Lately Iâ€™ve been thinkingâ€”and talking and bloggingâ€”about romance novel heroines. Usually itâ€™s heroes who take over the limelight in any discussion of characters. Dark hair or blond? Cop or sheikh? Cowboy or bad boy? We all have our preferences, and weâ€™re not afraid to state â€™em.
But when I read a romance, itâ€™s just as important (well, almost) that I like the heroine. Love her, even. After all, she needs to be worthy of that fantastic hero, and I want to be sure sheâ€™ll make him as happy as he makes her. Which isnâ€™t going to happen if sheâ€™s, say, whiny. Or selfish. Or dull.
Thereâ€™s a theory that when you read a romance novel, you â€œbecomeâ€ the heroine. Subconsciously, you put yourself in her place, experience her trials and her delights. Which makes it all the more important for the heroine to be someone you like.
I like my heroines strong, but with a sweetness of character that reminds the hero just how churlish heâ€™s being. A great heroine knows what she wants and is willing to work for it. Intelligent â€“ very! Honest and principled, too (though she may at some stage have to fake an engagement, pretend her marriage of convenience is for real, or pose as the heroâ€™s girlfriend…all in a dayâ€™s work for even the most honest heroine).
What I donâ€™t want is a perfect heroine: never having a mean thought, always sacrificing ungrudgingly for others (if youâ€™re going to sacrifice, itâ€™s more realistic to begrudge it!), endlessly patient. As for the heroine who refuses to accept the gorgeous designer dress purchased for her by the super-rich hero…whatâ€™s that about? No, my kind of heroine is also a pragmatist…one who likes nice clothes even if sheâ€™s not always sure how to choose them.
So who are these non-paragons I love to read about?
Susan Elizabeth Phillips has written a few of my favorite heroines: Annabelle in MATCH ME IF YOU CAN, Daisy in KISS AN ANGEL and Jane in NOBODYâ€™S BABY BUT MINE. I loved Maggie in Kristan Higginsâ€™ CATCH OF THE DAY. Karina Bliss wrote a wonderful librarian in WHAT THE LIBRARIAN DID.
Becky Brandon nee Bloomwood (aka SHOPAHOLIC) is a heroine I loved more in the subsequent books than in the first one, but Iâ€™ve adored her through five books.
Georgette Heyerâ€™s heroines deserve a special mention. She wrote so many delightful women (or girls). Warm and funny Arabella and Venetia in the eponymous novels, Mary in DEVILâ€™S CUB (feistier than the hero could ever have dreamed), wry and creative Hester in SPRIG MUSLIN, courageous Phoebe in SYLVESTER.
If you can recommend a great heroine whose story I can add to my To Be Read pile, Iâ€™d love to know!