Our Pages

Friday, May 10, 2013

Creature Comforts


Some readers like certain elements in their novels, such as heroes who have a lot of money or an adorable child that gets into all sorts of mischief. One of my favorite contemporary novels, Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Philips, actually manages to combine both of these elements, along with the sexy waif heroine who has both desperate pluck and damaging self-doubt. Good stuff.

But that's not where I was going with this post. (Sorry, I often get sidetracked by any mention of SEP's books.)

One of my favorite things in a book is when an animal shows up. I always know something interesting, something wonderful, is going to happen. Many times the animal is used for comic relief, like Beatrice's ferret in Lisa Kleypas's Victorian romance Married by Morning, who keeps stealing the heroine's underclothes and glasses. Some of the best scenes in that book involve that mischievous little animal, and he made me laugh out loud in certain parts.

Sometimes the animal is used to symbolize a character's struggles in the story, as Lisa Kleypas does in Beatrice's own book Married in the Afternoon. The hero's dog is having trouble adjusting to life after the war, lashing out at everyone around him until he is deemed out of control and dangerous...much like the hero himself. You find yourself rooting for the dog's healing and redemption just as much as the hero's by the end of the book.

In Tessa Dare's Regency romance A Lady by Midnight, she uses the gift of a puppy from the hero to the heroine to show just what he is willing to give up for her. It is no ordinary puppy, but one he selected carefully, paid a great deal of money for and had grand plans for that fell by the wayside after watching the heroine cuddle and coo at the dog. It was such a small gesture, and yet Ms. Dare used it to show how well the hero understood the heroine's need for love and his willingness to do anything for her, even if he isn't ready to recognize it in himself.

So it didn't surprise me when I was writing the other day and suddenly I realized that my heroine was crazy for Pine Martens. If you don't know what a pine marten is, here's a picture:

How cute is that face?!

Maybe this is a better shot.

That's right, folks. It's a WEASEL.

I know, I know. "A what?!" you're probably thinking. Like a ferret, pine martens are fast, furry and sometimes appear to be boneless (because Jeebus I have no idea how they squeeze into the spaces they do). Unlike ferrets, however, they are not as friendly to humans. But Digger, my heroine's pine marten, was rescued as a baby from a terrible fate by her older brother. He (the pine marten, not the brother) was being raised in a small cage in the back of a furriers shop to be slaughtered and made into a fur ruff for some fancy lady's cloak! 

Out of the question.

So, my heroine's big brother saved poor Digger and handed him over to his fearless sister, knowing she would smother him with love and spoil him with bits of toast and jam. Which she did. Part of the reason my heroine loves Digger so much is that he reminds her of her grandfather. Oh, not the furry part (although, yes, his beard is quite bushy, as are his considerable eyebrows) but the fact that pine martens were all but extinct throughout England and Wales in the 19th century. The only place they flourished still was Scotland, where her reclusive, unsociable grandfather resided. Naturally, when things went sideways (as they tend to do in romance stories at one point or another), my heroine thinks of her grandfather and his isolated castle in Scotland. After all, Digger would feel right at home.

Today pine martens are making a tentative reappearance, but mostly in animal habitats and the like. They were driven almost to extinction by hunters and furriers in the 18th and 19th century in Europe, though as I said, Scotland remained one of their only strongholds. If you are interested in reading about them, here is a link: Arkive.com. I'm sure a few of my fellow Lady Scribes are squirming in their seats at the idea of one of these little fellows, but I think they're adorable. 

However, getting too close isn't a very good idea, as evidenced by this clip of a pine marten invading a soccer match!

CLICK HERE FOR MALE ATHLETE STUPIDITY. 

Yeaaaah. 

Anyway, I think pine martens are still cute and wily and smart, and a perfect foil and helpmate for my heroine. Let's just hope my hero doesn't try to get between them, hmm? ;D



Do you like animals in the books you read? If so, what are some of your favorites? And what sort of animals (as a pet) have you never seen in a book, but would like to?

20 comments:

  1. I like pets and kids in books, probably because I like them in real life too. :-)

    I remember Laura Kinsale had a hedgehog in one of her romances and used it metaphorically as well. Barbara Metzger is the master of using dogs in romance, once even as a POV character.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love hedgehogs as pets in stories! Lisa Kleypas uses one of those too, since Beatrice is an animal lover. And they make great metaphors. ;)

      Delete
  2. I like pets in stories too. The puppy in Teresa Medieros's Yours Until Dawn cracked me up because it was so true to life. And I agree with Deb. I like kids and I've included them in all my stories, now that I think about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I usually like kids in fiction too, even before I had them myself. They just bring something out in the other characters. You can always tell what kind of person they truly are by how they treat children.

      Delete
  3. I love pets in books, especially if they play a role in the story in some way. I've written a couple of them into my books, though I've stuck with the usual suspects (horses, since it I write in the Regency, a cat in one, and a dog in another). I was reminded at RT during Regency Feud that Sabrina Jeffries even has a monkey as a pet in one of her books! Great stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  4. But... A WEASEL???? You're writing a weasel as a pet? M'kay...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HE'S VERY SWEET, JUDGY McJUDGERSON. ;D

      Delete
  5. Digger... furry game crasher... fabulous post! Some of my favorite animals in books? Pretty much all of the ones included in Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series; Portia's flatulent lapdog Mr. Pugglesworth, Julia's talking Tower raven Grim, Sir Morgan Fielding's cat Nin...the list goes on and on. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't had a chance to read the Lady Julia series! But having just read a novella by Ms. Raybourne and enjoyed it thoroughly, that goes on the TBR pile...

      Delete
  6. Weasels make me think of the fantasy movie Beastmaster. Dar, the main character, had two weasels who were very cute and they stole things.

    Since I write paranormal creatures, I'm always playing with different kinds of animals. I love them. But usually I'm sticking to medium to large sized predators. Wolves and Owls are my favorite. But any animal can make an appearance and I'll probably go ahhh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Speaking of owls, I have to tell you, the first time I read that Harry Potter's Hedwig died, I sobbed like a baby. Yup. Totally broke down. ;)

      Delete
  7. I like animals with personality in my books. But writing them? So far I've only written one book with an animal. A cat named Blackbeard that had a crush on the hero. heh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Personalty is a must! I also agree with what Catherine said above- the pet/animal must serve a purpose.

      Delete
  8. I personally love animals in my stories but I think it's because I adore them in real life. Animals, to me, bring comfort and solace. They are untainted by the harsh complexities of our own human lives and yet their lives are often complex as well.... In their own animal way. In fact in several of my manuscripts I too have built in furry little creatures!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I think animals can be a source of pure love in fiction, the one friend the hero or heroine has that will never leave them or let them down.

      Delete
  9. Did I tell you not long ago that I tried to 'rescue' a weasel? I thought he was a ferret that had gotten loose and was hobbling around in the snow. I went out with the cat carrier and a handful of cat food (I don't know what ferrets/weasels eat!), but he got away. I called the Humane Society to see what they recommended. The lady had me describe it and then gently told me it was likely a young weasel since they are plentiful in the area. LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! That's hilarious. That poor animal was probably back in it's home, telling his family "...and then she kept trying to feed me this God-awful, crunchy stuff..." ;D

      Delete
  10. As much as I love pets, I ended up taking my heroine's dog out of my first book. It was just too easy to have her talk things out with him - I needed to ditch the writer's crutch!

    I remember Kate's dog in The Viscount Who Loved Me - great fun :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Since I must be difficult, I actually do not care for animals in my stories. :) I think because for paranormals I really prefer dark and angst, and "cute" doesn't fit in that mold.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I do like animals in a book especially if they do silly things that perhaps bring a hero and heroine together. I love dogs but right now I have two kitties and am totally in love with them and they have me wrapped tightly around their little paws.

    ReplyDelete