Tom Barry Writes

Author of "Saving Jay" & "When the Siren Calls"

Why we love the “Pretty Woman” revenge on snooty sales-girl

legacyFor everyone who enjoyed the hugely successful rom-com Pretty Woman, with the unlikely couple of hooker Vivian (Julia Roberts)  and business big-shot Edward (Richard Gere), there’s one scene above all we seem to remember. It’s when dolled up Vivian goes on a shopping spree along glitzy Rodeo drive and returns, carrying all her designer bags, to the shop that had snubbed her the day before. (The day before she had been dressed in her hooker street gear!) She tells the snooty sales girl that refused to serve her that she  had made a “big mistake – you work on commission, don’t you”, before announcing  that she “has to go do more shopping now”. And the reason we love it is because…well read on and enjoy best selling romance author Harriet Schultz’ insights on why adding revenge to romance is a sure-fire way to create a page turner. Take it away, Harriet:


 “…if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”- The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare

When wronged, who hasn’t craved the satisfaction that revenge can bring? The target could be a boyfriend whose betrayal broke your heart, those mean girls who made your life miserable, or the villain who stole something you value — a material object, something more abstract such as honor, or even the life of a loved one. The list of triggers that might set off the need for vengeance is endless.

Revenge is a very human emotion, a dark and powerful one, yet one that’s hard to resist. It’s the rare person who hasn’t yearned to retaliate for a wrong at some point. In real life, however, getting back at someone isn’t always wise or do-able, so as readers and writers we derive vicarious pleasure when fictional characters do the deed for us. Vengeance is a popular theme in romance novels and crosses all subgenres from historicals to the paranormal, contemporary chick lit and, of course, suspense.

A quick Amazon search for “romance” and “revenge” results in more than one thousand titles. (I was happy to find my newest, A Legacy of Revenge, among the first fifteen on this list). Delve further and Google comes up with more than two million hits for “revenge in romance novels.” The titles of romance novels with a revenge theme show that payback can take many forms and may be delivered by a disparate group of characters — billionaires, banshees, jocks, vampires, homecoming queens, rock chicks and even one middle-aged woman.

The plots and people who inhabit the pages of these books are as wide-ranging and original as writers’ imaginations can make them, but all feature at least one protagonist with an overwhelming desire to retaliate for a real or perceived wrong. What is it that makes revenge such a satisfying plot device? It’s certainly not a new one. The Bible is filled with “an eye for and eye” tales of revenge, it was a favorite of Shakespeare’s and there would have been no Count of Monte Cristo without it. Country music’s queen of revenge songs, Miranda Lambert, says people connect with her lyrics because “these songs make you feel emotion. They are just so passionate.” And we all know that a romance novel without passion is a book that will not be read.

rev2Revenge snakes its way through both of my romantic suspense novels, but it doesn’t pit the hero and heroine against each other. Instead they’re united in a quest to discover why the heroine’s husband — the hero’s best friend — was murdered and to avenge the killing. The smoking hot (of course) former womanizer’s feelings for the heroine run deep and our hero is equally determined to win her heart. They believe that the vendetta is over at the end of book one, but it comes back to haunt them in the sequel. As Daniel Craig (aka James Bond) says, “revenge doesn’t stop.”

Bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz (aka Amanda Quick) knows something about the appeal of revenge in romance novels. “When I use revenge as a motive for a hero or a heroine it is always all about family and responsibility to others — never personal. There is nothing noble, heroic or romantic about seeking revenge for yourself. But to avenge a deep wrong done to someone in your family or to someone you love? Ah, that is another story — one I can write.”

The uncertainty about if, how and when the revenge will take place, whether it will be successful, and the ultimate happiness of our hero and heroine are what make these romances so deliciously engaging and keep us turning the pages late into the night.



Harriet Schultz is the author of the Amazon bestselling contemporary romantic suspense novels, LEGACY OF THE HIGHLANDS and A LEGACY OF REVENGE. The third book in the series, LEGACY OF LOVE, will be published this summer. She is an award-winning journalist whose career began at TIME magazine. Harriet loves to travel and is happy that something she enjoys adds realism to the locations of her books.

My thanks to Harriet for gracing my blog and sharing her insights on romance and revenge. Harriet welcomes reader questions and you may connect with her via:

Email: Twitter: @HarrietSchultz Facebook: Blog:

Amazon v Hachette and the right price for e-books

a amzWe’ve all used the phrase “something is only worth as much as people are prepared to pay for it”. House prices go up and down irrespective of the cost of bricks. Yet the idea that the value of something is determined by the cost of producing it is surprisingly resilient.

Why is this? In my days suffering through economics lectures at University, I remember being told about ‘the labour theory of value’. Apparently we owe Karl Marx for that one. As I recall, the labour theory of value contends that something is worth the sum of the labour that went into producing it. It’s a seductive argument. A Rolls Royce is worth more than a Mini Cooper because, quite obviously, one costs more than the other to make.

a rrBut this is looking through the wrong end of the telescope. If gasoline suddenly cost $1000 a litre you wouldn’t be able to give a Rolls Royce away. Yet the cost of production has not changed. The simple fact is that because whoever it is makes Rolls Royce believes they can sell luxury cars at luxury car prices, they gamble that they can afford to invest more in production costs.

Where am I going with this? Well, the mighty Amazon recently wrote to me (and a million others no doubt), seeking my support in their business dispute with a company called Hachette. The essence of the dispute is that Amazon is arguing that Hachette is over-pricing e-books, and that it is self evident that e-books should cost less than paperback  books. Here’s Amazon’s argument:

“We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.”

There you have it. Karl Marx rides again. e-books should be less than paperbacks because the costs of making them and supplying them are less. And in deploying this argument Amazon invokes economic theory, something called the “elasticity of demand”. (If you know that when prices go up sales go down, then you know pretty much all you need to know about this particular piece of economics hogwash.)

a ratNow, frankly, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Amazon’s dispute with Hachette. But as an author and avid reader, I do care about the price of e-books. And my advice to any author out there is to charge the price that the market will pay (remembering of course that the lower the price the more books you will sell, and if you want to make a real killing, set your e-book price at $0.00!)

And as for Amazon’s argument that e-books should be priced based on production and supply cost, I say this. What about the value of the creative talent that went into the story? Isn’t that much more relevant than the price of paper?

Chicken Soup for Writers

acbIs nothing sacred? Type into google “who said ‘always have a sun tan'” and the first entry on the page will quote me. It’s true I said it, but I wasn’t the first.  And I have forgotten the name of the Hollywood actor who really did say it long before me, but I still remember his curiously orange face. So my congratulations to whoever first described Celebrity Authors’ Secrets as “Chicken Soup for Writers”, it’s a great hook and an apt tag line for this unique collection of author secrets.

In any walk of life it seems there are successful people who have their sure fire tip for being successful, (my own personal favourite ‘be nice to your boss’, which is why I try and keep my wife happy.) So, anyway, you can now imagine why I was fascinated to read Stephanie Hale’s book about celebrity authors and what makes them successful. And we do indeed learn from Ms Hale that authors are no different, they all have an anecdote to share about the secret to their success.  But if there are any aspiring authors out there looking for a silver bullet, be warned, the consistent message from this book is that the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary (I’m not the first person to say that but as soon as I’ve finished this post I’m going on google and…)

While people will buy a book because a famous author wrote it, all the famous authors in this book have had to do the heavy lifting to reach their summit. Take Jeffrey Archer for example. From modest beginnings and despite not taking up a pen till his mid-thirties, he’s sold more than 270 million books in 97 countries and 37 languages (we learn from Hale’s book). He is phenomenally disciplined, rises early, and writes every day.

But hard work alone doesn’t make you successful, which is why my father’s will was not eagerly anticipated. And as I sometimes say to the know it all’s that cross my path with unsolicited advice, “if you’re so smart, why aren’t  you rich?” (like Jeffrey Archer.)

So, the secret to celebrity authors is working hard and doing something smart, or lots of things smart, until you’re so rich and successful like Jeffrey that you can pay other people to do all the smart things you cant be bothered to get off your butt to do yourself. Here’s seven insightful and inspiring celebrity author snippets you’ll learn from reading this book:

  • Writing a book is only half the work, next you must get it out to the world
  • If one is ever to copy anything – then copy success
  • I sit and think: who is this person and why are they interesting enough to be written about
  • I put myself in the position of the narrator or the hero
  • When the reader gets to the end of a chapter, they have to curse you
  • Non-fiction is an enthusiastic conversation on paper
  • Keep working until you get a book everybody wants to give to their friends

So, what do you get here? Through the medium of author interviews, the book looks at all stages of the process, starting prior to inspiration, through the ordeal of the first draft, from there to polishing it for publisher and public, until one’s work has the shine of an engagement ring. But that’s just the start: the book also provides a string of invaluable and practical tips on the best use of bookshops, social media, radio, and TV to drive sales forward. In short it is a primer not only on how to radically improve one’s success, but also how to transform the painful bits of writing into a joy.

This book should be essential reading for anyone interested in becoming a storyteller (as Archer points out, there are many great writers out there, but few great storytellers), and also to anyone interested in why writers write.