Thursday, March 17, 2005

The complete heroine

Alison's Romancing the Blog post yesterday on why she rarely reads romances (link on title above) seems to have generated some controversy. Here's part of the paragraph that got me thinking:

"I don’t relate to women being rescued by men. I want a heroine who rescues herself. I don’t relate to women who look to men to teach them about life or sex. I want a heroine who teaches the hero a thing or two...I don’t 'get' heroines who aren’t complete as women before a man ever enters the scene."

It seems to me that in most of the romances I've read recently, the heroes are no more likely to be rescued by the heroine than vice versa. In most contemporaries I've read lately (single titles, at least), the heroine is successful and competent, but with Something Missing, a hole in her life. The hero may also be successful, but even if he's a millionaire, there's always the same Something Missing, a gap in his life that can only be filled by the heroine. Indeed, the hero is more likely to be tortured, to have a wound in his past that the heroine can help repair. But neither of them is quite complete without the other. And that's okay, because to me the best romances are about how love makes people grow and change.

As a writer, I like to write about men and women who are somehow broken. Not necessarily tortured, but there's usually something missing or wrong in their lives. Some of my heroes are an alcoholic (THE LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS), a man who's withdrawn into himself and lives a lonely, isolated existence (ALL I EVER WANTED), and a criminal on the run (NEVER LOVE A STRANGER). All these men find themselves again only with the help of the heroine. I'm not sure my heroines are complete until they meet their significant other, but then again, my heroes usually aren't, either. (And the heroines in my contemporaries are usually more sexually experienced than my heroes, just because I like turning the traditional roles of romances on their ear a bit.)

Alison clarified in a later comment: "Of course wanting a relationship is natural and normal! But having a man come in and take over? Uh-uh...I LOVE romance. What I don’t love are heroines who can’t stand on their own two feet. A romance, for me, a relationship, is a partnership. Not a woman sitting back waiting to be rescued."

I agree with that. I definitely want to read about competent heroines. But I feel that romance has come a long way-- most heroines in contemporaries nowadays seem to me to be able to stand on their own two feet. Their love for the hero doesn't prop them up; it simply helps them to grow. And romance novels, IMHO, *should* be about people growing, becoming better (and perhaps more complete) people because of their love for one another. That's the whole point of romance, isn't it?

1 comment:

  1. You know, I wonder if the fact that so many romances nowadays contain strong, independent heroines creates a serious gap between those and the ones where the heroines are still "rescue me!" types, which makes it more noticeable? Does that make sense? (No coffee yet.)

    I mean, I'm not a big fan of heroines because I read romance for the heroes, but I CAN appreciate a well-written, strong one. Which makes that odd ditzy virgin twit even more horrible when I find her. Does that make sense?