Today we have a special guest, Carolyn Haines, in celebration of her latest release, Bone to Be Wild, the 15th in the Sarah Booth Delaney series, just released by St. Martin's Press/Minotaur. Carolyn also writes ghost stories as R B. Chesterton. She lives in south Alabama on a farm with rescued horses, dogs, and cats. In addition to writing and teaching, Carolyn runs the Good Fortune Farm Refuge, which is an animal rescue where she cares for dogs, cats, and horses. For more information, go to www.carolynhaines.com and sign up for her newsletter. You can also join her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Here's what Carolyn has written about today:
Thanks to the Femme Fatales for asking me to blog today. My mind is a curious and convoluted place, and as I considered different topics to blog about, I wondered if I actually qualified as a “femme fatale.” So I looked up the definition.
Femme fatale is: an attractive and seductive woman, especially one who will ultimately bring disaster to a man who becomes involved with her. Synonyms are:
Okay, that train has left the station.
Once upon a time I might have qualified (I prefer the term serial engagee) but those foolish days of youth and irresponsible action are behind me. For better or worse, I have grown up. (Isn’t that just too boring!)
Today, I seek power in a very different venue. The world of writing and fiction. Which brings to the forefront another, far more important question. Is Sarah Booth Delaney, my protagonist in 15 Southern mysteries, a femme fatale? I’m not sure. She meets the physical requirements, and she certainly was dangerous to her fiancé, Graf Milieu, who almost lost a leg thanks to her poking into things. (He was shot by a master criminal.) But can a sociopathic killer taking aim at a man be counted in the negative column for his fiancée? I’m not sure.
Sarah Booth loves hard and deeply, and she is not immune to the pull of amore. But she is also aware of the consequences of her actions, and here’s why she may not be a femme fatale. She cares about the consequences. She doesn’t play fast and loose with a man’s affections, even when it is oh, so tempting.
And here’s why she may be a femme fatale—She is going to solve the case no matter what the cost. Sarah Booth serves Justice more deeply than she serves Cupid.
Love is never the end game for a true femme fatale. It is a means of getting to an end.
I did a little research on historical femmes, and let me just say that a number of them were horrifically fatal. Hooking up with Cleopatra, Mata Hari, Ilse Koch, Anna Chapman, Myra Hindley, Eleanor of Acquitane (yeah, who knew old Eleanor was such a deadly gal), Marilyn Monroe (I quibble with this choice), Belle Gunness, Lucrezia Borgia or Mary Queen of Scots could end up in a funeral procession to the cemetery. Fatal love.
I have some difficulty with Marilyn Monroe being on this list because I view her as someone life acted upon, not the initiator of evil deeds. To me, a true femme fatale sets her sights on a goal and rolls over anyone who gets in her way—and who enjoys the destruction as she rolls forward.
Sarah Booth lacks this killer instinct when it comes to men and passion. That’s not to say she doesn’t leave wreckage behind, but it isn’t done with intent.
Now her partner, Tinkie, is far more suitable to be classified as a true femme fatale, and it’s one reason she is such a good partner for Sarah Booth. Tinkie knows how to manipulate a man, and she does so with skill and a total lack of remorse. God gave her a set of tools—appearance, voice, attitude, brains, calculation—and she puts them to good use whenever the need arises.
Tinkie isn’t callous, she is simply what her mother trained her to be—a true-to-the-bone Daddy’s Girl. She was taught the art of manipulation in the bassinet, and she is a master. Tinkie, too, has no guilt in plying her talent. If a man can be manipulated, then it’s his fault for being so easy to manage. In Tinkie’s privileged world of the Mississippi Delta, women learned to manipulate as a survival skill. The hierarchy of the Delta has always been white male at the top and way down at the bottom is white female.
Tinkie’s predecessors couldn’t re-write societal boundaries—the supremacy of the white male plantation owner in all things—so they developed a system that empowered women. The iron fist in the velvet glove, as it’s called in other places. Or steel magnolias. A smart woman, forced into a structure where she is powerless by law, will flex her muscles in other ways. We use the tools we’re allowed.
But a true DG will make a man do what she wants and he will love doing it. So it’s an art with reward for both parties. (I really admire this!)
To a degree, I think all women have a bit of the femme fatale in them, and let me just say I view this as a good thing. And femmes spice up the world around them in the most interesting ways. Where would historical fiction would be without Mary Queen of Scots! Woefully boring! And good old Cleo—she made the Roman empire bow to her whims.
So let’s celebrate the femme fatale. Sarah Booth needs to take some lessons from Tinkie. As my grandmother (who sometimes goes by the name Aunt Loulane) would say, “You can catch more flies with sugar than you can with vinegar.”