When I wrote Notorious Eliza several years ago, I had absolutely no plans for Miss Arabella Wilbanks, a secondary character who appeared only briefly in an early scene. She shrieked at her poor hapless maid, convincing Patrick, the hero of the story, NOT to propose to her. He went on to meet his heroine, Eliza. Exit Miss Wilbanks, stage left, never to be seen again.

Um… no. I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I have a soft spot for most of my characters. I want them to be nice people, or at least for their actions to make some sort of sense. I try to see things from their point of view even if they’re truly villainous—because even villains have motivation, and they’re more convincing as characters if the author knows why they do what they do.

But Arabella wasn’t a villain, and I couldn’t bear to leave her as a senselessly cruel mistress. I kept asking myself, “Why was she so horrid to her maid?” Patrick liked her enough to consider marrying her, so she must have been reasonably likeable and intelligent, and not the sort of woman who would mistreat a servant.

I can’t resist a mystery. What if… what if that bitch I’d written wasn’t the real Arabella? What if Patrick’s first assessment was right, and she really was a heroine—just not the one for him? Then and there, I knew I had to make her one. All I had to figure out was her motivation…

Ta-da!! Arabella became the heroine of my latest novella from Harlequin Undone, To Rescue or Ravish?
Here’s the blurb:

When heiress Arabella Wilbanks flees a forced betrothal in the middle of the night, the last person she expects to find at the reins of her getaway hackney is Matthew Worcester. It’s been seven long years since they gave in to their mutual desires and shared the most incredible night of their lives, but Matthew still burns with regret for leaving her without a word. He should escort her to safety, but the chance to reclaim and ravish her once more proves impossible to resist!

And an excerpt:

London, January 1802

Arabella rapped hard on the roof of the coach. It lurched around a corner into darkness broken only by the glimmer of the hack’s carriage lamps and stopped.

She put down the window. “How far are we from Bunbury Place?”

The jarvey got down from the box and slouched against the coach, a nonchalant shape with an impertinent voice. “Not far, love. Changed your mind, have you?”

“I have not changed my mind. I am merely asking for information.” She put her hand through the window, proffering the guinea. “I trust this suffices. Kindly open the door and point me in the right direction. I shall walk the rest of the way.”

He didn’t take the coin. After a brief, horrid silence during which she concentrated on thinking of him as the jarvey and not her once-and-never-again lover, he said, “Can’t do that.”

“I beg your pardon?” She pushed on the door, but he had moved forward to block it.

“It’s not safe for a lady alone at night. This, er, Number Seventeen, Bunbury Place—it’s where you live, is it?”

How dare he? “Where I live is none of your business.” She shrank away from the door and kept her hood well over her face.

“So it’s not where you live. Who does live there, then?”

Why couldn’t she have just told him that yes, she lived there? Must every man in the entire country try to order her about? “Let me out at once.”

“Sorry, love. When I rescue a lady from deathly peril, I see her home safe and sound.”

Some shred of common sense deep inside her told her this was extraordinarily kind of him, but it made her want to slap his craggy, insolent face. Home wasn’t safe for her anymore. Nowhere was safe, and meanwhile Matthew Worcester was playing stupid games.

“Cat got your tongue?”

She exploded. “Damn you, Matthew! Stop playing at being a jarvey. It makes me positively ill.”

There was another ghastly silence. It stretched and stretched. Good God, what if he actually was a jarvey? Surely he hadn’t come down that far in the world. A different shame—a valid one—swelled inside her.

“You recognized me,” he said at last. “What a surprise.”

Do you like it when characters you thought weren't so great turn out to be heroic after all? Have you ever read about an unsympathetic character you wished you could turn into a hero/heroine? (There are a couple of male characters in Georgette Heyer's romances about whom I feel this way.) If you're a writer, have you ever transformed a villain into a good guy?

I have two free downloads of To Rescue or Ravish? from Harlequin.com to give away. Please leave a comment for a chance to win one!



  1. Tamara LeBlanc // July 25, 2012 at 8:11 AM  

    First of all, Barbara, I LOVED the excerpt. I was instantly drawn to both Arabella and mathew. And the sexual tension between the two...*sigh* I can't get enough of that.
    I, for one, prefer to read about characters that aren't so heroic at first, but change throughout a story to become very heroic. And I know thats something that and good novel should have, a character arc, but I like it to be very steep. And I also love seeing a villain become a hero (Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer comes instantly to mind!)
    I haven't read this newest release of yours but I CANT wait to pick it up and devour it!!
    Best wishes to you and continued success :)
    Have a great day,

  2. Barbara Monajem // July 25, 2012 at 9:20 AM  

    Thanks, Tamara! LOL -- yes, there's plenty of sexual tension in this one. ;)

    'Steep' is an great word to describe a certain kind of character arc -- very accurate!

  3. Autumn Jordon // July 25, 2012 at 10:09 AM  

    I agree with Tamara. I like when a story opens and the characters flaw(s) are like red flags. YOu just know they're going to have to change and I want to see how.

    Great excerpt!

  4. Mona Risk // July 25, 2012 at 10:26 AM  

    Barbara, your characters are deliciously appealing. They jump out of the page into real life. That lille excerpt makes me want to read their whole story and be with them.

  5. Beth Trissel // July 25, 2012 at 10:54 AM  

    I love it when a secondary gets their own story and this sounds super. Great post.

  6. Barbara Monajem // July 25, 2012 at 11:19 AM  

    Autumn -- I agree, the process of a character going through drastic changes makes a great read.

  7. Barbara Monajem // July 25, 2012 at 11:20 AM  

    Aww, thanks, Mona. Your words are music to my ears!

  8. Barbara Monajem // July 25, 2012 at 11:21 AM  

    Beth -- I have a habit of falling for my secondary characters. Sometimes it's hard to keep them under control until it's their turn to be heroes and heroines.

  9. Mary Ricksen // July 25, 2012 at 2:29 PM  

    Wow Barbara! this one sounds terrific! Good luck!!!Love when a character yells at you to tell their story...

  10. Mary Ricksen // July 25, 2012 at 2:29 PM  

    Wow Barbara! this one sounds terrific! Good luck!!!Love when a character yells at you to tell their story...

  11. Barbara Monajem // July 25, 2012 at 4:12 PM  

    LOL, Mary. Yeah, those characters are the most fun!!

  12. Scarlet Pumpernickel // July 25, 2012 at 7:25 PM  

    Barbara, this sounds like a great story. I can't wait to read it. This sounds like a perfect read for the few days left of summer vacation.

  13. Mary Marvella // July 25, 2012 at 7:26 PM  

    I love surprises! Your stories offer great ones! Cool characters, too!

  14. Maggi Andersen // July 25, 2012 at 7:57 PM  

    Love the excerpt, Barbara. The premise grabs you right away. Delicious!

  15. Barbara Monajem // July 25, 2012 at 9:13 PM  

    Thanks, Scarlet. Oh, no -- Are the summer holidays almost over?? :(

  16. Barbara Monajem // July 25, 2012 at 9:14 PM  

    Thanks, Mary. I didn't used to like surprises, but when I'm writing, I really welcome them. It makes the whole process so much fun. :)

  17. Barbara Monajem // July 25, 2012 at 9:15 PM  

    Thanks, Maggi! It's hard to pick an excerpt -- I'm glad this one worked.

  18. Linda // July 25, 2012 at 10:59 PM  

    Yay to Arabella to be given her chance & her own story! It's always interesting to read how skillfully an author can develop a character from being flawed to us cheering for them as the hero/heroine.

  19. PrincessFiona01 // July 26, 2012 at 10:23 AM  

    I love how Georgette Heyer took the Bad Guy from The Black Moth and transformed him in These Old Shades. Changes of names and so on but we all know who he was.

  20. Barbara Monajem // July 26, 2012 at 1:43 PM  

    Linda -- One of the best writers of flawed heroes is Anne Stuart.

  21. Barbara Monajem // July 26, 2012 at 1:46 PM  

    Hi, Fiona -- LOL. Yeah, that was nicely done of Heyer, wasn't it?

    My favorite sort-of bad guy is Francis Cheviot in The Reluctant Widow. He's not a villain, but he's utterly ruthless. Sigh.

  22. Barbara Monajem // July 26, 2012 at 1:59 PM  

    And the winners are: Scarlet and Maggi!!

    Give me your email address so I can send you your download codes -- and be quick, because they expire at the end of July.

  23. Scarlet Pumpernickel // July 26, 2012 at 8:53 PM  

    Barbara, I am thrilled to win your book! Can't wait to get it. Yes, school starts Aug. 2nd for teachers and the 8th for students. I dread going back, but need to hang in there for a couple more years before I retire.

  24. Scarlet Pumpernickel // July 27, 2012 at 7:43 PM  

    Barbara you can contact me at
    mmoon68851@aol.com I look forward to reading your book!

  25. Josie // July 29, 2012 at 9:33 AM  

    How I love all your books! Can't wait to read this new release.

  26. Liane Spicer // August 2, 2012 at 12:44 PM  

    I'm late to the post, but loved the excerpt!

    I think we're drawn to flawed characters because we can so easily identify with them. So much more intriguing and realistic than characters who are goody-goodies through and through.

  27. Ella Quinn // August 2, 2012 at 8:34 PM  

    My only complaint about this book is that it's too short. But Barbara knows I always make that complaint. Loved it, and I'm waiting impatiently for the next one.