Strong Heroines of All Kinds

Janeway_PicsI’ve been streaming Star Trek: Voyager on Netflix a lot lately. Although the series (like all the Star Trek series) had some uneven writing, I do love the strong female characters, including Captain Kathryn Janeway.

Some Star Trek fans hated her, but I’m with Sara Eileen Hames, who wrote this blog post on the TOR website: “Janeway Doesn’t Deserve this Shit”.

Hames quotes one of the more egregious bits of snark she has read about Janeway:

“What they needed was a take charge, dynamic female Captain, what they gave us was a moralizing, overly-liberal pushover all too willing to throw her crew’s life away for no reason at all if it made her seem superior and at least as interested in prancing around in frilly dresses on the holodeck as she is in leading her crew.”

So there it is—her worst offence is taking a little free time from her stressful job to enjoy a romance holo-novel. The horror!

And not just any romance, but a historical romance featuring a governess. How cool is that?

Here’s something Hames herself wrote that sums up how I feel:

“Janeway is a strong female character to rock all strong female characters: A leader who is female-gendered, in touch with her sense of gender, and yet invested with a non-gendered position of highest responsibility which she executes with capability and compassion.”

In other words, everything that is most frightening to the fan-boys who admire Kirk’s girl-on-every-planet exploits. (Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Kirk, but he does fall in love rather easily…)

Here’s another reason I love Janeway. She’s older than your average kickass heroine. While I enjoy heroines like The Avengers’ Black Widow, as played by Scarlett Johansson, and though they are interesting characters in their own right, they can also be perceived as serving the purpose of appealing to the fantasies of teenaged boys (and less evolved older men). Captain Janeway is sexy but her purpose is to captain a starship.

Likewise, a good romance heroine has more to her than beauty. She may or may not be physically tough, but she always has strength of character, like Jane Austen’s heroines who refuse to cave in to pressure and marry men not worthy of them.

It’s been far too long since I’ve had much time to read, so my favorite examples of strong historical romance heroines are from older books: Alys from Mary Jo Putney’s The Rake and the Reformer, who works as a land steward and supports the hero in battling his alcoholism, and Melanthe from Laura Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart, who is outwardly tough as nails while hiding heartbreaking secrets.

I hope at some point to have time to read more for pleasure, so help me out. Which historical romances have you read recently that feature particularly strong heroines?

Elena

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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