Five Reasons Why My New Release ‘At Your Service’ Is Important

Here are 5 reasons why my latest release At Your Service is important for women:

1. At Your Service breaks down ageist and sexist barriers that have allowed men to age, be adventurous, foxy, and paired with women 15-20 years younger while dismissing women over 40.

2. Portrays a strong, middle-aged female lead who is not an ageist stereotype or is typecast as a mother, wife, grandma, harpy, or crazy woman who lives in a van.

3. Portrays a middle-aged woman as intelligent, capable, attractive, sensual, and sexual.

4. Ageism is often overlooked as an issue of diversity. Young women will one day be older women. Positive, realistic representations of intelligent, capable, attractive, sensual, and sexual women over 40 create positive role models for younger women.

5. Sexism has rendered older women nearly invisible in all forms of media. The women over 40 in At Your Service get noticed.

Okay, so At Your Service is a romantic suspense cosy spy mystery thriller and how realistic is it to have a female butler join up with a British spy… Ah. Yes. You get it. Fiction. Content here creates the culture, the positive role model of a female butler, which is unusual role for a woman, AND the fact she’s middle-aged, intelligent, capable, attractive, sensual, and sexual IS the spin on the content and culture we’re SO used to seeing. Breaking down the barriers of sexism, ageism, stereotypes, and the sidelining of older women we’ve come to accept as the norm is not reality and it’s not fiction either.

The reality is, women over 40 are not invisible, but they have been miscast and have, for far too long, been left off screen and out of fiction. It’s my mission, so to speak, to challenge this, to change this, to give the world a positive portrayal of women over 40 and a role model for younger women AND men, one book at a time.

Changing Your Perception: The Butler Who Does It

 

Yes, yes, things have changed a lot. Women are doctors, lawyers, and CEOs. It’s ‘you’ve come a long way baby’ and all that, but certain jobs continue to be viewed as traditionally female and male positions. For instance, when you see the word ‘nurse,’ do you imagine a man or a woman? What about ‘maid’ or ‘housekeeper?’  If I toss out the word ‘butler’ I’m sure your mind automatically conjures up Batman’s trusted man Alfred, Bertie Wooster’s Jeeves, Downton Abbey‘s Mr Carson, or Mr Stevens from Remains of the Day. And why wouldn’t you think of those men, of those chracters? The butler is a particular role dominated by males in fiction and film and real life. However, remember that ‘you’ve come a long way baby’ thing?

You know I’m all about changing stereotypes for women, particularly women over 40. Female protagonists of a ‘certain age’ (man, how I hate that expression) are all I write. Naturally,  I’ve written another. This time my older, or seasoned –as many are calling protagonists over 40– doesn’t just challenge the usual ageist stereotypes that cast older women as (say it with me now) cougars, grannies, evil stepmothers, hot flashing menopausal harpies, crazy cat ladies, and sidelined supporting characters only there to offer ‘sage’ advice to younger characters. This time my heroine challenges what has been a traditionally male role. This time my heroine is the butler.

Yep, the butler. Not the housekeeper. NOT. THE. HOUSEKEEPER.

I know I’m not the first to present a female butler. Linda Howard did it in Dying to Please. Helen Mirren took on the role of Hobson the butler in the remake of the movie Arthur, a role previously played by Sir John Gielgud. I happily add Mae Valentine from my forthcoming release At Your Service to that short list of female butlers.

My butler is older than your standard romance heroine, older than your usual romantic suspense romance heroine, but there are expectations she meets. The butler for a retired Army officer, Mae is efficient, professional, loyal. In other words, Mae is like all those other ‘traditional’ butlers you know so well, the ones who go that extra distance for their employer, the ones whose age doesn’t matter because the age of men seldom matters. Simply put, At Your Service is tale of a butler, a spy and a toilet brush. It crosses a few genres, plays with a few genre archetypes, subverts certain images we have in mind when we see words like older womanbutler and spy… Call it a romantic suspense cosy spy-thriller-mystery with a dash of humour. It’s Charade meets Remains of the Day. It’s set to release this September. You can pre-order it now.  Kindle or Kobo, Nook & more

 

That Thing When Your Fictional World Bleeds Into Real Life. Sorta.

ironing

It’s not much of a secret that I excel at housework, or that I like housework as much as I like writing books about smartasses. But I admit, and I have admitted before, that I have a rather complicated relationship with one chore: ironing.

A few days after I met the man I would later marry, I shot myself in the foot by offering to iron his shirt. It’s been 22 years and I’m still ironing his shirt.

I used to love ironing. Honest.

I. Loved. Ironing.

Truly. I loved the process. I loved the mind-clearing, methodical pattern of pressing the collar, the sleeves, the yoke. I loved how I’d start with the chaos of crinkles and wind up with crisp fabric. Oh! It was bliss to iron!

Really. I swear to the deity of your choice. I loved ironing.

Before my husband and I married we actually discussed the division of labour, meaning we discussed what chores we would and would NOT do. For some reason, twenty some years ago, I picked ironing over mowing the yard because I loved to iron. What’s happened over time is that I began to dislike ironing the same bloody 10 shirts (my beloved has a squillion other shirts, yet chooses the same 10 all the time). However, I did not want to trade or switch to mowing the yard–or weeding or anything that would make me get dirty and sweaty because I am a complete and utter wuss. So when I ironed I tried to recapture what I loved about it.  Then I just would try to make it, let’s say, FUN.

Yeah. I know ironing = fun.  BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

Anyhow, I’d set up the ironing board in front of the TV, pop in a DVD, and get down to pressing my beloved’s business shirts. I’d try to find solace in that DVD, try to forget that I was ironing the same shirt I’d ironed a week ago. I endeavoured to lose myself in Casino Royale, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Bourne Identity, Three Days of the Condor, in anything that would engross me enough that I’d forget I was ironing.

What happened instead is that I wound up with a comedic romantic suspense novel featuring a smartass heroine who was all about the mind-clearing methodical order out of chaos through ironing.

Then I took that character, Mae Valentine, and put her in an apron because I wear an apron whapronen I’m doing housework– I also wear pyjamas when I clean and iron, but an apron works better on a professional butler than a pair of flannel pyjamas. It took me a little while of writing Mae before I realised she and I shared certain proclivities–like wearing an apron and keeping things tidy. I was cool with that. I understand that characters are sometimes imbued with elements that come directly from the writer’s psyche. I’m totally cool with that. It happened on an unconscious level while I was trying to make ironing fun.

I know! Ironing = fun! BWHAHAHAHAHA!

Anyhow, when a writer friend of yours, whom you admire, tells you that they enjoyed beta reading your romantic suspense book about Mae Valentine, but they pictured YOU as Mae Valentine.. and then they tell you that they got all OH DEAR GOD when they got to the sex scene because they’d pictured IRONING-APRON-WEARING YOU as the character doing it with the hero you wrote, a cross between Toby Stephens, Daniel Craig and Clive Owen.

Oh, ironing for me will never be the same again. Now when I iron I’ll blush, and think about how Rebekah Turner pictured me naked and bonking a cross between Toby/Daniel/Clive.

Or I’ll simply put on an apron and a DVD and try to come up with another way to try to make ironing fun.

I know! Ironing = fun.  BWAHAHAHAHA!

 

 

Photo credits: Ravages via Foter.com /CC BY-NC-SA

‘Playingwithbrushes’ viaFoter.com / CC BY