Last week I initiated a new series of posts on my blog, called Book of the Month, in which I’ll choose one of my books to spotlight each Friday during the month. I started with my Georgian/Regency Only Marriage Will Do, and featured the cover with the blurb and an excerpt. I also ran a contest with the prize being a signed print copy of the book. To enter, readers had to comment telling me what they looked for in a heroine in an historical romance.
I only had six people answer the question, but they were unanimous in what they wanted: a strong-willed, feisty heroine.
This is not a change in the past what, twenty years.
When I began reading romance novels, the ones I picked up were by Kathleen Woodiwiss, written in the early 1970s. Her first heroine, Heather in The Flame and the Flower, was anything but a strong-willed heroine. She seemed to be afraid if you said “boo” to her. However, by the end of the book, she had undergone a transformation (a character arc if you will) and became, if not actually strong-willed, at least a little feisty.
I went away from the genre for a long time, but when I came back I found the times they had a-changed. Now heroines are supposed to have fire and brimstone in them (and more rather than less). I think I attribute this change, at least in part, to the Second Wave of feminism that hit in the late 1970s, when women began asserting themselves. Began realizing that they could do jobs better than men and had just as much if not more intelligence than men. And as daughters of the early women’s rights advocates learned at their mothers’ knees, they brought those sensibilities to their reading tastes.
In my theatre history classes I tell students that theatre holds a mirror up to society. Well, I think in this respect, romance novels do the same thing. They have changed with the times. In the mainstream romances, both historical and contemporary, we look for a strong-willed, feisty heroine who, against all odds, through her own cunning and tenacity, makes the hero fall in love with her and, quite often as not, saves the day rather than the hero.
We want to read about these heroines because we live vicariously through them and those are the women we want to be. Strong, feisty, resourceful, yet tender and kind as well.
Can you think of better qualities to have in role models for our young women of today?