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June 17, 2009

TSTL and Whiney

I read a review today about a book I’ve read. The reviewer said the heroine was whiney and didn’t act her age. That didn’t come through for me when I read the book. I know reviews are subjective, but it made me start thinking.

What qualities does a good heroine possess?

I know most of you are going to mention the “too stupid to live” heroine. No one likes a heroine who consistently does stupid things such as walking down to the cellar to investigate noises when she’s been told not to go down to the cellar. But is it all right for a heroine to make a silly mistake if she learns from it and deals with the consequences? My answer would be yes. It’s the heroine who consistently makes stupid choices that drives me nuts.

I like an intelligent heroine, one who knows what she wants or failing that, decides what she wants during the course of the book. I want her to make choices, and if they’re bad ones to learn from them. I want her to have the strength of character to deal with the consequences of her choices. I want her to play nice with others, yet stand up for herself if a bully confronts her. I want her to show some passion and not be afraid to love. If she’s been hurt in love before, I want her to grow and become willing to take chances again because this is after all, a romance.

I want her to have pride in her appearance without being vain. I’d like her to be confident with her body and to remember that a person’s attitude makes them sexy. Sure, people judge by appearances, but it’s personality that drives an attraction.

I don’t mind a little whining, but “woman up” and deal with the situation after the whining. Don’t keep stomping on that whining button! I don’t expect my heroine to be perfect. None of us is perfect and our heroines shouldn’t be either. Integrity is good and above all, a heroine should be consistent so she doesn’t come across as a flake.

And lastly, I want her to be kind to animals. I have a soft spot for animals and like heroines who have the same interest.

Two of my favorite heroines include Eve Dallas created by JD Robb and Mercy Thompson created by Patricia Briggs. Both are strong women, both have integrity. It’s interesting to note both are in series. Possibly that’s why they’ve made such an impact on me.

What qualities do you think a heroine should have? Which flaws can you forgive? Who are some of your favorite heroines?


  1. Julia Smith

    Reviews are definitely subjective. My cousin has had reviews on Amazon that mentioned throwing the book across the room because the reviewer couldn’t stand the book. Meanwhile, the same book was a Rita finalist. C’est la vie.

    Favorite female character? Hard to pick! How about Lady Anne Peckworth from Jo Beverley’s Hazard? She didn’t let a physical limitation or two jilted engagements keep her down.

  2. Lucinda

    I definitely like a heroine who takes charge of and responsibility for her life. I don’t care for books where the hero is a control-freak and the heroine allows him to be that way with her.

  3. Leah Braemel

    LOL, Julie – that shows how subjective reading is – Lady Anne was one of my least favorite heroines in JB’s Rogue series.

    And yes, the reader brings their own needs/experiences to the book so what one considers whiny another wouldn’t. I’ve had a review on one of my books where the reviewer said the “big men had to make all the decisions for the little woman” yet the heroine made each and every decision all the way through. She could have stopped at any point in time. Eh, subjective.

    Favorite heroines of mine? Yes, Mercy definitely, not a fan of Eve. I think you may be right about series helping to get to know the heroine better, Shelley because I can’t think of a particular single-title book heroine that sticks in my mind. Oh, maybe the heroine in Nora’s “Rising Tides” of her Chesapeake series. Not to say I don’t like the heroines, just don’t make the same long-term impact. But then my memory’s going …

  4. Amy W.

    I hate the gutless wonders. Those women who through out a book are constantly denying themselves happiness and love because they’ve been hurt before and can’t take a chance. One must risk the pain to achieve the splendor of happiness, even if you do get hurt a few times. I’m reading a book right now where I want to smack her upside her head and yell, “Get over it already!”

  5. Maria

    There’s a trend I’ve been noticing with up and coming authors in the urban fantasy arena where the heroine has a chip on her shoulder the size Gibraltar.

    Do they really have to be so surley and self-important? It gets boring long before I get interested in the book.

  6. Helen Hardt

    I like my heroines strong, intelligent, and feminine. I get so tired of heroines who wear pants (and I mean that figuratively, LOL.) Strength and femininity can co-exist. It’s funny what you said about reviews, too. I can’t tell you how many times a reviewer has seen a character in a completely different light than I have. Like you said, it’s all subjective :grin: Great post!

  7. Shelley Munro

    Julia – it’s good that we’re all different and have different likes and dislikes. It makes life more interesting. We all have our hot buttons when it comes to reading books as Leah said.

    Lucinda – I like alpha male characters but the control freak is not a fun read. My favorite stories are those where the heroine listens to the hero but goes her own way or makes her own decisions when necessary. A heroine who makes an alpha male accept her on even terms is a good match for me.

  8. Shelley Munro

    Leah – I had to think hard too because generally it’s the heroes I remember.

    Amy W – yes, ma’am. No gutless wonders! Did you see the new cover for Cat Nap. It’s on the coming soon and book page. I really love it. :mrgreen:

  9. Shelley Munro

    Maria – I think this is why I’ve gone off UF a bit. There are only a few series that I still follow now.

    Helen – yes, I know what you mean. The heroines are almost too strong and they don’t need a male in their lives at all.

  10. Fedora

    Hmm… I tend to agree with what you said, Shelley–I like the strong heroines with integrity. One thing I find very hard to overlook is any dishonesty–I think we talked about this with infidelity and storylines, and I would find a heroine who is dishonest similarly hard to stomach. I know in some situations it’s easier to explain than others, but I just finished a book with a “secret baby” thing going for most of it, and I couldn’t stand the heroine for that reason. Ugh.

  11. Mary Preston

    I love heroines who are not afraid to fail. Women who are equal to any man, but still very, very feminine.