Monday, January 2, 2012

Balancing Strong Heroines with Strong Heroes

Please welcome Guest Blogger Janine Ashbless.

Janine will be giving away a PDF copy of her previous fantasy/erotic romance novella, "The King's Viper" to one randomly drawn commenter. Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better their chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here.

Balancing Strong Heroines with Strong Heroes:

The female protagonists I write are always strong-willed. They have to be, given what I put them through! Princesses, tree-surgeons, priestesses, retail assistants ... it makes no difference. They never go with the flow. Sometimes this comes out as a blatant disregard for social convention or a wilful determination not to take the easy path through life. Sometimes, despite shyness and self-effacement, it'll come out in a bloody-minded determination to endure anything for the sake of the one she loves. Sometimes my heroines succumb to their own flaws and screw up, and then they take responsibility and rise to the challenge of setting things right again. Some of them are hot tempered and rash. Some are far-sighted and analytical. Some of them are, frankly, not entirely sane.

In Heart of Flame I have two heroines who take parallel journeys. Ahleme – young and cosseted and terribly romantic – is kidnapped by a djinni who really doesn't understand human women but knows he wants this one to be the mother of his sons. He's a being of pure magic and devastating force – how does a helpless young woman put up resistance to that? In this instance, the djinni's overwhelming power has to be balanced by the heroine's wit, resilience and growing emotional wisdom.  

In the meantime Taqla the Sorceress sets out to find the abducted girl. Taqla's the most prickly, defensive heroine I've written. When she was very young her father did something abominable to her mother and she knows she cannot trust men. She lives behind a protective facade – disguising herself as male, because she lives in a world where women have no power; pretending to be ordinary because sorcerers get executed. But she falls in love with handsome merchant-traveller Rafiq, and for his sake (and totally against her better judgment) she joins him in a quest to rescue the abducted Ahleme. Even though she tells herself she can never reveal her true feelings or self, and though he intends to marry the girl. Because Rafiq can’t succeed without her.

No wonder she gets herself into a bit of state.

I've noticed that more than one of my heroines loses it, in a moment of emotional turmoil, and physically attacks the hero - who has to be man enough, at this point, to soak it up. Since he's physically stronger, it would not do for him to childishly lose his temper and lash out. Nor can he laugh it off in a fit of 1970s-style condescension – he has to take the heroine's anguish seriously. And to understand what it is she is raging against, which is never just him, but the cruelty and injustice of the world. He has to acknowledge that. In conflict, both let their guard down and learn more about their true feelings and about each other.

So yeah, it's all about balance. But not peaceful balance. More like the balance of two warriors who battle it out until they both realise they are perfectly matched.

Janine Ashbless

Author Bio:

Janine Ashbless is a multi-published author of erotic romance and erotica. Her first book was published in 2000 by Black Lace and she currently writes for Samhain and Ellora's Cave among others. She’s always used elements of fantasy, mythology and folklore in her writing, with occasional forays into horror.

Janine loves goatee beards, ancient ruins, minotaurs, trees, mummies, having her cake and eating it, holidaying in countries with really bad public sewerage, and any movie or TV series featuring men in very few clothes beating hell out of each other. She’s a roleplaying geek and can still sometimes be found running round in the woods hitting other geeks with a rubber sword. It is unlikely she will grow up anytime soon.

 Janine lives in Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two rescued greyhounds, and is trying hard to overcome her addiction to semicolons.


Samhain webpage for book:

Book Blurb:

And on the One-Thousand-and-Second night, Scheherazade told this story…
By day, Taqla uses her forbidden sorcery to move freely about the city of Damascus in the guise of an old sage. Her true identity known only by her faithful servant woman, Taqla is content with the comfortable, if restrictive, life that keeps her safe from the control of any man. Until she lays eyes on a handsome merchant-traveler. Suddenly her magical disguise doesn’t rest so easily on her shoulders.

When long-time widower, Rafiq, hears that the Amir’s beautiful daughter has been kidnapped by a scheming djinni—and that she will be given in marriage to her rescuer—he seeks the help of “Umar the Wise” to ensure he will be that man. Yet as he and the disguised Taqla set off, he senses that his prickly male companion is hiding something.

In a moment of dire peril, all of Taqla’s secrets are stripped bare—her fears, her sorcery and, worst of all, her love for Rafiq. Yet the princess’s life hangs in the balance, and there is no running away or turning back. Even though passion may yet betray them all...

Warning: Scary monsters and creepy ruins in the desert—check. Pagan gods that demand blood-sacrifices—double check. A handsome hero who looks good in a robe and even better out of it—oh yeah. Check, check and check. That’s worth a heroine dropping a veil or two.


“What manner of painting?” the Amir asked.
“Ah,” said the artist. “The boast of this scroll is that upon it are depicted all the most beautiful things that exist in the world, without exception.”
“Then it must include the Great Mosque here in Dimashq,” said Jamil with a little smile, “and my own daughter.”
“So it must.” The artist lifted the scroll over his head and let it unfurl all the way to his feet.
“Vizier?” The Amir was too dignified a person to get up and squint at a picture himself, so his highest official did the honors for him. He bent and peered at the middle ground, his brows furrowed.
“Where do you start? There is so much detail—cities, bridges, people. Oh—there! Yes, there it is!” He pointed at the scroll. “It’s the Great Mosque of Al-Walid! I see the minarets and the shrine of the head of John the Baptist! Such detail! You can even see the mosaics on the inner walls!” His expression of pleasure warped. “That isn’t possible. You could not paint such fine detail. And the trees there, the water—they’re moving!”
“The picture is magical,” said the artist, as if the vizier were a simpleton.
“Is it safe?” Jamil asked, frowning.
“It is only a picture, oh father of wisdom. Do you not wish to see if your daughter is depicted among the most beautiful things in the world?”
Jamil’s frown deepened.
“I will,” Ahleme said quickly. She itched to see the marvelous painting, and that it might include her made it irresistible.  She sprang to her feet.

Janine will be giving away a PDF copy of her previous fantasy/erotic romance novella, "The King's Viper" to one randomly drawn commenter. Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better their chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here.


  1. Hello Carrie Anne! Thank you so much for letting me be a guest here on your blog :-) It's a bright and beautiful morning here in the north of England - I can see the sun, which is quite something in January! - and it could not be a better start to my blog tour.

    Hello world!

  2. For me, "holidaying in countries with really bad public sewerage" would be a NIGHTMARE! I like the description of your book, Heart of Flame. Good luck with it!


  3. Thanks Catherine!
    It's not actually the bad public sewerage that I go for, I hasten to add...! It's just that the most amazing countries I've visited (India, Peru, Egypt, etc) have always had a level of "washroom roulette" built into the holiday ;-)

  4. Janine Ashbless is a new author for me but not for long. I enjoyed the excerpt and look forward in reading more.

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  5. Thanks for the guest blog-I liked the analysis of strong heroes and heroines like strong warriors. I've always thought that one may be physically strong but it's usually balanced by the emotional strength of the other character.

    Thanks so much!
    mljfoland AT hotmail DOT com

  6. Hi Tracey - that's sweet of you to say!

    Heart of Flame is 5th novel but my first book for Samhain, so I hope it goes down well with readers.

  7. Hi ML

    I've always liked characters (both male and female) who are physically brave *and* emotionally smart. I want there to be more to my heroes than just muscles and a handsome face!

  8. Your book sounds absolutely fascinating. I know it will go well with your readers.

  9. I always appreciate a strong male and female set of characters. Particularly the female character; I hate what I call the "Dry Ice Heroine" -- "Strong and frosty, strong and frosty, whoops here comes the hero / hunk, she melts." That drives me nuts.
    I'm glad you write it the way you do.

  10. "Dry Ice Heroine" - I like that name!

    Yes, one of the things I like about changes in the romance genre over the years is that heroines are now allowed to better than they were - stronger and more individualised.

  11. I love both strong male and female characters. I love someone that stands up and can take care of themselves.
    Janine is a new author for me and always looking for new authors to check out. I love to read and my fav authors only put out so many books a year, so look for new ones to check out. Thanks for the chance to win.

  12. Love the warning at the end of the blurb; that's a sure winner to get lots of attention!

    Strong willed heroines are always a treat to read. Like the characters that you've imbued in them. I have to like both the hero/heroine to enjoy a book.

    Please come visit my country (I live in Malaysia); hate to admit it but we could probably indulge u in your liking for bad public sewerage (oops)

    thumbelinda03 at yahoo dot com