The Gloves Are Off... "Untouched By His Diamonds"
Several years ago I read a fabulous art-history/travel memoir by Victoria Hammond called "Letters from St Petersburg," into which she drops a startling but titillating account of being eyed up by a Russian soldier through the window of a shoe shop as she tried on a pair of boots.  This could have read creepy but didn't, mainly because the narrator was having such fun with it.  I thought I could do the same.

When I came to write "Clementine" I opened the story with my heroine Clem, an Australian PR girl in St Petersburg, finishing up a job and treating herself to a pair of Russian boots.  The Russian soldier became my hero Serge Marinov, a fight promoter based in New York, who picks Clem up and puts her on his private jet and wings her off to New York...

After "Maisy" I had a better idea of the kind of heroine I wanted to write for this line, fully realised women with a bit of life experience on their dials, and I set upon the idea of exploring female archetypes.  I took the Good Time Girl motif and fooled around with what I could do with her in a Presents format.

She'd need a thumping great hero to counterbalance her sexually knowing/wonderfully independent persona, and Serge sprang to life.  All six feet seven of him and a pair of boxing gloves.  I wanted to write a man's-man because Clementine is so clearly a man's-woman.

Clem is a girl who's been out in the world on her own for years, living by her wits and trying to navigate men who would take a piece of her because of her combination of natural sex appeal and a certain romantic optimism.  She's both worldly-wry and hopelessly romantic.  I had Jean Harlow in mind the whole time I wrote it, especially her wonderful pairing with Clark Gable in "Red Dust" where she's wisecracking at him and Gable's giving it right back at her, yet there's this running thread of vulnerability in Harlow that makes you ache for her character Vantine.  This was the dynamic I wanted to create between Serge and Clementine.  Easily my favourite couple I've yet created.  My good time girl and her hard man.

This was the book where I discovered if I mined film rather than romance tropes I could come up with stronger characters and better stories.  "Red Dust" [1932] found its way into Clem & Serge's relationship.


There's also a little Faye Dunaway from "The Thomas Crown Affair" in Clem, her look, her walk, her brio - I gave it all to my darling Clementine.

... and there's a little bit of Steve McQueen in all of my heroes.


Signature Song:  My Darling Clementine, Washington


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Lucy Ellis