Kathleen O'Brien
Kathleen O'Brien


archetypes, Favorite books, heroines, Jaunty Post, Kathleen O'Brien

painting a heroine

I’m starting a new series today.  Sculpting a new heroine is always a process of trial and error for me, but today it seemed like mostly error.  So I decided to take a walk and think through what it is I, as a reader, love in a heroine. When I dug deep, the answer lay waiting, like a pearl at the center of an oyster.  Here are some of my favorite characters:

Mary Lennox

Jo March

Elizabeth Bennet

  •  Anne Shirley, from Anne of Green Gables
  • Pollyanna Whittier, from Pollyanna
  • Hermione Grainger, from the Harry Potter books
  • Scarlett O’Hara, from Gone with the Wind.
  • Sara Crewe, from A Little Princess
  • Scout Finch, from To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Jo March, from Little Women
  • Elizabeth Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice.

What do you think?  Do you see what I saw?  Does something pop out at you that these women have in common?

Young girl on swing 

At first blush, they aren’t all that much alike.  Some of them are happy; others aren’t.  Some are virtuous, others not.  Some have supportive families; others are orphans or misfits.  Some are tomboys; others are super girly. They live in different countries, are different ages, possess varying degrees of beauty.

 But to me, the defining characteristic they all share is that they are quite clear about what their life passions are.  They protect those passions, no matter who doesn’t approve, no matter what price they have to pay.  See what I mean?

  • Anne is passionate about imagination
  • Pollyanna is passionate about finding joy in everything
  • Hermione is passionate about achieving excellence
  • Scarlett is passionate about Tara
  • Sara is passionate about her father and living up to his values
  • Scout is passionate about justice
  • Joe is passionate about freedom and writing
  • Elizabeth is passionate about dignity and independence

 Enjoying the sun

Even characters who temporarily lose touch with their inner fire can appeal to me, as long as I meet them at the moment when they decide they’re going to fight to reclaim it.

 In this category, I’d put these beloved characters:

  •  The new Mrs. deWinter, from Rebecca
  • Karen Blixen, from Out of Africa
  • Mia, from The Princess Diaries
  • Melinda, from Speak
  • Baby, from Dirty Dancing
  • Vivian, from Pretty Woman

 Sexy girl in a red hat with red lips

So I’ll start again tomorrow, armed with the insight I gathered today.  At least tonight, it seems simple.  I want to write about the same heroines I want to read about—women who know what matters to them, and who will fight to protect their passions from a world that is all too ready to throw up roadblocks.

How about you?  What kind of heroine do you enjoy reading about? Who is your absolute favorite female fictional character of all time?  In hopes of getting lots of great ideas, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one randomly chosen poster today! 

Nancy Robards Thompson
Nancy Robards Thompson


archetypes, bad boys, book covers, Harlequin series, Nancy Robards Thompson, Our Books

Food is one of my favorite things in the world. I love to eat and I love to cook. In fact, my new three-book Special Edition mini-series, “Celebrations, Inc.,” which will be out September, October and November 2012, is about a catering company that finds itself at the center of a reality television show.  

As I was doing my research, watching as many cooking television shows as I could digest, I noticed that there’s an amazing crop of men in the kitchens of the various food and travel television networks.  Really, there’s a guy for every taste. I also noticed that the different chefs represented a smorgasbord of hero archetypes.

Here are some of my favorites – and I admit that most of them aren’t traditional archetypes…they’re made-up to order:

He’s so darn adorable and unassuming that sometimes I forget not only is he a great chef, but he’s also civic-minded. Through his restaurant, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, he takes an active role in helping troubled, unemployed youth gain a sense of worth and belonging in their communities by training them in the culinary arts. The training equips at-risk young adults with a career so they can look forward to a better future, and all profits from the restaurant go to the Jamie Oliver Foundation.



Alton Brown: THE SEXY GEEK

His offbeat show Good Eats (which ceased production in 2011 after a twelve-year run),  is smart and goofy. It blends equal parts nerdy humor, knowledge, history, pop culture, and science with basic cooking techniques.  Long before this guy ever appeared on TV,  he admits he used his culinary prowess to get dates.  He parlayed his wit and unique approach to food into a gig that allowed him to write, produce and star in each of the 249 episodes of Good Eats.



This Canadian claims: “I’m not a chef. I’m Italian!” In his show David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, he scoots all over Florence on a moped – and sometimes in a golf cart – exploring the city’s sophisticated cafes, trendy restaurants and lush markets. He and his friends, who are quite a cast of characters, are always dressed casually chic – and sometimes to the nines – as they prove that life is a party of pleasure and indulgence waiting to be discovered.

Anthony Bordin:  THE BAD BOY

The first time I saw Anthony Bordin on television, he was gobsmacked by a 20-course tasting dinner prepared by chef Thomas Keller. Mid-meal he and the other reverent diners took a “coffee and cigarette” break. But not in the traditional sense. Their “break” came in the form of coffee custard infused with tobacco, which Keller said he created in homage to Bordin’s two-pack-a-day habit. I thought, whoa, anyone who would inspire tobacco-infused custard has to be a bad ass. I was instantly smitten. With books to his credit titled, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly and The Nasty Bits (which, incidentally, is dedicated to punk rockers ” Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone) and a television show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, that carries a viewer discretion advisory (because of his fondness for profanity and sexual innuendo), Bourdin has, in fact, proven himself to be the archetypical bad boy of food tv.


What I love about Tyler is that he delivers great food in a very unpretentious, easy going way. He also serves on the board of the national nonprofit Afterschool Alliance, an organization that works to promote and support quality after-school programs.  He reminds me of a friend’s big brother I might’ve had a tiny little crush on back in the day. Okay, maybe I’m crushin’ on Tyler just a little bit now…


What are some of your favorite character archetypes  - traditional or made-up? Or share your favorite food tv personalities.   I’ll give a special surprise to one lucky person who posts today.

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