Rags to Riches

Kingsfavmastercover035
by Susan/Miranda

Last month, Wench Loretta’s blog Too Young to Marry? began a fascinating discussion about the ages of our historical heroines, and whether the young women of the past were more mature at an earlier age and better prepared to assume adult responsibilities than their contemporaries today.

There were many different examples given of young women, both from history and from fiction, a most capable bunch.  But the more I thought about this question, the more I realized how all the young women we mentioned, whether from the American west or a Jane Austen novel, all had a certain level of family support and education to help them on their way.  Jane Eyre was an orphan, but educated well enough to become a governess.  The women in Sense and Sensibility are said to have been left paupers when Mr. Dashwood died, yet there is poor, and there is poor, and the Dashwoods’ degree of poverty still allowed for a handsome “cottage” and a servant or two.

In male-oriented fiction, real rags-to-riches stories abound.  The orphan from the workhouse becomes theSensesensibilty
industrious apprentice who marries the master’s daughter and eventually owns the business.  The barefoot cabin-boy toils at his navigation and works his way up through the ranks to become an admiral.  The immigrant son learns English, puts himself through law school while working two jobs to support his widowed mother, becomes a crusading district attorney, and finally governor. 

But where are the girls?  Before the twentieth century made education more universal for women, there were many more girls starting life in sweatshop factories, dairies, and as servants than those sharing the comfortable “plight” of the Dashwood sisters.  Granted, the sexism and prejudice of the past would have made it quite challenging for a poor girl to work her way upwards to prosperity, yet it did occasionally happen.  Industrious, low-born women did become master silversmiths, cooks in great houses, and owners of prosperous inns and shops, though never to the same giddy heights of success that men could.  Of course the surest way for a woman to rise was on the coattails of a man, as a wife or a mistress, but even then in reality there were very few peers willing to play Henry Higgins for the sake of an aspiring Eliza Doolittles from the street.

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So why aren’t there more in fiction beyond Becky Sharpe in Vanity Fair and The Unsinkable Molly Brown?  We writers are supposed to be in the business of dreams and escape and giddy “what if.”  Why don’t more girls get the Horatio Alger treatment?  In much contemporary women’s fiction, the message is even worse.  The heroines do get the chance to work hard to achieve success –– power, glamour, careers, wealth –– but their success seems only to make them miserable in a way that never affects heroes.  The only way these heroines can be truly happy is to return to their humble roots in the decaying small town/low-paying job/high school crush that they’d worked so hard to escape in the first place.  They’re almost like cautionary tales against dreaming too high.  Heck, look what happened to enterprising Mildred Pierce and her pie-shops!

But, as usual, I digress. 

I have to admit that I’d never written a true rags-to-riches heroine myself.  Oh, I’ve done a couple that came close, a fisherman’s daughter and a seamstress, but never anyone who starts out with every card stacked against her.  Which is one of the reasons I was so captivated by Nell Gwyn, the 17th century woman whose life forms the story of my next historical novel, The King’s Favorite, due out this summer.

Born in Oxford in 1650, Nell was the illegitimate daughter of a soldier and camp-follower.  When her father was killed in the English Civil War, her mother moved to London with Nell and her older sister, where they lived above the brothel where the mother worked.  By any standard, it was an appalling childhood.  Malnourished, illiterate, and beaten by her alcoholic mother, young Nell worked as a barefoot herring vendor in the street by day and served ale at the brothel by night. 

But Nell was ambitious, and refused to follow the grim path taken by her mother and sister.  She wasNell_with_blue_cloak_fixed
determined to do better for herself in the raucous world of 17th century London.  She was clever, funny, and charming, a talented singer and dancer, and blessed (or cursed) with an almost insatiable need for an audience to entertain.  By fifteen, she was selling oranges in the new Theatre Royal and bantering  merrily with lords and peers.  A year later, she was one of the first actresses on the English stage.  Before her twentieth birthday, she’d made herself a headlining star, with plays written specifically to showcase her talents and crowds of fans cheering her wherever she went. 

In a promiscuous era, Nell had only four lovers during her short life.  The most famous, of course, was King Charles II, but she insisted on establishing a friendship between them long before she shared his bed –– likely the reason she was his lover for nearly fifteen years, until his death.  Yet no matter how high Nell rose, she never forgot where she’d started, and remained as great a favorite with the common folk in the street as she was at the palace.  Even today Nell Gwyn is something of a folk-hero in England, a splendid testimony to her “rags to riches” life, and a wonderful inspiration for me as I told her story.

Is your memory for books better than mine?  Can you name more true “rags to riches” heroines than I could?  Do you admire such women, or would you rather your heroine came equipped with her silver spoon rather than have to earn it?

75 thoughts on “Rags to Riches”

  1. Well, not that many heroes in romances are self-made, either, Some are, but they’ve normally already made it when they appear in the narrative.
    Reading on this topic can start out with Jean Webster, Daddy Long-Legs. It’s considered a juvenile now, but was directed to an adult audience when it was published and it has the requisite HEA for Judy and Jarvis.
    You will find very few of successful-rags-to-riches-girl stories in English (as in from England, written there) books. I think it’s the result of the assumption that people should “know their place,” and keep it, but even in M&B there’s an occasional one. I’ve read a couple of recent English HPs in which one heroine is scrubbing the hero’s toilet when they first meet and another in which she’s on the night cleaning crew in his office building.
    The author of the second actually got away with having a reasonable length of time for the story — a couple of years between the first meeting in which she’s working two full-time jobs and going to night school and the final HEA.
    Among US best sellers, Peter B. Kyne’s Kindred of the Dust, like Jean Webster, sold very well in the US (in the top ten) and had the theme.
    There were really a lot of late 19th century and early 20th century parallels to the Horatio Alger boys books that were written for girls. The “Aunt Jane’s Nieces” series written by the author of the Oz books, under a pseudonym, had one of the nieces originally living in complete poverty. Similarly, the “Mary ‘n’ Mary” books by Foster had Mary Golden living in miserable and abusive poverty (her mother died, her alcoholic father remarried, her father died, the stepmother remarried, and she was known under “Mary Murray,” the surname of the stepfather).

    Reply
  2. Well, not that many heroes in romances are self-made, either, Some are, but they’ve normally already made it when they appear in the narrative.
    Reading on this topic can start out with Jean Webster, Daddy Long-Legs. It’s considered a juvenile now, but was directed to an adult audience when it was published and it has the requisite HEA for Judy and Jarvis.
    You will find very few of successful-rags-to-riches-girl stories in English (as in from England, written there) books. I think it’s the result of the assumption that people should “know their place,” and keep it, but even in M&B there’s an occasional one. I’ve read a couple of recent English HPs in which one heroine is scrubbing the hero’s toilet when they first meet and another in which she’s on the night cleaning crew in his office building.
    The author of the second actually got away with having a reasonable length of time for the story — a couple of years between the first meeting in which she’s working two full-time jobs and going to night school and the final HEA.
    Among US best sellers, Peter B. Kyne’s Kindred of the Dust, like Jean Webster, sold very well in the US (in the top ten) and had the theme.
    There were really a lot of late 19th century and early 20th century parallels to the Horatio Alger boys books that were written for girls. The “Aunt Jane’s Nieces” series written by the author of the Oz books, under a pseudonym, had one of the nieces originally living in complete poverty. Similarly, the “Mary ‘n’ Mary” books by Foster had Mary Golden living in miserable and abusive poverty (her mother died, her alcoholic father remarried, her father died, the stepmother remarried, and she was known under “Mary Murray,” the surname of the stepfather).

    Reply
  3. Well, not that many heroes in romances are self-made, either, Some are, but they’ve normally already made it when they appear in the narrative.
    Reading on this topic can start out with Jean Webster, Daddy Long-Legs. It’s considered a juvenile now, but was directed to an adult audience when it was published and it has the requisite HEA for Judy and Jarvis.
    You will find very few of successful-rags-to-riches-girl stories in English (as in from England, written there) books. I think it’s the result of the assumption that people should “know their place,” and keep it, but even in M&B there’s an occasional one. I’ve read a couple of recent English HPs in which one heroine is scrubbing the hero’s toilet when they first meet and another in which she’s on the night cleaning crew in his office building.
    The author of the second actually got away with having a reasonable length of time for the story — a couple of years between the first meeting in which she’s working two full-time jobs and going to night school and the final HEA.
    Among US best sellers, Peter B. Kyne’s Kindred of the Dust, like Jean Webster, sold very well in the US (in the top ten) and had the theme.
    There were really a lot of late 19th century and early 20th century parallels to the Horatio Alger boys books that were written for girls. The “Aunt Jane’s Nieces” series written by the author of the Oz books, under a pseudonym, had one of the nieces originally living in complete poverty. Similarly, the “Mary ‘n’ Mary” books by Foster had Mary Golden living in miserable and abusive poverty (her mother died, her alcoholic father remarried, her father died, the stepmother remarried, and she was known under “Mary Murray,” the surname of the stepfather).

    Reply
  4. Well, not that many heroes in romances are self-made, either, Some are, but they’ve normally already made it when they appear in the narrative.
    Reading on this topic can start out with Jean Webster, Daddy Long-Legs. It’s considered a juvenile now, but was directed to an adult audience when it was published and it has the requisite HEA for Judy and Jarvis.
    You will find very few of successful-rags-to-riches-girl stories in English (as in from England, written there) books. I think it’s the result of the assumption that people should “know their place,” and keep it, but even in M&B there’s an occasional one. I’ve read a couple of recent English HPs in which one heroine is scrubbing the hero’s toilet when they first meet and another in which she’s on the night cleaning crew in his office building.
    The author of the second actually got away with having a reasonable length of time for the story — a couple of years between the first meeting in which she’s working two full-time jobs and going to night school and the final HEA.
    Among US best sellers, Peter B. Kyne’s Kindred of the Dust, like Jean Webster, sold very well in the US (in the top ten) and had the theme.
    There were really a lot of late 19th century and early 20th century parallels to the Horatio Alger boys books that were written for girls. The “Aunt Jane’s Nieces” series written by the author of the Oz books, under a pseudonym, had one of the nieces originally living in complete poverty. Similarly, the “Mary ‘n’ Mary” books by Foster had Mary Golden living in miserable and abusive poverty (her mother died, her alcoholic father remarried, her father died, the stepmother remarried, and she was known under “Mary Murray,” the surname of the stepfather).

    Reply
  5. Well, not that many heroes in romances are self-made, either, Some are, but they’ve normally already made it when they appear in the narrative.
    Reading on this topic can start out with Jean Webster, Daddy Long-Legs. It’s considered a juvenile now, but was directed to an adult audience when it was published and it has the requisite HEA for Judy and Jarvis.
    You will find very few of successful-rags-to-riches-girl stories in English (as in from England, written there) books. I think it’s the result of the assumption that people should “know their place,” and keep it, but even in M&B there’s an occasional one. I’ve read a couple of recent English HPs in which one heroine is scrubbing the hero’s toilet when they first meet and another in which she’s on the night cleaning crew in his office building.
    The author of the second actually got away with having a reasonable length of time for the story — a couple of years between the first meeting in which she’s working two full-time jobs and going to night school and the final HEA.
    Among US best sellers, Peter B. Kyne’s Kindred of the Dust, like Jean Webster, sold very well in the US (in the top ten) and had the theme.
    There were really a lot of late 19th century and early 20th century parallels to the Horatio Alger boys books that were written for girls. The “Aunt Jane’s Nieces” series written by the author of the Oz books, under a pseudonym, had one of the nieces originally living in complete poverty. Similarly, the “Mary ‘n’ Mary” books by Foster had Mary Golden living in miserable and abusive poverty (her mother died, her alcoholic father remarried, her father died, the stepmother remarried, and she was known under “Mary Murray,” the surname of the stepfather).

    Reply
  6. I have been eagerly awaiting The King’s Favorite ever since you first mentioned it, Susan. Nell Gwyn has long fascinated me.
    If you count among “true”rags-to-riches stories” all those where women gain wealth and prestige through men, wouldn’t all Cinderella tales count? There are certainly a lot of those around.
    Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Emma Harte, heroine of A Woman of Substance, certainly qualifies as a rags-to-riches heroine. I think Bradford’s own story has some of the same elements. A couple of others that come to mind are Jennifer Donnelly’s The Tea Rose and Deborah Smith’s Miracle. I would probably include Maggie Osborne’s A Stranger’s Wife in my list too, although some might quibble that Lily Dale herself has nothing to do with her release from prison.

    Reply
  7. I have been eagerly awaiting The King’s Favorite ever since you first mentioned it, Susan. Nell Gwyn has long fascinated me.
    If you count among “true”rags-to-riches stories” all those where women gain wealth and prestige through men, wouldn’t all Cinderella tales count? There are certainly a lot of those around.
    Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Emma Harte, heroine of A Woman of Substance, certainly qualifies as a rags-to-riches heroine. I think Bradford’s own story has some of the same elements. A couple of others that come to mind are Jennifer Donnelly’s The Tea Rose and Deborah Smith’s Miracle. I would probably include Maggie Osborne’s A Stranger’s Wife in my list too, although some might quibble that Lily Dale herself has nothing to do with her release from prison.

    Reply
  8. I have been eagerly awaiting The King’s Favorite ever since you first mentioned it, Susan. Nell Gwyn has long fascinated me.
    If you count among “true”rags-to-riches stories” all those where women gain wealth and prestige through men, wouldn’t all Cinderella tales count? There are certainly a lot of those around.
    Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Emma Harte, heroine of A Woman of Substance, certainly qualifies as a rags-to-riches heroine. I think Bradford’s own story has some of the same elements. A couple of others that come to mind are Jennifer Donnelly’s The Tea Rose and Deborah Smith’s Miracle. I would probably include Maggie Osborne’s A Stranger’s Wife in my list too, although some might quibble that Lily Dale herself has nothing to do with her release from prison.

    Reply
  9. I have been eagerly awaiting The King’s Favorite ever since you first mentioned it, Susan. Nell Gwyn has long fascinated me.
    If you count among “true”rags-to-riches stories” all those where women gain wealth and prestige through men, wouldn’t all Cinderella tales count? There are certainly a lot of those around.
    Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Emma Harte, heroine of A Woman of Substance, certainly qualifies as a rags-to-riches heroine. I think Bradford’s own story has some of the same elements. A couple of others that come to mind are Jennifer Donnelly’s The Tea Rose and Deborah Smith’s Miracle. I would probably include Maggie Osborne’s A Stranger’s Wife in my list too, although some might quibble that Lily Dale herself has nothing to do with her release from prison.

    Reply
  10. I have been eagerly awaiting The King’s Favorite ever since you first mentioned it, Susan. Nell Gwyn has long fascinated me.
    If you count among “true”rags-to-riches stories” all those where women gain wealth and prestige through men, wouldn’t all Cinderella tales count? There are certainly a lot of those around.
    Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Emma Harte, heroine of A Woman of Substance, certainly qualifies as a rags-to-riches heroine. I think Bradford’s own story has some of the same elements. A couple of others that come to mind are Jennifer Donnelly’s The Tea Rose and Deborah Smith’s Miracle. I would probably include Maggie Osborne’s A Stranger’s Wife in my list too, although some might quibble that Lily Dale herself has nothing to do with her release from prison.

    Reply
  11. Great post, Susan/Miranda. I cannot wait for Nell’s story. Meanwhile, I can’t come up with a Horatio Alger equivalent, either. As to whether I prefer the silver spoon heroine to one who’s made her own way, I tend to go for the fantasy world. I’ve lived the make-your-own-way life. I see women around me struggling to get ahead. So yes, in romances at least, I’m drawn a bit more to heroines who have a degree of economic security. Maybe this has something to do with having such a clear picture of just how brutal the life of that woman in rags could be. Yet I’m OK with visiting that world in Dickens. So I guess it just depends, as always, on the writer.

    Reply
  12. Great post, Susan/Miranda. I cannot wait for Nell’s story. Meanwhile, I can’t come up with a Horatio Alger equivalent, either. As to whether I prefer the silver spoon heroine to one who’s made her own way, I tend to go for the fantasy world. I’ve lived the make-your-own-way life. I see women around me struggling to get ahead. So yes, in romances at least, I’m drawn a bit more to heroines who have a degree of economic security. Maybe this has something to do with having such a clear picture of just how brutal the life of that woman in rags could be. Yet I’m OK with visiting that world in Dickens. So I guess it just depends, as always, on the writer.

    Reply
  13. Great post, Susan/Miranda. I cannot wait for Nell’s story. Meanwhile, I can’t come up with a Horatio Alger equivalent, either. As to whether I prefer the silver spoon heroine to one who’s made her own way, I tend to go for the fantasy world. I’ve lived the make-your-own-way life. I see women around me struggling to get ahead. So yes, in romances at least, I’m drawn a bit more to heroines who have a degree of economic security. Maybe this has something to do with having such a clear picture of just how brutal the life of that woman in rags could be. Yet I’m OK with visiting that world in Dickens. So I guess it just depends, as always, on the writer.

    Reply
  14. Great post, Susan/Miranda. I cannot wait for Nell’s story. Meanwhile, I can’t come up with a Horatio Alger equivalent, either. As to whether I prefer the silver spoon heroine to one who’s made her own way, I tend to go for the fantasy world. I’ve lived the make-your-own-way life. I see women around me struggling to get ahead. So yes, in romances at least, I’m drawn a bit more to heroines who have a degree of economic security. Maybe this has something to do with having such a clear picture of just how brutal the life of that woman in rags could be. Yet I’m OK with visiting that world in Dickens. So I guess it just depends, as always, on the writer.

    Reply
  15. Great post, Susan/Miranda. I cannot wait for Nell’s story. Meanwhile, I can’t come up with a Horatio Alger equivalent, either. As to whether I prefer the silver spoon heroine to one who’s made her own way, I tend to go for the fantasy world. I’ve lived the make-your-own-way life. I see women around me struggling to get ahead. So yes, in romances at least, I’m drawn a bit more to heroines who have a degree of economic security. Maybe this has something to do with having such a clear picture of just how brutal the life of that woman in rags could be. Yet I’m OK with visiting that world in Dickens. So I guess it just depends, as always, on the writer.

    Reply
  16. No, my memory isn’t strong enough to summon titles, even my own. “G” Although I did a number of rags-to-riches stories in the early days, they tended to be within historical parameters with educated girls falling on hard times and being raised up by distant relatives who worked them pitilessly or something to that equivalent.
    I think lack of education, often reflected in bad accents (Eliza Dolittle!), would make any historical climb out of poverty difficult to achieve, and since as romance authors, we’re not given time to develop those backgrounds, they become irrelevant. It’s just simpler to have them educated and falling on hard times.
    There’s a whole ‘nuther angle working in contemps, though. Women can and have acquired success in modern times, so it’s no longer a remarkable achievement. Fiction requires a certain element of shock/surprise/tension, and in contemporaries, that works better if the the successful heroine is thrown out of her pampered milieu and back to her origins. It can be done in reverse, with the pig farmer becoming an actress, for instance, but in romance, it’s all about relationships. Success tends to interfere with relationships, or is perceived as such. So this form would work better in women’s fiction.

    Reply
  17. No, my memory isn’t strong enough to summon titles, even my own. “G” Although I did a number of rags-to-riches stories in the early days, they tended to be within historical parameters with educated girls falling on hard times and being raised up by distant relatives who worked them pitilessly or something to that equivalent.
    I think lack of education, often reflected in bad accents (Eliza Dolittle!), would make any historical climb out of poverty difficult to achieve, and since as romance authors, we’re not given time to develop those backgrounds, they become irrelevant. It’s just simpler to have them educated and falling on hard times.
    There’s a whole ‘nuther angle working in contemps, though. Women can and have acquired success in modern times, so it’s no longer a remarkable achievement. Fiction requires a certain element of shock/surprise/tension, and in contemporaries, that works better if the the successful heroine is thrown out of her pampered milieu and back to her origins. It can be done in reverse, with the pig farmer becoming an actress, for instance, but in romance, it’s all about relationships. Success tends to interfere with relationships, or is perceived as such. So this form would work better in women’s fiction.

    Reply
  18. No, my memory isn’t strong enough to summon titles, even my own. “G” Although I did a number of rags-to-riches stories in the early days, they tended to be within historical parameters with educated girls falling on hard times and being raised up by distant relatives who worked them pitilessly or something to that equivalent.
    I think lack of education, often reflected in bad accents (Eliza Dolittle!), would make any historical climb out of poverty difficult to achieve, and since as romance authors, we’re not given time to develop those backgrounds, they become irrelevant. It’s just simpler to have them educated and falling on hard times.
    There’s a whole ‘nuther angle working in contemps, though. Women can and have acquired success in modern times, so it’s no longer a remarkable achievement. Fiction requires a certain element of shock/surprise/tension, and in contemporaries, that works better if the the successful heroine is thrown out of her pampered milieu and back to her origins. It can be done in reverse, with the pig farmer becoming an actress, for instance, but in romance, it’s all about relationships. Success tends to interfere with relationships, or is perceived as such. So this form would work better in women’s fiction.

    Reply
  19. No, my memory isn’t strong enough to summon titles, even my own. “G” Although I did a number of rags-to-riches stories in the early days, they tended to be within historical parameters with educated girls falling on hard times and being raised up by distant relatives who worked them pitilessly or something to that equivalent.
    I think lack of education, often reflected in bad accents (Eliza Dolittle!), would make any historical climb out of poverty difficult to achieve, and since as romance authors, we’re not given time to develop those backgrounds, they become irrelevant. It’s just simpler to have them educated and falling on hard times.
    There’s a whole ‘nuther angle working in contemps, though. Women can and have acquired success in modern times, so it’s no longer a remarkable achievement. Fiction requires a certain element of shock/surprise/tension, and in contemporaries, that works better if the the successful heroine is thrown out of her pampered milieu and back to her origins. It can be done in reverse, with the pig farmer becoming an actress, for instance, but in romance, it’s all about relationships. Success tends to interfere with relationships, or is perceived as such. So this form would work better in women’s fiction.

    Reply
  20. No, my memory isn’t strong enough to summon titles, even my own. “G” Although I did a number of rags-to-riches stories in the early days, they tended to be within historical parameters with educated girls falling on hard times and being raised up by distant relatives who worked them pitilessly or something to that equivalent.
    I think lack of education, often reflected in bad accents (Eliza Dolittle!), would make any historical climb out of poverty difficult to achieve, and since as romance authors, we’re not given time to develop those backgrounds, they become irrelevant. It’s just simpler to have them educated and falling on hard times.
    There’s a whole ‘nuther angle working in contemps, though. Women can and have acquired success in modern times, so it’s no longer a remarkable achievement. Fiction requires a certain element of shock/surprise/tension, and in contemporaries, that works better if the the successful heroine is thrown out of her pampered milieu and back to her origins. It can be done in reverse, with the pig farmer becoming an actress, for instance, but in romance, it’s all about relationships. Success tends to interfere with relationships, or is perceived as such. So this form would work better in women’s fiction.

    Reply
  21. ***In much contemporary women’s fiction, the message is even worse. The heroines do get the chance to work hard to achieve success –– power, glamour, careers, wealth –– but their success seems only to make them miserable in a way that never affects heroes. The only way these heroines can be truly happy is to return to their humble roots in the decaying small town/low-paying job/high school crush that they’d worked so hard to escape in the first place. They’re almost like cautionary tales against dreaming too high.***
    Don’t forget the babies. She has to have one (or more!) of those too. *sigh* I think this is one of the reasons that Jennifer Crusie’s BET ME (a tale of love for the happily child-free) is one of the few contemps that works for me. Most of them just make me really really really angry (or I flat out loathe the heroine).
    Back to the real topic though . . . I rather like the idea of books about rags to riches heroines. Esp if they’re scrappy and smart and have had to pull it all off by themselves. I just want it be realistic enough for me to be able to buy into it.
    I can’t wait for your Nell Gwyn book. She’s been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember. How can you not love a woman who saved herself from a mob by declaring “Pray good people be civil, I am the Protestant whore”?

    Reply
  22. ***In much contemporary women’s fiction, the message is even worse. The heroines do get the chance to work hard to achieve success –– power, glamour, careers, wealth –– but their success seems only to make them miserable in a way that never affects heroes. The only way these heroines can be truly happy is to return to their humble roots in the decaying small town/low-paying job/high school crush that they’d worked so hard to escape in the first place. They’re almost like cautionary tales against dreaming too high.***
    Don’t forget the babies. She has to have one (or more!) of those too. *sigh* I think this is one of the reasons that Jennifer Crusie’s BET ME (a tale of love for the happily child-free) is one of the few contemps that works for me. Most of them just make me really really really angry (or I flat out loathe the heroine).
    Back to the real topic though . . . I rather like the idea of books about rags to riches heroines. Esp if they’re scrappy and smart and have had to pull it all off by themselves. I just want it be realistic enough for me to be able to buy into it.
    I can’t wait for your Nell Gwyn book. She’s been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember. How can you not love a woman who saved herself from a mob by declaring “Pray good people be civil, I am the Protestant whore”?

    Reply
  23. ***In much contemporary women’s fiction, the message is even worse. The heroines do get the chance to work hard to achieve success –– power, glamour, careers, wealth –– but their success seems only to make them miserable in a way that never affects heroes. The only way these heroines can be truly happy is to return to their humble roots in the decaying small town/low-paying job/high school crush that they’d worked so hard to escape in the first place. They’re almost like cautionary tales against dreaming too high.***
    Don’t forget the babies. She has to have one (or more!) of those too. *sigh* I think this is one of the reasons that Jennifer Crusie’s BET ME (a tale of love for the happily child-free) is one of the few contemps that works for me. Most of them just make me really really really angry (or I flat out loathe the heroine).
    Back to the real topic though . . . I rather like the idea of books about rags to riches heroines. Esp if they’re scrappy and smart and have had to pull it all off by themselves. I just want it be realistic enough for me to be able to buy into it.
    I can’t wait for your Nell Gwyn book. She’s been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember. How can you not love a woman who saved herself from a mob by declaring “Pray good people be civil, I am the Protestant whore”?

    Reply
  24. ***In much contemporary women’s fiction, the message is even worse. The heroines do get the chance to work hard to achieve success –– power, glamour, careers, wealth –– but their success seems only to make them miserable in a way that never affects heroes. The only way these heroines can be truly happy is to return to their humble roots in the decaying small town/low-paying job/high school crush that they’d worked so hard to escape in the first place. They’re almost like cautionary tales against dreaming too high.***
    Don’t forget the babies. She has to have one (or more!) of those too. *sigh* I think this is one of the reasons that Jennifer Crusie’s BET ME (a tale of love for the happily child-free) is one of the few contemps that works for me. Most of them just make me really really really angry (or I flat out loathe the heroine).
    Back to the real topic though . . . I rather like the idea of books about rags to riches heroines. Esp if they’re scrappy and smart and have had to pull it all off by themselves. I just want it be realistic enough for me to be able to buy into it.
    I can’t wait for your Nell Gwyn book. She’s been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember. How can you not love a woman who saved herself from a mob by declaring “Pray good people be civil, I am the Protestant whore”?

    Reply
  25. ***In much contemporary women’s fiction, the message is even worse. The heroines do get the chance to work hard to achieve success –– power, glamour, careers, wealth –– but their success seems only to make them miserable in a way that never affects heroes. The only way these heroines can be truly happy is to return to their humble roots in the decaying small town/low-paying job/high school crush that they’d worked so hard to escape in the first place. They’re almost like cautionary tales against dreaming too high.***
    Don’t forget the babies. She has to have one (or more!) of those too. *sigh* I think this is one of the reasons that Jennifer Crusie’s BET ME (a tale of love for the happily child-free) is one of the few contemps that works for me. Most of them just make me really really really angry (or I flat out loathe the heroine).
    Back to the real topic though . . . I rather like the idea of books about rags to riches heroines. Esp if they’re scrappy and smart and have had to pull it all off by themselves. I just want it be realistic enough for me to be able to buy into it.
    I can’t wait for your Nell Gwyn book. She’s been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember. How can you not love a woman who saved herself from a mob by declaring “Pray good people be civil, I am the Protestant whore”?

    Reply
  26. ***The only way these heroines can be truly happy is to return to their humble roots in the decaying small town/low-paying job/high school crush that they’d worked so hard to escape in the first place. They’re almost like cautionary tales against dreaming too high.***
    Thank God I’m not the only one who hates these! They just don’t mesh with my experience of the world–I grew up in a small town. Sure, I enjoy going home to visit my family and getting to see my old haunts and eat the local specialties no one on this side of the country knows how to make. But I know I’d be miserable if I left Seattle and tried to live there again. And the high school crush–well, even if you set aside our happy marriages to other people, he’s become an activist for political views in direct opposition to my own. I just don’t think that would work.
    Anyway, I’d love to see more rags-to-riches stories with women OR men. I wonder if part of the issue is the societal pressure on women to be “nice.” Particularly in a historical, a woman can rarely rise in the world without being aggressive and going against traditional feminine values, whether she’s sleeping her way to the top or just being ruthless and competitive in business. And a lot of readers apparently want to see those traditional values affirmed in their romances–though that’s probably another column (or two or three!) in itself.

    Reply
  27. ***The only way these heroines can be truly happy is to return to their humble roots in the decaying small town/low-paying job/high school crush that they’d worked so hard to escape in the first place. They’re almost like cautionary tales against dreaming too high.***
    Thank God I’m not the only one who hates these! They just don’t mesh with my experience of the world–I grew up in a small town. Sure, I enjoy going home to visit my family and getting to see my old haunts and eat the local specialties no one on this side of the country knows how to make. But I know I’d be miserable if I left Seattle and tried to live there again. And the high school crush–well, even if you set aside our happy marriages to other people, he’s become an activist for political views in direct opposition to my own. I just don’t think that would work.
    Anyway, I’d love to see more rags-to-riches stories with women OR men. I wonder if part of the issue is the societal pressure on women to be “nice.” Particularly in a historical, a woman can rarely rise in the world without being aggressive and going against traditional feminine values, whether she’s sleeping her way to the top or just being ruthless and competitive in business. And a lot of readers apparently want to see those traditional values affirmed in their romances–though that’s probably another column (or two or three!) in itself.

    Reply
  28. ***The only way these heroines can be truly happy is to return to their humble roots in the decaying small town/low-paying job/high school crush that they’d worked so hard to escape in the first place. They’re almost like cautionary tales against dreaming too high.***
    Thank God I’m not the only one who hates these! They just don’t mesh with my experience of the world–I grew up in a small town. Sure, I enjoy going home to visit my family and getting to see my old haunts and eat the local specialties no one on this side of the country knows how to make. But I know I’d be miserable if I left Seattle and tried to live there again. And the high school crush–well, even if you set aside our happy marriages to other people, he’s become an activist for political views in direct opposition to my own. I just don’t think that would work.
    Anyway, I’d love to see more rags-to-riches stories with women OR men. I wonder if part of the issue is the societal pressure on women to be “nice.” Particularly in a historical, a woman can rarely rise in the world without being aggressive and going against traditional feminine values, whether she’s sleeping her way to the top or just being ruthless and competitive in business. And a lot of readers apparently want to see those traditional values affirmed in their romances–though that’s probably another column (or two or three!) in itself.

    Reply
  29. ***The only way these heroines can be truly happy is to return to their humble roots in the decaying small town/low-paying job/high school crush that they’d worked so hard to escape in the first place. They’re almost like cautionary tales against dreaming too high.***
    Thank God I’m not the only one who hates these! They just don’t mesh with my experience of the world–I grew up in a small town. Sure, I enjoy going home to visit my family and getting to see my old haunts and eat the local specialties no one on this side of the country knows how to make. But I know I’d be miserable if I left Seattle and tried to live there again. And the high school crush–well, even if you set aside our happy marriages to other people, he’s become an activist for political views in direct opposition to my own. I just don’t think that would work.
    Anyway, I’d love to see more rags-to-riches stories with women OR men. I wonder if part of the issue is the societal pressure on women to be “nice.” Particularly in a historical, a woman can rarely rise in the world without being aggressive and going against traditional feminine values, whether she’s sleeping her way to the top or just being ruthless and competitive in business. And a lot of readers apparently want to see those traditional values affirmed in their romances–though that’s probably another column (or two or three!) in itself.

    Reply
  30. ***The only way these heroines can be truly happy is to return to their humble roots in the decaying small town/low-paying job/high school crush that they’d worked so hard to escape in the first place. They’re almost like cautionary tales against dreaming too high.***
    Thank God I’m not the only one who hates these! They just don’t mesh with my experience of the world–I grew up in a small town. Sure, I enjoy going home to visit my family and getting to see my old haunts and eat the local specialties no one on this side of the country knows how to make. But I know I’d be miserable if I left Seattle and tried to live there again. And the high school crush–well, even if you set aside our happy marriages to other people, he’s become an activist for political views in direct opposition to my own. I just don’t think that would work.
    Anyway, I’d love to see more rags-to-riches stories with women OR men. I wonder if part of the issue is the societal pressure on women to be “nice.” Particularly in a historical, a woman can rarely rise in the world without being aggressive and going against traditional feminine values, whether she’s sleeping her way to the top or just being ruthless and competitive in business. And a lot of readers apparently want to see those traditional values affirmed in their romances–though that’s probably another column (or two or three!) in itself.

    Reply
  31. The “accent” thing is, I think, one of the reasons we see more stories about ambitious girls in the US than set in England. In this country, accents tend to be regarded more as regional than as class-based, and the high level of migration evened them out a little except in regions such as Appalachia.
    For one thing, the 19th century English were very slow and reluctant to introduce publicly supported elementary education (even through the fourth grade)when compared to Germany or Sweden, for example. Additionally, the tracking system that prevailed in England until after World War II was pretty much designed to make sure that if parents couldn’t pay for anything beyond that, the children would be routed into menial/servant occupations.
    It’s very useful to read Angela Thirkell to pick up a sense of the social assumptions that prevailed up through the mid 20th-century in England.

    Reply
  32. The “accent” thing is, I think, one of the reasons we see more stories about ambitious girls in the US than set in England. In this country, accents tend to be regarded more as regional than as class-based, and the high level of migration evened them out a little except in regions such as Appalachia.
    For one thing, the 19th century English were very slow and reluctant to introduce publicly supported elementary education (even through the fourth grade)when compared to Germany or Sweden, for example. Additionally, the tracking system that prevailed in England until after World War II was pretty much designed to make sure that if parents couldn’t pay for anything beyond that, the children would be routed into menial/servant occupations.
    It’s very useful to read Angela Thirkell to pick up a sense of the social assumptions that prevailed up through the mid 20th-century in England.

    Reply
  33. The “accent” thing is, I think, one of the reasons we see more stories about ambitious girls in the US than set in England. In this country, accents tend to be regarded more as regional than as class-based, and the high level of migration evened them out a little except in regions such as Appalachia.
    For one thing, the 19th century English were very slow and reluctant to introduce publicly supported elementary education (even through the fourth grade)when compared to Germany or Sweden, for example. Additionally, the tracking system that prevailed in England until after World War II was pretty much designed to make sure that if parents couldn’t pay for anything beyond that, the children would be routed into menial/servant occupations.
    It’s very useful to read Angela Thirkell to pick up a sense of the social assumptions that prevailed up through the mid 20th-century in England.

    Reply
  34. The “accent” thing is, I think, one of the reasons we see more stories about ambitious girls in the US than set in England. In this country, accents tend to be regarded more as regional than as class-based, and the high level of migration evened them out a little except in regions such as Appalachia.
    For one thing, the 19th century English were very slow and reluctant to introduce publicly supported elementary education (even through the fourth grade)when compared to Germany or Sweden, for example. Additionally, the tracking system that prevailed in England until after World War II was pretty much designed to make sure that if parents couldn’t pay for anything beyond that, the children would be routed into menial/servant occupations.
    It’s very useful to read Angela Thirkell to pick up a sense of the social assumptions that prevailed up through the mid 20th-century in England.

    Reply
  35. The “accent” thing is, I think, one of the reasons we see more stories about ambitious girls in the US than set in England. In this country, accents tend to be regarded more as regional than as class-based, and the high level of migration evened them out a little except in regions such as Appalachia.
    For one thing, the 19th century English were very slow and reluctant to introduce publicly supported elementary education (even through the fourth grade)when compared to Germany or Sweden, for example. Additionally, the tracking system that prevailed in England until after World War II was pretty much designed to make sure that if parents couldn’t pay for anything beyond that, the children would be routed into menial/servant occupations.
    It’s very useful to read Angela Thirkell to pick up a sense of the social assumptions that prevailed up through the mid 20th-century in England.

    Reply
  36. What about Loretta Chase’s “The Last Hellion”. The heroine Lydia Grenville grew up in slums and debtor prison, an orphan whose only sister died of consumption and whose best friend becomes a prostitute. Lydia combines her her wit, and fierce determination with the education her mother was able to give her to not only succeed but to get people to pay attention to the problems of the poor. Then of course she encounters a very troublesome duke, but she had succeeded in many ways before the book started.

    Reply
  37. What about Loretta Chase’s “The Last Hellion”. The heroine Lydia Grenville grew up in slums and debtor prison, an orphan whose only sister died of consumption and whose best friend becomes a prostitute. Lydia combines her her wit, and fierce determination with the education her mother was able to give her to not only succeed but to get people to pay attention to the problems of the poor. Then of course she encounters a very troublesome duke, but she had succeeded in many ways before the book started.

    Reply
  38. What about Loretta Chase’s “The Last Hellion”. The heroine Lydia Grenville grew up in slums and debtor prison, an orphan whose only sister died of consumption and whose best friend becomes a prostitute. Lydia combines her her wit, and fierce determination with the education her mother was able to give her to not only succeed but to get people to pay attention to the problems of the poor. Then of course she encounters a very troublesome duke, but she had succeeded in many ways before the book started.

    Reply
  39. What about Loretta Chase’s “The Last Hellion”. The heroine Lydia Grenville grew up in slums and debtor prison, an orphan whose only sister died of consumption and whose best friend becomes a prostitute. Lydia combines her her wit, and fierce determination with the education her mother was able to give her to not only succeed but to get people to pay attention to the problems of the poor. Then of course she encounters a very troublesome duke, but she had succeeded in many ways before the book started.

    Reply
  40. What about Loretta Chase’s “The Last Hellion”. The heroine Lydia Grenville grew up in slums and debtor prison, an orphan whose only sister died of consumption and whose best friend becomes a prostitute. Lydia combines her her wit, and fierce determination with the education her mother was able to give her to not only succeed but to get people to pay attention to the problems of the poor. Then of course she encounters a very troublesome duke, but she had succeeded in many ways before the book started.

    Reply
  41. In Susan Elizabeth Phillips Fancy Pants the heroine goes from riches to rags, and works her way to riches again in broadcasting.
    It was published in the eighties though, so it’s about twenty years old.

    Reply
  42. In Susan Elizabeth Phillips Fancy Pants the heroine goes from riches to rags, and works her way to riches again in broadcasting.
    It was published in the eighties though, so it’s about twenty years old.

    Reply
  43. In Susan Elizabeth Phillips Fancy Pants the heroine goes from riches to rags, and works her way to riches again in broadcasting.
    It was published in the eighties though, so it’s about twenty years old.

    Reply
  44. In Susan Elizabeth Phillips Fancy Pants the heroine goes from riches to rags, and works her way to riches again in broadcasting.
    It was published in the eighties though, so it’s about twenty years old.

    Reply
  45. In Susan Elizabeth Phillips Fancy Pants the heroine goes from riches to rags, and works her way to riches again in broadcasting.
    It was published in the eighties though, so it’s about twenty years old.

    Reply
  46. Susan/Miranda (finally) replies:
    Virginia — Many thanks for your suggestions, and esp. for the link to the English education site. I warned you, my memory isn’t always the best *g*, but you also came up with a number of titles that probably aren’t widely known in America.
    Janga –It’s interesting that you mentioned Cinderella in connection wth Nell Gwyn. There are so many myths/half-truths that have built up around Nell over the centuries, beginning in her own lifetime, and one of them was that as a child she was an occassional “cinder sweeper”, or street sweeper. Because the Cinderella fairy tale was already current in the 17th century, the connection between Nell and Cinderella was made by her contemporaries — but in an entirely negative way. How dare the king dabble so far beneath his station with — with– this creature? I’ve included some of the popular slanders against Nell (who was on the whole good-naturedly amused by them), including one of the Cinderella ones. While Nell never wrote her own story (the problem with an illiterate heroine), she certainly has her share of primary source materials!
    Loretta — Farther down, Helen suggests “The Last Hellion”, and she’s right. *g* And I know how much you love Dickens!

    Reply
  47. Susan/Miranda (finally) replies:
    Virginia — Many thanks for your suggestions, and esp. for the link to the English education site. I warned you, my memory isn’t always the best *g*, but you also came up with a number of titles that probably aren’t widely known in America.
    Janga –It’s interesting that you mentioned Cinderella in connection wth Nell Gwyn. There are so many myths/half-truths that have built up around Nell over the centuries, beginning in her own lifetime, and one of them was that as a child she was an occassional “cinder sweeper”, or street sweeper. Because the Cinderella fairy tale was already current in the 17th century, the connection between Nell and Cinderella was made by her contemporaries — but in an entirely negative way. How dare the king dabble so far beneath his station with — with– this creature? I’ve included some of the popular slanders against Nell (who was on the whole good-naturedly amused by them), including one of the Cinderella ones. While Nell never wrote her own story (the problem with an illiterate heroine), she certainly has her share of primary source materials!
    Loretta — Farther down, Helen suggests “The Last Hellion”, and she’s right. *g* And I know how much you love Dickens!

    Reply
  48. Susan/Miranda (finally) replies:
    Virginia — Many thanks for your suggestions, and esp. for the link to the English education site. I warned you, my memory isn’t always the best *g*, but you also came up with a number of titles that probably aren’t widely known in America.
    Janga –It’s interesting that you mentioned Cinderella in connection wth Nell Gwyn. There are so many myths/half-truths that have built up around Nell over the centuries, beginning in her own lifetime, and one of them was that as a child she was an occassional “cinder sweeper”, or street sweeper. Because the Cinderella fairy tale was already current in the 17th century, the connection between Nell and Cinderella was made by her contemporaries — but in an entirely negative way. How dare the king dabble so far beneath his station with — with– this creature? I’ve included some of the popular slanders against Nell (who was on the whole good-naturedly amused by them), including one of the Cinderella ones. While Nell never wrote her own story (the problem with an illiterate heroine), she certainly has her share of primary source materials!
    Loretta — Farther down, Helen suggests “The Last Hellion”, and she’s right. *g* And I know how much you love Dickens!

    Reply
  49. Susan/Miranda (finally) replies:
    Virginia — Many thanks for your suggestions, and esp. for the link to the English education site. I warned you, my memory isn’t always the best *g*, but you also came up with a number of titles that probably aren’t widely known in America.
    Janga –It’s interesting that you mentioned Cinderella in connection wth Nell Gwyn. There are so many myths/half-truths that have built up around Nell over the centuries, beginning in her own lifetime, and one of them was that as a child she was an occassional “cinder sweeper”, or street sweeper. Because the Cinderella fairy tale was already current in the 17th century, the connection between Nell and Cinderella was made by her contemporaries — but in an entirely negative way. How dare the king dabble so far beneath his station with — with– this creature? I’ve included some of the popular slanders against Nell (who was on the whole good-naturedly amused by them), including one of the Cinderella ones. While Nell never wrote her own story (the problem with an illiterate heroine), she certainly has her share of primary source materials!
    Loretta — Farther down, Helen suggests “The Last Hellion”, and she’s right. *g* And I know how much you love Dickens!

    Reply
  50. Susan/Miranda (finally) replies:
    Virginia — Many thanks for your suggestions, and esp. for the link to the English education site. I warned you, my memory isn’t always the best *g*, but you also came up with a number of titles that probably aren’t widely known in America.
    Janga –It’s interesting that you mentioned Cinderella in connection wth Nell Gwyn. There are so many myths/half-truths that have built up around Nell over the centuries, beginning in her own lifetime, and one of them was that as a child she was an occassional “cinder sweeper”, or street sweeper. Because the Cinderella fairy tale was already current in the 17th century, the connection between Nell and Cinderella was made by her contemporaries — but in an entirely negative way. How dare the king dabble so far beneath his station with — with– this creature? I’ve included some of the popular slanders against Nell (who was on the whole good-naturedly amused by them), including one of the Cinderella ones. While Nell never wrote her own story (the problem with an illiterate heroine), she certainly has her share of primary source materials!
    Loretta — Farther down, Helen suggests “The Last Hellion”, and she’s right. *g* And I know how much you love Dickens!

    Reply
  51. More Susan/Miranda:
    Kalen wrote: “Don’t forget the babies. She has to have one (or more!) of those too. *sigh* I think this is one of the reasons that Jennifer Crusie’s BET ME (a tale of love for the happily child-free) is one of the few contemps that works for me. Most of them just make me really really really angry (or I flat out loathe the heroine).”
    Yes, yes, yes. But Jenny’s heroines seldom fall into easy categorizing, which is why she’s so good. Now I’m still trying to figure out what you’re going to do with “Madame X in the 18th century.” Is she from New Orleans? Is she in a scandalous painting? Does she have that fabulous profile….?
    Susan Wilbanks — No, you’re not the only one who wants to shake the “return to my happy humdrum roots” heroines. *g* But that’s why there are –fortunately — so many different kinds of books published. Something for everyone.
    Pat wrote:” I think lack of education, often reflected in bad accents (Eliza Dolittle!), would make any historical climb out of poverty difficult to achieve, and since as romance authors, we’re not given time to develop those backgrounds, they become irrelevant. It’s just simpler to have them educated and falling on hard times.”
    This is true. And with publishers wanting shorter and shorter books these days, there’s often no time/pages to write this well, without making hardship sounds trite.

    Reply
  52. More Susan/Miranda:
    Kalen wrote: “Don’t forget the babies. She has to have one (or more!) of those too. *sigh* I think this is one of the reasons that Jennifer Crusie’s BET ME (a tale of love for the happily child-free) is one of the few contemps that works for me. Most of them just make me really really really angry (or I flat out loathe the heroine).”
    Yes, yes, yes. But Jenny’s heroines seldom fall into easy categorizing, which is why she’s so good. Now I’m still trying to figure out what you’re going to do with “Madame X in the 18th century.” Is she from New Orleans? Is she in a scandalous painting? Does she have that fabulous profile….?
    Susan Wilbanks — No, you’re not the only one who wants to shake the “return to my happy humdrum roots” heroines. *g* But that’s why there are –fortunately — so many different kinds of books published. Something for everyone.
    Pat wrote:” I think lack of education, often reflected in bad accents (Eliza Dolittle!), would make any historical climb out of poverty difficult to achieve, and since as romance authors, we’re not given time to develop those backgrounds, they become irrelevant. It’s just simpler to have them educated and falling on hard times.”
    This is true. And with publishers wanting shorter and shorter books these days, there’s often no time/pages to write this well, without making hardship sounds trite.

    Reply
  53. More Susan/Miranda:
    Kalen wrote: “Don’t forget the babies. She has to have one (or more!) of those too. *sigh* I think this is one of the reasons that Jennifer Crusie’s BET ME (a tale of love for the happily child-free) is one of the few contemps that works for me. Most of them just make me really really really angry (or I flat out loathe the heroine).”
    Yes, yes, yes. But Jenny’s heroines seldom fall into easy categorizing, which is why she’s so good. Now I’m still trying to figure out what you’re going to do with “Madame X in the 18th century.” Is she from New Orleans? Is she in a scandalous painting? Does she have that fabulous profile….?
    Susan Wilbanks — No, you’re not the only one who wants to shake the “return to my happy humdrum roots” heroines. *g* But that’s why there are –fortunately — so many different kinds of books published. Something for everyone.
    Pat wrote:” I think lack of education, often reflected in bad accents (Eliza Dolittle!), would make any historical climb out of poverty difficult to achieve, and since as romance authors, we’re not given time to develop those backgrounds, they become irrelevant. It’s just simpler to have them educated and falling on hard times.”
    This is true. And with publishers wanting shorter and shorter books these days, there’s often no time/pages to write this well, without making hardship sounds trite.

    Reply
  54. More Susan/Miranda:
    Kalen wrote: “Don’t forget the babies. She has to have one (or more!) of those too. *sigh* I think this is one of the reasons that Jennifer Crusie’s BET ME (a tale of love for the happily child-free) is one of the few contemps that works for me. Most of them just make me really really really angry (or I flat out loathe the heroine).”
    Yes, yes, yes. But Jenny’s heroines seldom fall into easy categorizing, which is why she’s so good. Now I’m still trying to figure out what you’re going to do with “Madame X in the 18th century.” Is she from New Orleans? Is she in a scandalous painting? Does she have that fabulous profile….?
    Susan Wilbanks — No, you’re not the only one who wants to shake the “return to my happy humdrum roots” heroines. *g* But that’s why there are –fortunately — so many different kinds of books published. Something for everyone.
    Pat wrote:” I think lack of education, often reflected in bad accents (Eliza Dolittle!), would make any historical climb out of poverty difficult to achieve, and since as romance authors, we’re not given time to develop those backgrounds, they become irrelevant. It’s just simpler to have them educated and falling on hard times.”
    This is true. And with publishers wanting shorter and shorter books these days, there’s often no time/pages to write this well, without making hardship sounds trite.

    Reply
  55. More Susan/Miranda:
    Kalen wrote: “Don’t forget the babies. She has to have one (or more!) of those too. *sigh* I think this is one of the reasons that Jennifer Crusie’s BET ME (a tale of love for the happily child-free) is one of the few contemps that works for me. Most of them just make me really really really angry (or I flat out loathe the heroine).”
    Yes, yes, yes. But Jenny’s heroines seldom fall into easy categorizing, which is why she’s so good. Now I’m still trying to figure out what you’re going to do with “Madame X in the 18th century.” Is she from New Orleans? Is she in a scandalous painting? Does she have that fabulous profile….?
    Susan Wilbanks — No, you’re not the only one who wants to shake the “return to my happy humdrum roots” heroines. *g* But that’s why there are –fortunately — so many different kinds of books published. Something for everyone.
    Pat wrote:” I think lack of education, often reflected in bad accents (Eliza Dolittle!), would make any historical climb out of poverty difficult to achieve, and since as romance authors, we’re not given time to develop those backgrounds, they become irrelevant. It’s just simpler to have them educated and falling on hard times.”
    This is true. And with publishers wanting shorter and shorter books these days, there’s often no time/pages to write this well, without making hardship sounds trite.

    Reply
  56. How about Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber? She is an illegitimate orphan living with relatives who rises to the top by becoming Charles II’s mistress. Not quite as “rags” to riches considering she has a home with relatives. I first this book when I was 12 and fell in love with reading. I’ve reread once through the library since then quite a few years ago. I think it’s time to order the book and finally have a copy to myself. It will be an early 40th birthday present. Yeah me!

    Reply
  57. How about Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber? She is an illegitimate orphan living with relatives who rises to the top by becoming Charles II’s mistress. Not quite as “rags” to riches considering she has a home with relatives. I first this book when I was 12 and fell in love with reading. I’ve reread once through the library since then quite a few years ago. I think it’s time to order the book and finally have a copy to myself. It will be an early 40th birthday present. Yeah me!

    Reply
  58. How about Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber? She is an illegitimate orphan living with relatives who rises to the top by becoming Charles II’s mistress. Not quite as “rags” to riches considering she has a home with relatives. I first this book when I was 12 and fell in love with reading. I’ve reread once through the library since then quite a few years ago. I think it’s time to order the book and finally have a copy to myself. It will be an early 40th birthday present. Yeah me!

    Reply
  59. How about Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber? She is an illegitimate orphan living with relatives who rises to the top by becoming Charles II’s mistress. Not quite as “rags” to riches considering she has a home with relatives. I first this book when I was 12 and fell in love with reading. I’ve reread once through the library since then quite a few years ago. I think it’s time to order the book and finally have a copy to myself. It will be an early 40th birthday present. Yeah me!

    Reply
  60. How about Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber? She is an illegitimate orphan living with relatives who rises to the top by becoming Charles II’s mistress. Not quite as “rags” to riches considering she has a home with relatives. I first this book when I was 12 and fell in love with reading. I’ve reread once through the library since then quite a few years ago. I think it’s time to order the book and finally have a copy to myself. It will be an early 40th birthday present. Yeah me!

    Reply
  61. “There’s a whole ‘nuther angle working in contemps, though. Women can and have acquired success in modern times, so it’s no longer a remarkable achievement.”
    Not as remarkable as 100 years ago, perhaps, but women’s successes still *are* remarked on, and I wonder whether a number of trends in fiction reflect a backlash against such successes.
    Judith Evans wrote an interesting Guardian article on “wife of” book titles in literary fiction: The Time Traveller’s Wife, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, etc. One of Evans’ hypotheses is that these titles are common because women still *aren’t* expected to succeed, so the title appeals to our love of the underdog. She argues that “there’s no reason – in this day and age! – that the woman shouldn’t be the time traveller, Greek tycoon or gravedigger herself”.
    http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/11/why_are_men_still_in_charge_in.html
    My response was that perhaps the titles still reflect the makeup of our society: “Many women still alive today grew up in a time when they didn’t expect to be the alchemist or the breadwinner for the family. Women who stand in the limelight are still outnumbered in part (though not entirely) because lifespans are long.”
    http://www.readforpleasure.com/2008/01/book-titles-secret-meaning.html
    Those successes aren’t the whole story. In most countries, households headed by women are still more likely to be poor than are households headed by men. In fact, some US researchers talk about the “feminization of poverty” because there’s a sharp upward trend–households headed by women are a larger and larger share of the poor. At the same time, some studies show that most people don’t remain below the poverty line for long–so there should be a *lot* of rags-to-riches stories about women. Here’s one reference that touches on a number of aspects of the topic:
    http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/PovertyintheUnitedStates.html

    Reply
  62. “There’s a whole ‘nuther angle working in contemps, though. Women can and have acquired success in modern times, so it’s no longer a remarkable achievement.”
    Not as remarkable as 100 years ago, perhaps, but women’s successes still *are* remarked on, and I wonder whether a number of trends in fiction reflect a backlash against such successes.
    Judith Evans wrote an interesting Guardian article on “wife of” book titles in literary fiction: The Time Traveller’s Wife, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, etc. One of Evans’ hypotheses is that these titles are common because women still *aren’t* expected to succeed, so the title appeals to our love of the underdog. She argues that “there’s no reason – in this day and age! – that the woman shouldn’t be the time traveller, Greek tycoon or gravedigger herself”.
    http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/11/why_are_men_still_in_charge_in.html
    My response was that perhaps the titles still reflect the makeup of our society: “Many women still alive today grew up in a time when they didn’t expect to be the alchemist or the breadwinner for the family. Women who stand in the limelight are still outnumbered in part (though not entirely) because lifespans are long.”
    http://www.readforpleasure.com/2008/01/book-titles-secret-meaning.html
    Those successes aren’t the whole story. In most countries, households headed by women are still more likely to be poor than are households headed by men. In fact, some US researchers talk about the “feminization of poverty” because there’s a sharp upward trend–households headed by women are a larger and larger share of the poor. At the same time, some studies show that most people don’t remain below the poverty line for long–so there should be a *lot* of rags-to-riches stories about women. Here’s one reference that touches on a number of aspects of the topic:
    http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/PovertyintheUnitedStates.html

    Reply
  63. “There’s a whole ‘nuther angle working in contemps, though. Women can and have acquired success in modern times, so it’s no longer a remarkable achievement.”
    Not as remarkable as 100 years ago, perhaps, but women’s successes still *are* remarked on, and I wonder whether a number of trends in fiction reflect a backlash against such successes.
    Judith Evans wrote an interesting Guardian article on “wife of” book titles in literary fiction: The Time Traveller’s Wife, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, etc. One of Evans’ hypotheses is that these titles are common because women still *aren’t* expected to succeed, so the title appeals to our love of the underdog. She argues that “there’s no reason – in this day and age! – that the woman shouldn’t be the time traveller, Greek tycoon or gravedigger herself”.
    http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/11/why_are_men_still_in_charge_in.html
    My response was that perhaps the titles still reflect the makeup of our society: “Many women still alive today grew up in a time when they didn’t expect to be the alchemist or the breadwinner for the family. Women who stand in the limelight are still outnumbered in part (though not entirely) because lifespans are long.”
    http://www.readforpleasure.com/2008/01/book-titles-secret-meaning.html
    Those successes aren’t the whole story. In most countries, households headed by women are still more likely to be poor than are households headed by men. In fact, some US researchers talk about the “feminization of poverty” because there’s a sharp upward trend–households headed by women are a larger and larger share of the poor. At the same time, some studies show that most people don’t remain below the poverty line for long–so there should be a *lot* of rags-to-riches stories about women. Here’s one reference that touches on a number of aspects of the topic:
    http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/PovertyintheUnitedStates.html

    Reply
  64. “There’s a whole ‘nuther angle working in contemps, though. Women can and have acquired success in modern times, so it’s no longer a remarkable achievement.”
    Not as remarkable as 100 years ago, perhaps, but women’s successes still *are* remarked on, and I wonder whether a number of trends in fiction reflect a backlash against such successes.
    Judith Evans wrote an interesting Guardian article on “wife of” book titles in literary fiction: The Time Traveller’s Wife, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, etc. One of Evans’ hypotheses is that these titles are common because women still *aren’t* expected to succeed, so the title appeals to our love of the underdog. She argues that “there’s no reason – in this day and age! – that the woman shouldn’t be the time traveller, Greek tycoon or gravedigger herself”.
    http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/11/why_are_men_still_in_charge_in.html
    My response was that perhaps the titles still reflect the makeup of our society: “Many women still alive today grew up in a time when they didn’t expect to be the alchemist or the breadwinner for the family. Women who stand in the limelight are still outnumbered in part (though not entirely) because lifespans are long.”
    http://www.readforpleasure.com/2008/01/book-titles-secret-meaning.html
    Those successes aren’t the whole story. In most countries, households headed by women are still more likely to be poor than are households headed by men. In fact, some US researchers talk about the “feminization of poverty” because there’s a sharp upward trend–households headed by women are a larger and larger share of the poor. At the same time, some studies show that most people don’t remain below the poverty line for long–so there should be a *lot* of rags-to-riches stories about women. Here’s one reference that touches on a number of aspects of the topic:
    http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/PovertyintheUnitedStates.html

    Reply
  65. “There’s a whole ‘nuther angle working in contemps, though. Women can and have acquired success in modern times, so it’s no longer a remarkable achievement.”
    Not as remarkable as 100 years ago, perhaps, but women’s successes still *are* remarked on, and I wonder whether a number of trends in fiction reflect a backlash against such successes.
    Judith Evans wrote an interesting Guardian article on “wife of” book titles in literary fiction: The Time Traveller’s Wife, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, etc. One of Evans’ hypotheses is that these titles are common because women still *aren’t* expected to succeed, so the title appeals to our love of the underdog. She argues that “there’s no reason – in this day and age! – that the woman shouldn’t be the time traveller, Greek tycoon or gravedigger herself”.
    http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/11/why_are_men_still_in_charge_in.html
    My response was that perhaps the titles still reflect the makeup of our society: “Many women still alive today grew up in a time when they didn’t expect to be the alchemist or the breadwinner for the family. Women who stand in the limelight are still outnumbered in part (though not entirely) because lifespans are long.”
    http://www.readforpleasure.com/2008/01/book-titles-secret-meaning.html
    Those successes aren’t the whole story. In most countries, households headed by women are still more likely to be poor than are households headed by men. In fact, some US researchers talk about the “feminization of poverty” because there’s a sharp upward trend–households headed by women are a larger and larger share of the poor. At the same time, some studies show that most people don’t remain below the poverty line for long–so there should be a *lot* of rags-to-riches stories about women. Here’s one reference that touches on a number of aspects of the topic:
    http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/PovertyintheUnitedStates.html

    Reply
  66. Mary Ann Gibbs wrote several books, mostly, IIRC, set in Victorian times, in which the heroine fell upon hard times and rose by her own efforts. The father of one heroine was ruined, proved an embezzler, and killed himself. She couldn’t stand the relatives who took her in as a poor relation and wound up as an apprentice to a milliner, which caused her family to cast her off completely. She wound up with her own business and later married a wealthy man–self-made, I think. In THE SUGAR MOUSE, the heroine and her siblings were the illegitimate offspring of a wealthy aristocrat, who abandoned them when he married. He did leave them provided for, but their mother took all the money and ran off. They nearly starved and froze to death, but they managed. The heroine gave piano lessons. Eventually she married the local lord of the manor, and all her siblings made successes of themselves as well. The last scene has their father seeing the family gathered, then looking forlornly at his feeble only son by his wife, whom he’s taking to America in hopes of finding a cure for his illnesses.
    There was a Coventry Romance called KATE (I can’t recall the author) set in Edwardian times. The heroine wound up running the department store her father had founded, starting with a little shop.
    Several of the Madeleine Brent books (a pseudonym of Peter O’Donnell, of MODESTY BLAISE fame) rise from poverty, though they often turn out to be long-lost heirs. One runs away and joins the circus; another goes from a childhood in Tibet (of all places) to a grim London orphanage to heiress to a maharaja. Another is a Cornish fisherman’s daughter, and yet another was raised in the Australian outback by aborigines. Yet another was raised by missionaries in China and was more Chinese than English in her thinking; she gets adopted by an English family for reasons of their own. Conflict ensues (“Do you like cats?” asks one of the daughters of the house. “Yes, but rabbit is tastier,” she replies), as does the Boxer Rebellion.

    Reply
  67. Mary Ann Gibbs wrote several books, mostly, IIRC, set in Victorian times, in which the heroine fell upon hard times and rose by her own efforts. The father of one heroine was ruined, proved an embezzler, and killed himself. She couldn’t stand the relatives who took her in as a poor relation and wound up as an apprentice to a milliner, which caused her family to cast her off completely. She wound up with her own business and later married a wealthy man–self-made, I think. In THE SUGAR MOUSE, the heroine and her siblings were the illegitimate offspring of a wealthy aristocrat, who abandoned them when he married. He did leave them provided for, but their mother took all the money and ran off. They nearly starved and froze to death, but they managed. The heroine gave piano lessons. Eventually she married the local lord of the manor, and all her siblings made successes of themselves as well. The last scene has their father seeing the family gathered, then looking forlornly at his feeble only son by his wife, whom he’s taking to America in hopes of finding a cure for his illnesses.
    There was a Coventry Romance called KATE (I can’t recall the author) set in Edwardian times. The heroine wound up running the department store her father had founded, starting with a little shop.
    Several of the Madeleine Brent books (a pseudonym of Peter O’Donnell, of MODESTY BLAISE fame) rise from poverty, though they often turn out to be long-lost heirs. One runs away and joins the circus; another goes from a childhood in Tibet (of all places) to a grim London orphanage to heiress to a maharaja. Another is a Cornish fisherman’s daughter, and yet another was raised in the Australian outback by aborigines. Yet another was raised by missionaries in China and was more Chinese than English in her thinking; she gets adopted by an English family for reasons of their own. Conflict ensues (“Do you like cats?” asks one of the daughters of the house. “Yes, but rabbit is tastier,” she replies), as does the Boxer Rebellion.

    Reply
  68. Mary Ann Gibbs wrote several books, mostly, IIRC, set in Victorian times, in which the heroine fell upon hard times and rose by her own efforts. The father of one heroine was ruined, proved an embezzler, and killed himself. She couldn’t stand the relatives who took her in as a poor relation and wound up as an apprentice to a milliner, which caused her family to cast her off completely. She wound up with her own business and later married a wealthy man–self-made, I think. In THE SUGAR MOUSE, the heroine and her siblings were the illegitimate offspring of a wealthy aristocrat, who abandoned them when he married. He did leave them provided for, but their mother took all the money and ran off. They nearly starved and froze to death, but they managed. The heroine gave piano lessons. Eventually she married the local lord of the manor, and all her siblings made successes of themselves as well. The last scene has their father seeing the family gathered, then looking forlornly at his feeble only son by his wife, whom he’s taking to America in hopes of finding a cure for his illnesses.
    There was a Coventry Romance called KATE (I can’t recall the author) set in Edwardian times. The heroine wound up running the department store her father had founded, starting with a little shop.
    Several of the Madeleine Brent books (a pseudonym of Peter O’Donnell, of MODESTY BLAISE fame) rise from poverty, though they often turn out to be long-lost heirs. One runs away and joins the circus; another goes from a childhood in Tibet (of all places) to a grim London orphanage to heiress to a maharaja. Another is a Cornish fisherman’s daughter, and yet another was raised in the Australian outback by aborigines. Yet another was raised by missionaries in China and was more Chinese than English in her thinking; she gets adopted by an English family for reasons of their own. Conflict ensues (“Do you like cats?” asks one of the daughters of the house. “Yes, but rabbit is tastier,” she replies), as does the Boxer Rebellion.

    Reply
  69. Mary Ann Gibbs wrote several books, mostly, IIRC, set in Victorian times, in which the heroine fell upon hard times and rose by her own efforts. The father of one heroine was ruined, proved an embezzler, and killed himself. She couldn’t stand the relatives who took her in as a poor relation and wound up as an apprentice to a milliner, which caused her family to cast her off completely. She wound up with her own business and later married a wealthy man–self-made, I think. In THE SUGAR MOUSE, the heroine and her siblings were the illegitimate offspring of a wealthy aristocrat, who abandoned them when he married. He did leave them provided for, but their mother took all the money and ran off. They nearly starved and froze to death, but they managed. The heroine gave piano lessons. Eventually she married the local lord of the manor, and all her siblings made successes of themselves as well. The last scene has their father seeing the family gathered, then looking forlornly at his feeble only son by his wife, whom he’s taking to America in hopes of finding a cure for his illnesses.
    There was a Coventry Romance called KATE (I can’t recall the author) set in Edwardian times. The heroine wound up running the department store her father had founded, starting with a little shop.
    Several of the Madeleine Brent books (a pseudonym of Peter O’Donnell, of MODESTY BLAISE fame) rise from poverty, though they often turn out to be long-lost heirs. One runs away and joins the circus; another goes from a childhood in Tibet (of all places) to a grim London orphanage to heiress to a maharaja. Another is a Cornish fisherman’s daughter, and yet another was raised in the Australian outback by aborigines. Yet another was raised by missionaries in China and was more Chinese than English in her thinking; she gets adopted by an English family for reasons of their own. Conflict ensues (“Do you like cats?” asks one of the daughters of the house. “Yes, but rabbit is tastier,” she replies), as does the Boxer Rebellion.

    Reply
  70. Mary Ann Gibbs wrote several books, mostly, IIRC, set in Victorian times, in which the heroine fell upon hard times and rose by her own efforts. The father of one heroine was ruined, proved an embezzler, and killed himself. She couldn’t stand the relatives who took her in as a poor relation and wound up as an apprentice to a milliner, which caused her family to cast her off completely. She wound up with her own business and later married a wealthy man–self-made, I think. In THE SUGAR MOUSE, the heroine and her siblings were the illegitimate offspring of a wealthy aristocrat, who abandoned them when he married. He did leave them provided for, but their mother took all the money and ran off. They nearly starved and froze to death, but they managed. The heroine gave piano lessons. Eventually she married the local lord of the manor, and all her siblings made successes of themselves as well. The last scene has their father seeing the family gathered, then looking forlornly at his feeble only son by his wife, whom he’s taking to America in hopes of finding a cure for his illnesses.
    There was a Coventry Romance called KATE (I can’t recall the author) set in Edwardian times. The heroine wound up running the department store her father had founded, starting with a little shop.
    Several of the Madeleine Brent books (a pseudonym of Peter O’Donnell, of MODESTY BLAISE fame) rise from poverty, though they often turn out to be long-lost heirs. One runs away and joins the circus; another goes from a childhood in Tibet (of all places) to a grim London orphanage to heiress to a maharaja. Another is a Cornish fisherman’s daughter, and yet another was raised in the Australian outback by aborigines. Yet another was raised by missionaries in China and was more Chinese than English in her thinking; she gets adopted by an English family for reasons of their own. Conflict ensues (“Do you like cats?” asks one of the daughters of the house. “Yes, but rabbit is tastier,” she replies), as does the Boxer Rebellion.

    Reply

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