So it’s Villain Month, and I should technically be thinking about my villain. And I am–both of them. The ruthless CEO against whom Rowan will be testifying and also the stalker she encounters in her new location. In preparation I’m reading John Douglas’s Obsession to get myself more in that mindset. But what I find myself thinking about today is heroines.
I’ve been reading several novels based around characters in the WITSEC program. One of the ones I requested arrived this weekend through interlibrary loan, and I started reading through it last night. It was a romance put out in 1984–when WITSEC was still relatively new and the public knew next to nothing. The author took several liberties that I, at this point, know to be “against the rules” of the program (now anyway, I don’t know about then), so it’s not going to be much help on that front. I didn’t realize its age when I requested the book. But I’ve been reading along anyway, and thus far it seems to be more a post-trial, the heroine must move on with her new life and new identity and get over her trust issues and fall in love with the sensitive, hot lawyer who lives downstairs kind of story than a suspense of the bad guys actually finding her and posing an honest to God threat. I’m only 8 or 9 chapters in, so I could be wrong, and I’ll keep reading. But the heroine annoys me. She’s not in the too stupid to live (TSTL) category–so it’s not that. I suppose what I’m finding annoying about her is that she has this vulnerable-hero-please-save-me kind of feel. She compels the hero to be all soft and gentle with her. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And maybe if she were in imminent danger and the hero rushed in and saves her or something, I might feel differently. But I find that this is not the sort of heroine who pulls me.
I like strong women.
This is probably because I am a strong woman. I like to see women who are in charge of their lives, their situations. Women who take charge, take responsibility, and don’t necessarily wait on the hero to rescue them (I am delighted with the end of Ever After–need I say more?) Mostly, this is the kind of heroine I write. Kensie, my heroine in House of Cards, has had all sorts of adversity, but she’s still strong enough to do the job, live her life and not let it stop her. Actually the thing she has to learn is that it’s okay to lean on someone else, which is a whole other thing I won’t get into here. Marin, my heroine in Til Death, is a well-adjusted woman who isn’t afraid to take risks. She doesn’t have a tragic past or even a tragic present (it’s very much a story where external forces drive the conflict in the beginning). When strange stuff (otherworldly and more corporeal) begins to happen around Blackbourne Hall (the antebellum home she’s turning into a B and B), she does what has to be done and falls apart later. And Rowan, my current heroine in Without A Past, had the guts to do the right thing, take the incriminating evidence against her employer to the feds and testify (well she will be testifying–that happens toward the end)–entering the witness protection program and starting a new life after her family is gunned down in an effort to intimidate her to silence–clearly a strong woman. And though the hero (Mitch) feels compelled to be gentle with her, it’s not in the condescending manner I sort of feel from the hero in the book I’m reading. I don’t think he’s deliberately trying to be condescending. I think all of this gentleness to her fragility was probably a hallmark of romance in the early to mid-80s–but it’s not something with which I identify. I suppose I’m most like Marin of all my heroines–a do what needs to be done and fall apart later kind of gal. If something needs doing, I do it, whether I want to or not. I try not to use things as crutches or excuses. And, if I’m honest, I’m a control freak, so that lends quite a bit of support to my high level of independence and personal strength. I don’t like depending on other people. And oh, hey, there’s a bit of Kensie in me after all.
Yet I also particularly like stories of women who haven’t been and grow to find their own strength over the course of the story. Lily in Nora Roberts’ Montana Sky (which I’ve been listening to in audio form at work while I do data entry this week) comes to mind. Also, Brianna Concannon from Born In Ice. Yeah, I know, I really need to work on expanding my horizons beyond Nora–and I honestly DO read more widely, but her characters tend to stick with me! So despite my misgivings, I will keep reading this book in hopes that this heroine I’m reading will turn out to be one of the latter group.
What about the rest of you? What sort of heroine do you like?