I am a child of the 80’s and 90’s. (All of you cringing because I’ve either made you feel too young or too old, bear with me, I swear I’ve got a point here.) I grew up on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Alias, and Star Trek: Voyager, all shows with incredibly strong women at their forefront. While each of these shows of course had a romantic element—and played a core part in my development as an author of romance—the emphasis was also on the woman as an individual, her struggles and her emotions. She was the main character in her own life.
In my debut historical romance novel, A Dangerous Invitation, Kate Morgan is a fence for stolen goods in the Ratcliffe rookery in London. In 1832, Ratcliffe was an area beset with thieves, scoundrels, and prostitutes; as were many other rookeries in the city, for the layout of London made it so you could turn the corner in leaving an upper-class neighborhood and end up in the slums faster than you could say “oopsie doopsie.” The novel starts three years after Kate has been abandoned by her fiancé and her father’s company has gone into bankruptcy, leaving her with nothing after his death. But Kate doesn’t wither away on the streets—she finds a way to survive, using her knowledge of importing goods from working with her father all these years.
Kate is outwardly fierce, determined to prove that she can exist in a man’s world. She’s more likely to shoot you with her flintlock pistol than not, and she’s quite quick on her feet. She’s found a place for herself in this ragtag world of criminals. When her fiancé Daniel O’Reilly returns to win back her heart and clear his name of the murder he was wrongfully accused of those years prior, she wants nothing to do with him. She’s certain that she doesn’t need anyone to protect her, and because she’s been hurt by him before, she doesn’t want to let him again. The book is as much about Kate’s struggle to realize she can be with Daniel and be independent, as it is about their romance and Daniel’s fight to overcome his alcoholism.
I’ve often heard people say that romance readers will forgive their hero far more willingly than the heroine, because the heroine is supposed to be a place holder for the reader. I so strongly disagree with this theory. Yes, in many ways, romance is about escapism. We want to travel to a world we can’t live in, and we want to be taken out of our lives for the duration of that story. That’s beautiful and magical, one of the reasons why I love romance so much. But I don’t believe our desires as romance readers or writers end with that escapism.
Romance novels follow two people falling in love. We know at the get-go that they’re going to be together, and they will get their happily ever after or at least a happily for now. Part of the appeal is going with them on this journey to become something more, better versions of them. Thus, I believe the heroine is just as central to the reader’s enjoyment as the hero, though maybe we don’t swoon and wish said heroine would be our “book girlfriend.”
So when people ask me why I’m drawn to writing strong women, I think it’s not just strong women I want to write, but women who feel real. Women who take charge of their lives, and women who still don’t have all their ducks in a row. Women who you could befriend in the supermarket and women who at first don’t seem like someone you’d ever like. Women with struggles that are very genuine, no matter what century they live in, for their emotional depth, insecurities, and successes resonate through the ages.
I say, let’s start a revolution. Let’s remember that we as women are worth something. That each of us has something intrinsically beautiful. We are not placeholders in someone else’s existence, and neither should our heroines be so.
So tell me your favorite heroine (in literature, television, movies etc) and you could win a copy of A Dangerous Invitation!
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A Dangerous Invitation:
Torn from her life of privilege by her father’s death, Kate Morgan relies on her knowledge of finery to survive in one of London’s dark and depraved rookeries as a fence for stolen goods . The last man she ever expects, or wants, to see again is Daniel O’Reilly, the man who promised to love, honor and protect her, but who instead fled amidst accusations of murder.
One drunken night cost Daniel O’Reilly the woman he loved and the life he’d worked so hard to create. If he ever wants to reclaim that life—and Kate—he’ll not only have to prove he’s innocent of murder, but convince the pistol-wielding beauty to forgive his many sins.
With a killer on the loose, time is running out for them…