Five Secrets I’d like to Share

I was tagged by fellow-blogger and author Roberta Pearce several days ago to post five things about myself that people might not know.

Well, if you don’t know it means it’s a secret, and if it’s a secret, I shouldn’t really be telling you, but since I can’t resist Roberta’s persuasive talents, I’ll have to comply…

1- My feet have given me many tough moments in life. When I was a child, I was taller than the rest, and had bigger feet then the rest of the girls my age, so I had a really hard time finding suitable shoes my size, children’s size. Everyone told me it would be alright when I got older, but it wasn’t, my feet kept growing, and growing, and by age thirteen, I was size 41. A couple of years later, it happened. My foot grew again. I am size 42 (I think that’s 11 US and 8 UK). Fortunately, they stopped growing. It was agony finding shoes. imagine a teenager looking for something cool in the outsize shoe department. I hated buying shoes. It caused me such trauma 😦 Of course it’s easier now, as there seem to be more people with my ‘problem’, and online shopping has made it much easier! Now I actually enjoy buying shoes:)

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The last pair of shoes I bought. Online. By Pitillos. Spanish leather shoes. Price: under 60 Euros. Value: Priceless. Size 42.

2- I’ve been using henna to colour my hair since 1992. I say this because many people think I’m a real red-head. Well, I’m not. I have to remind myself sometimes. I had curly blond hair as a child, which soon turned chestnut. The trouble with henna is it’s a bit messy and time consuming. I have to make a creamy mixture with the powder, some olive oil, and hot water, which I then apply to my hair with gloves, and leave it on for over an hour.

It’s an ancient ritual, which I love taking part in. Henna is a small tree which grows in northern Africa and has been used as a cosmetic die for 6,000 years.

Red or hennad became popular with the Pre-Raphaelite artists of England in the 1800s. The painting on my header, Lilith, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti  is just one example. The French Impressionists further popularized the association of henna-dyed hair and young bohemian women.

The trouble with henna is it’s a bit messy and time-consuming. I have to make a creamy mixture with the powder, some olive oil, and hot water, which I then apply to my hair with gloves, and leave it on for over an hour. However, I think it’s worth it, because I’ve never used chemical dyes on my hair.

 

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Red hair 55th birthday!

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Chestnut hair, 21st birthday!

3- I never drink red wine or spirits. I only drink beer or white wine occasionally. I’m not too fussy, I like local white Spanish wines, My favourite white wine is Rueda, which is made with ‘verdejo’ grapes, grown in Castille (north-west of Spain), near the cities of Valladolid, Segovia and Ávila. Marqués de Riscal is my favourite. I also like French Chardonnay or Sauvignon, and I have tried California white wine, when  was in the US, and thought it was quite nice, too. I’ve also tried white wines from Chile, South Africa, and Australia, although I haven’t been there yet.

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Marqués de Riscal grapes

 

4-  My favourite food is ‘cocochas’ or cod cheeks cooked in an earthenware casserole, made with olive oil, fried garlic, parsley, and making sure it is well-stirred, and slowly cooked. It also goes very well with white wine.

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5- I’ve always wanted to write the ‘autobiography’ of Catherine of Aragon, wife of Henry VIII, and the daughter of the Spanish Queen, Isabel of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon. I’m fascinated by this little girl who grew up in the splendour of her parents’ court in sunny Granada, and at the age of 15, she was sent to ‘cold and wet’ Wales to marry a sick child, Prince Arthur, who died shortly after her arrival, and then she was a virtual prisoner of Henry VII until his death, when she was finally allowed to marry Arthur’s brother, Henry VIII. Unable to bear a healthy male heir, she was eventually rejected, divorced, and imprisoned, in favour of Anne Boleyn, much like the madwoman in the attic… I will write it one day… By the way, she is said to have been a redhead!

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Catherine of Aragon at 11 by John of Flanders.

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Catherine’s mother. Isabel of Castille.

 

I feel relieved after telling you my five secrets, but don’t worry, I’m still a mystery, there are still plenty more secrets I’m saving for the future…

Who’d lke to tell me 5 secrets? It’s up to you! Let me know in the comments so I don’t miss out!

Why I love romantic novels with Byronic Heroes

I love reading romantic novels with Byronic heroes, on occasions, because they are emotionally gratifying.

The reader enters an ideal world with young, beautiful, rich, and powerful people, and it all ends well, which is satisfying after a hard day facing the real, sometimes boring, and often ugly world.

There’s a likeable heroine who eventually makes an unlikeable hero, very likeable, leading to a happy ending. What’s there not to like?

There are many novels following this timeless pattern, recurrent in many love stories throughout literature, all of them immensely popular.
Put simply:

1- Bad guy meets good girl.
2.a- Bad guy tries to seduce, dominate and/or spoil good girl, making her bad, too, but he fails because she’s stronger or cleverer, or better, so good conquers evil. Or
2.b- Good girl tries to make bad guy into a good guy.
3- Finally he becomes a good guy and they live HEA (which usually includes marriage and/or children).

This formula has been successful in literature for centuries. It started with Mr. B in Henry Fielding’s Pamela (1740), and can be seen again in  Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1813), Captain Wentworth, in Persuasion (1817), Rochester, in Jane Eyre (1847), Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights (1846), Max de Winter, in Rebecca (1938), Edward Cullen in the Twilight Saga (210-2011), Christian Grey, in Fifty Shades of Grey (2011), to name a few of the most well-known.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing the literary quality of any of the previous novels mentioned, I’m merely pointing out that the main romantic plot arc in these novels is almost identical.

This moody, and self-assured, male protagonist, who is finally tamed by the heroine, came to be known as the Byronic hero, named after the English Romantic poet Lord Byron, and described by Lord Macaulay as ‘a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection.

Portrait of Lord Byron by George Henry Harlow. Circa 1816.

Byronic heroes are brooding, darkly handsome, and they have a secret, hidden past, which makes them behave antisocially. They are usually worldly, rich, cynical, destructive, and resentful. They have difficulties identifying and even expressing their emotions, and women find them extremely alluring. They are idealized yet flawed characters, who need to be recovered and repaired by the perfect heroine.

Many readers enjoy these novels. I enjoy them, no, I love them. Although I often wonder why I liked them in the first place.

I think it’s because I’d like it to be true. I’d like to believe, even if it’s for a few hours, or minutes, that good can conquer evil, that love can soften resentment, and cure all ills. I want to be optimistic….for a while.

One of my favourite contemporary romance writers is Roberta Pearce. The Value of Vulnerability is the third novel I’ve read by this author who specializes in romantic novels with strong female leads and rich and handsome, alpha males, with HEA endings.

What makes her novels worth reading or different from other similar novels?

Well, I haven’t read all the others, but I’ve read a few, and what makes Roberta Pearce’s novels different is that they are impeccably written, with economical, precise prose, and the characters are well portrayed.

Ford is perfectly depicted from page one. After leaving a girl he’s just slept with, he says;
“You mentioned having difficulty with some finances. Now you have fewer.”
She licked her lips, staring at the scattered hundreds with an expression he had seen dozens of times: greed combined with humiliation, and underwritten with gratitude.
He’s a real baddie, with the usual Byronic defects, and he develops, and grows out of them as the novel progresses, and the reader expects.

The reader’s interest is in discovering who’s going to make him change, and how she’s going to do it.

She is Erin, beautiful, young, intelligent, generous, friendly, loving, and far too good a person for him.

In the real world, if she were my daughter, or a friend, I’d say, ‘keep away, he’s no good’, but this isn’t the real world. I’m escaping from reality. It’s a romantic novel, and I know it will be all right in the end. I keep turning the pages impatiently, and I know there will be ups and downs, twists and turns, but I know I won’t suffer…too much, because it will have a happy ending.

Why do I recommend it? Because it’s well written, the characters are authentic, the story is beautiful, and it’s a welcome break from a real, hard day!