Your Opinion Please: Romance Heroines of Awesomesauce

AdviceWe had a discussion of heroes – now I have to ask: who are your favorite romance heroines?

I have to say, romance heroines are fascinating creatures. As Lisa Kleypas said in an interview for the Bosoms, she’s often a creature of moderation – not too tall, not too loud, not too big, not too small. There’s a bit less wiggle room (no pun intended) with the heroine in some sub genres.

In other sub genres, like urban fantasy, she can be as Cranky Sue as she wants to be, ferocious and pissed off, uncomfortable and strong.

When I think about my favorite heroines, there is always an element of strength – and stubbornness. For example: I love Frances from Catherine Coulter’s “Midsummer Magic,” which occupies a soft and permanently fond place in my heart as the first romance I ever read. Frances is stubborn, daring, smart, and angry – and not afraid to scheme. The scheming part alone rocked my 15 year old world – you can have ambition, even if that ambition at present is to dress like a nearsighted dowdy zealot to avoid marriage to a guy who uses cream?! WHOA.

I also love Mercy Thompson and Anna Latham from Patricia Briggs’ series, because both are strong, and both are wounded. Their struggle to be strong while recovering from those wounds is one of my favorite things about those characters.

I like Daphne from Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, specifically The Duke and I, because part of what stood in her way is that she was friends with so many of the gentlemen of the ton. She didn’t play games or flirt or simper – she was herself, and she had plenty of personality, and strength of her own. 

But of course, if I try to think of who I would pick if I could only pick one heroine, my mind goes blank and I forget I ever learned to read, much less which book and which heroine I’d pick. I don’t know if I can pick one – but I can ask you to do so!

Who’s your favorite heroine(s)? Why? Do you gravitate toward strength? Fearlessness? A smart mouth? Pursuit of perfection? Excellent swordfighting skills or dancing skills?

As usual, I’m looking to add your quotes to the book, so if you leave a comment, I could quote you in the manuscript. I’m free to use pseudonyms, so don’t worry about giving me your real name. (This is going to be the best works cited page ever.) But if you want to participate and do NOT want me to quote you, please do let me know. And as usual, thank you thank you thank you.

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Random Musings

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  1. 1
    ev says:

    That’s easy. Eve Dallas.

    She embodies everything anyone can look for in a Heroine. With a capital H.

    She’s strong. Has had more mountains to climb than anyone should have and still come out on the right side of the law.

    She’s got the hottest guy on the planet. And it doesn’t hurt that he owns most of it.

    She’s got kick ass, awesome friends. And she’s learning she’s vulnerable because of them.

    She can take down the bad guy without blinking but is scared spitless when she has to do the wifey thing and put on something she can’t hide her gun in.

    I so want to come back as Eve in my next life.

  2. 2
    J says:

    I love a heroine who is fun and funny, who doesn’t take herself too seriously, who is smart (but not a know-it-all), who can break the rules. (I always imagine a great heroine throwing up her hands in a crowd and singing “I gotta be me…!”)  She shouldn’t be too obnoxious or pushy – but I do adore grumpy and cranky!  Favorite heroines include Eve Dallas, Willa (To Wed a Scandalous Spy), Kate (The Viscount Who Loved Me), and most of the heroines created by Shelly Laurenston/G. A. Aiken.  I know there are so many others I love, but I’m drawing a blank. 
    “try91” – I bet if I try hard I could come up w/91 heroines I really love!!

  3. 3
    Barbara W. says:

    The first one that came to mind before I even read more than partway through the post was Eve Dallas and I see ev beat me to it, lol.  And she already articulated why.

    Ah, rendered useless two posts in, damn you! (shakes fist at sky)

  4. 4
    Hezabelle says:

    I respond best to heroines who are strong. I get REALLY annoyed by the girls who are always crying over their situation or, worse yet, crying to get what they want.

    Since I read a lot of time travel romances, I also like heroines who are stubborn, who are willing to challenge the usually patriarchal notions of the hero has about a woman’s place.

    And of course, witty is fun because the dialogue is the best part.

  5. 5
    RTam says:

    I really love Kresley Cole’s heroines, Kaderin, Neomi and Holly being my favorite – strong, smart, witty, ambitious; just all-around badasses. Not ashamed of their sexuality, nor “pure” because they’re virgins (I don’t mind virginal heroines, but I am instantly put off by authors who insinuate virginity=virtue) But of course, heroines also need a caring side, emotional vulnerability, some scars that need healing (through TWUE LUV, of course ;P)

    I also love myself a heroine with strong friendships with other women (or men) – so many romance series give the hero friends and brotherhoods and whatnot who are obvious sequel bait, while the heroine is alone. A life outside the hero – I like that.

  6. 6
    Anemone says:

    I haven’t read the In Death series, so I can’t say for Eve Dallas, though I’m getting interested….
    Without a doubt, for me, it’s Grace StJohn, from Linda Howard’s Son of the Morning.
    Everytime she fell down, she picked herself up…I liked that she wasn’t a victim, and outwitted the baddies, and met every setback by adapting…

  7. 7
    Anemone says:

    Oh, and she wasn’t stupid.

  8. 8
    Kati says:

    Jessica Trent from Lord of Scoundrels. She consistently calls Dain on his bullshit and frankly, SHOOTS HIS ASS for ruining her. She’s smart, witty, passionate, down to earth and intensely likable.

    She is my all time favorite romance heroine.

    Although I really believe Peyton Kendall from Julie James’ Practice Makes Perfect could run a very close second. She’s also smart, I mean, wicked intelligent. And she’s beautiful and wily, and she’s got a terrific sense of humor and she’s not afraid to speak her mind.

    Eve Dallas is a great choice too. But Eve can be a little too surly for me at times.

  9. 9
    Pharaby says:

    I really, really enjoy Claire from Diana Gabaldon’s books.

    I’m aware that there are flaws in the books, but I like Claire for a number of reasons: she’s smart, she’s ambitious, she’s ruthless, but kind, she takes no shit from anyone, but she’s not some Mary Sue who flies through everything unscathed.

    She makes hard choices, and lives with the consequences. She’s very human—she smells when she hasn’t had a bath, gets cranky when she’s PMSing, doesn’t come out of every circumstance unscathed. She’s been traumatized, but she’s no victim. 

    She’s attractive, but it’s made clear a large part of her allure stems from her force of personality—and her big butt. She’s older and more sexually experienced than her husband. She owns her own sexuality and power. She’s loyal, complex, cranky, loving, and most of all, competent. Competent without superpowers, competent in a very real manner. I’ve had the discussion with friends that competency is one of the sexiest qualities a man or woman can have.

    She bruises, she bleeds, she breaks…and she perseveres. And the love she and Jamie have, albeit a Grand, Across Time and Space Love, with extra heroic sprinkles, feels real.

    As romantic heroines go, I would want to (a) hang out with her, (b) have her on my side and (c) grow up to be a lot like her.

  10. 10
    TeriAnne Stanley says:

    Gosh, I don’t know if I can pick an absolute fave, although I’m a big fan of Stephanie Plum.  Of course, she’s not, technically a romance heroine, is she?  But I love a heroine who does brave stuff even when she’s scared to pieces.  I almost don’t want her to be too much of an individual, because I want to put myself in her shoes, and if she’s too strong, I can’t be there.

  11. 11
    dorothea says:

    I think too many authors try to react against the pushover TSTL heroines of old school romance by making theirs kickass in a superficial kind of way. Like, they preserve the overbearing-dominating-male-is-sexy dynamic but it’s supposed to be okay because the heroine knows martial arts.

    Which isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed many heroines who are physically strong or emotionally tough. But my favorites are more ordinary women, whose strength comes from integrity and awareness of their situation. They may not be Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but they do call bullshit when the hero tries to direct their life.

    I like to read about heroines who start out a little bit vulnerable and naive, and become confident and proud of themselves, and not just because the hero tells them to. One of my favorites in this respect is Judith from Mary Balogh’s Slightly Wicked.

  12. 12
    Pamelia says:

    I agree with Kati; I love Jessica from LOS.  I tend to like a lot of Loretta Chase heroines though!

  13. 13
    Marcia in OK says:

    Eve Dallas tops my list.  There are many others, but first thought favorite is always Eve.

  14. 14
    Cris says:

    I love strong heroines and I gladly add my name to the list of folks who love Eve Dallas, but I think my very favorite is Evie from Lisa Kleypas’ The Devil in Winter.  Practical and sensible are rare qualities in romance heroines and Evie has them in spades.  She needs to get out from under the abusive family she’s living with and she sees a way out by “buying” a destitute nobleman.  She knew him to be a decent, yet desperate, man with a reckless streak and figured that was perfect.  Loved her practicality!

    Another huge favorite is Blue from Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Natural Born Charmer.  Again, very practical, sensible and willing to do what it takes to stay afloat.  She walked away from the super-hot hero Dean when she wasn’t being treated right and took a job with a horrible old woman to make ends meet.  And on top of all that, she’s insecure and fanciful and completely bull-headed.  Much like me, which brings me to my next point.

    In my case, and I would venture to guess in most romance readers’ cases, we like heroines that could be us.  That’s why they’ve changed so much over the years, because women have.  These days we will fight back and take our magic hoo-has and go home if the hero gets too Alpha-controlling.  Or at the very least we want to think we would; and how better to feel strong and capable ourselves than to identify with a strong, capable (sensible, practical) heroine?

  15. 15
    Amanda Garcia says:

    I love Kate Daniels from Ilona Andrews’ series.  I think they do strong female characters well.  Kate is strong and doesn’t expect anyone to get her out of anything, but cares a whole lot about the people she’s close to.

  16. 16
    Jennifer says:

    Kate Daniels in the series by Ilona Andrews—I love Kate. She’s a bit tightly wound, but given what her family ties are, that’s understandable. I love the fact that she will run into a fight to defend those who need help without question, but a kiss will leave her flummoxed. She’s hilarious and underestimated at times. She kicks ass in the most awesome ways and wears underwear with bows on it. She bakes (ugly but tasty) pies and will defend her mate to the death. In all the urban fantasy series I’ve read, she’s been the heroine that has been fully realized, in that I actually believe her quirks and her fearlessness (not just quirky and heroic for the sake of being so).

    Lady Julia Grey in the series by Deanna Raybourn—I like that she starts out as a mouse and ends up finding her voice. She’s modern-thinking for the times the books are set.
    She is not perfect—but she has the nosey/snooping quality heroines in mystery series need. She’s not the helpless heroine that needs saved (ok, maybe once or twice), rather she ends up working with her hero on various adventures and helping him to accept aspects of his (very awesome) self.

  17. 17
    Jessica says:

    I want me heroines to be like me.  More than any part of the romance, I need to be able to closely identify with them.  Which makes things like desperately wanting children a big deal breaker for me, or being really tall or skinny. 

    I love short heroines, and curvy heroines and especially smart but grumpy heroines.  I’m having trouble coming up with a specific one right now – Claire from Outlander is a great one, and I really liked Jess in My Lord and Spymaster.

  18. 18
    Jan says:

    I have a huge thing for Jax from the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre. She’s foulmouthed, selfish and incredible strongwilled, and not at all that brave. Technically it’s not a romance series however (Sci-Fi Fantasy with romantic elements?), but she’s a great heroine.

    Best heroine in books I read this year must be Mina from the Iron Duke by Meljean Brooks. She’s smart, dedicated to her job, and not afraid to grab the hero by the nuts if he’s out of line.

    So in general I think I like heroines with balls. Be it in contemporary romance or the more speculative (or historical) kind, a woman sitting around waiting for the hero to marry/rescue/devirginize her just isn’t my thing.

    I also like my heroines flawed, the Mary Sue type of ballsy heroine drives me nuts. In fact, I think I’m more attracted by flaws in heroines than in their strong traits (Lee form the Hero Series by Moira J. Moore comes to mind here).

    And last but not least, heroines always get extra bonuspoints if they know how to swear. Nothing makes me adore characters more than a good cussing spree, because that’s what people do when something goes wrong, and when they don’t cuss in situations that call for it, I quickly get a holier-than-thou vibe. But if a girl knows how to swear, I can see myself drinking a beer with her, discussing the dirty details of all the lovemaking of late.

    And that’s what we all want in a heroine I presume, someone we can see ourselves have a drink with (whether you are the tea drinking type or the beer gulping type)

  19. 19
    Ashley L. says:

    Leonie!!  Fierce, tough, beautiful, unaware of herself but well-versed in the world, clever, vulnerable, game.  “But I was good, oh, many times”  Heyer is fabulous. 

    The purely ass-kicking heroines just wear me out (really, leather, all the time?)  I like heroines that are capable and willing to stand (for themselves, others, principles) but aren’t driven to look for trouble just for the sake of it.  Courage comes in a number of forms—it shapes itself from what she finds inside herself when she is afraid.  So I don’t mind her being afraid.  Some of my favorites:

    Leonie, These Old Shades, Heyer
    Cordelia, Vorkosigan Saga, Bujold
    Jess, My Lord and Spymaster, Bourne
    Min, Bet Me, Crusie
    Lydia, Bound By Your Touch, Duran
    Hester, Sprig Muslin, Heyer

  20. 20
    Mims says:

    Penelope Featherington from Romancing Mr.Bridgerton. 
    I like that she was smart and witty and used that to support her family financially even though they didn’t appreciate her as a person of worth in her own right without a husband.

    I also really liked Hyacinth Bridgerton from It’s In His Kiss because
    “Men don’t like women who are more intelligent than they are and Hyacinth Bridgerton isn’t the sort to feign stupidity”.

  21. 21
    Arethusa says:

    I love reading about Maggie in Nora Robert’s “Born in Fire”. I can never re-read that novel too often. She’s creative, independent, intelligent & determinedly pragmatic about everything in her life. But she’s still a sweetheart :). A bit like me.

    Next two spots:

    Anabelle Peyton from “Secrets of a Summer Night” by Kleypas – Historical romance authors almost always shy away from writing heroines who do not fit neatly into our modern value system. American civil war heroines are always support racial equality & the British gals never descend to judge anyone based on class.

    Kleypas dared to break the mold with Anabelle who shared the mores of her time: titled gentry represented society’s best & those encroaching industrialists were a bit of riff raff…not even to mention working ppl :-o! Yet she is not stubbornly close-minded: with love, respect & some needed exposure she began to see that it is not so.

    Lily from “It Happened One Autumn” by Kleypas – She just rocks lol. Tall, gangly, bit of a gaffe, bossy, stubborn & the best friend you could ever have :)

  22. 22
    meoskop says:

    Who doesn’t like Eve Dallas?

    I dont have a favorite, although I do have a soft spot for Mary Monk from “The Fireflower”.

    I don’t care if a heroine does what I would do, does what i wish I would do or does what I think I could do. I only want her to respect herself. Kate, in “Trial By Desire”, stands up and says “I am worth something. I have a life without you.” In “Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman” Mercy makes about a bajillion choices I disagree with, but she says “If this is the kind of father you are to my son, my son would do better without you.”

    My heroines refuse to be abused in the name of love.

  23. 23
    Jess Granger says:

    I love Lucy from The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt.

    She was smart, and very emotionally sensible and strong, which is what the hero needed.  More than her, what I really loved about Lucy was how her hero “saw” her.  She was his severe angel of divine judgment, and he wanted to throw himself into the fire before her feet.  She stands out to me.

    I also agree that while I prefer the heroine who can stand and think through any situation, and occasionally bring on the pain when needed, when a kick-butt heroine becomes so hardened she loses a realistic ability to emotionally connect with others, I tune out.  I didn’t like it when heroes would use the heroines, and it seems I don’t like it the other way around, either.

    As always, feel free to quote.

  24. 24
    Wendy says:

    I’ve got to throw in a vote for Mercy Thompson.  I identify with her a lot.  I like her struggle to stay herself in the face of inhuman (haha) odds.  I like that she’s a smarty pants and should, perhaps, be doing “more” than fixing cars, but is really happy doing a “mundane” job.  (Perhaps because the rest of her life *isn’t*.)  She just seems real to me, with insecurities and strengths and good friends.  That last is more important than I can say.
    I think to really believe in a character—any character—they’ve got to be surrounded by people who like them, not just the person who’s going to fall head over bits for them.  So often, I feel like authors pull the “The Strong Heroine is An Island Until the Hero” card.  I can’t have that in my stories.  It isn’t realistic. 
    I want my heroines to have worlds of their own—the hero just enhances (and/or complicates) life.

  25. 25
    Pat says:

    I have read only a few of the In Death books, but I must confess that I found Eve Dallas rather tiresome with her sulks and the enormous chip on her shoulder.

    My favorite heroines are more like Daphne in Mr Impossible and Tess, the eldest of the Essex sisters, in Much Ado About You. They are true to themselves and do the best they can when faced with the realities of the world around them without whining and self-pity (or, my pet abomination, temper tantrums).

  26. 26
    Brandyllyn says:

    Lori Love in Victoria Dahl’s Start Me Up.  I love how she takes her life in hand and makes a series of changes she’s been waiting for ages to fulfill. 

    She’s the only one that immediately leaps to mind.  Well, her and most other Dahl Heroine’s.  But she definitely takes the front of the pack for me.

  27. 27
    Raine says:

    My go-to girl is Izzy from Celeste Bradley’s fisrt book “Fallen”. I love that she is smart but not brainy, she always tries to look on the bright side. She is funny. She can be determined without being pushy. She still has girly moments of mood swings and crying but she will also put Julian in his place when he steps out of line!

  28. 28
    Jennifer Armintrout says:

    If I divide my favorites into two camps, I think my favorite modern romance heroine is Sookie Stackhouse.  I don’t care where they’re shelved, I consider those romances, because that’s what I’m reading them for.  I love the way Sookie handles her love life, and how she makes some hard decisions to preserve what she wants in life.  I wish more of that would come across in the show.

    As for like, golden age of romance heroines, I think my all-time favorite heroine is Skye O’Malley.  She’s like the really popular girl in high school that you want to hate for being too damn perfect, but she’s so nice you can’t.  Bertrice haters to left, y’all, my fave is Skye.

  29. 29
    Sarah W says:

    Agnes from Agnes and the Hitman.  She has these mental conversations with her anger management therapist . . . I can relate to that.

    Plus she’s gutsy and determined, loving and loyal . . . and she doesn’t take crap from too many people.

  30. 30
    bungluna says:

    I enjoy many different types of heroines, as long as they are not too too:  too naive, too perfect, too self-sacrificing, too stupid to live!

    Among my favorite heroines are:

    1. Eve Dallas – JD Robb
    2. Cordelia Naismith – Lois MacMaster Bujold
    3. Sophie – Georgette Heyer
    4. Harriet Vane – Dorothy L. Sayers
    5. Mercedes Thompson – Patricia Briggs
    6. Emily Faringdon – Amanda Quick

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