Two of my VERY favorite people have fresh new novels, and there are some striking similarities.
If you follow either of them on social media (which you should, links below), you'll know that they have a lot of affection for their male protagonists. A lot. A lot of love. SO MUCH LOVE, YOU GUYS. So obviously, an interview was in order.
Hillary: Okay, clearly you both have a thing for reporters. Elaborate.
Rachel: For me, it seriously started with John Murphy from Vienna Prelude by Bodie Thoene. Before the internet and instant communication, their words informed what the public thought. They had the ability through word-smithing to influence public opinion. They’re also detectives. And I love detectives. Ray is a muckraker (a term coined by Theodore Roosevelt to refer to journalists who often went into dismal slums and conditions, institutions, prisons and the like to dig up dirt and muck). He pursues this type of journalism because he feels so strongly about social advocacy. That mission and that empathy to the lower class is a huge part of the series and he represents it so well.
Melissa: Well, Logan is actually a former reporter turned political speechwriter, but he gets the chance to return to small-town reporting in Like Never Before. And he’s actually the second reporter I’ve written! I think the reason I love reporters is because, to me, the best ones aren’t just people who have a knack for words…but they’re people who know how to listen. Like, really listen. They sense and observe and capture and preserve humanity and all its stories. And really, that’s what I like best about Logan. Sure, he’s got a thing for the written word…but more than that, he has this way of seeing and hearing people that goes deeper…and I love him for it.
Rachel: I never know what he is going to do! I try to outline and keep tabs on him, but he has really surprised me. I also really love his tenacity. English is his second language and he has basically mastered it –especially because he uses words to scrape a living. But he takes words a step further: wanting to write poetry, keeping a running lexicon of new and interesting words he hears in his journal. Mostly, I love that he is such an unexpected romantic lead: Jem thinks he’s handsome but I describe his features (other than his smile) as almost-handsome. He has a quirky temper and he isn’t the dashing prince that my heroine assumed would sweep her away when she was young. He can’t afford electricity and his bowler hat is a little worse for wear. Nonetheless, early readers have fallen for him! And I am all: see! see! I get it!
Melissa: Logan is not an alpha hero. He is not the guy who swoops in with the quippy line and flirty exterior and charmingly cocky need to save the day. Nor is he kinda your typical broody hero, either. He’s just…softer. And maybe a little sadder. And because of that, he tugs on my heart…like, hard core! He has doubts, his faith is pretty foggy and he’s confused about what his life is supposed to look like when Like Never Before opens. To me, he’s just so relatable in that way. He doesn’t have these huge big epiphanies, and while he has dreams and hopes and goals, at the end of the day, he honestly, sincerely just wants to do the right thing…for himself, his family, especially his daughter. He’s just a good, good guy AND I LOVE HIM!!
Hillary: So. Hypothetically speaking, Ray/Logan takes you on a date...where do you go?
Rachel: To a play! Or an opera! Ray knows his way around the veins and arteries of the city: even how to sneak into its theatres. We’d use the fire escape and settle amongst the ropes and pulleys and watch everything overhead. He’d have made a picnic of bread and lemon curd and wine and he’d find some amazing garden or moon-splattered courtyard that everyone else walks by but he has found some inner magic with. (note for readers: I actually wouldn’t date Ray--- he was created for Jem but he is not my type. So, see: there *is* a difference between fiction and real life ;) )
Melissa: (Unlike Rachel, I would date, marry and live a long happy life alongside Logan in a heartbeat.) Oh my gosh, he’d so totally recreate the date scene from Like Never Before—which takes place in a library after-hours. Because, I mean, dude…you sneak me into a library after-hours and you’ve pretty much earned my undying love and devotion. Another option: find a showing of His Girl Friday in a theater. No, better yet! Sneak into the library after-hours and use a projector to watch His Girl Friday on the wall. THERE! I have just crafted the most perfect date ever for myself. Real life men, please, take note…
Hillary: You can write a telegram to be delivered to Ray/Logan in their fictional world. The telegram reads:
Rachel: I bet your poetry sounds better in your first language STOP nevertheless, I appreciate the effort STOP love, Rachel
Melissa: I will never get tired of your crooked tie STOP Never ever ever STOP love, Melissa
Hillary: Your heroine. Why is she the right girl for your hero?
Rachel: I think the mushiest line in Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder is “when God made a Jem, He must have made a Ray.” On paper, they’re not suited for each other. He is a dirt poor Italian immigrant in a largely prejudice WASP society whose first loyalty is to his sister Viola and his little nephew. Jem is a well-bred lady primed for handsome suitors and social gatherings.
But, at core they’re both hopeless romantics. They’re also both outliers who don’t really fit: Ray because he is relatively new to Toronto with no connections other than his sister, brother-in-law and nephew and in a profession that is viewed as the very lowest and Jem because she is “on the shelf”, cut off from her parents and living with Merinda Herringford as a trouser –wearing bachelor girl detective. They both want to change the world starting with their city. Jem has the ideas Ray does but Ray has the voice and platform to do it. I initially outlined a Police Constable interest for Jem and then I thought: no. This series is about turning expectations on its ear. What is the suitor least likely to win the hand of a lady from a refined background? And I got Ray. He symbolizes how her time with Merinda and her pursuit of justice has altered her ideals.
Melissa: Because she gets him out of his own head! Amelia brings out a side of Logan that’s been pretty much lost underneath his grief and overblown sense of responsibility. She gets him to think in possibilities instead of just practicalities. And really, I think more than anything, she just delights in him…she’s sorta idolized him from afar for a long time but as she actually gets to know him in Like Never Before, we see her completely and totally just delighting in him. Which, to me, is one of the happiest things in life—to delight in someone else, to know someone else delights in you--and it’s something Logan needs when his story opens.
Hillary: How is your hero similar to Melissa’s?
Rachel: Even while Logan pursues (unexpected) attachment to Amelia, he is still plagued by his past: his wife’s death and learning to raise his little daughter. Even as Ray pursues a new life in Canada, his past is always at his heels. His abusive brother-in-law’s treatment of his sister makes it improbable for Ray to think about pursuing his own happiness. He is also devoted to his nephew, Luca, much in the same way Logan is devoted to Charlie and his own nieces and nephews.
Logan sometimes wears a tie crookedly, Ray always has the two top buttons of his shirt collar undone (which is really quite rogue in Edwardian times). I think a major similarity is how our heroines steal into their words. Jem pilfers Ray’s journal to sneak into his thoughts secretly and Amelia gets Logan’s sister to send her Logan’s campaign speeches. Logan takes the revelation that there is a second eyes on his speeches better than Ray takes to Jem having stolen his journal. Mostly, they both sacrifice parts of themselves and their pride for the heroine’s sense of purpose. In each case, they stand on equal intellectual footing with the heroine. They respect their heroines immensely and part of why Logan falls for Amelia and Ray falls for Jem is their strength. (That and the fact that their heroines challenge them!)
Melissa: What Rachel said!
Hillary: Favourite moment the book?
Rachel: I find it nearly impossible to write a man who doesn’t have a sense of humor, so Ray has this sarcastic edge that I love. At one point, Ray is teasing Jem by flirting with her. Seeing that she will melt the moment he lapses into Italian, he boasts that he has a perfect romantic line for her. “Io ti preferisco in pantaloni” Jem has no idea what it means as he watches her drip into a puddle. But, it translates to “I prefer you in pants.” And that, I think, summarizes the entire Jem and Ray relationship throughout the Herringford and Watts series.
Melissa: I can’t handle this question! I can’t pick a favorite! But okay, here’s one of my favorite exchanges in the book…Amelia is pestering Logan with questions about something fun he has planned. And he says…
“Again with the questions.”
“Just call me Barbara Walters.”
He wrinkled his nose. “I just kissed you, Amelia. And I’m pretty sure at some point tonight—possibly multiple points—I’d like to again. I’d rather not have the picture of you as an eighty-year-old in a pantsuit in my head when I do.”
Hehehe…I just love it. And then what happens later in that scene….gah, it’s gooey and romancey and I will stop now…
Hillary: Only if you have to! Thanks for stopping by, you guys!
Seriously, check out Rachel McMillan's The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder, and Melissa Tagg's Like Never Before. Read them both, and check out their swoon factor!
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