Heroine Chic

(*The pic, of Chanel, is inspired by yesterday’s Poiret post! Plus she is something of a heroine of mine…)

Like 99.9% of American woman, I’m Not Happy With My Body. My legs are short, and my stomach flabby (despite all the Dancing With the Stars). And don’t get me started about my backside!

How does all this angst (both mine, and all the women in the fashion magazines I subscribe to) translate to our romance novel heroines? Or does it at all? (A story about a heroine bemoaning her cellulite for 300 pages would be REALLY dull, IMO! I do enough of it myself). I know that among some readers there is a preference for Very Perfect Heroines. You know the kind–beautiful (but doesn’t know it), smart (she runs her family’s household AND solves mathematical equations AND designs her own gowns!), kind to animals and small children and her wastrel brother, endlessly patient. I always picture Snow White when I read about these girls, sweeping out the dwarves’ hovel while birds chirp merrily around her. Is she really what we want to be, the only sort of heroine worthy of handsome, rich duke heroes?

I hope not, since Duchess Perfect makes me break out in a rash! Here are a few my Favorite Romance Heroines:
–Melanthe, from Laura Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart (also my favorite hero, in my favorite romance novel EVER). The most complex heroine I think I’ve ever come across. She starts off seeming cold and distant, yet she also begins the story by saving the hero’s life. And her own backstory is heartbreaking (especially the scene where she tells about her baby daughter).
–Two from Judith Ivory!
Marie from Dance (written under the Judy Cuevas name): my second favorite romance ever! She’s a filmmaker in turn-of-the-twentieth century France, independent and avant-garde. Look for this HTF gem and read it now, it’s fab!
Coco from Sleeping Beauty, another Frenchwoman, a former courtesan, mother of (gasp!) a grown son. Terrific book.
–Madeleine from Adele Ashworth’s Winter Garden–another Frenchwoman! What do they put in the Parisian water?? A spy who is actually competent at her job, yet also kind-hearted.
–And another Madeleine, from our own Diane’s The Mysterious Miss M–a heroine who has to overcome more misfortunes than any I’ve ever seen!

In my own WIP (228 pages so far! But now I’m in the wrapping-up stage, which is always hardest for me), I’m trying something I’ve never done before, a heroine who is Very Beautiful. My heroines have always been attractive, but more in a cute or quirky way. Marguerite Duras (another Frenchwoman) is gorgeous. Something like Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love, tall, slim, with long, silvery blonde hair and aristocratic features. But she’s not vain about her looks; if she was here now she wouldn’t be running off to get Botox! She’s a spy and assassin for the French king, and to her that beauty is just another useful tool. But I had to imagine how people, men and women both, would treat her because of those dazzling looks. It’s the perfect mask, and only the hero (Nicolai Ostrovsky,who you’ll meet in A Notorious Woman, and who is plenty gorgeous himself) sees into her true heart. She has definitely been a challenge!

Who are some of your favorite heroines? What, to you, makes a “good” heroine?

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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