Heroines in the romance genre are often traditionally associated with being:
i) younger than the hero
ii) poorer than the hero
iii) more junior in her career than the hero (if she has a career at all)
I think for many readers, especially perhaps the newer generation of romance enthusiasts, the perception of the traditional heroine can jar with what she wants out of a novel, and what she knows and wants out of the world.
That’s not to say a modern heroine can’t be one or even all of the above, especially if the author writes with sensitivity on her position, and ensures she brings something to the relationship that he can’t, despite his position or wealth. This could be emotional empathy or artistic discovery, for example.
As readers we’re all different of course so what appeals to one does not necessarily appeal to the other, even within one genre. And this is a good thing; it would, after all, be rather dull if we all liked the same thing!
I’d never ‘dis’ anyone’s preference, as by their very nature preferences are subjective, so I can only talk about my own personal ones, and I like heroines who put the cat amongst the pigeons where traditionalism is concerned.
These are my top 3 current Mills & Boon titles when it comes to a good, modern anti heroine. I enjoyed reading all of these, mainly because the female protagonists in them are all somewhat controversial.
If, like me, you enjoy the kind of story in which the female love interest does not necessarily fit into the traditional, then give them a try – you might like them too!
The Ultimate Seduction, Dani Collins
In The Ultimate Seduction Dani Collins steps boldly away from the typical aesthetically pleasing heroine to one who has a facial scar. This is fairly unprecedented for the genre and I’m grateful to both the author and the publisher for entering into this largely unexplored territory.
It is not unusual for the hero to have some sort of physical imperfection, be it a scar or a disability, but for the heroine it is extremely rare, which in itself says a lot about society in general, not just literature.
As a reader it gives hope ‘to the rest of us’ that if a gorgeous, rich Russian playboy can be tamed by a woman with physical imperfections then maybe in the fantastical world of romance we might stand a chance too, given that most normal women regard themselves as physically imperfect.
Also, it makes us love the hero more as here we have a man who is not seduced by looks but falls in love for the woman beneath them – and that is what, in my opinion, the romance genre is really about.
The Spy Who Tamed Me, Kelly Hunter
Woah, this one takes the biscuit when it comes to the modern heroine. Not only is she older than him – and older than the usual heroine, in fact old enough to be the mother of a traditional heroine at 40 no less – but she’s his boss!! I love that. And I love the fact that neither of those aspects make him feel emasculated. What a man!
Out of all the (very many!) M&B titles I’ve read this one sticks out for all the right reasons. It’s modern, empowering and extremely brave from the author’s point of view. Good on Kelly Hunter!
The Millionaire’s Proposition, Avril Tremayne
Here we have another older woman, which is beautifully refreshing, and one who is sexually experienced. As a lawyer she has a top job – also beautifully refreshing – and is first and foremost interested in the hero for what he has to offer her in the bedroom. Of course the plot evolves and the couple fall in love, but at the beginning she’s more interested in him for self-gratifying purposes, as he is her.
This book is fun, sexually-charged and really rather naughty in places, so all together a good, feisty romp, and not one which involves a doormat of a heroine – far from it!
I’m a fan of a solid anti-heroine; a modern, intelligent, sexually-aware (even if she’s a virgin) woman who knows her own mind and body, and I’d like to see more of them coming to the fore within the romance genre.
Good on these authors for exploring these themes, and for M&B for supporting them in doing so. They don’t always attract positive feedback, probably because they’re a departure from the norm, and it is quite rightly horses for courses, but I for one am flying the flag for the wonderful and exciting anti heroine!