So today, for the Killer Characters Blogfest, we’re supposed to write about our favorite larger than life protagonists. While there are so many wonderful protagonists I’ve met in the 28 years I’ve been reading (since the tender age of three, when I received the gift of hyperlexia, full-blown advanced reading at a young age), I’d like to focus on a character I think is rather similar to my Lyuba in my Russian novels.
Amber St. Clare, the shero of Kathleen Winsor’s 1944 historical romance saga Forever Amber, is a woman the likes of Scarlett O’Hara, with real-life counterparts such as Yoko Ono and Natacha Rambova (Rudy Valentino’s second wife and the love of his life). Either you hate and villify them, or you understand what makes them tick and admire them for going against the grain and breaking out of pre-conceived gender molds. Were any of these women or fictional characters men, I’d daresay more people would be applauding them for being so gutsy, innovative, and ambitious.
Amber does what she has to do to survive, often on her own, during Restoration England. At a time when many women never questioned arranged marriages, being full-time housewives and mothers, and never leaving home, Amber took another path. She decided to leave Marygreen at age 16 to follow after Bruce, the love of her life, and make her own destiny. And instead of letting prevailing, institutionalized sexism or mean-spirited gossip get to her, she carried on entering into relationships and marriages of her own choosing. She even wanted to nurse her own firstborn, Bruce, Jr., before being prevailed upon to use a wetnurse like all “decent” women of the era did.
And when Amber was stuck in a horrific marriage to a repulsive, much-older, abusive man, she did what she had to do to get out of that marriage. Lucky for her her husband’s demise coincided with the Great Fire of London! And she continued doing whatever she had to do to get ahead, all the way up to becoming King Charles’s favorite mistress. Like Scarlett O’Hara, her actions might sound slutty, mean, heartless, cold, or bitchy on paper, but once you understand what’s driving them, how it’s all for a greater purpose, and how there’s only one man in their hearts, their actions become understandable, noble, sympathetic.
And might I add, I’m so glad no one ever stepped forward to attempt a sequel, judging by how beyond-words dreadful Alexandra Ripley’s Scarlett was!