I have lived in the Houston area for 32 of my 38 years. Those that are missing, I was still in Texas, just up the road in College Station and then Dallas. This is the place with my roots and my large extended family. As an adult, it has also become the place where I have started raising my own family and found a church that is like family. There are many wonderful things to recommend Texas, but this is never the place I wanted to be forever.
Mr. R, as many of you know, is an engineer and his job has kept us here, but it is no longer his passion or what he feels called to do. This shift for him and my strong desire to be in the mountains has led us to look elsewhere. This past weekend, my wonderful husband accepted a position at Blacktooth Brewing Company in Sheridan, Wyoming.
We are moving our family to the edge of the Big Horn mountains! I will finally be in a place I always wanted to be and Mr. R will have a job he finds fulfilling. We have deep roots in Texas, so we will be back to visit. We hope some people come visit us and see the beauty of our new home state.
I plan on chronicling some of our move and transition in this space because there is a lot of things I need to learn about living in a cold climate and you will need to laugh at me as I learn. In the midst of all this, Plagues of the Heart (Turning Creek 4) will be released so there are a lot of exciting things ahead.
After working months on a manuscript, mostly in isolation, it is fun when my beta readers and editor read what I have written and provide comments. Often their insight, makes me re-frame what I have constructed. Occasionally, their comments are observations on things I have done that they liked or were surprised by. These make me smile because I know the small details I labored over were noticed.
Something my editor pointed out to me during the course of edits on Storm in the Mountains got me thinking about what is and is not permissible for female leads in romance or books with a strong romantic element. She pointed out that my female leads drink, a lot, and they enjoy their ale and whiskey, unabashedly. She loves this about them.
When Petra, Dora, and especially Marina are sitting around, they are either eating cookies (biscuits), drinking tea, drinking tea fortified with whiskey, drinking whiskey straight, or drinking ale. There is a ton of drinking going on in Turning Creek. When I wrote them, I did not consider that this was odd, because it is what I would prefer to be doing most days. Who doesn’t want to sit under a shade tree with a pint of brown ale and chat with friends?
I love tea and I love beer. I drink copious amounts of tea because I am a recovering coffee drinker. I love coffee, but I loved it too much.
I like enjoy beer. Mr. Rochester and I are fairly serious homebrewers and you can get me to agree to pretty much anything by offering me a wee heavy or a Belgian ale. The darker, heavier the beer, the more likely I am to love it. I would drink scotch and Irish whiskey more often, but I can not afford that indulgence. I save those for special occasions. I might be a good Baptist girl now, but I was raised Catholic and it shows.
After Brenda, my magical editor (Her blog says she is a story sorceress and I completely agree with that.), pointed out my characters’ tendency to drink for leisure, I started thinking about what drinking means in romance.
In romance drinking can be a sign of dissipation, especially in regencies and historicals. A character who drinks too much is most likely a reprobate in the process of losing his family’s fortune. These characters will either be stripped of their responsibility by the hero or if they are the hero, will have to sober up, shape up, and win the lady to redeem themselves.
Characters will also over-indulge when they are grieving. It should be noted that the grieving is often brought on by their own poor choices. Poor choices, it should also be noted, which drove the damsel away. The moment the hero sees the backside of the heroine (ha!) often results in them realizing that, oops, I think she might be my soul mate. You screwed that one up, buddy. They may also be drinking because the damsel in question is making them insane with lurve and they are having trouble with all these new emotions coursing through their veins. Male leads in romance novels frequently struggle to contain and understand emoshuns and turning to drink, though only briefly, can magically help them realize, like the tin man, that they too have a heart.
All the scenarios I have described above relate only to the male leads in the story. Female leads rarely drink and almost never to excess. If they do drink, it is in ways socially acceptable for females, like wine at meals or after dinner drinks. If they become intoxicated, it is by accident because in their inexperience they did not know the punch was that strong or that too much whiskey makes everything go wibbly wobbly. In contemporary romances, which shares most of the rules historicals follow, the female leads will sometimes have a night of excess. These result most often in either accidentally winding up with the male lead or moving the plot along in some fashion. Female leads rarely drink just because and never because they really want to get their hands on that special edition limited release bourbon barrel ale.
Mmm, I really need a drink now. Good thing I have a fully stocked beer fridge.
I have been trying to think of some notable exceptions to these rules. I have read a lot of historical, steampunk, paranormal, and some contemporary romances and I could only think of one exception. It may because, honestly, it is pretty much all I am thinking about the last few days.
Outlander is on my brain. In the first book, Claire get smashed before her wedding and enjoys scotch neat, surprising many of the men. The men around her note often that she is able to hold her liquor much better than other women of their acquaintance. Claire has trouble hiding her modern sensibilities and habits which makes for some amusing conversations.
In the book, she is gloriously hungover for her wedding day after drowning her nerves the night before. Once the wedding day commences, she applies the hair of the dog strategy and drinks a bit more. She gets tipsy and then strips Jamie of his pesky virginity. In the show, she is a little more than tipsy by the combination of nerves and drink and goes through the day in a fog. It is a nice reversal that Jamie remembers the day with clarity and Claire has trouble with many of the details. In the book, she actually passes out from too much drink and not enough food as they are leaving the church.
My female leads have never drunk in the books, yet. Marina does get out of hand, as she likes to do, but even she even is never truly drunk. The harpies enjoy good whiskey and good ale. They are violent creatures who are a bit wild and do not quite fit social norms. I love them for it.
Can you think of any female romance leads who enjoy drinking openly?
I camped out at the Spec’s (a large local chain) before they opened this morning at 10. I was not the only one there and we were all sad to hear that they were doubtful that they were going to get any at all. This batch was smaller so there were not as many 6 packs to go around.
After some internal waffling, I decided to race up the freeway 40 minutes to the large Spec’s downtown. I grabbed Gideon and raced into the store only to be faced with the fact that they too were out. I slumped home, sure that this year, I was not going to get the strong scotch ale about which I have been dreaming. I found out later in the day that they sold out of 70 cases in 20 minutes.
I stopped for eggs and milk at the Kroger near my house. On a whim and a prayer, I cruised down the beer aisle. To my joy, the beer guy was putting two cases of Divine Reserve on the shelf. I almost kissed him (he was cute and holding beer, can you blame me?).
Two 6 packs are now resting comfortably in the Rochester fridge.
The Rochester household loves St. Arnold Brewery. St. Arnold is the oldest handcraft brewery in Texas. They have a line of beer they call the Divine Reserve which is a different style every year and once it is gone, there is much crying and sadness.
Ever since St. Arnold announced this year’s batch would be a Strong Scotch Ale, I have been waiting with bated breath. This week, on September 10th, my patience will be rewarded. I guess Thursday, I will have to go hang out at the liquor store to buy a couple six packs. It sells out fast, so you have to get there early and ask for it. Usually, they do not even bother to put it on the shelves. You have to go ask the beer guy for it.
It is one of my favorite times of year… Oktoberfest time. We have a local brewery in Houston called St. Arnold and they make many delicious seasonal brews. They only brew a finite amount, so often you have to know when the brews are due out and then stalk the local liquor stores. They can disappear pretty quickly.
Last year at this time, I was with child and unable to partake of the seasonal offerings. This year, there are no such restrictions.
Mr. Rochester and I bought the last two six packs at our local store and we gleefully danced out with them. We did spare a second or two for the schmoes who missed the goodness, but our triumph won and we giggled like children in the cookie jar. Only this is much better than cookies.