Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lost; and Found by a Demi-God, Every Woman's Fantasy!

Harry Hamlin as demi-god hero Perseus in 1981 Clash of the Titans

As most of my readers know, I am a historian, and a lover of romance.
I combine the two by writing historical romances and publishing them as an independent author. For this blog, I write about timeless lovers throughout history, myth, legend and literature.
 I consider it my job in this blog to mine these sources to unearth great love stories that are forgotten due to the sheer volume of new romantic stories published every year.

And I admit, I do get a wicked satisfaction in proving that history is not always so boring! ;)

The old myths are worth revisiting as they are ripe with archetypes that resonate with people on a purely subconscious level. Archetypes stick with us. Authors use them to create memorable characters time and time again--sometimes intentionally, and sometimes on a purely subconscious level without realizing it. If you're the nerdy type, and want to pursue more on Archetypes, just Google the term and you'll find lots of articles on the subject.

Well, dear reader, I recently found a  delicious modern romance that I literally could not put down. I finished it last week, and as I tried to come up with lovers for this week's blog post, I kept going back to this pair. I just couldn't get them out of my mind. As I was getting desperate for a subject for my blog, I finally realized there is a reason these lovers are stuck in my head. They are strong, modern archetypes that will resonate with the reader. 

Let me introduce you to our Timeless Lovers this week, and later, I'll tell you why I find them such memorable characters. The book is Lost in Italy, by Stacey Joy Netzel. It is available in print and e-book form on Amazon and other Digital outlets.

Halli Sanders is a small town girl from Wisconsin who is touring Italy with her siblings for the first time. Halli is a spirited, intelligent modern woman who has childhood hurts that have created a deep seated need for her to be in control of every situation, to literally have A Plan to follow to get through life. Her parents were con artists and used Halli and her siblings as as pawns in their cons when they were children. This gives Halli some serious trust issues. The parents are currently in jail, but Halli has developed an obsessive need for order and control, along with an aversion to chaos.

As she and her siblings, Ben and Rachel, arrive at beautiful Lake Como, she takes some video footage of some picturesque swans. Innocent tourist type behavior, so we think. Halli's subject matter, the swans, move about erratically and she follows them with her video camera. She zooms in as they fly up near a villa, and gets a clip of one man fleeing a house, falling and a view of another man in a window looking right at her. It's creepy, but she moves the viewfinder and doesn't think much of it at the time.

Her siblings get antsy while she's doing this. They hop in the car and leave the distracted Halli behind at the lake. Halli's a little shook up, this isn't part of the plan, but she sits down impatiently on a park bench, knowing her sibs will eventually come back for her. At least, that is her hope. She doesn't speak the language and as they just left the airport in their rented car and were on the way to the hotel, she literally is left behind with only the clothes on her back, and her camera.

The adrenaline in Halli's bloodstream is already jacked up pretty high by this sudden descent into the unknown.  A car pulls up, and a really hot dark haired dude gets out of it, wearing Ray Bans. He approaches her and says, "I need you to get in the car."

Well, dear reader, what would you do in this situation? 

I'd say no, and Halli does, too.

After a few tense seconds of quibbling, Halli recognizes him as that famous American movie star, Trent Tomlin. Still, he keeps insisting she get in the car with him. Trent knows he has mere seconds to intervene and save this hapless tourist from imminent danger, so instead of arguing with her about it he picks her up and forcibly puts her in the car, a convertible.

In Halli's mind, she's just been kidnapped, what follows is a wild car chase with the pair arguing as nasty Italians keep shooting at them. Instant conflict here: our heroine, mild mannered, intelligent, cautious Halli Sanders, has just been thrust into a churning tempest of ultimate chaos, the very thing she fears. 

From her perspective, she's been kidnapped, as Trent takes her to his home and holds her there against her will. She's not too sure about this guy, despite his demi-god status as a movie star. Is he nuts, on drugs? Mentally unstable? There are always the stories in the tabloids . . . . who knows, is he having a psychotic break? She wants only to get out of his clutches and get to the police. The local police will help her, she realizes, if she can just get away from him. 

Trent is not nuts. He took Halli as she's his only link to putting his brother's murderers behind bars. Trent needs to get that video Halli just shot so he can get it to the right people. The police in the area are corrupt. They are in the perp's payroll. If Halli goes to the police, Trent knows she will likely end up dead. She does escape him, goes to the police, and he has to get her away from the police station.

Add to this already simmering plot line the frightening reality that Ben and Rachel, Halli's siblings, do go back to find her, and taken hostage by the bad guys. The villains now have leverage. They want her swan video in exchange for the hostages. Our heroine, mild mannered, quiet, reserved Halli, has just filmed a murder, in case you are wondering why all the fuss over the  swan clip.

As Halli and Trent are forcibly stuck together in a desperate situation, they share some unexpected romantic moments as they keep running from the Italian gangsters, the police, evading thugs and bullets. One unforgettable scene is on Trent's boat on Lake Como at night. Halli makes Trent a meal of SpaghettiOs and wine after he's been shot, as that is the only thing available to eat. I loved the author's wry sense of humor here. They are in Italy, the one place in the world where a person should be surrounded by culinary delights and our protagonists are forced to eat a can of SpaghettiOs!

Through various plot twists and incredibly fast paced action, I came to admire Trent, the movie action hero forced to bring his role playing into real life to order to stay alive and keep Halli alive as well. And I admired Halli for learning to overcome her anxiety disorder and learn to just go with the flow as they race through the Lake Como district of Italy with gangsters on their tail.

Why do I find this story so compelling?: 

Trent Tomlin is an excellent depiction of the Hero Archetype. The hero in ancient literature was usually a little above mortals. He was half god, a demi-god,  as son of a god and a mortal in ancient Greek literature. Think Hercules or Perseus in Clash of the Titans. The hero archetype is of moral noble character, is strong, handsome, a prince among men, a celebrated personage of some sort. He is typically on a quest that will involve great personal sacrifice but will benefit the greater good.

In this story, Trent fits this archetype perfectly in the modern world. He's a movie star, he's famous, handsome, sought after, rich--a prince among men--a modern demi-god, if you will. Trent is trying to stop murderers and smugglers who have killed both his brother and his friend, among others. He's a good guy, he's Halli's knight, but she doesn't recognize him--hell, she doesn't even like the dude at the moment. She thinks he's a selfish celebrity, despite the fact that he just saved her butt. There's another key--he saved her.  He stopped in his quest and picked her up (literally), like a fireman hauling a reluctant woman out of a burning building.

The Damsel in Distress is another archetype. It's pretty much a given in romance novels, but writers today are challenged to make the Damsel more gritty and less of a wilting violet. Halli is gritty, capable, independent. She's not helpless by any means. She doesn't want to be rescued, thank you very much. She fights her would be rescuer. It's only after Trent has expertly maneuvered them through imminent disasters a couple of times that she realizes maybe he's her best bet for staying alive and getting her siblings out of harm's way. The author, Netzel, created a likeable, believable character in Halli, the Plain Jane small town girl who gets swooped up into the arms of a demi-god, superstar Trent Tomlin.

Now I ask you, gentle reader, who among us hasn't had this fantasy of being swept up in real life into the strong, capable arms of our movie idol? Doesn't matter if your heart throb was Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford (as Han Solo or Indiana Jones), Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon) Robert Downey Jr. (as Sherlock Holmes or Iron Man), or even Dean Winchester (Supernatural) or Edward Cullen (Twilight) for the youngest women among our ranks. (Notice I'm taking you through a little film history here, ;), see, didn't hurt a bit, did it! )  It doesn't matter. Every one of us has had this little fantasy, at one time. And that,dear reader, is why this particular story has so much universal appeal. It taps into a subconscious fantasy of women everywhere and gives it a clear voice. You can make Trent Tomlin into any guy you prefer in your mind as you read, any actor who makes you swoon. Trust me, it works!  

The story is well written, entertaining, fast paced, and has just the right pauses for romantic interludes. It is set in Italy, it has a happy ending and a sequel in the works. The book reminded me of Bird on Wire, with Mel Gibson in the 90's, or a modern day adventure akin to Knight and Day, the recent Tom Cruise release. The elements of danger, intrigue and edge of your seat action combined with spices of romance were similar to those movies in tone, although Netzel's story is completely original and based on true elements of her own life. You'll have to read the book to find out more on that account. 

If you are looking for a great summer romance, you won't be disappointed.
Stacey Joy Netzel is a Wisconsin native, a romance writer who has many books on her back list. I have read most of them and I find her stories deeply satisfying. She has written short stories and novellas, too. Some of her short stories are available on occasion for free or very reasonably on

Check out her author site and blog:
She offers a 'Sunday Share' each week, with contests and free excerpts from popular books

Next Time at Romancing History Blog: Why We Love Mr. Darcy


Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Thank you very much for the wondefully indepth post, Lily! You're very right...a few things I did with Trent and Halli on purpose, but there were other things that were subconscious as I was writing and I didn't see the threads until later. So cool when that happens! I'm thrilled you enjoyed LII so much and that my characters stayed with you. As a writer I fall for all my heroes (and I should, shouldn't I?) and Trent was a very easy guy to love. :)

Lily Silver said...

Yes, Trent was certainly a guy to fall for! I did and so will so many others.

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