Janet R Stafford

Long Live Love - Just Not the Gorgeous Kind

 When I set about writing Saint Maggie, I knew one thing: if there was going to be romance, it would be between two average people. There would be no ripped, breathtakingly handsome man and no shapely, astoundingly gorgeous woman tearing each other's clothes off in a scene that I'm pretty sure never happens.


To me Maggie is a pleasant-looking woman. She is slim and not buxom (except when pregnant and nursing). Her hair is auburn, a reddish brown. Her eyes are hazel. She is an average woman. Wild, red hair and brilliant green eyes belong to her daughter, Frankie. And tall and curvy is her oldest daughter’s Lydia’s domain. When I see Maggie, I see a woman who works all the time. Her hands get chapped from scrubbing and working with water. She dusts, mops, makes three meals a day, does the dreaded laundry, and much more.


As established in the first book, Maggie dislikes crinolines and corsets as much as Frankie does. Given the amount of physical work she does, those restrictive and cumbersome undergarments would just get in the way. Maggie is, however, accustomed to working in skirts and petticoats, a consequence of living in the nineteenth century. Women didn’t have many options in the 1860s. (Lydia, of course, does break the rules by wearing trousers when operating on wounded soldiers.) Maggie has one good dress and that she wears on Sunday, the “Sunday best” of old. She does not even approach being a fashion plate until the family’s status and income begin to rise in the fourth book. Finally she dons a ball gown, and when she does it takes Eli’s breath away – not to mention the breath of the other men at the ball.


Because Maggie is slim, I loved the idea of her falling in love with the portly Eli Smith. In the first book Eli is described as friendly-looking, but not handsome. He’s got a belly because… well, he likes food. That, however, does not mean he is physically unfit. Men got plenty of exercise in the nineteenth century. Eli is strong, particularly his arms, and this strength makes Maggie feel secure. His hair and eyes are both dark brown. However, he is near-sighted and wears a pair of wire rim glasses. And he is decidedly NOT put together when it comes to clothing. Eli is rumpled, perhaps even sloppy. Granted, the style for 1860s males was rather dumpy, but in my mind Eli is likely to have his shirt-tails hanging out of well-worn, wrinkly trousers, all of which is covered by a weathered jacket. Not exactly the stuff out of which a historical fiction love interest is made!


Eli is not the man a woman fantasizes about, but the one most of us get and the one most of us stay with because he’s a good man. The same might be said for Maggie. The man in my life continuously tells me that Maggie is “sweet” and “good-hearted,” the type of woman a man could happily travel through life with.


And indeed, it is their hearts, their desire to do what’s right, and their love of others that brings Maggie and Eli together and holds them there. Throughout the ups and downs of their lives, they respect each other. And they find each other attractive and desirable as well. Yeah, that’s right. Maggie and Eli have hot sex. Well, okay, moderately hot. I’m not comfortable writing erotica. Anyway, Maggie keeps drawing the curtain on the scene, even as Eli keeps trying to throw it open. (No wonder I find love scenes difficult to write!)


So never mind that tall, shirtless male with the rock-hard abs and the curvalicious female with long, flowing hair and flashing eyes on the cover of so many romances. I’ll take my heroine slim and rather plan and my hero short and chubby. It just works. Long live love!

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