I’m going to confess something here that will probably get me booted out of RWA- I’m not a big romance reader- or I should say, I wasn’t for a very long time.  I read tons of romances as a young girl/woman. My grandparents owned a second house on the Tennessee River  where we spent a lot of time in the summer. There were always a ton of romance novels on the shelves there. I devoured them. But there came a time, probably early in high school, that I became quite disillusioned about romances. I’ve always been a hard-headed, independent person and I started to cringe at all the women in these books that had to be rescued by the hero and some of the sex scenes read like rape to me- the hero forcing himself on the heroine and her liking it was so not up my alley.  I couldn’t bear to read these books any longer and took myself further into the direction of general fiction, thrillers and the like. I’d always loved mysteries and that didn’t change.

I didn’t read a romance novel for, I would guess, about 25 years.  Then, I wrote one in 2007. I sent it to my friend that is an avid reader of romance and asked  her what she thought.  She was honest and told me all the “rules” I broke in that story. She also told me that she loved it.  She was helpful in her feedback but I still wanted to break the rules. I had no idea that there was a rule that the first man the woman encounters is usually the hero. HUH? Mine was the third man in the story. AND it needed to be the third man in that scenario.

I decided I should read a few romances to get up to speed if I was going to try to keep writing in the genre.  I was thrilled to find that strong women that can take care of themselves had become the norm. AHH, that was more like it.  Being a strong woman myself, I felt like I could come back to reading something I’d enjoyed in the past.   Every once in a while, I still accidently pick up one with a heroine that’s too stupid to live, as they say in the industry. Ugh. Hate those.

So, to sum up all this carrying on, give me a strong heroine that loves the hero but can help him win the day. Leave the wimpy, pansy heroines at the bookstore.


About Author

The author of these blog posts is a lawyer by day and fiction writer by night.
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16 Responses to Heroines

  1. Jeff Salter says:

    Very good, Jillian. And, once again, you’ve taken some of the best nuggets out of my upcoming [unwriten] column.
    I really like the description: “a strong heroine that loves the hero but can help him win the day” because that’s the kind of protagonist I write! [Have you seen pirated copies of my mss.? — LOL]
    But seriously: like you, I don’t want to follow the ‘formula’. I want to write what could seem like a breath of fresh air to those who’ve gotten tired of the formula.
    [Now, to avoid the lynch mob, let me say that I understand the desire to read formula. I used to read spy thrillers and they’re pretty formulaic.]
    So, what am I saying? I’m agreeing with you that I bristle at arbitrary rules which cause a ms. to tank in a contest or die at the slush pile.


    • Jillian says:

      Jeff- Nope, I haven’t stolen your mss, but I think the reason we get along so well is that we agree on a lot of things.

      And I’ll be there in hiding with you when the lynch mob comes after us! I think fresh air is needed in the genre as far as the arbitrary rules. I have one manuscript that an editor said she was going to pass on since the hero and heroine don’t meet until page 39. That was very arbitrary, in my opinion but she’s the editor. LOL!


  2. danicaavet says:

    I’m right there with you, Jillian. When I started reading romance, I didn’t realize that the heroines were helpless and pathetic (harsh word, but true). Of course, I was 13 when I started reading them. I still couldn’t put them down though, which is why I adored watching the subtle and gradual change to heroines. Maybe I was picking books with strong heroines, but I think the mind-set of the romance genre changed in the late 80’s into the 90’s. I adore a strong heroine and that’s what I write and I love it!

    Great post, my friend 🙂


    • Jillian says:

      Thanks, Danica – I was about 11 when I started reading romance and a lot of the stuff went over my head and by the time I was savvy, I’d had enough. I didn’t even know about the quiet revolution (evolution) of heroines as I refused to return to the genre for many years. I am very glad it happened, though. I have found some favorite writers in the last couple of years and I like what they’ve done with their heroines.


  3. Daisy Harris says:

    Great post, Jillian! I shied away from romances as a kid largely because of the weak heroines. (Or perhaps my perception that the heroines would be weak.) I never read romance until a few years ago when I came to it from Urban Fantasy. Of course, UF is the home of the kick-ass female, but I found some great, strong heroines in paranormal romance as well.

    I will say that I still don’t read much contemporary. The heroines in that genre still feel a little weak to me sometimes, but it might just be that I like my heroines like I like my heroes – with superpowers. 🙂

    Thanks for the great post!


    • Thanks Daisy- Following you on Tues after you’re great Monday posts makes me nervous – Not really, but you know what I mean- I feel the pressure to be brilliant, too! LOL! Glad you liked the post. I write contemporary but my heroines are competent and sassy. Alas, no super powers!


  4. Daisy Harris says:

    Oh, BTW- I didn’t know that rule either- and I just contracted my fifth story. Hehe. I wonder what else I know know. 0_o. I keep trying to convince my agent that *maybe* I could write something for Harlequin, and she keeps replying, “Um, honey…no.”


    • Daisy – I laughed aloud at the Harlequin comment as I’ve tried to do the same- one of my friends said I so don’t have the voice for them!! But I keep thinking I can do it.


      • Daisy Harris says:

        Ha! Yeah, it’s funny how we often don’t recognize our voice. I will load up your book onto my iphone to read on the treadmill. See if you can change my mind about contemporary. (There better be sex!)


        • Well, there is SOME sex. But prob not enough for you. The herione in SOLO gets more sex but she’s a bit of a pain. The heroine in SURFER is stronger but she gets very little sex- til near the end! LOL!


  5. Laurie Ryan says:

    Oh, yeah. Strong women, but with flaws. The perfect character. 🙂


  6. Lavada Dee says:

    Jillian, I so -ooo agree. Thankfully I rarely pick up a weak heroine.


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