s horrors. He has no pity for their husbands or partners either.

For the romantic novelist in question is the newly affianced wife of our hero, Egbert Mulliner. Inspired by his love — she quotes his proposal verbatim in her story — she has penned her first novel. And reads the whole thing aloud to him.  AAARGH!

He marvelled, as many a man has done before and will again, how women can do these things. Listening to “Parted Ways” made him, personally, feel as if he had suddenly lost his trousers while strolling along Piccadilly.


Dirty draft mystery journeyEgbert Mulliner is a classical hero, no question. For he treads a dark path. And he starts off with an ingrained character flaw that clearly signals whence his Trials will come.

Everyone has his pet aversion. Some dislike slugs, others cockroaches. Egbert Mulliner disliked female novelists. 

Not serious, you may think. Not fatal.

Nor is it really blameworthy, either. Before our story opens he has avoided a nervous breakdown by a whisker. His employer sent him off to a specialist after Egbert was found at his desk with little flecks of foam about his mouth and muttering over and over again in a dull, toneless voice the words, ‘Aurelia McGoggin, she draws her inspiration from the scent of white lilies !'”

We certainly know the flaw which will trip him up, right from the start. And the story does not disappoint. Egbert falls for a cheerful girl who plays golf. He sees her squashing a wasp with a spoon. Egbert even asks her if she writes — novels/ short stories/ poems. No, none of them. All will be well. He proposes

Woman chained to her working deskBut, like every hero of myth, Egbert Mulliner forgets the catch. He didn’t tell her about his flaw. And he didn’t ask  about the  future.

For that reason, as you have already seen, the worst comes to pass. Egbert faces his horrors. But just when he thinks that things can’t get worse, they do. Twice. He descends into the abyss and emerges a changed man, not for the better. Bitter and twisted with his ruined soul in chains about covers it.

But then… 

No, I won’t go on. One of the few virtues of the romantic novelist is not giving away other people’s surprise endings.


The Inimitable Jeeves Rosie M first appears in a 1922 short story, Bingo and the Little Woman. PGW then integrates that prolonged anecdote into the episodic novel The Inimitable Jeeves. Thereafter, she drifts through 20 stories and more. Often she is somebody’s favourite author.

Many of her titles get a name check. Madeleine Bassett describes the plot of Mervyn Keene, Clubman to Bertie in, to him, excruciating detail. “I had always known in a sort of vague, general way that Mrs Bingo wrote the world’s worst tripe — Bingo generally changes the subject nervously if anyone mentions the little woman’s output — but I had never supposed her capable of bilge like this,” he tells us.

Rosie M Banks, Bingo readingInterestingly, her work makes an appearance before Ms Banks in person. Jeeves explains that her romantic novels make “light, attractive reading”. So he recommends the eponymous Bingo Little to read them to his tough egg of an uncle, to soften the latter’s heart. Bingo and the Little Woman is a joy.

The wondrous Fry and Laurie’s Jeeves and Wooster pretty much does it justice.


As is the wont of those minor characters who get too big for their boots, Rosie M Banks has got her foot over the threshold of the real world on at least two occasions so far.

Rosie M. Banks Navy NurseThe first was when a series of nurse romances, by Rosie M. Banks, including Navy Nurse, came out in 1959-1962. PGW had not written it. Nor had he imagined either the title or the story.

Dedicated PGW researchers (*scroll to page 13 on the linked article) discovered the author was one Alan Jackson. He, or his publisher, had written for his permission to PGW. Much amused, the Master agreed.

The second occurred when Random House invited readers to propose the best 100 novels ever. As one of the perpetrators has since confessed, inspired PGW fans succeeded in placing Rosie M. Banks’s Only A Factory Girl on that list. (Incidentally, that link is to a lovely article about remembering how to read for fun.) Eventually some joyless bureaucrat sussed out the conspiracy and disqualified her entry. But for a while she was here in our universe. And so…

ROSIE M. BANKS SPEAKS … to be continued next week

Sophie Weston Author


Fictional Blondes

fictional Blonde La Dolce Vita Mastroianni and EkbergA recent lecture on La Dolce Vita started me thinking about the variety of fictional blondes I have come across in my life. For there is something special about The Blonde. She grabs our attention the moment she appears. Indeed, in twentieth century western culture she became almost an icon.

Yet at the same time she has as many aspects as a Greek goddess, positive, negative and sometimes just plain loopy. And we all know them.

Fictional Blonde“Having a blonde moment,” my friend, author Sarah Mallory, will say, as she discovers the sunglasses she has been searching for are lodged securely on the top of her head.

She’s channelling the Airhead Blonde — charming, disorganised, sometimes a little naïve, sociable, and so good-hearted that you forgive her any amount of stuff that would irritate the hell out of you in a grey-haired matron or a sultry brunette.

Forgive her and maybe even love her. We pay to go and see movies about her. That shows you! Continue reading

The Romantic Hero Revisited — Essential Hero Qualities

Revisiting the Romantic Hero Formula —
except that there isn’t a formula, as I tried to show in the first blog on this topic. So, instead, I’m going to explore some aspects of creating the romantic hero.

With examples from a master of the art of hero-creation — Georgette Heyer.

Which Qualities Make a Romantic Hero Attractive — to Readers?

Most of us would say that our aim in writing romance is to create a heroine that our readers will identify with and a hero that they will lust after. Warning: it is not easy to do and not all readers will respond in the same way. Some may adore our hero and some may hate him. As romance authors, we’re winning if we have a lot more of the former. 😉

Tall Dark and Handsome?

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in "Game of Thrones."

Alan Rickman as Nottingham, Richard Armitage as GisbourneTall dark and handsome? Not necessarily. As readers we probably all have favourite heroes who are none of those. As writers, we may have created some of them, too.

Most telling recent example? Who became the abiding hero in the Game of Thrones series? Yes, Tyrion, the dwarf. Continue reading

My Hairy-Chested Hero : Guest Blog by Christina Hollis

portrait of author Christina HollisToday, we welcome our first guest blogger of 2018, Christina Hollis, a writer with quite a pedigree.

Christina has written non-fiction, historical novels, and modern romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon and other publishers, selling nearly 3 million books in more than twenty languages.

But today, Christina is not talking about her writing.
Today her guest blog is about Alex, her beloved hairy-chested hero…

My Hero with the Hairy Chest…

Intelligent, a good listener, the perfect companion for long country walks—but that’s enough about my husband. I’m here to tell you about Alex, our retriever/labrador cross. Continue reading

Beautiful heroines, handsome heroes : never ugly, never bald?

Let’s hear it for the heroes! Tall, dark and handsome?

mysterious hero but is he handsome?

Hero = handsome; heroine = beautiful?
Bestselling author Susanna Kearsley published a blog last week that asks a thought-provoking question about romantic heroines:  — why is it that “some readers, when faced with a blank face, are programmed to fill in the features as ‘beautiful’?”

Good question.
A disturbing question, too, perhaps.

But what about the heroes? Do we readers fill in male features in a similar way? Why?
Do the heroes of our imagination have to be tall, dark and handsome? Continue reading

Falling in Love with Someone Else’s Hero

We all do it — fall in love with someone else’s hero. We always have. Robin Hood. Ivanhoe. Mr Darcy. John Thornton. Raoul de Valmy.

Also, in my case, Brian de Bois Guilbert, Humphrey Beverley, Faramir and Captain Carrot. I like geeks, loners and oddballs. Even those with the occasional dash of villainy, at least as long as I could redeem them. What can I say?

Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that a heart-stopping hero constitutes a good slug of the fun of fiction. Continue reading

Buffy, Her Librarian, Fellow Feeling and a Little Love

Buffy's Librarian 20th AnniversaryOn the 20th anniversary of Buffy, I want to celebrate the character who really got to me from the series — Buffy’s Librarian.

I’ve been tripping over fans’ favourite moments, measured academic evaluations, quotations, issues, the sheer energy of the fantasy, in the most unlikely places. Continue reading

Hero Allure — Libertà’s Hero Poll Results

hero allure in autumn light

How often is hero allure part of what compels us to pick up a book?

Last week we asked people to vote on which qualities would hook them into the hero’s story. We were thinking of just that first engagement: what we learn from the blurb, the first few pages or Amazon’s sample.

Across A Crowded Room

With more and more novels to choose from every year, it’s becoming a major issue. I suppose it’s the literary equivalent of eyes meeting at a party. Something in you jumps to attention and says, “Oo yes, this one.” Continue reading

Appetising Heroes? Have YOUR say in the Hero Poll

?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?   Who Is The Man On Page One   ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?

hero in the mist - bring him into the light with hero pollBring YOUR hero out of the mist

Hero Poll — Romantic Heroes that draw YOU in

You check out the cover, the blurb, the first page or two. What is it about the hero — as he appears at the outset, warts and all — that makes you want to read his story? Continue reading

YA Heroes: Deliciously Bad? Guest Post by Pia Fenton

Today’s guest blog on YA heroes is from award-winning author Pia Fenton (Christina Courtenay)

author of YA heroes christina courtenay / pia fenton


Heroes, Villains . . . What’s Not To Love?

malfoy played by Jason Isaacs


loki played by actor Tom Hiddleston


There’s been a lot of talk about heroes on the Libertà blog. Also delicious villains.

Yes, I too am a fan of Mr Rickman and others like him, notably Lucius Malfoy (actor Jason Isaacs) in the Harry Potter movies — how could you forget him?! — and Loki in the Thor movies (actor Tom Hiddleston). Continue reading