Romance author Mary Kay Andrews discusses characters that follow their hearts and how it leads them back home.
In my 23 published novels, including my forthcoming Save the Date, I’ve created more than a dozen protagonists. They’ve been big city career girls, small-town schoolteachers, lawyers, television chefs, antique dealers, interior designers and florists, but despite their disparate lives and story-lines, all my fictional characters seem to share one defining characteristic—their lives have all been upended, and in the ruins of a failed romance, they’re seeking home—either literally or metaphorically.
What is home? Is it a physical address? An emotional touchstone? An all-encompassing sense of well-being? In my own reading I’m drawn to stories that touch on a character determined to follow her heart ...and finding home.
Daphne duMaurier’s Rebeccagives us a timid, unnamed narrator whose spur-of-the-moment marriage to the dashing Maxim deWinter throws her into conflict with an unconquerable nemesis—Max’s mysterious first wife Rebecca. Intimidated by everybody and everything at Manderley, her new home on the Cornish coast, the narrator somehow gains strength through her love for Max, a love that will be tested as she unveils the secrets of Manderley and Rebecca.
Cassandra King’s contemporary re-telling of Rebecca takes us to Moonrise, a moodily beautiful old home in the mountains of Highlands, North Carolina. There, cookbook author Helen Honeycutt is fighting for acceptance amongst new husband Emmet Justice’s tight-knit circle of friends who seem to regard Helen as a fortune-hunting interloper bound on destroying the home created by her predecessor, Emmet’s first wife, Rosalyn. Unseen forces are at work at Moonrise, forces that threaten Helen’s sanity, her marriage, and eventually her life.
I’m a huge Jennifer Crusie fan, so it’s hard to pick which of her books best fit the theme of characters searching for home and love, but I guess Tell Me Lies is my favorite of Jenny’s books, so let’s go with that. The small-town Ohio setting is such a winner, I could easily visualize the house, the street, the town, even the drive-in movie theatre.
Lies gets a jump-start when our heroine, Maddy, finds another woman’s panties under the front seat of her car. Uh-oh. Shortly thereafter, Maddy’s cheating husband dies, a crime is revealed, her mother is driving her nuts ...and oh yeah, an old flame—the guy who took her virginity twenty years ago, turns up on her front porch. And he’s not inclined to leave. All this craziness leaves Maddy with the strong urge to flee—but instead, she listens to her heart and finds happiness actually sometime does turn up on your doorstep.
Anna Quindlen gives us a very different kind of Rebecca in her adroit romantic comedy Still Life With Bread Crumbs. Rebecca Winter is a fine art photographer whose fame as a chronicler of feminist life has faded. Long-divorced from her swinish ex, at 60, Rebecca finds herself in financial peril. She sublets her pricey Manhattan home and flees upstate, to a drafty rented cabin in the woods, where she mixes uneasily with the locals who frequent the village’s only coffee shop.
When one of those locals, a much-younger roofer and handyman named Dave turns his attentions toward Rebecca, she’s startled and confused. Dave has secrets, and Rebecca has issues, so their eventual romance has a rocky start. But all that rural solitude eventually works its charm, and once Rebecca turns her lens on a dog who worms his way into her heart and her cabin, she re-discovers passion—for her art, and for life. Once Rebecca allows herself to put down roots and to allow love back in her life, she finds a surprisingly happy ending.
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