Welcome! Welcome! Swoony Saturdays are your opportunity to be introduced to a book hero who fits high quality hero characteristics. (okay, so he just makes us weak in the knees for all kinds of reasons, but you get the point)
The photos involved are chosen as the most representative of the heroes featured, so IF they look like someone you’ve seen before, that’s almost entirely accidental.
Who? Ray DeLuca
Where can we find this dreamboat? Herringford and Watts Mysteries by Rachel McMillan (Released 2016)
There are so many different kinds of swoony in this world.
Some people swoon for a Hemsworth brother or a plaid-claid lumberjack with a chiseled jaw. Others swoon for the dark and broody Rochester ( or the fair and broody Rochester as played by Michael “Swoony” Fassbender). I write a different kind of swoony in my heroes. I have always been attracted—since childhood—to heroes that were just a little bit outside of the box. I grew up on a steady diet of Jasper Dale from Road to Avonlea (if you recognize that name it is because I love Jasper so much I christened a character in my Herringford and Watts series in his honour), Neil MacNeill from Christy and Sherlock Holmes.
Also, Jughead Jones. But let’s not try to figure out what my 7 year old mind was thinking.
In White Feather Murders, Jemima DeLuca (nee Watts) admits that her husband Ray would never be “exactly handsome… she would have found him boring if he were.” Ray DeLuca is a creation painted greatly by Jemima’s perspective of him and the reader meets him through the filter of Jem’s twitterpated mind.
And when I say “Jem”, who are we kidding, I really mean me.
Because, like Pygmalion, I fell absolutely head over heels in love with my creation — Ray DeLuca makes me swoon.
He makes me swoon from the first moment in The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder when Jem literally drops her pants in front of him and he hands her his coat in a swift act of gallantry (while trying not to laugh any louder at the faux pas of their “meet cute”). He makes me swoon when he brands her with his ink-stained fingers (always ink stained, like Jo March in Little Women), marking some kind of tentative claim on her. He makes me swoon when he takes the time to patch up a marital spat by making pots and pots of lemon jam.
He makes me swoon as a reflection of the Toronto I am trying to impart in the series: an immigrant desperate to scrape a life together for his sister and nephew, an outsider who symbolizes the wave of immigration that melded Toronto into the multi-cultural mosaic it is today. Ray — whether through his hyperbolic poetry, journal entries or muckraking pieces for the Hogtown Herald— allows me to speak for an entire population at once. It is his experience that represents so much of what is lacking in social progress, counterbalancing the hurdles that Jem and Merinda experience as women victim to a society intent on repressing their gender.
He makes me swoon, most of all, because he is real. This is not a hero to put up on a pedestal nor is he, I would argue, the kind of guy you would dream about marrying; but I do hope in his construction I have created a complex character who is a product of his time and very much informed by his circumstances. In White Feather Murders, we meet a Ray who is now beyond the flirtatious suitor who likes to steal Jem into a quiet theatre and embroider love in Italian phrases that tingle down to her toes. This is a Ray who has returned from a rather startling conclusion to a case in Chicago
(see: A Lesson in Love and Murder) having done some rather irreparable damage. For someone whose inherent pride is staked in providing for his family ( his sister and nephew and now Jem ), his (non-Edwardian term alert) PTSD puts things on edge. He cannot reconcile the independent woman with whom he fell in love with the woman who throws herself into danger away from his protection. It’s a contradiction! And it is infuriating! And it is FRUSTRATING — frustrating to write, frustrating, I am assuming, to read. And yet, with all of this difficulty, he still maintains what made him so alluring to Jem in the first place: as a vessel and spokesperson for radical social change and reform. Their connection cannot be severed by a world closing in on them. Nor by the new city regulations (very much rooted in historical fact) that found Italians reporting to authorities regularly as potential enemy aliens during the start of the First World War.
External forces test their relationship, but can’t break it. After all, (here I go quoting myself again —) “When God made a Jem, He must have made a Ray.” By having Jem be Ray’s pursuer in book one I hoped to immediately establish the reader’s good opinion of him. Our heroine thinks he pulls the tide in and makes the moon stop and the world tilt on its axis. There must be something amazing about him….1
I think the wonderful thing about book heroes is that we can always find those who meet our tastes — sometimes we want Mr. Tall, Dark and Colin Firth. Other times we want someone who has a more cerebral air about them. Or Gilbert Blythe. Or Barry from The Flash. 2 Sometimes we want a rather temperamental Italian immigrant report from a third rate newspaper who curses in a hybrid of Italian and English and turns a bachelor girl detective’s world on its ear with his delightfully crooked smile. (Chris Messina is the closest I can think of that gives you a visual of the Ray in my mind— complete with delightfully crooked smile)
Kissing level of such swooniness: Ray is most definitely a #3 – May forget to breathe!
Basic hero type: Mr. Darcy
Rachel McMillan lives in Toronto where she can usually be found writing Ray DeLuca’s name in a coil-bound notebook and drawing hearts around it. You can find her at www.a-fair-substitute-for-heaven.blogspot.com The White Feather Murders releases May 1.