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Guest Blogge r- Dorothy Howell

February, 2010

All you need is love, according to the Beatles. The notion makes for a great song, but unlike in real life – and certainly in books – it’s not always enough.

I’ve written 23 historical romance novels, most under the name Judith Stacy, and can say that “love” is only a portion of what it takes to create a successful love story. Things like internal and external conflict, the setting, dialogue, story arc all play a part in putting together a satisfying read.

The hero in a romance novel is a key component in the success of the book. He must be many things to satisfy the savvy romance reader.

First, the hero must be the alpha-male in the story. Strong, determined, a leader of men. He has to be smart and financially secure (wealthy works for me!). The hero also needs the guy-next-door quality that allows him to listen – yes, actually listen – to the heroine’s problems and concerns, to comfort her and ease her troubles.

Putting all those facets together to make the perfect male is one of the things I like best about writing romance novels. Let’s face it, it isn’t often we get the chance to craft a perfect man!

All that changed when I started writing mystery. The series debuted with HANDBAGS AND HOMICIDE and featured fashion sleuth Haley Randolph as a 24 year old having a big-time quarter-life crisis. I gave her a love interest, Ty Cameron, a handsome, wealthy, business mogul who owns the department store chain where Haley works.

I quickly realized I couldn’t conclude the relationship between Ty and Haley in the first book. I had a three-book deal with Kensington. This was a series and Ty had to be a continuing character. I had to keep the conflict between them going.

That meant Ty couldn’t be a typical romance hero. To my mind, he had to have more than the limited number of flaws allotted to a romance hero. Yet, somehow, I had to make the romance element of the book appeal to my largely female readership. I decided to take the tried-and-true elements of a romance hero and assign them to other characters in my mysteries.

Ty is the smart, financially secure (wealthy still works for me!) guy. I gave the alpha-male aspect of a romance hero to Jack Bishop, the bad-boy private detective who helps Haley with her cases. Detective Shuman, the homicide detective, plays the role of guy-next-door.
This formula has worked well through the second book in the series, PURSES AND POISON, which has a particularly strong romantic sub plot. In SHOULDER BAGS AND SHOOTINGS, which will be released in July, the romantic sub plot thickens with the addition of an ex-boyfriend, and a new mystery man in Haley’s life.

Readers are quick to express their opinions on which man Haley should end up with. Some say she should dump Ty and date private eye Jack. Others think the boyish Detective Shuman would better complement Haley’s personality. Still others (wealthy works for them too, I guess!) insist she should stay with Ty, despite his many flaws.

So what do you think? Which guy would you choose for yourself? The tough guy, the nice guy, or the wealthy guy?

Or would you stick with the Beatles and decide that all you need is love?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Alpha male
Financially independent, wealthy


  1. Personally I think that the P.I. sounds like the man to go with, but I'll add your books to my ever growing list and let you know after I've devoured them. They sound like great fun.

  2. Dorothy,
    What a fun blog but I'm with Mare on the P.I I think he would be my choice.

  3. Who I would pick would likely change with my mood! Nice to have options....



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