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.
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?