The Rec League: Brilliant Science Heroines Rule! More Please?

The Rec LeagueI received an email from Cordy, who is looking for some recommendations:

Hello there! Once upon a time, I read your review of Laura Kinsale's Midsummer Moon and I am finally getting around to actually buying and reading the book. And it turns out that I have a never-before suspected intense love for books about weird creative-genius ladies and the suave-but-befuddled dudes who can't help themselves around them.

Okay, this book veers, sometimes, toward The Twee and also the “…what is happening?” (I am developing a theory that Laura Kinsale writes the parts she is most interested in during some kind of magnificent oracular trance, and then later, at the insistence of her editors, drops in some connecting bits) but I really, really love that Ransom is so smitten by Merlin, and that Merlin is SO TOTALLY WEIRD (okay, yes, there is some “Watch me interpret a metaphor literally, again”, and some pretty unlikely not-grokking of contemporary mores that one assumes even a Merlin would have been aware of, but there's a real driven weirdness underneath it) and not really necessarily as into Ransom as Ransom is into her.

And I LOVE that she is a weird genius, and that Ransom understands that she is a genius, and that her genius must be protected (I haven't finished the book yet, but am going to go out on a limb and assume that Merlin achieves some kind of inventing triumph and that Ransom is delighted… don't tell me if I'm wrong, because the fantasy is v. enjoyable.)

“Midsummer Moon” strikes me as a book about a “Literary Husband” finding the genius with whom he'll end up playing baffled-but-loving helpmeet to for the rest of his life. And it's great.

Are there more books like this? Any romance genre is fine, I just want to read more about genius ladies (any type of science or art would work – I am less interested in Tough Businesswomen and more interested in compulsively-creative oddballs) and the men who fall head over heels for them. And the ladies don't need to be AS strange as Merlin, but I would love reading about driven women who are more interested in their own work than in anything else.

My only caveat is that I'm really only interested in stories where the female genius triumphs in some way – not in anything where she winds up happily giving up her research to get married to the dreamy viscount/billionaire. Any tips? Thank you so much! 


Genius, “compulsively creative” oddball heroines? Yeah, we've got a few of those! Off the top of my head: 


Book Girl Least Likely to Marry Carrie reviewed Girl Least Likely to Marry by Amy Andrews, and really enjoyed it, particularly because the heroine was an unabashed science geek:

The Girl Least Likely to Marry is a delightfully lighthearted, funny contemporary romance with a heroine who is a socially inept nerdy scientist.  Think ‘Sheldon’, from “The Big Bang Theory”, but not as inconsiderate or mean – just someone who learns social rules by rote memory instead of intuition.  Even though this book had some tropes I normally disliked, they were all played for such light-hearted comedy that I was completely charmed.

It's $1.99 currently at most retailers: Goodreads | Amazon | BNKobo | iBooks | All Romance eBooks




A Study in Seduction - Nina Rowan

Another book that might appeal is A Study in Seduction by Nina Rowan.

Jane from DearAuthor liked this book more than I did, and we discussed it in a podcast at some length.

The heroine is a mathematical genius, and while I struggled with some parts of the story, enough readers other than me loved this book that I want to make sure I mention it. 

You can find a copy at Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | iBooks.



What other books would you recommend for Cordy?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    Courtney Milan’s The Countess Conspiracy is about a brilliant scientist heroine and the guy who (because this is the Victorian era)

    has lent her his name for years so that her theories can get out into the

    world. I loved it!

  2. 2

    …But crud, it just occurred to me that that last comment might be seen as spoilerific – please feel free to delete it, Sarah!

  3. 3
    Patricia M. says:

    Courtney Milan’s The Countess Conspiracy is another excellent example of a genius woman, the man who adores her, and the triumph she achieves.  It is not a light book but it is a terrific one.

  4. 4
    SB Sarah says:


    No worries – I whited out that part. And yes – how’d I forgot to mention that book? DOH.

  5. 5
    Margarita says:

    The Countess Conspiracy, allright and it doesn’t fill the bill 100% but Nobody’s baby but mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips features a genius mathematician/scientist looking for a dumb sperm donor so that the baby she desperately wants won’t suffer as she did because of her above average IQ.

  6. 6
    Hvitveis says:

    Mr Impossible by Loretta Chase

  7. 7

    Well, I came here to suggest The Countess Conspiracy like everyone else…

    A Week to be Wicked (Tessa Dare), maybe?

  8. 8
    Anna says:

    Seconding Laura’s suggestion of A Week to be Wicked!  Minerva is a fabulous geologist, and Colin is the cheerfully unrepentant rake who accidentally falls for her.  During a road trip.

  9. 9
    Jodi K says:

    Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas

  10. 10

    Dang! Y’all beat me to the punch. Only one I can add is The Witness by Nora Roberts.

  11. 11
    donna marie says:

    So, Countess Conspiracy, check. Mr. Impossible, check. A Week to be Wicked, check. Not Quite a Husband, check.  You all are way too fast for me. I’d suggest some of JAK’s early Amanda Quick historicals, where the heroine is driven by her interest in something, like dinosaurs, often to the exclusion of all else, including the hero, but the men are rarely less than as smart, and occasionally condescending.

  12. 12
    LauraL says:

    Another vote for The Countess Conspiracy here. :)

    I recommend last year’s Fool’s Gold trilogy from Susan Mallery – Just One Kiss, Two of a Kind, and Three Little Words. Felicia Swift is in all three stories, and the second book is hers. Hell, this trilogy is hers. Her observations throughout the three books are so awkward yet so wonderful! Felicia is, so far, my favorite contemporary heroine. Felicia was so smart as a child her parents couldn’t deal with her and turned her over to a university to be raised. I love how she finds her own family.

    I have a feeling this is going to be an expensive topic for me. I’ve already added Girl Least Likely to Marry to my wish list.

  13. 13
    PamG says:

    I’m thinking A Week to Be Wicked, a historical by Tessa Dare certainly has a brilliant and somewhat obsessed heroine.  You may have reservations about the ending, but it is fairly true to the time period and doesn’t involve the heroine having a complete personality transplant inspired by lurve(tm). 

    The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan, also a historical, has a mentally strong, emotionally damaged scientist heroine.  This is not my personal favorite by Milan, but her writing is outstanding, and I think you will love the way the conflict between Violet’s need to work and society’s expectations is resolved.

    One of my favorite historicals with a brilliant heroine is Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase.  In this case the heroine is an archaeologist,  the hero is sort of a Regency slacker/frat boy, and the interaction between them is hilarious and ultimately very satisfying.

    Shelly Laurenston has a couple of female characters of the brilliant but weird type in her shifter books.  “Miss Congeniality” is a novella available in Bad Boys.  The title character is Professor Irene Conridge, a human who is courted by a wolf shifter in the Van Holtz family, and she is both brilliant and bad ass. Go Fetch centers around Irene’s young and equally brilliant protege, Miki.  If you like paranormal romance, these are both hot and hilarious.  Wolf With Benefits is a more recent novel with an “average” hero and heroine and a supporting cast of prodigies that you might also find entertaining.

    There are others, since the geek trope is so popular right now, but these are the ones that come immediately to my mind.  Hope you find something you like.

  14. 14
    Mzcue says:

    There’s the delightful Penny Reid book, Neanderthal Seeks Human, with a heroine who’s frighteningly bright, if not quite a genius.

    And here’s an off-the-wall suggestion, since it’s non-fiction.  Passionate Minds: Emilie du Chatelet, Voltaire, and the Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment by David Bodanis.
    Certainly a period piece, and I found it fascinating as well as a great read.

  15. 15
    L says:

    The book that immediately came to my mind was Bellwether, by Connie Willis.  It’s billed as a science fiction, but I think a more accurate description would be that it’s a contemporary romance (well, contemporary as of 1996) about a woman who works in the sciences—researching fads, specifically.  It’s light on the romance (no smexing to be found here, sorry to say), but it’s a fun, delightful read and one of my comfort books.

  16. 16
    Kate says:

    Mzcue mentioned it, but Penny Reid’s Neanderthal Seeks Human deserves to be listed here again.

    A funny and touching romance. The heroine sees herself as out-of-step, an oddball (hence the title). She’s incredibly bright but she doesn’t recognize/understand social cues. The hero gets her, and we as readers can tell this. There’s also a great supporting cast. The author writes from heroine’s POV. It’s one of those books that you plow through on the first read but improves on second reading as you notice how off-his-game the hero is with her…he becomes the modern reformed rake/bad guy. I looove this book.

  17. 17
    Kristen Bowen says:

    I am so excited for this post as I am currently reading the most recent Outlander novel (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood – Diana Gabaldon) and all the scenes with the time-traveling heroine using modern medical techniques with items only available during the American Revolution are totally my catnip.  She is a medical genius and her husband super respects that about her.  Looking forward to more recommendations!

  18. 18
    Erin Burns says:

    Donna Marie, I am just going to have to suggest JAK’s Ravished anyway, it was probably the first romance I read where the heroine was smart and passionate about her work and willing to go for it no matter what people had to say. It holds a special place in my heart.

  19. 19
    pophyn says:

    First thing I thought of (along with the Countess Conspiracy) is Heather Snow’s Veiled Seduction series.  Three books and all of them feature scientist heroines: Sweet Enemy, Sweet Deception, and Sweet Madness.

  20. 20
    Qualisign says:

    Did anyone (else) notice that Rosie from “The Rosie Project” was almost equally quirky and smart as the main character, Don Tillman, just without the asperger’s?

  21. 21
    Emma says:

    How about the online web comic Girl Genius? Not directly a romance but there are romance elements & Agatha definitely fits the slightly odd genius lady type. Plus it’s funny & steampunky with a talking cat & an insane castle. Who doesn’t love an insane castle?

  22. 22
    Sandra says:

    I heartily third the recommendation of Neanderthal Seeks Human with the bonus of the recent sequel,  Neanderthal Marries Human. The proposal scene is awesomely funny and on target with the characterization of the heroine, Janie.

    Re: The Rosie Project
    I have recently discovered the reduced prices for previous Kindle purchases. For this reason I have been listening to multitudes of audio samples to see if I would enjoy listening to the narrator.
    The Rosie Project narrator is the best that I have heard so far!

  23. 23
    Maddie C says:

    First thing that came to mind was Nobody’s Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. A bit oldschool, but the heroine is a brilliant scientist who doesn’t want her kid to grow up as smart as she is because she was bullied. So she pretends to be a prostitute and has a one-night-stand with an NFL player, who she assumes is an idiot because he is a football player, and when he turns out to be smart she freaks. SEP is the weirdest!

    And also in the vein of historical science ladies, One Good Earl Deserves A Lover by Sarah MacLean is spectacular! Pippa is a scientist who needs to “understand” sex before she gets married and turns to the Fallen Angel gambling hell to do it. Why are there so many historical science ladies? Is this a new trope? I love them. I’ve read The Countess Conspiracy, One Week to be Wicked and Mr. Impossible with glee!

    In the paranormal vein, Evernight by Kristen Callihan isn’t out yet but features a genius inventor and might be her best yet although the plot has very little to do with her skills…

  24. 24
    Maddie C says:

    ALSO, Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan features a woman who has obsessively studied as a healer (against her family’s wishes since she is a princess) and put her goal to treat the wounded and save lives before her own personal safety. She is totally badass and the hero keeps finding her in all these predicaments because she can’t stop herself from healing.

  25. 25

    Cecilia Grant’s second Regency, A Gentleman Undone, has a heroine who’s a cardsharp and teaches the hero to count cards. She’s a mathematical genius. It’s very nonconventional, as is the whole series. I really liked it, but it was very challenging and angsty.

    Also, another vote for Ravished, the Amanda Quick where the heroine’s into fossils – that’s my all time favorite of the classic Quicks. I always reread it when I have the flu because it’s my chicken soup. The heroine does have agency (uses a large rock to rescue herself from the bad guy at one point, confounding the hero) – so while the hero’s a little condescending, she’s never put down by it and just continues her merry obsession.

    And CORDY – I have a novella coming out in October (His Road Home – click on my name above) that has a heroine who is a fish statistician (math PhD) in Seattle. She goes up to Alaska on research boats to count and project fish populations. Cruz from First to Burn is the hero. It’s one of those rare books where the hero moves to the city to be with the heroine b/c that’s where her job is. The cover is up at Amazon (today!!!) but Carina doesn’t have the blurb up yet. None of that paranormal stuff that didn’t work for you in First to Burn—just saying.

  26. 26
    Zee says:

    I’m not sure it’s as good as Countess Conspiracy, and the heroine isn’t a genius exactly, but I found the grad student in Rush Me by Allison Parr to be pretty realistic, and the idea that a woman could have a brain made me very happy.

    I’d also recommend Meljean Brooks’ serial The Kraken King. The heroine is a novelist, and yes, most of the genius things you’re looking for are there.

    I second Bellwether.

  27. 27
    Carolyn says:

    Why is Evernight not offered in e? I’ve been trying to preorder it forever.

  28. 28
    Aimee says:

    I’m going to second the mention of The Rosie Project. It is great! It is a bit of a flip from what is being mentioned here but seriously enjoyable none the less!

  29. 29
    Aimee says:

    Oh! And Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare! More dino fossils!

  30. 30
    rube says:

    Emie Jaramillo in Lea Santos “Little White Lie,” is a Latina lesbian geneticist. Melanie Schuster’s “Chemistry of Desire,” features, of course, a chemist. Mary Ann Rivers’s novella “Snowfall,” has a molecular biologist heroine.

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