I love a good heroine. I’ll grant you, I think sexy leading men are a real plus too, but if the heroine is a wishy-washy character, particularly when utilizing her viewpoint, then those typically turn me off. So let’s back up for a little history here. I started reading romances when I was about nine years old. My grandmother used to read them to me when I was much younger, but the very first time I read one on my own it was a novel by Penny Jordan called Escape from Desire, published in 1982.
To this day, I remember several key sequences in the novel that featured Zach Fletcher and Tamara running for their lives through a dense jungle and a rather wicked spider bite that left Tamara ill for months, neatly masking the early signs of her pregnancy. To my very young ten year-old mind this was titillating stuff, but it wouldn’t have worked, even then, if Tamara hadn’t borne up under the pressure to become something less than helpless. She owned her choices in the jungle and didn’t regret them. She made choices to go forward in her life even when that brought her right back into Zach’s world.
The blurb for Escape from Desire reads this way:
“We have to escape or die,” Zach told her. Suddenly Tamara’s holiday in the Caribbean had turned into a nightmare. On a guided tour of a rain forest she had been captured by guerrillas! Only through the strength and comfort of fellow hostage Zach Fletcher did she survive the ordeal. Not so easy to overcome were the passions and emotions Zach had imprinted on her heart and memory. Then Zach disappeared from her life – a ruthless departure that left Tamara despondent, wondering if she could survive alone.
A quality heroine must be someone I can relate to. She has to have character. I’m talking about the admirable qualities that build a person’s integrity and make them worth knowing. She doesn’t have to be perfect. Copper from Pure Copper in Elite Metal was far from perfect, but she possessed honor, integrity, a work ethic and immeasurable loyalty.
A heroine should be attractive. She doesn’t have to be physically beautiful, because to be blunt physical beauty really is in the eye of the beholder so much as she should be a beautiful person in her actions, her attitudes. She can be a bit of a bitch, but she is someone who ultimately will do the right thing. She is generous even if she covers up that generosity behind a gruff exterior. She should be beautiful to her romantic lead. Kate Braddock in Some Like it Deadly was a striking woman, but she viewed herself as tough, competent and capable–her hero Richard on the other hand, he thought she was gorgeous, brilliant, and incredibly sexy intellectually, physically and emotionally.
She should be in good shape. That doesn’t means she should be a size 0 with perfectly formed, pert breasts. She should be a good looking woman, who is comfortable in her own skin. A size 18 woman can be drop dead gorgeous and in great shape. In fact, in some parts of the world, she’s probably in better shape than the emaciated model that starves to stay that thin. I like my women to be real women. Not caricatures of them. I hate the term “plus” size, because the “average” woman is a size 14 to 18. Voluptuous curves are gorgeous. A woman has to be the perfect her. One thing Serafina Andre commented on in Bayou Wolf, the six-foot tall woman really liked meeting a man who was taller than her. Good thing for her Linc fit the bill.
Attitude is Everything
All of these physical and historical attributes aside, the heroine to me should be a frank, honest and bold woman. Her manner should say it all. Her attitudes should convey not only her strength of character and comfort with herself, but also how she is engaged with the world around her. Maybe she doesn’t like conflict or arguments, but she doesn’t shy away from them either.
My heroines aren’t obsessed with how they look, but they damn well know how to use it to their advantage. They can be cold and calculating when the situation calls for it, but they aren’t bitchy for the sake of being bitchy. My heroines run the gamut in background, personality and even profession, but they are more than the sum of those events. Their attitudes demonstrate that.
Scarlett from Marshal of Hel Dorado is a tough woman, but she is bound by conventions and expectations. The men in her life often view her breaks with convention as rebellious and willfulness, but when she has the power to set things on fire? What’s a little willfulness?
Chance Monroe in Earth Witches Aren’t Easy, on the other hand, she’s an altogether different heroine. She’s tough, she’s independent and she’s obviously embraced who she is, but there’s something deeper there. Something under the surface that she won’t even admit internally, not yet.
My most recent heroine, Colby Jensen is an altogether different beast. She knows how appearances affect people and she also understands a judicious amount of firmness can go a long way to bypassing the sex appeal for getting her way.
What do you want in your modern heroines?