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Jennifer Ashley | Unusual Heroes: Who Do You Love?


As most readers know by now, my May 2009 release, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, features an unusual hero. Ian Mackenzie has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is considered to be high-functioning autism. Traits include the inability to make eye contact, trouble with nonverbal cues and subtext, obsession with detail (but missing the “big picture”), and others. Not everyone who has AS exhibits the same traits, and the syndrome tends to present differently in men than women.

I’ve been recently praised for the risk I took writing Lord Ian. Which surprises me a little (though I don’t mind the compliments!), because when I sat down to write the story, I never thought: "Hey, I’m gonna go out there and take a risk! I’m going to do something different."

The idea if Ian—the four-book arc about the entire lovable, dysfunctional, Mackenzie family, in fact--came to me and wouldn’t let me go. I daydreamed the series for a years before finally getting the opportunity to write it.

When I was deep in the story, it didn’t occur to me that it was risky. I loved this family, and I thought other people might, too.

Luckily for me, my editor didn’t cringe (too much) when I told her what I was working on. Luckily for me, when I turned it in, my editor loved it. Luckily for me, readers so far are liking it too.

All four Mackenzie brothers are messed up, tortured, gorgeous, uber-sensual men with whom I’m having a marvelous time. I hate turning in the manuscripts (and authors love getting manuscripts off their plates, believe me)—that’s how wrapped up I am in these guys.

The Mackenzies aren’t the only unusual heroes I’ve written. If you’re an Allyson James fan (which is me in disguise), you might have read the Tales of the Shareem books I wrote for EC. Futuristics about men created in a genetics factory, bred for one purpose and one purpose only—to pleasure women. Now they’re outlawed, the factory shut down, and women come to them in secret for sensuality that is forbidden in their society.

When I started writing the series, I thought, "What am I doing? No one will want to read about these guys because they’re not powerful, rich, in-charge men. They’re little better than slaves with no rights and no money." But the characters had grabbed me, and I wanted to write about them. Result: The Shareem is my most popular EC series, and copies have continually sold since early 2005. (Fans: I’ve just finished TOTS: Calder.)

Other unusual heroes: The Pirates. I think The Pirate Next Door made my career, even though it had a tiny print run and made no major lists. But an awful lot of people seem to have read it. When I started the series, most romance pirates were aristocrats in disguise—men who had taken to piracy because they were kidnapped, or their dads kicked them out, or they wanted revenge, or something. In other words, they were pirates for a reason.

I decided to write about pirates who were pirates because they liked it! They had checkered pasts, but they’d been buckling the swash all their lives and were prepared to pillage and plunder until they died. With the exception of Grayson Finley, who inherited a title unexpectedly from his cousin, these were not high-born men. In fact, Christopher Raine (The Care and Feeding of Pirates) was the son of a pirate and a pirate’s captive.

Again, I thought—bad idea; readers want aristocrats! Wrong. The series was popular, made my publisher happy, and boosted my career up the next rung. (Since then, I’ve noticed that many romance pirates are “real” pirates. I don’t have the ego to think that was my influence; I think writers had the same urge I did; and Jack Sparrow didn’t hurt!)

In conclusion, I’ve learned my lesson. If an unusual, buck-the-trend kind of hero comes to me, I write him!

Over to you blog readers: Who are some of your favorite unusual heroes? There are great ones out there! Talk about them!

I’m doing a giveaway (of course), pulling a random name from the comments to win a copy from my backlist under any name I’ve ever written under. Say howdy to win.

And I hope everyone enjoys my unusual hero in The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. You can read the first chapter here.

Lists of my novels are at the following:





30 comments posted.

Re: Jennifer Ashley | Unusual Heroes: Who Do You Love?

Howdy! :D

Readers like aristocrats, sure...but readers also like pirates! Arrrr! Heh heh heh!

One of my favourite unusual heroes is Miles Vorkosigan from Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga. His mother was exposed to poison gas in a botched assassination attempt when she was pregnant with him which messed with his bone development. He's 4'9", has had numerous corrective surgeries, a bit of a hunched back and has had much of his fragile skeleton replaced with synthetic bones.
(Jacqueline Lam 2:19pm April 27, 2009)

Yes i love that set of book whit miles vorkosigan in them have not read them in a few years but thay where great.my fav moive hero is bruce willis he allways saves the day why being a mest up guy in his life.
(Stacey Smith 3:19am April 29, 2009)

Pirates are awesome!
(Sierra Pendleton 5:59am April 29, 2009)

Know its off topic, but just bought your new book, auto buy after learning hero as Asperger's, my younger brother has it and first time heard talked about like this. Thanks
(Kimberly DeLong 6:30am April 29, 2009)

Looking forward to reading about Lord Ian and all his brothers.
(G S Moch 8:48am April 29, 2009)

I agree with your comment about if a hero comes to you and you adore them it's likely we will too. I read a lot, maybe 500 books a year so the heroes and heroines of all genres have to talk to me whatever their origin, planet or state of their finances. Your book sounds great. I think many of us as readers do want to see something unique in the books we read whether it be physical problems, emotional problems or whatever. One I read lately just had a twist in that a forced marriage wasn't to an orge. He wasn't the hero but he wasn't a bad guy. That's refreshing. As life proves heroes come in all shapes, sizes and lifestyle. Glad you and many other authors realize that and keep the books coming and fun. I'd hate to have them all the same. Always nice when something that's fun to read teaches me something too!
(Dee Dailey 9:40am April 29, 2009)

I love The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie and can hardly wait for the other Mackenzie brother books to come out. Any release date yet?
(C Y 10:46am April 29, 2009)

I like the unique/unusual hero. It broadens my knowledge. They give me the courage to try the unknown.
(Rosemary Krejsa 11:35am April 29, 2009)

This sounds like it is going to be a great series. I bought my copy of Ian's book this morning, and I hope I have time to read it soon.
(Lori Patterson 11:47am April 29, 2009)

Just finished a book about an ex-rustler (not wrestler) who is the hero. Different is good!
(Karin Tillotson 11:52am April 29, 2009)

An author is taking a risk when he/she creates an unusual character, but I have seen it work many times. Vicki Lewis Thompson has a successful series of geeky nerd heroes. In TO RESCUE A ROGUE by Jo Beverley the hero is addicted to opium. The hero stutters in AN UNCONVENTIONAL MATCH by Julia Justiss.
(Cheryl Castings 11:56am April 29, 2009)

Just read the excerpt, can't wait to read the rest.
(Debra Czarnogursky 12:03pm April 29, 2009)

Ian sounds interesting! My favorite kind of hero? The ones that are bad boys in their youth and are rescued from their bad ways, and ending up in jail or dead, by some branch of the military and usually a mentor.
(Kelli Jo Calvert 12:04pm April 29, 2009)

I always like to read of a different kind of hero. Candace Sams did a griffin, Vicki Thompson did nerds. Different is what makes each of us special and I don't think it can hurt when the author themselves love the character. It shows in the writing of the book.
(Chris Roberts 12:13pm April 29, 2009)

I love these type of books, where rumor and inuendo are the basis for the opinion of a person without knowing him.
(Donna Lubanski 12:52pm April 29, 2009)

I enjoy The Dark-Hunter series by Sherrlyn Kenyon she has so unusual heros!
(Teresa Warner 1:01pm April 29, 2009)

The Madess of Lord Ian Mackenzie is a great book, I recommend it to everyone! I'm looking forward to your new shifter series! Too bad we have to wait until January!
(Susan Galley 1:41pm April 29, 2009)

Ian sounds like a great character and I applaud you bringing Aspergers into the open. My brother has it and through alot of hard work he'll be a senior in high school next year.

As to unusual heroes, I'd say Drake from Jenna Black's Hungers of the Heart. He has to feed off humans to survive, but tries to kill only those that deserve it.
(Jody Faltys 1:48pm April 29, 2009)

Nice post! I like the unique sound of Lord Ian...not everyone is the perfect male or female! Couple of unusual heroes I can think of are: Sydnam Butler the disfigured hero in Mary Balogh's Simply Love; Sir William of Miraval the blind knight from Christina Dodd's Candle in the Window; and Reginald Davenport the alcoholic hero in Mary Jo Putney's The Rake.
(Martha Eskuchen 2:37pm April 29, 2009)

I like heroes that are real, but someone I would be drawn to.
(Shannon Scott 2:41pm April 29, 2009)

The two heroes who stand out to me are Alex in "Blood Magic" by Jennifer Lyon and Vincent in "Insatiable Desire" by Rita Herron. Both of these are new series. Have a great day.
(Roberta Harwell 2:57pm April 29, 2009)

Disarming pirates,Oh My!The vulnerability and strengths you show in your character with high functioning Asperger's strikes a chord and hits readers in the guts. Being different is fine, in fact it sure makes for more interesting reading.
(Alyson Widen 3:50pm April 29, 2009)

Even with the bad name associated with today's pirates (Somalia) I still love the old romantic pirate image.
(Sandy Miresse 4:09pm April 29, 2009)

Hi everyone! I would have popped by earlier today, but I (blush) couldn't remember my password. :-)

Thanks for stopping by and posting comments. I have read many of the heroes you mention and am intrigued by those whose books I haven't read.

I too am a Miles Vorkosigan fan, have been for a while (though I have the secret and sneaking hots for Ivan, LOL).
(Jennifer Ashley 5:09pm April 29, 2009)

Oh, a few years ago I read a book that had a deaf hero. Unfortunately I can't recall the title at the moment. But the character was written as so self-confident and self-assured you couldn't help but love him.
(Cheryl Strange 7:52pm April 29, 2009)

I love books writen with unusual heros. My mine draws a blank for one right now. But I have read about a lot of heros with special powers but I prefer the heros that seem more real to me.
(Gail Hurt 10:52pm April 29, 2009)

It takes me so long to get to my
emails every night. Can't think of any
heroes off hand, but I do prefer those
that are a bit different. Perfect men
don't exist except in fiction and I'd
rather have those who are flawed and
(Patricia Barraclough 11:24pm April 29, 2009)

Just finished and loved Ian's book, and now wondering just how much darker Hart might show himself to be and how you turn him around.

Unusual heros with struggles I thought of mentioned above - Dare from To Rescue a Rogue (opium), Reggie from The Rake (alcholic), and Hal in An Unconventional Match (stutter). Also, Madeline Hunter's series about the Rothwell brothers - though it's never said specifically and not explored indepth as you did with Ian, it seems they have the same syndrome.
(Pamela Pellini 4:10pm April 30, 2009)

Hi Jennifer! Loved those pirates! Too I'm looking forward to Ian's story. For me with a disability too, I love to be able to read their HEA but too those struggles and emotions we deal with each day and more so that helping others understand and accept. I've read a couple too with the heroines with deafness (Annie's Song by Catherine Anderson and Silent Melody by Mary Balogh). With Anderson book, she had alot of healing herself to overcome with another issue as well. Very emotional read. I recall a book by Kristen Hannah who wrote earlier historical romances called ONCE IN EVERY LIFE and this was a time travel where the heroine comes from the present to after Civil War (I think, I remember the western setting) and coming back to a hero who had Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and too the heroine was deaf. Quite a read, wow!
(Cathie Morton 9:29pm April 30, 2009)

Hello Jennifer, I just love your books... You get a great feel of the characters and thier situations.. I'm working my way up the lists lol..
(Geraline Gordon 8:20am May 3, 2009)

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