Nov 10, 2010


by Michelle Douglas

Reading: Beauty and the Scarred Hero by Emily May
Listening to: Amy Winehouse
Watching: New Tricks
Making Me Smile: The Jennifer Crusie's on my TBR pile

What do you love in a heroine?

A lot of my friends tell me it's the hero that makes a romance special for them - a man who is strong, sexy and to die for - but I have a confession to make, it's the heroine who is most important for me. Now don't get me wrong, I want a hero who is strong and sexy and to die for too, but it is the heroine I empathize with and it is through her that I experience the ecstasy and agony of falling in love.

Which got me thinking - as a reader what do I love in a heroine? To find an answer, I went back to my favourite reads for the year.

Juliet from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society: Her voice compelled me to read on. She was witty and intelligent and had me laughing out loud. I actively wanted to know her better. Although she had plenty to feel depressed about, she never wallowed in self-pity. She maintained a sense of humour. She was proactive - she went looking for what needed.

Jane Eyre: Jane fights passionately for independence and the right to direct her own life. Adversity comes in the shape of villains and in the shape of her lover, but in the end Jane remains true to herself. That's what I love about her. (Oh and she's isn't beautiful. I loved that too)

Dr Erin Carmody from A Special Kind of Family by Marion Lennox: Okay at the very beginning of this book Erin, injured in a car accident, carries a heavy, ugly dog who is at death's door miles and miles to save it's life. I don't need to know anything else about Erin, because I now love her.

Annie from Christmas Angel For the Billionaire by Liz Fielding: Annie is in such an unusual and oppressive situation that when I discover she's not vanquished or diminished by it and that she can still act with grace, she gains my support. She's another proactive heroine who rescues herself rather than sitting around waiting for someone else to rescue her.

So what do all these heroines have in common? The trait that strikes me most forcefully is their courage - they all have that in spades. Secondly, they are all proactive. They don't sit around waiting for their lives and/or circumstances to change. Instead they set about changing their circumstances themselves. Although they are all very different in temperament they each had a quality I admired and it was different for each one: Juliet's humour, Jane's honesty, Erin's grit and Annie's determination.

Basically, they are all women I'd like to be friends with.

What about you? What do you love to see in a heroine?


  1. Michelle, great examples of heroines! Yes, I think courage is an important trait for a heroine.

    Blue in Susan Elizabeth's Natural Born Charmer had that in spades and it made for a great (and funny!) book. The book opens with her angrily walking down a highway in a beaver suit and gives the hero a mouthful when he makes fun of her. :)

    And Teri in Sharon Archer's Bachelor Dad, Girl Next Door has been through some horrors but is still brave and has enough love in her heart to help heal the hero's daughter's wounded heart. It opens with Teri showing impressive skill on a motorbike, which is just so unexpected. I loved spending time with her!

    Of course, both those heroines had heroes to die for - Dean in Natural Born Charmer and Luke in Bachelor Dad, Girl Next door were strong and sexy totally deserved their heroines.

  2. Rachel, I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips, but I haven't read Natural Born Charmer. I love a heroine with sass and spunk, and Blue sounds as if she has plenty of that. Sugar Beth in Ain't She Sweet had courage in spades too.

    I've yet to read Sharon's Bachelor Dad, Girl Next door (it is winking at me from my tbr pile). I often think a heroine who has compassion is underrated and considered a doormat, but Teri doesn't sound like she's anybody's doormat. Love the motorbike!

    (am adding spunk and compassion to my list!)

  3. Oh, Blue is definitely sassy. I loved her. And, even though I loved Ain't She Sweet, I liked Dean as a hero more than Colin. Strange, coz on the surface, I wouldn't have picked it, but Dean ended up being so great.

    And Teri is certainly no doormat. There's a great tension between Luke (trying to be all sensible and stable for his daughter) and Teri, who's a bit of a daredevil (but probably more careful than Luke). So delicious!

    Meant to say, those Liz Fielding and Marion Lennox books you mentioned sound great. Two of my favourite authors!

  4. Great topic, Michelle.
    I loved absolutely everything about the Potato Peel and yes, Juliet had a wonderful voice. I also loved Blue in Charmer.

    I'm going to beat Em and say Sophy is one of the all time great historical heroines and admit that when I was a kid, I really wanted a friend like Anne of Green Gables. Oh, and of course Jo from Little Women.

    Interesting article in Next this month about the ongoing scarcity of good roles for women in movies! We definitely need more heroines in our lives.

  5. Hmm... you liked Dean better? You know, maybe I get that cos there was an edge to Colin -- and a part of me was always wondering if he'd really step up to the plate for Sugar Beth (which of course he did). You have me really eager to go out and buy Natural Born Charmer now and to glom everything SEP has ever written :-)

    It sounds as if Sharon has done a brilliant job with Terri and Luke. I love it when a character acts really out there when in reality they are really cautious and vice versa -- makes for a great read.

    Oh and you have to read Marion's Special Kind of Family just for the dog! You will love it -- promise!

  6. Oh, Zana, Sophy is just so competent! I discuss The Grand Sophy in my MPhil and unlike a lot of heroines Sophy doesn't change over the course of the story (but boy Charles does). I argue that she earns her HEA through her exertions. She's clever and she's not afraid and I love her.

    Anne with an E was my favourite when I was kid. Loved Jo too.

    And a big yes to more good roles for women in the movies!

  7. If a heroine is courageous but proud then I like her. Because I find myself in the heroines shoes and I also find myself experiencing the ecstasy and agony of falling in love through her. So no doormats for me!

  8. Oh, yes, Zana - Sophie and Anne! Two fabulous, courageous heroines.

    I think Nas has hit the nail on the head - if we are going to experience the journey in her shoes, then we don't want to be a doormat for that time. Great, point, Nas!

  9. Ooh yes, Nas -- pride! I forgot that one, but it is essential. Thanks for the reminder!

  10. Hi Michelle,

    Lovely blog. I think I want a heroine to suffer so I can enjoy watching her rise above her problems. Aren't I mean? The tougher things get the more satisfaction there is in seeing her win!

  11. I just love a heroine who is loved unconditionally by the hero, no matter who she is or what she looks like (of course I like to write a pretty heroine lol!)

  12. Bit late, sorry Michelle (I was on the road yesterday). I think humour is essential in a heroine (and a hero!). And courage. And they have to be active, not passively waiting for other people to fix their problems. And I like heroines who aren't beautiful!

  13. Hi Annie,

    Ahhh... a lover of the underdog. I love to get indignant on a heroine's behalf and I really start to LOVE her when she refuses to wallow in self-pity. I think you're onto something here!

  14. Unconditional love! Mel, don't you love stories where the hero doesn't believe he can be with the heroine for whatever reason but then goes out of his way to protect her thruout the entire story. Sighing here :-)

  15. Emily, I think you're right -- humour can hide a multitude of sins and I'm always disposed to like a character who can laugh at themselves.

    Active -- absolutely! Passive = doormat for me I'm afraid.

    And I love stories where the hero physically dismisses the heroine at the beginning of the story and then slowly finds himself becoming increasingly attracted to her and berating himself for ever thinking she wasn't beautiful (yeah, I really love that!).