I thought it might be best to start with the specifics and work toward a theory when it comes to talking about how the female characters in romance reflect the female experience of other women, and so today I’d like to call attention to some of my favorite romance heroines.
The list was one I created by running through my head for any particularly memorable heroines, and then glancing through my keeper shelf to see if there was anyone I particularly related to or admired that I had forgotten.
I will be honest; my answers surprised me. I suppose part of it is that there aren’t that many characters, male or female, that I find really memorable. There are also plenty of female characters I find inoffensive but not compelling for me, as a female reader–my interest in them in the story is generally either because the male finds her interesting or because her situation is intriguing. But the characteristics I thought I would gravitate to did not end up dominating the list of those characters I found that I personally admired and liked the most.
Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen) remains probably the best female character of all time. She’s witty, clever, able to stand up for herself, and able to change her mind.
Aside from her, because she is kind of a given the way Darcy often is with favorite heroes:
Miranda Rohan (Breathless, Anne Stuart). Miranda is caught in a scandal and basically gives a giant middle finger to society and turns her back on them to live on her own, pursuing her own interests and not caring what They think. Then when her new friend kidnaps her and admits she’s meant to be a tool for his revenge on her brother, she decides to fight back by making the best of the situation and refusing to let his intentions dictate how she receives his actions toward her.
Vanessa Huxtable (First Comes Marriage, Mary Balogh) is not pretty like her two sisters, so she has made up for it by being funny and positive and charming. There’s not a whole lot in the world that can get her down, and nothing that can keep her there. She isn’t annoyingly positive, though, but simply…pragmatic.
The two of them really are my favorites by far. The rest of my shortlist, of females I either particularly liked/related to/remembered:
- Georgiana Knight (Her Only Desire, Gaelen Foley)
- Catherine Wodeway (No True Gentleman, Liz Carlyle)
- Aubrey (Deal with the Devil, Liz Carlyle)
- Caroline Wynn (An Indecent Proposition, Emma Wildes)
- Susannah (Simply Magic, Mary Balogh)
The thing that seems to be uniting this group more than anything is resilience, an abilty to roll with the punches and get back up and try again. And that is probably one of my most deeply held virtues, so if we’re assuming we love heroes we want to date/marry and heroines who remind us of ourselves, then this list makes sense (even if it is something of a surprise, since I would have thought it would be the bluestockings who attracted my admiration. Apparently not so).
What about you? If you sat and made a list of favorite heroines would the qualities that unite them surprise you? Who’s on it?