Today, novelist V.R. Christensen is jumping in and telling us about her Imperfect Hero: Archer Hamilton from her book, Of Moths and Butterflies.
Archer Hamilton is a collector of rare and beautiful insects. Gina Shaw is a servant in his uncle’s house. Clearly out of place in the position in which she has been discovered, she becomes a source of fascination . . . and curiosity.
A girl with a blighted past and a fortune she deems a curse, Gina has lowered herself in order to find escape from her family and their scheming designs. But when she is found, the stakes suddenly become dire.
All Gina wants is the freedom to live her life as she would wish. All her aunts want is the money that comes with her. But there is more than one way to trap an insect. An arranged marriage might turn out profitable for more parties than one.Mr. Hamilton is about to make the acquisition of a lifetime. But will the price be worth it? Can a woman captured and acquired learn to love the man who has bought her?
"Perfect people are boring. I cannot understand them (because I don’t know any, myself) and I cannot sympathise with them. I do, however, have a deep appreciation for those who strive to be good, despite their weaknesses, despite their downfalls. A hero who is too good is unbelievable, and yet...one that is too flawed...well, they are difficult to root for. It’s hard to find that balance.
I acquired, several years ago, a very battered collection of George Meredith’s works, and I’ve been trying to read my way through them. He writes such amazing women, strong and good, if sometimes rebellious, which I like. That was quite a flaw in the Victorian era, female independence, you know. And his heroes? They are equally flawed. Perhaps more so. Richard Feverel (The Ordeal of Richard Feverel) for example is too obedient and it becomes a tragic flaw. And yet you follow him with rapt fascination toward and into that tragedy. Evan Harrinton, on the other hand, is what they call a ‘managed man’. His elder sister tells him what to do and where to go and whom to love and what to make of his life. And for the most part he does it. And when he doesn’t want to do it, he wallows around feeling sorry for himself and wondering why he cannot get up the gumption to stand up to her. I found him difficult to sympathise with. Perhaps because I’m a woman with a fiercely independent spirit. But it is, nevertheless, a truism that those who must fight for what they want appreciate it most, while those by nature blessed rarely take full advantage of their opportunities. At any rate, Evan was a difficult book to engage in.
And so I knew, when it came time for me to write of my own ‘managed man’ that I had to walk a fine line.
Archer Hamilton is young and he has much of youthful ambition and willfulness about him. And yet he doesn’t always use these to the best effect. He is controlled, manipulated by his uncle who has raised him, and who has raised him to believe he will inherit...if he observes his duty. And chiefest of his duties is to marry a fortune. This is all well enough until he meets the unfortunate Miss Shaw, who he later learns is a servant in his uncle’s house. He cannot marry her, and yet he is irresistibly drawn to her. He considers, and very seriously, breaking with his uncle over the matter, but then...he has no money of his own. He is powerless.
Miss Shaw, as it turns out, is not the penniless misfortunate she would like people to believe her, and when it is discovered she’s actually the unwilling beneficiary of a sizable fortune, Archer’s uncle arranges their marriage. Archer does not object, in fact quite the reverse, but the blessing of having the woman he wants comes with an enormous price. He is now his uncle’s puppet. Sir Edmund has seized the money and taken control of everything, and Archer is helpless now to do anything for himself. Neither has he the respect of his wife. And without this, perhaps the most important thing of all, he has nothing.
Archer is not entirely without strengths, however. From his mother he learned the value of earning the love and respect of others, which has been his primary motivation in remaining loyal to his uncle. Sir Edmund might, should Archer manage to please him, be the father he never had. More than anything, though, he must grow up, something he has so far not bee required to do, with everything he’s ever needed handed to him on a plate. He learns, and quickly, the value of worthwhile loyalty, and that family pride, money, tradition, the opinion of the masses, these mean nothing when you have not the love and respect of those most important to you. For these he learns to fight, whatever the cost.
As a work entirely fictional, it seems, and perhaps is, an impossible story. And yet there are parallels to modern life. The book is about the various forms of abuse, mostly (though not entirely) psychological, and about the barriers we allow to be placed in the paths to our own success and happiness. Those barriers are most often the direct results of our own flaws and weaknesses. We may blame them on circumstance or on others, but we always have a choice what we will do with the obstacles placed before us, and, too, with the opportunities. Sometimes they are not, after all, entirely different.
I am a champion of the underdog, of the honestly flawed. To have weaknesses and to be honest about them speaks of a person who is trying to do and be better, rather than pretending to be something he is not. I cannot help but respect that. It’s true we have too few heroes in this world, but I’ll take a flawed hero over a perfect one any day."
(Thanks so much V.R.!)
V.R. Christensen's web site
Of Moths and Butterflies is available at:
Barnes and Noble