Don't you just love it when an animal character brings together the hero and heroine? I'm not talking about werewolves or other shape-shifters. Just every-day, garden-variety cats and dogs. Of course, Smokey, my Chinese crested hairless dog mascot, would object to being called a garden-variety anything. He's very proud of the fact that in my books, "cresties" and other dogs work their magic when it comes to introducing or reuniting soul mates.
In fiction, animals can also humanize a character. I'm sure you've seen it in movies and TV shows: the grumpy character falls for a pet and wins over the audience. Remember Jack Nicholson and the Brussels Griffin dog in As Good As It Gets? Hollywood calls this device "petting the dog" -- a quick, visual way to let the audience know that a character has redeeming qualities. Fiction authors use the same trick. I particularly enjoy pairing a big, bad Alpha hero with a miniature pooch. It's so much fun watching them bond.
Whether it's for matchmaking or a little crime-fighting, I have pets -- especially tiny cresties -- in all of my books. Sometimes, a crestie might show up in a cameo instead of a starring role, but there is one in every story (just like Alfred Hitchcock, who appeared in his own movies). The unusual canines often win the Ugliest Dog contests, but they're perfect for my humorous books.
Four-legged characters are featured in my "Dr. Ally Skye, Sex Therapist" romantic mystery series as well. In the first book, Sex & the Single Therapist, Zack Crawford (the homicide detective hero) insists Ally drop her personal investigation of a patient's murder. Despite Zack's frustration over Ally's amateur sleuthing, her two cats accept him. Obviously, the cats have discerning tastes! Not long after, Zack ends up with a temporary houseguest, a canine crime witness. The scruffy mutt helps break down the wall around Zack's heart.
I love pets -- both real and fictional. As a supporter of animal causes, I write fictional dogs and cats that are spayed or neutered and were adopted from shelters. May is National Pet Month. Join me in celebrating those who give us unconditional love and add that extra something to our romance novels!
-- Marcia James
Marcia James writes hot, humorous romances featuring heroines you can root for, heroes to die for, and funny dogs. In her eclectic career, she has shot submarine training videos, organized celebrity-filled nonprofit events, and had her wedding covered by People Magazine. After years of dealing with such sexy topics as how to safely install traffic lights, she is enjoying “researching” and plotting her novels' steamy love scenes with her husband and hero of many years.
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