01 November 2012

Old-school heroines

 Is there room left for an old-school heroine?

Good question. I suppose it depends, in part, on your definition of 'old-school'.

When I first discovered romance novels, I read mostly Harlequin stories. At that time, they all seemed to revolve around the young, virginal heroine and the older, gruff, and very experienced hero. Since they were mostly told in the heroine's point of view, the reader rarely knew what the hero was feeling or thinking -- our only clues came from the rather limited and naive perspective of the young heroine. She was usually wrong. ;)

Back then, it didn't matter that the heroine often needed the hero to save her; or that the biggest 'conflict' was often a silly misunderstanding; or that, at times, the hero seemed harsh, even to the point of being rather a bully, if not abusive. When I was thirteen, I didn't know any better. And apparently neither did a large portion of the romance readership.

Now we are more enlightened. When I think of the term 'old-school heroine', I think of those rather shy, sometimes pathetically inept but kind, untried heroines who always needed to be saved. In that respect, no, I don't feel they have much of a place in the romances of today. But they do still pop up from time to time, sadly enough. I've seen the trend, in particular, take a subtle shift in that direction when it comes to some Young Adult stories and a few adult romances. Nope, not mentioning any titles.

I have nothing against the hero riding into the rescue. I personally love the idea of letting the big, strong man take charge and deal with the messes of life while he protects those he loves. There are days when I wish the man in my life could deal with the hard stuff and let me be the pampered heroine back at the ranch. Sometimes he does; mostly, we share the load.

That said, I prefer to see and be a heroine who can stand by her man -- or at least watch his back when things get dicey. The women in my favorite stories don't have to be trained in martial arts or able to beat the bad guy (gal) in battle. But she can't be a wimp, either. She also can't be "too stupid to live" -- No, sweetie, don't go alone and unarmed into the basement where the serial killer is waiting. DUH!

In my fictional worlds, a heroine should be strong and tough, with a few edges of weakness about her. She can't be invincible because no one would relate well to her. And please, IF she has to go into that basement, give her a really good reason. If she has to rescue the hero, let her show a softer side when the time allows. But don't drop her into a fetal position when she and her man have a fight and are separated forever. Let her cry, sure. A good, hard cry is very therapeutic. Then pluck her up off her butt and get her moving again.

There are all kinds of heroines in the real world and in fiction. I suppose it's up to each of us what type we want to be; what type we want to read about. But humans are complex creatures -- we're rarely all one thing or another at all times. The best heroines will always be those with some depth.

Meg Allison
Indulge your senses...

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