Feisty or Saintly?

137_3774_1 Susan Sarah here, on a windy, rainy Thursday…

Since we love to answer questions at Word Wenches, I thought I’d turn tables today and ask some questions of you all (or y’all). We’ve had a lot of great, fun discussions on various aspects of books, reading, historical research, working methods, plot, characters, heroes, and a little about heroines – but hold up, let’s go back to that, what about heroines? 

What do you, as readers, prefer in heroines in the novels you read? I know that many of you are writers as well as readers, which makes the discussions that much more interesting – let’s all put on reader hats, style of choice, and see what we can do together with this topic.

Waterhousemiranda There are so many, many variations on the theme of the fictional heroine. I’m not just thinking in terms of romance heroines, though that’s a good place to start. A typical idea of a romance heroine is often a young woman with a “feisty” nature – she’s spirited, impulsive, hot-tempered, bold, often funny. Another heroine may be strong and serene, implacable and compassionate; another may be practical and organized, another a long-suffering dreamer, another gifted and sensitive and haunted… and the list goes on.  For each heroine, like every hero, there’s character growth, challenges to be faced, fears to be conquered, lessons to be learned, hurdles to jump, and love to be gained.

Leighton1 We could cast heroines along the archetypal lines of the hero in thematic books like The Hero Within by Carol S. Pearson: a heroine, too, can follow patterns of development in her journey as a character through a novel. Or, as Pearson says, “men and women go through–albeit in somewhat different forms and sometimes in slightly different order–the same basic stages of growth in claiming their heroism.” Females too can be viewed and understood as the Innocent, the Orphan, the Wanderer, the Warrior, the Martyr, the Magician.  Add to that the facets or stages of Virgin, Mother, Crone, Goddess, and that very fun female stereotype, Lilith, the dark, sexy side of the Goddess.

Now, I don’t want to talk about the Goddess stuff here in bringing up heroines and archetypes. To be perfectly honest, that stuff bores me a little, excepting some notable books like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon (an extraordinary novel) – but often it seems to me that those themes in fiction can be tedious and overdone. Maybe that’s just me.  🙂 

Nope, today I don’t want to delve deep. It’s raining and the puddles are muddy out there. Today I just want to lay a brief framework to identify the kinds of heroines we might be reading about, and then ask you all – what works, what doesn’t work, in a heroine for you all, as readers?

Another fun element to toss into the mix is the idea that heroines can also be seen as the quintessential “placeholder” for the reader – as Laura Kinsale pointed out in her essay in Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women. I don’t dispute the placeholder aspect, I think it’s a very important function for a romance heroine vis a vis the reader. The heroine often serves as the vehicle through which a female reader enters and invests in the story. She is also a lot more than that, of course. While she allows us to get close to that yummy guy, and we thank her very much for that, she is also a full-blown character in her own right. Her character arc, the track of her growth and revelations in the story are often equally as significant as the hero’s.

Trisianisoldaduncanl_1 Sometimes a story is hero-centric, sometimes heroine-centric, sometimes it’s a balanced couple-centric (I can’t think of a better word than that as I race through this – got one?). Ultimately a good romance story balances out to the equal growth and satisfaction and happiness of both Hero and Heroine.

What do you think? Do you like heroines to be feisty, saintly, warriors, practical, or vulnerable? Or all of the above?

~Susan Sarah

39 thoughts on “Feisty or Saintly?”

  1. Neither? I abhor both the “feisty” and the “saintly”. “Feisty” all too often seems to equal “modern” or TSTL (or, amazingly enough, both). Note, I do not think “feisty” = “strong”. “Saintly” is just so unrealistic (and frankly, boring). “Saintly” heroines always remind me of the naive misses of the Gothic novels. They get their happy ending because they’re so very, very good. *blech* They’re little more than ciphers.
    What I want in a heroine is someone that I’d want to know. Someone I’d want to be friends with, to have dinner with. Someone who is smart, and strong, and who I actually think DESERVES her happy ending.
    Many of Heyer’s heroines seem like women I’d want to know (Venetia, Frederica, Lady Babs, Serena, Sophy). As do many written by Wenches (Elfled Malloren, Jessica Trent and Alys Weston, just to name a few).

    Reply
  2. Neither? I abhor both the “feisty” and the “saintly”. “Feisty” all too often seems to equal “modern” or TSTL (or, amazingly enough, both). Note, I do not think “feisty” = “strong”. “Saintly” is just so unrealistic (and frankly, boring). “Saintly” heroines always remind me of the naive misses of the Gothic novels. They get their happy ending because they’re so very, very good. *blech* They’re little more than ciphers.
    What I want in a heroine is someone that I’d want to know. Someone I’d want to be friends with, to have dinner with. Someone who is smart, and strong, and who I actually think DESERVES her happy ending.
    Many of Heyer’s heroines seem like women I’d want to know (Venetia, Frederica, Lady Babs, Serena, Sophy). As do many written by Wenches (Elfled Malloren, Jessica Trent and Alys Weston, just to name a few).

    Reply
  3. Neither? I abhor both the “feisty” and the “saintly”. “Feisty” all too often seems to equal “modern” or TSTL (or, amazingly enough, both). Note, I do not think “feisty” = “strong”. “Saintly” is just so unrealistic (and frankly, boring). “Saintly” heroines always remind me of the naive misses of the Gothic novels. They get their happy ending because they’re so very, very good. *blech* They’re little more than ciphers.
    What I want in a heroine is someone that I’d want to know. Someone I’d want to be friends with, to have dinner with. Someone who is smart, and strong, and who I actually think DESERVES her happy ending.
    Many of Heyer’s heroines seem like women I’d want to know (Venetia, Frederica, Lady Babs, Serena, Sophy). As do many written by Wenches (Elfled Malloren, Jessica Trent and Alys Weston, just to name a few).

    Reply
  4. I’m with Kalen. The feisty heroine is TSTL and/or too modern for her context, and the saintly heroine is IMHO too passive. I want my heroines to choose their battles wisely, and the feisty ones pick stupid battles and the saintly ones don’t fight back at all, neither of which appeals to me. (Unless, of course, the heroine’s growth arc is learning to choose her battles better or learning that some things are worth fighting for, which changes the equation.)
    Beyond that I don’t really have a heroine type. It depends on the story. I do like tomboyish heroines or women in unconventional roles, possibly because I’m such a tomboy myself, but only if the author has avoided the dreaded “feisty” trap and made the heroine’s unconventional behavior motivated and believable in the historical context.

    Reply
  5. I’m with Kalen. The feisty heroine is TSTL and/or too modern for her context, and the saintly heroine is IMHO too passive. I want my heroines to choose their battles wisely, and the feisty ones pick stupid battles and the saintly ones don’t fight back at all, neither of which appeals to me. (Unless, of course, the heroine’s growth arc is learning to choose her battles better or learning that some things are worth fighting for, which changes the equation.)
    Beyond that I don’t really have a heroine type. It depends on the story. I do like tomboyish heroines or women in unconventional roles, possibly because I’m such a tomboy myself, but only if the author has avoided the dreaded “feisty” trap and made the heroine’s unconventional behavior motivated and believable in the historical context.

    Reply
  6. I’m with Kalen. The feisty heroine is TSTL and/or too modern for her context, and the saintly heroine is IMHO too passive. I want my heroines to choose their battles wisely, and the feisty ones pick stupid battles and the saintly ones don’t fight back at all, neither of which appeals to me. (Unless, of course, the heroine’s growth arc is learning to choose her battles better or learning that some things are worth fighting for, which changes the equation.)
    Beyond that I don’t really have a heroine type. It depends on the story. I do like tomboyish heroines or women in unconventional roles, possibly because I’m such a tomboy myself, but only if the author has avoided the dreaded “feisty” trap and made the heroine’s unconventional behavior motivated and believable in the historical context.

    Reply
  7. I agree with Kalen, especially with regard to the Saintly heroine. It’s hard to get involved with someone that is too good to be true; definitely not enough interesting characteristics to make them real enough to want to spend time on. On the other hand, I despise the spoiled heroine…I don’t have any patience for anyone who thinks that they are better than the other characters and I’ve never really been able to be convinced in the character changes of said Spoiled one.
    My favourite type(s) of heroine are those that are fairly confident in their abilities, and in their worth. They have doubts of course, but they know who they are. They can be any size or age, educated or not, but please make them realistic.
    I also enjoy the take-charge, know-everything heroines that learn that it’s okay to have help. No one can do everything on their own, and a good heroine, in my opinion, needs to be able to make the adjustments – otherwise, where’s the story?
    That’s my two-cents worth anyway.
    Kathy

    Reply
  8. I agree with Kalen, especially with regard to the Saintly heroine. It’s hard to get involved with someone that is too good to be true; definitely not enough interesting characteristics to make them real enough to want to spend time on. On the other hand, I despise the spoiled heroine…I don’t have any patience for anyone who thinks that they are better than the other characters and I’ve never really been able to be convinced in the character changes of said Spoiled one.
    My favourite type(s) of heroine are those that are fairly confident in their abilities, and in their worth. They have doubts of course, but they know who they are. They can be any size or age, educated or not, but please make them realistic.
    I also enjoy the take-charge, know-everything heroines that learn that it’s okay to have help. No one can do everything on their own, and a good heroine, in my opinion, needs to be able to make the adjustments – otherwise, where’s the story?
    That’s my two-cents worth anyway.
    Kathy

    Reply
  9. I agree with Kalen, especially with regard to the Saintly heroine. It’s hard to get involved with someone that is too good to be true; definitely not enough interesting characteristics to make them real enough to want to spend time on. On the other hand, I despise the spoiled heroine…I don’t have any patience for anyone who thinks that they are better than the other characters and I’ve never really been able to be convinced in the character changes of said Spoiled one.
    My favourite type(s) of heroine are those that are fairly confident in their abilities, and in their worth. They have doubts of course, but they know who they are. They can be any size or age, educated or not, but please make them realistic.
    I also enjoy the take-charge, know-everything heroines that learn that it’s okay to have help. No one can do everything on their own, and a good heroine, in my opinion, needs to be able to make the adjustments – otherwise, where’s the story?
    That’s my two-cents worth anyway.
    Kathy

    Reply
  10. If by “saintly” you mean the good girl heroine, I’m a big fan of those stories. When the conflict or the hero of the story makes them want to be bad – or they need to break some rules to obtain their goals, those conflicts always resonate with me. A strong example of this is Judith McNaught’s novel Perfect.
    I also like my heroines to be smart. I tend to like them to be strong, but a great author can make me like and care about a weak author, and it’s so wonderful seeing the weak heroine be strong at the end of the book. For instance, I’ve heard some readers complain about the heroine in Laura Kinsale’s Shadow and the Star. Yes, she was very rule bound and timid, but I CARED about her and REALLY wanted her to get her HEA. I could understand why she acted the way she did.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  11. If by “saintly” you mean the good girl heroine, I’m a big fan of those stories. When the conflict or the hero of the story makes them want to be bad – or they need to break some rules to obtain their goals, those conflicts always resonate with me. A strong example of this is Judith McNaught’s novel Perfect.
    I also like my heroines to be smart. I tend to like them to be strong, but a great author can make me like and care about a weak author, and it’s so wonderful seeing the weak heroine be strong at the end of the book. For instance, I’ve heard some readers complain about the heroine in Laura Kinsale’s Shadow and the Star. Yes, she was very rule bound and timid, but I CARED about her and REALLY wanted her to get her HEA. I could understand why she acted the way she did.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  12. If by “saintly” you mean the good girl heroine, I’m a big fan of those stories. When the conflict or the hero of the story makes them want to be bad – or they need to break some rules to obtain their goals, those conflicts always resonate with me. A strong example of this is Judith McNaught’s novel Perfect.
    I also like my heroines to be smart. I tend to like them to be strong, but a great author can make me like and care about a weak author, and it’s so wonderful seeing the weak heroine be strong at the end of the book. For instance, I’ve heard some readers complain about the heroine in Laura Kinsale’s Shadow and the Star. Yes, she was very rule bound and timid, but I CARED about her and REALLY wanted her to get her HEA. I could understand why she acted the way she did.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  13. Like the others, I think Kalen summed things up pretty well. I like a heroine to be intelligent, honourable, and endowed with common sense – as Kalen said, someone I should like to know myself.
    I have never fully understood the nuances of the American word ‘feisty’, but I do know that it is supposed to describe a positive quality, yet all too often in modern novels it seems to mean ‘ill-bred, inconsiderate and not very bright’.
    On the ‘placeholder heroine’ issue, this one interests me, since I *never* identify with the heroine: when I read, I am always an onlooker. The only person with whom I sometimes feel a degree of identification is the author, who has created and is directing the people and events I am observing.

    Reply
  14. Like the others, I think Kalen summed things up pretty well. I like a heroine to be intelligent, honourable, and endowed with common sense – as Kalen said, someone I should like to know myself.
    I have never fully understood the nuances of the American word ‘feisty’, but I do know that it is supposed to describe a positive quality, yet all too often in modern novels it seems to mean ‘ill-bred, inconsiderate and not very bright’.
    On the ‘placeholder heroine’ issue, this one interests me, since I *never* identify with the heroine: when I read, I am always an onlooker. The only person with whom I sometimes feel a degree of identification is the author, who has created and is directing the people and events I am observing.

    Reply
  15. Like the others, I think Kalen summed things up pretty well. I like a heroine to be intelligent, honourable, and endowed with common sense – as Kalen said, someone I should like to know myself.
    I have never fully understood the nuances of the American word ‘feisty’, but I do know that it is supposed to describe a positive quality, yet all too often in modern novels it seems to mean ‘ill-bred, inconsiderate and not very bright’.
    On the ‘placeholder heroine’ issue, this one interests me, since I *never* identify with the heroine: when I read, I am always an onlooker. The only person with whom I sometimes feel a degree of identification is the author, who has created and is directing the people and events I am observing.

    Reply
  16. LOL, AgT, your definition hits it about right. I prefer a “spirited” heroine. “G”
    I agree, intelligence and common sense are on the top of my heroine list. Kinsale handles the “placeholder” heroines remarkably well through her wonderful skill and talent, but I don’t think most authors can compete with her in creating placeholders we want to know better.
    I have never thought of women as being placeholders in society. Sure, as today, there are weak submissive women as well as men. But even limited by historical restrictions, strong women found ways of making themselves heard, of using their gifts and abilities to obtain what they wanted. Those are the kind of women I want to read about.

    Reply
  17. LOL, AgT, your definition hits it about right. I prefer a “spirited” heroine. “G”
    I agree, intelligence and common sense are on the top of my heroine list. Kinsale handles the “placeholder” heroines remarkably well through her wonderful skill and talent, but I don’t think most authors can compete with her in creating placeholders we want to know better.
    I have never thought of women as being placeholders in society. Sure, as today, there are weak submissive women as well as men. But even limited by historical restrictions, strong women found ways of making themselves heard, of using their gifts and abilities to obtain what they wanted. Those are the kind of women I want to read about.

    Reply
  18. LOL, AgT, your definition hits it about right. I prefer a “spirited” heroine. “G”
    I agree, intelligence and common sense are on the top of my heroine list. Kinsale handles the “placeholder” heroines remarkably well through her wonderful skill and talent, but I don’t think most authors can compete with her in creating placeholders we want to know better.
    I have never thought of women as being placeholders in society. Sure, as today, there are weak submissive women as well as men. But even limited by historical restrictions, strong women found ways of making themselves heard, of using their gifts and abilities to obtain what they wanted. Those are the kind of women I want to read about.

    Reply
  19. I like my heroine to be a moral person- however she herself defines morality- and that may be a little stricter than my own, if she is true to her times, or perhaps less if the author wishes to emphasize the passions of the character… However, she is not self-righteous. Like Jane Eyre, she has to struggle against temptation, as do we all. I like my heroines to be kind hearted, thoughtful, and honest. But not perfect. I really like it when there is something that keeps her from being perfect- either in looks (she has freckles, or a long nose) in behavior-(she doesn’t always think things through, or she’s shy) or in abilities ( she can’t carry a tune, or she hates to ride.) The little flaws are what make her likeable. If she’s too perfect, I can’t believe she would ever meet with conflict- and then where is the story?

    Reply
  20. I like my heroine to be a moral person- however she herself defines morality- and that may be a little stricter than my own, if she is true to her times, or perhaps less if the author wishes to emphasize the passions of the character… However, she is not self-righteous. Like Jane Eyre, she has to struggle against temptation, as do we all. I like my heroines to be kind hearted, thoughtful, and honest. But not perfect. I really like it when there is something that keeps her from being perfect- either in looks (she has freckles, or a long nose) in behavior-(she doesn’t always think things through, or she’s shy) or in abilities ( she can’t carry a tune, or she hates to ride.) The little flaws are what make her likeable. If she’s too perfect, I can’t believe she would ever meet with conflict- and then where is the story?

    Reply
  21. I like my heroine to be a moral person- however she herself defines morality- and that may be a little stricter than my own, if she is true to her times, or perhaps less if the author wishes to emphasize the passions of the character… However, she is not self-righteous. Like Jane Eyre, she has to struggle against temptation, as do we all. I like my heroines to be kind hearted, thoughtful, and honest. But not perfect. I really like it when there is something that keeps her from being perfect- either in looks (she has freckles, or a long nose) in behavior-(she doesn’t always think things through, or she’s shy) or in abilities ( she can’t carry a tune, or she hates to ride.) The little flaws are what make her likeable. If she’s too perfect, I can’t believe she would ever meet with conflict- and then where is the story?

    Reply
  22. From Sherrie:
    Like Michelle, I enjoy saintly heroines, as long as they aren’t gold-plated. I like saints whose values are challenged by the heroes. It is often that very saintliness which not only attracts and confounds the hero, but is the catalyst for his transformation. (Think Wench Edith’s Duke of Tourquay in The Duke’s Wager, or Laura Kinsale’s Duke of Jervaulx in Flowers From The Storm) And the heroine’s own saintliness frequently plunges her into a maelstrom that also causes her to grow by questioning her previously ironclad values.
    The heroine’s saintliness is generally something I admire–things like a strong sense of honor, conviction in one’s religious beliefs, self-sacrifice for the sake of loved ones. But if she’s a faultless goody-two-shoes, I start yawning.
    I like unconventional heroines–those with an unusual hobby, occupation, or talent, and I especially love plain heroine/gorgeous hero stories, because the hero sees more in the heroine than physical beauty.

    Reply
  23. From Sherrie:
    Like Michelle, I enjoy saintly heroines, as long as they aren’t gold-plated. I like saints whose values are challenged by the heroes. It is often that very saintliness which not only attracts and confounds the hero, but is the catalyst for his transformation. (Think Wench Edith’s Duke of Tourquay in The Duke’s Wager, or Laura Kinsale’s Duke of Jervaulx in Flowers From The Storm) And the heroine’s own saintliness frequently plunges her into a maelstrom that also causes her to grow by questioning her previously ironclad values.
    The heroine’s saintliness is generally something I admire–things like a strong sense of honor, conviction in one’s religious beliefs, self-sacrifice for the sake of loved ones. But if she’s a faultless goody-two-shoes, I start yawning.
    I like unconventional heroines–those with an unusual hobby, occupation, or talent, and I especially love plain heroine/gorgeous hero stories, because the hero sees more in the heroine than physical beauty.

    Reply
  24. From Sherrie:
    Like Michelle, I enjoy saintly heroines, as long as they aren’t gold-plated. I like saints whose values are challenged by the heroes. It is often that very saintliness which not only attracts and confounds the hero, but is the catalyst for his transformation. (Think Wench Edith’s Duke of Tourquay in The Duke’s Wager, or Laura Kinsale’s Duke of Jervaulx in Flowers From The Storm) And the heroine’s own saintliness frequently plunges her into a maelstrom that also causes her to grow by questioning her previously ironclad values.
    The heroine’s saintliness is generally something I admire–things like a strong sense of honor, conviction in one’s religious beliefs, self-sacrifice for the sake of loved ones. But if she’s a faultless goody-two-shoes, I start yawning.
    I like unconventional heroines–those with an unusual hobby, occupation, or talent, and I especially love plain heroine/gorgeous hero stories, because the hero sees more in the heroine than physical beauty.

    Reply
  25. “But even limited by historical restrictions, strong women found ways of making themselves heard, of using their gifts and abilities to obtain what they wanted. Those are the kind of women I want to read about.”
    Pat says it perfectly! (no surprise there)
    When I think of “saintly” I’m not thinking of the good girl. I’m thinking of the too perfect, totally unrealistic (and usually very young) heroines I’ve run into on occasion (they make me think of the heroine of Phoebe’s book in Heyer’s SYLVESTER; a cipher who Phoebe simply endows with perfect goodness and who she herself doesn’t think would have been capable of surviving the adventures set before her).
    I’m not thinking of a good woman who will be tempted . . . like the Methodist heroine of Julia Ross’ NIGHT OF SIN, or the good widow of Candice Hern’s upcoming LADY BE BAD.
    The later are GOOD women who have faults and weaknesses. They’re interesting.

    Reply
  26. “But even limited by historical restrictions, strong women found ways of making themselves heard, of using their gifts and abilities to obtain what they wanted. Those are the kind of women I want to read about.”
    Pat says it perfectly! (no surprise there)
    When I think of “saintly” I’m not thinking of the good girl. I’m thinking of the too perfect, totally unrealistic (and usually very young) heroines I’ve run into on occasion (they make me think of the heroine of Phoebe’s book in Heyer’s SYLVESTER; a cipher who Phoebe simply endows with perfect goodness and who she herself doesn’t think would have been capable of surviving the adventures set before her).
    I’m not thinking of a good woman who will be tempted . . . like the Methodist heroine of Julia Ross’ NIGHT OF SIN, or the good widow of Candice Hern’s upcoming LADY BE BAD.
    The later are GOOD women who have faults and weaknesses. They’re interesting.

    Reply
  27. “But even limited by historical restrictions, strong women found ways of making themselves heard, of using their gifts and abilities to obtain what they wanted. Those are the kind of women I want to read about.”
    Pat says it perfectly! (no surprise there)
    When I think of “saintly” I’m not thinking of the good girl. I’m thinking of the too perfect, totally unrealistic (and usually very young) heroines I’ve run into on occasion (they make me think of the heroine of Phoebe’s book in Heyer’s SYLVESTER; a cipher who Phoebe simply endows with perfect goodness and who she herself doesn’t think would have been capable of surviving the adventures set before her).
    I’m not thinking of a good woman who will be tempted . . . like the Methodist heroine of Julia Ross’ NIGHT OF SIN, or the good widow of Candice Hern’s upcoming LADY BE BAD.
    The later are GOOD women who have faults and weaknesses. They’re interesting.

    Reply
  28. Hi Susan/Sarah.
    Wonderful question. (and I love the picture of the knight and his lady)
    I like the heroine who steps up to the plate when no one else will and is willing to do what it takes to get the job done. MJ’s heroine in KOF is a perfect example. Lives were at stake. She knew that even though she couldn’t prove it. Gwynne believed in herself. Sacrificed it all. And did what needed to be done. Without a doubt, she deserved her HEA.
    I dislike the wishy-washy heroine who takes up half of the story trying to make up her mind while falling into the hero’s arms. I always feel like saying “Yea, life is a dangerous game. If you’re not going to commit, get off the field!”
    Of course, that’s just my opinion.
    –the littlest wenchling, putting away her bull horn

    Reply
  29. Hi Susan/Sarah.
    Wonderful question. (and I love the picture of the knight and his lady)
    I like the heroine who steps up to the plate when no one else will and is willing to do what it takes to get the job done. MJ’s heroine in KOF is a perfect example. Lives were at stake. She knew that even though she couldn’t prove it. Gwynne believed in herself. Sacrificed it all. And did what needed to be done. Without a doubt, she deserved her HEA.
    I dislike the wishy-washy heroine who takes up half of the story trying to make up her mind while falling into the hero’s arms. I always feel like saying “Yea, life is a dangerous game. If you’re not going to commit, get off the field!”
    Of course, that’s just my opinion.
    –the littlest wenchling, putting away her bull horn

    Reply
  30. Hi Susan/Sarah.
    Wonderful question. (and I love the picture of the knight and his lady)
    I like the heroine who steps up to the plate when no one else will and is willing to do what it takes to get the job done. MJ’s heroine in KOF is a perfect example. Lives were at stake. She knew that even though she couldn’t prove it. Gwynne believed in herself. Sacrificed it all. And did what needed to be done. Without a doubt, she deserved her HEA.
    I dislike the wishy-washy heroine who takes up half of the story trying to make up her mind while falling into the hero’s arms. I always feel like saying “Yea, life is a dangerous game. If you’re not going to commit, get off the field!”
    Of course, that’s just my opinion.
    –the littlest wenchling, putting away her bull horn

    Reply
  31. You all have said so much so well that it’s hard for me to feel I can add very much. Like Pat, I too enjoy stories about women who find ways to make themselves heard by using their gifts and talents.
    I would also say that my many of my favorite heroines are women who are dealt a difficult hand by circumstance and then must rise to the occasion, make the best of their situation, and/or create their own destiny. (e.g. Jo’s Malloren women and Carla Kelly’s entire oeuvre). I like heroines who are intelligent, resourceful, and have a sense of humor–heroines who, despite hardship, trauma, or poverty, refuse to be victims, maintain a sense of hope, and make courageous and creative choices (within their historical and narrative reality).
    I also want to second Gretchen F’s sentiments about the dullness of perfection. For me personally, I just really roll my eyes at those heroines who are too beautiful to be real. I believe in love at first sight (hey, it happened to me) but those rhapsodic descriptions of the heroine’s perfect hair, flawless complexion, mesmerizing eyes and (horrors) “slim athletic thighs” grate on me and jerk me out of the story just as much as a blatant anachronism. I know this is probably just a post-traumatic stress reaction dating from high school, but asking me to care about a gorgeous heroine is like asking me to care about a Victoria’s Secret model. A talented author can get me there, but it takes a lot more work to make me emotionally invest! (I guess this makes me shallow–I apologize!– I do understand–intellectually speaking–that the beautiful can also be tortured souls).
    I agree with Sherrie that the hero needs to see more than just physical beauty in the heroine, and vice versa–and it’s an article of faith with me that the beloved, despite his or her physical imperfections, becomes beautiful to the one who loves. It’s the process of that “becoming beautiful”–in body and spirit–the transformation accomplished by love– that I find emotionally satisfying.

    Reply
  32. You all have said so much so well that it’s hard for me to feel I can add very much. Like Pat, I too enjoy stories about women who find ways to make themselves heard by using their gifts and talents.
    I would also say that my many of my favorite heroines are women who are dealt a difficult hand by circumstance and then must rise to the occasion, make the best of their situation, and/or create their own destiny. (e.g. Jo’s Malloren women and Carla Kelly’s entire oeuvre). I like heroines who are intelligent, resourceful, and have a sense of humor–heroines who, despite hardship, trauma, or poverty, refuse to be victims, maintain a sense of hope, and make courageous and creative choices (within their historical and narrative reality).
    I also want to second Gretchen F’s sentiments about the dullness of perfection. For me personally, I just really roll my eyes at those heroines who are too beautiful to be real. I believe in love at first sight (hey, it happened to me) but those rhapsodic descriptions of the heroine’s perfect hair, flawless complexion, mesmerizing eyes and (horrors) “slim athletic thighs” grate on me and jerk me out of the story just as much as a blatant anachronism. I know this is probably just a post-traumatic stress reaction dating from high school, but asking me to care about a gorgeous heroine is like asking me to care about a Victoria’s Secret model. A talented author can get me there, but it takes a lot more work to make me emotionally invest! (I guess this makes me shallow–I apologize!– I do understand–intellectually speaking–that the beautiful can also be tortured souls).
    I agree with Sherrie that the hero needs to see more than just physical beauty in the heroine, and vice versa–and it’s an article of faith with me that the beloved, despite his or her physical imperfections, becomes beautiful to the one who loves. It’s the process of that “becoming beautiful”–in body and spirit–the transformation accomplished by love– that I find emotionally satisfying.

    Reply
  33. You all have said so much so well that it’s hard for me to feel I can add very much. Like Pat, I too enjoy stories about women who find ways to make themselves heard by using their gifts and talents.
    I would also say that my many of my favorite heroines are women who are dealt a difficult hand by circumstance and then must rise to the occasion, make the best of their situation, and/or create their own destiny. (e.g. Jo’s Malloren women and Carla Kelly’s entire oeuvre). I like heroines who are intelligent, resourceful, and have a sense of humor–heroines who, despite hardship, trauma, or poverty, refuse to be victims, maintain a sense of hope, and make courageous and creative choices (within their historical and narrative reality).
    I also want to second Gretchen F’s sentiments about the dullness of perfection. For me personally, I just really roll my eyes at those heroines who are too beautiful to be real. I believe in love at first sight (hey, it happened to me) but those rhapsodic descriptions of the heroine’s perfect hair, flawless complexion, mesmerizing eyes and (horrors) “slim athletic thighs” grate on me and jerk me out of the story just as much as a blatant anachronism. I know this is probably just a post-traumatic stress reaction dating from high school, but asking me to care about a gorgeous heroine is like asking me to care about a Victoria’s Secret model. A talented author can get me there, but it takes a lot more work to make me emotionally invest! (I guess this makes me shallow–I apologize!– I do understand–intellectually speaking–that the beautiful can also be tortured souls).
    I agree with Sherrie that the hero needs to see more than just physical beauty in the heroine, and vice versa–and it’s an article of faith with me that the beloved, despite his or her physical imperfections, becomes beautiful to the one who loves. It’s the process of that “becoming beautiful”–in body and spirit–the transformation accomplished by love– that I find emotionally satisfying.

    Reply
  34. I was thinking again about what ‘saintly’ might cover, and just wanted to add one thing. There was a vogue in some of the 1980s category romances for the overbearing hero to be paired with a heroine who actually followed the ancient archetype of the Patient Griselda type. She puts up, nobly and serenely, with everything that life, and the beastly hero, throws at her, including the false accusations that characterise the medieval Patient Griselda tale itself. Some otherwise excellent novelists perpetrated stories with this kind of heroine. Whether these heroines should be classed as ‘saintly’ or just ‘half-witted’, I am not quite sure, but they certainly exasperated me.
    What astonishes me is that some of those books have been reprinted many times, suggesting that there are readers who enjoy them.

    Reply
  35. I was thinking again about what ‘saintly’ might cover, and just wanted to add one thing. There was a vogue in some of the 1980s category romances for the overbearing hero to be paired with a heroine who actually followed the ancient archetype of the Patient Griselda type. She puts up, nobly and serenely, with everything that life, and the beastly hero, throws at her, including the false accusations that characterise the medieval Patient Griselda tale itself. Some otherwise excellent novelists perpetrated stories with this kind of heroine. Whether these heroines should be classed as ‘saintly’ or just ‘half-witted’, I am not quite sure, but they certainly exasperated me.
    What astonishes me is that some of those books have been reprinted many times, suggesting that there are readers who enjoy them.

    Reply
  36. I was thinking again about what ‘saintly’ might cover, and just wanted to add one thing. There was a vogue in some of the 1980s category romances for the overbearing hero to be paired with a heroine who actually followed the ancient archetype of the Patient Griselda type. She puts up, nobly and serenely, with everything that life, and the beastly hero, throws at her, including the false accusations that characterise the medieval Patient Griselda tale itself. Some otherwise excellent novelists perpetrated stories with this kind of heroine. Whether these heroines should be classed as ‘saintly’ or just ‘half-witted’, I am not quite sure, but they certainly exasperated me.
    What astonishes me is that some of those books have been reprinted many times, suggesting that there are readers who enjoy them.

    Reply
  37. Give me the Bad Girls any day — the saintly heroines, the ones that “reform” the hero, just aren’t my cup of tea. I also think they perpetuate some pretty awful romance stereotypes about good women saving bad men. In reality, white bread seldom improves much of anything.
    But isn’t it nice there’s so much to choose from at the buffet? 🙂
    OTOH, this may just be because I’m currently embroiled with a heroine who’s so very bad, she could keep EW, People, and the National Enquirer in stories all by herself…*G*

    Reply
  38. Give me the Bad Girls any day — the saintly heroines, the ones that “reform” the hero, just aren’t my cup of tea. I also think they perpetuate some pretty awful romance stereotypes about good women saving bad men. In reality, white bread seldom improves much of anything.
    But isn’t it nice there’s so much to choose from at the buffet? 🙂
    OTOH, this may just be because I’m currently embroiled with a heroine who’s so very bad, she could keep EW, People, and the National Enquirer in stories all by herself…*G*

    Reply
  39. Give me the Bad Girls any day — the saintly heroines, the ones that “reform” the hero, just aren’t my cup of tea. I also think they perpetuate some pretty awful romance stereotypes about good women saving bad men. In reality, white bread seldom improves much of anything.
    But isn’t it nice there’s so much to choose from at the buffet? 🙂
    OTOH, this may just be because I’m currently embroiled with a heroine who’s so very bad, she could keep EW, People, and the National Enquirer in stories all by herself…*G*

    Reply

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