Throw a truly evil villain into a love story and I’m hooked. Melodrama featured heavily in the stories I wrote as a child and teenager. Gothic thrillers like The Mysteries of Udolpho by Mrs Radcliffe and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen inspired my adolescent attempts to combine romance with a healthy dose of drama and intrigue – always with an evil villain.
It seems I can’t help it. In my latest ARRA (Australian Romance Readers of Australia)-nominated book, A Little Deception, the villainess nearly took over from my heroine, Rose. My editor had to remind me several times that it’s not about the villain so I worked hard to instil in my heroine qualities that would make her as worthy as my villainess, Helena, was detestable.
Then the time came to give my villainess her just desserts. I wanted this to be fair and in the spirit of forgiveness. Instead, my husband was horrified I’d let Helena off so lightly and, trusting his judgement highly, I upped the ante. Still, it was not enough for a fair reckoning of her crimes. This was one really evil villainess who used her beauty and guile and pulled no punches in her numerous attempts to destroy the reputation of her sister-in-law, Rose. Ultimately, Helena gets what she deserves.
Another evil villain of mine, the unctuous Reverend Kirkman, was someone everyone loved to hate in Lady Farquhar’s Butterfly, which Robert Hale has just re-released as an e-book.
His sinister motives in wanting Olivia for his wife lead him to blackmail and ultimately, worse, as Olivia tries to reclaim the infant son her abusive late husband has decreed be brought up by a cousin. Other dark secrets to which she unwittingly holds the key threaten the love she’s found with the boy’s guardian.
Olivia’s ultimate show-down with the villain was, again, originally milder in earlier drafts. However, true evil needs to be fairly matched with just desserts.
Writing the resolution to Lady Farquhar’s Butterfly was infinitely satisfying as I dished out exactly what the truly villainous Reverend Kirkman deserved at the same time as re-imbuing Olivia with the courage and self esteem her late husband had knocked out of her.
Whether I’ve plotted it, or not, an evil villain always seems to emerge from my first drafts…just as redemption is, unconsciously, my most popular theme.
I guess the forces of good and evil knitted together with a redemption theme make a good combination; and the habits and secret pleasures of one’s childhood can take a lifetime to overcome.
Beverley Eikli wrote her first romance novel when she was seventeen. Drowning the heroine on the last page (p550!) was, she soon discovered, not in the spirit of the genre so her romance-writing career ground to a halt.
A new world of romance and adventure opened up to her in a thatched cottage in the Okavango Delta with a handsome Norwegian bush pilot, then, later, in the back of Cessna 404s during low-level survey sorties over the French Guyanese jungle and Greenland’s ice cap. Cocooned for eight hours at a time with lonely pilots was, she discovered, a great apprenticeship for a romance author.