It Takes a Hero, by Elizabeth Boyle – Book Review

There’s nothing better than finding an author who you really, really like.  One who’s writing hits the spot just perfectly and whose very name makes you want to clear your calendar to read.  I feel that way about three writers, Elizabeth Boyle foremost amongst them.  I’ve been working my way through her backlist this summer and I have to share a gem I discovered with you.

It Takes a Hero is part of a series about the Danvers family.  They’re all very exciting, swashbuckly men, of course.  There’s nothing like a hero who can buckle your swash!  Particularly if he is half Spanish, like Raphael Danvers.  I loved the way that Ms. Boyle created a hero who is both dashing and tough and at the same time a bit of a train-wreck.  There’s nothing like falling in a well to turn a girl on.  Ooo baby!

The book’s hero, Rebecca Tate, is even more of a treat.  I have a hard time with heroines, in my own writing and in far too many of the novels I read.  Yes, we all want a gutsy, independent-minded heroine, but I’ve read too many that just don’t sit right with me.  Rebecca is not one of those heroines.  What I like about her is that while she is feisty and clever, she has some looming personality flaws, such as greed.  I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but up until the end she pouts over having to do the right thing.  What a relief!  I would have done the same thing.  It’s a mark of Ms. Boyle’s  skill as a craftsman that she can create a heroine that really wants to do the wrong thing and still have her audience love them.

But what impressed me most about It Takes a Hero is something that I don’t know if the average non-writer reading it would pick up on.  It is incredibly tightly crafted.  The first three chapters especially blew me away with their technical prowess.  There is was, laid out in expertly subtle fashion: The hero and what he wants, the heroine and what she wants, why these two things are at odds with each other, and what had to be done, in theory, for each character to get what they needed.  Plus the external plot, pointed out, explained in brief, then tucked away for later until we explored the internal plot long enough to become deeply emotionally invested in the characters.  As a writer I was in awe.  We all know what we have to do in theory to write a good book and yet all too often I see these essential elements muddied and frustrating.  Or else over-simplified and cliché.

What Ms. Boyle (and gosh I feel odd calling her that and not just Elizabeth or Liz!) has done in her first three chapters is something I would encourage all romance writers and wannabes to take a look at.  The situation: Fashionable young ladies in town are refusing to marry in solidarity with their favorite novel character, Miss Darby, whose fiancé was killed in the latest book.  The solution: Rafe Danvers is sent to find the author and get her to stop writing.  As a reward he will be given an estate, the one thing he’s always wanted.  The problem: Rebecca can’t stop writing because her livelihood and that of her uncle depend on it for income.  The plot runs much deeper than that, but the fact that I can simplify it here into three sentences is, as anyone who’s ever had to write a synopsis knows, amazing.  Plus her supporting characters are a hoot!

So if you’re a writer, I recommend rushing out and reading this book as if it’s a technical manual on how to do it right.  If you’re a reader I encourage you to go grab this fabulous tale and prepare for hours of enjoyment, laughter, and thrills as you read it.  And to the incomparable Ms. Boyle, Elizabeth, thank you!

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