Risky Regencies

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?

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Diane Perkins
15 years ago

oh, wow. I’m thrilled beyond measure that you included Madeleine from The Mysterious Miss M, the heroine countless editors said readers would never accept.

I’m really more of a “hero” reader and one with a poor memory so I can’t hardly remember any heroines. Venetia from Georgette Heyer, comes to mind, though.

Keira Soleore
15 years ago

Something definitely in the water and air of France that makes them beautiful, accomplished, and THIN.

For me, the most important quality in a good heroine is intelligent. I refuse to read TSTL heroines. The second quality is joy and exhuberance for life. This one shoots down those angsty women French cinema loves to portray. And the third one is the resilience to be handle and adjust to whatever life flings at her, a survivor. Who wants to read about women who whine and complain about everything all the time?

Amanda McCabe
15 years ago

I don’t like whiny heroines, either, Keira! (I listen to them–and whine myself–way too much in real life). I also don’t like whiny heroes. But all the qualities you list are excellent ones to look for, and create, in our characters. I’m always interested in what makes them the way they are.

Another quality I like in a heroine is not showing up at fancy events dressed like Kirsten Dunst, LOL

Diane, I love Miss M! She overcomes so much, and so deserves her HEA. πŸ™‚

Tracy Grant
15 years ago

I totally agree about the most important quality in a heroine being intelligence (in a hero too). I love heroines who are tough, independent, not afraid to break rules. Sophy Stanton-Lacy and Barbara Childe are probably my two favorite Heyer heroines for this reason. Though I’m also very fond of Venetia, who in her own way is just as independent and just as prepared to break with the rules of the day. I think this is the reason I often identify with villainesses more than heroines (I liked Milady diWinter in “The Three Musketeers” much more than Constance). George in Kalen Hughes’s “Lord Sin” has this quality as, in other ways, does Mary in Pam Rosenthal’s “The Slightest Provocation”. Other favorites–Harriet Vane; Susan in “Freedom & Necessity”, Remy LeLourie in Penelope Williamson’s “Sins” series. I love writing about MΓ©lanie Fraser in my own current series, because I never quite know what she’ll do or how far she’ll go (while maintaining the facade of a perfet lady, which creates a tensiont that’s fun to write about). And gets to wear gorgeous clothes :-). If she were a modern day heroine, she’d definitely be watching runway shows.

Abby
15 years ago

I love all the heroines you listed, too. I like a heroine who is complex, one who will give the hero a run for his money.

Two of my favourites are Maddy from Flowers From the Storm and Daphne from Loretta Chase’s Mr Impossible. Maddy because her struggle with her faith was so interesting, and Daphne because she just seems like the kind of woman I’d like to know!

Cara King
15 years ago

As for heroines, I love Horatia in Heyer’s The Convenient Marriage, and Abby in Black Sheep, for starters!

Cara

lacey kaye
15 years ago

I like a heroine who isn’t cut from the heroine mold you described. She doesn’t have to be the do-it-all girl! I prefer a few flaws, myself. She doesn’t have to be overly independent, though. I like Julia Quinn’s heroines for that.

Lois
15 years ago

I’m a hero reader too, so I guess the heroines that I like are the ones who have the heroes that I want. LOL πŸ™‚ Heck, when I write down my tiny notes in the reading journal I have, I tend to write about the hero. LOLOLOL

But absolutely, add me to the club of intelligent characters. . . but you know, I really can’t remember a time were I read a TSTL heroine. Maybe I just got rid of the books who fall into that category and just don’t remember them. But everytime I see someone mention the TSTL people, I can’t think of any. OH well. Although it’s a good thing, I guess. πŸ™‚

Lois

Keira Soleore
15 years ago

Happy Mothers’ Day to all the Riskies and their Readers.

Diane Perkins
15 years ago

Cara said: As for heroines, I love Horatia in Heyer’s The Convenient Marriage, and Abby in Black Sheep, for starters!

Funny, Cara, Horatia is the one Heyer heroine whom I did not like.

Cara King
15 years ago

Funny, Cara, Horatia is the one Heyer heroine whom I did not like.

How interesting, Diane! I think I like her because she has a good heart, and though she does flounder a bit, I think it’s because she’s young and no one has told her what’s going on…but she does her best. And I LOVE when she whacks that guy over the head with the poker! Helpless she is not. πŸ™‚

Cara

Susan/DC
Susan/DC
15 years ago

These days whenever I think of the all-too-perfect Snow White-type heroines, I think of the scene in “Shrek” where the birds come flocking around her to hear her sing and her voice makes them explode. So much for my romantic heart.

I’ve liked all kinds of heroines, although my taste has changed over the years. When a teenager I liked Heyer’s young innocents, but now I prefer more experienced heroines, although I don’t mean that in simply a sexual context but who’ve simply lived more and have more perspective. I totally agree with Melanthe, and I very much liked Fabienne in “Dedication”. Two of my favorites are by Gayle Feyrer/Taylor Chase: Vivian, leader of an Elizabethan band of thieves, and Marian, as in Robin &. Almost any Jennifer Crusie or Loretta Chase heroine is also on my list, although clearly some more than others.

Amanda McCabe
15 years ago

I love that Taylor Chase book! Can’t believe I forgot about it when making my list. πŸ™‚

I also enjoyed the young, dewy-eyed heroines when I first started reading romance, but then again I was like 10 years old. πŸ™‚ Now I like some depth to characters.

Todd
15 years ago

I like the eponymous Lady Elizabeth from Lady Elizabeth’s Comet. (The hero’s pretty nifty, too.)

Branching out from Regencies a bit, some of my favorite heroines are from Jennifer Crusie’s novels. Off the top of my head, I think of Tess from Strange Bedpersons and Sophie from Welcome to Temptation. But a bunch of them are cool.

I might at one time have been made nervous by a too-beautiful heroine. But living with my wife for all these years has gotten me accustomed to the idea.

Todd-who-will-go-back-to-contemplating-feminine-beauty-now

Elaine McCarthy
15 years ago

Hm. Did you purposely name your heroine after the author of The Lover?

I find the not-a-stunning-beauty type of heroine preferable, though I can bear a beauty if she’s not stuck up about it. What I really prefer in a heroine is that she be incredibly self-possessed, confident, etc. Like The Grand Sophie, or like Loretta Chase’s Jessica in Lord of Scoundrels.

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