I’ve just come back from the supermarket where I was doing the weekly grocery shop. We needed bleach, toilet roll and cat food. (There’s an insight into the glamorous life of the romance novelist!) And printer paper. The printer paper I mention because it meant that we had to go along an aisle that we don’t usually visit – paper, pens, craft stuff. And that’s where I saw them – something I have a whole set of but haven’t taken out of the cupboard, let alone used, for years.
Apparently knitting – and other crafts are the ‘new baking’ - the new thing in fashion where homemaking and crafts are suddenly fashionable again. They’re ‘creative, productive and stress reducingI used to knit. I used to knit a lot. Once I got over the humiliation of struggling to learn how to do the craft that it. I had a year of knitting a ‘scarf’ where the first three inches of length was nothing but holes and mistakes, the red wool grubby and stretched from being pulled back and reworked again and again until I could finally get the hang of things. But when I did get the hang of things I spent many long hours knitting all sorts of things. There were jumpers, cardigans, hats. . . I even knitted a pale blue dress (this was the 70s so I could get away with mini mini skirt lengths. ) And then when my son was born there were bootees, bonnets, jackets, jumpers . . . and toys. There was one year when I knitted a snowman and a soldier – rather like the figures in the wonderful ‘Knit Your Own Royal Wedding.’ And Humpty Dumpty – I don’t know how many times I knitted these as stocking fillers for the Offspring’s friends. (I now see that they can be bought here for £15 a time!)
But this also got me thinking about writing. About books and characters and heroines in particular. Because the truth is that I can’t recall many recent romances where this new domesticity/craft /baking interest is reflected. If you look at the TV schedules here in the UK with The Great British Bake Off and the popularity of Mary Berry and now the new series on The Great British Sewing Bee, you would think that everyone is busy baking, sewing – and now knitting. But are our romance heroines?
Hmm – not mine! In fact I don’t recall when one of my heroines cooked a meal, let alone baked a
country to settle down with knitting needles and a pattern for a Fair isle sweater.
Would reflecting this new return to crafts and homemaking skills make a heroine more sympathetic – or too old-fashioned and so too ‘sweet’ – not feisty enough? I don’t think so. Which heroines can you recall settling into preparing a meal or baking cakes? Donna Alward has several heroines who come to my mind – housekeepers or women who run a B and B and so make meals for the heroes. Maisey Yates has a heroine who bakes but that’s as a job and she thinks up new taste sensations as well.
when she’s on the hero’s private jet, flying to wherever he’s decided to take her? My creative brain cells are already buzzing at the thought of the hero’s potential frustration at being neglected in this way. And how he would have to be wary of those clicking knitting needles if he wanted to entice her away into other more sensuous ways of passing the time!
And why should it only be the heroine who was interested in crafts? Perhaps not a sheikh who embroiders his own robes – but what about a hero who sets to and cooks a great meal? I once wrote a book called Captive Lover where the heroine came home to find the hero, who had been kidnapped for a stunt by the heroine’s
cooking a curry for her evening meal. I got a lot of letters about that book – both because of the fantasy of kidnapping a gorgeous hunk and locking him in the spare bedroom and because of the thought of coming home to find that he had a cooked meal ready and waiting. But that was a long time ago - I don't quite see my black sheep prince in A Throne for The Taking heading down to the palace kitchens . . .but then again, why not?
So what do you think? Do you enjoy crafts – or baking and if so what sort of things do you do (and how do you find the time?!) Is the current interest in baking/knitting/sewing going to last - or is it just a flash in the fashion pan? Will we see lots of heroines taking up these sorts of interests or do you think those will very soon date the books for the future?
Kate’s latest heroine - who doesn't knit or bake- is Honoria Escalona (Ria) who comes up against Alexei Sarova, a black sheep prince who has to face up to a new and unexpected destiny. A Throne For the Taking will be published in the Royal and Ruthless miniseries in June.