Saturday, February 18, 2012

What Makes a Great Heroine

I read a lot of books, mostly romance, chick lit, and mystery, but I have very specific standards for really enjoying a book. And a lot of that comes down to the heroine of the story. My standards are pretty much the same for tv shows and movies, but it seems more apparent in books.

What makes a good heroine:

1) She is smart. Smart can mean a few different things, but in a great book smart means that the girl has a plethora of common sense or knowledge or street smarts or some combination. Take Stephanie Plum for instance...she isn't particularly smart, though she has a college degree and she lacks some basic common sense sometimes, but she has tons of street smarts and really uses solid logic when she gets into truly terrifying situations.

2) She is sassy. Sassy, feisty, fiery, sarcastic, throws herself at situations. I like a character to be willing to talk back to the hot guy and not let the rich duke get away with being a jackass. Someone like Heather Wells is a great heroine because she doesn't really think about the consequences of running into a room where she thinks a murderer is. Even if someone (a police chief, a hot roommate/PI) tells her to definitely wait until someone else gets there, she still goes in. I love it! Stephanie Plum is also really a great example of doing the exact opposite of what anyone tells her to do. And arguing about why the guy is stupid to tell her not to do something afterwards. I highly relate!

3) She is funny. As with the smart qualification, funny can be a variety of things. Jennifer Crusie's heroines are always really funny, though not necessarily funny on purpose. The narration is just always amusing and the woman is sarcastic and fun. Really, you can't go wrong with a good dose of sarcasm!

4) She perseveres through all kinds of hell. I just finished reading Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas and the main character, Liberty Jones, had a really shitty life for a long time. She had every right to whine about it or turn to other people, but she didn't. She held her own. And yes, she got some help along the way (sometimes without her knowledge), but the biggest thing was that she never once gave up. I like all my heroines to overcome the odds. Whether it is trying to get someone to believe the random death was murder, trying to outwit a contract killer, trying to keep a family together, whatever, I want my heroine to be a fighter.

5) Good taste in friends and men. This has a lot to do with the "she is smart" category, but there is nothing I hate more than a heroine who likes the guy that is a total jackass. For how much I enjoy Lisa Kleypas, Tempt Me at Twilight frustrated me the entire time because the guy was such a jerk. And while it is not unusual in romance novels for hate to turn to love, I just did not understand why the heroine started loving the guy. It really turned me off for most of the book, though I did finally come around at the end when the guy stopped being such an ass. But seriously, I had issues with the girl because, damn!

Favorite Heroines:
1) Heather Wells: former teen pop star turned admin at a college dorm, solves crime usually by putting herself in danger, crushes on Cooper Cartwright who is the best guy of any book ever (I am in love with Coop)

2) Stephanie Plum: not quite half-way decent bounty hunter who has more luck than skill, usually ends up having to solve some bigger mystery while maintaining a cop boyfriend, Morelli, who hates her job, also loves Ranger who is her coworker/mentor/employer/sometimes (but not nearly often enough) lover

3) Amelia Hathaway: oldest girl of the Hathaway family, tries to keep her family together, tries to survive in society when they grew up middle class, falls in love with the definitely outside of society Rom Gypsy, Cam (who I am also in love with)

4) Finley Anderson Tanner: law clerk who somehow always manages to have to solve a murder, spends almost beyond her means but still manages to mostly pay her bills, forever disappoints her strict and snooty mother, really wants Liam McGarrity even though he is a bad boy, though in the best way possible

5) Katniss Everdine: has to fight for her life in a game of kill or be killed, becomes an accidental and somewhat reluctant leader of a revolution, has a love triangle with no right choice (even though she does end up with one of the guys)

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