Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Heroine in the 21st Century

What makes a heroine different in today's world?

Recalling the romance classics from Mills and Boons, the Harlequins of the 60s, the sweeping historical epics in the 70s, through to the Dynasty and Dallas-type 80s glitz, to Silhouette's American girl-next-door series, and up to Harlequin's Kimani romances...we've come a long way.

And yet, have we come far enough?

We've had the meek, stuttering heroine who swooned when the hero looked her way.

We've had the heroine who liked it rough (some would call it rape).

We've had the heroine who cut her hair or dressed as a boy to be accepted and act on her independence.

We've had the range from the penniless heroines to queens of their nations. The spinstered governess takes her place next to the business executive.

Our heroines' goals and conflicts have been updated to reflect the reality of women's independence. Even in the bedroom with the hero, she will not be dominated. No actually means no. And the heroine can be the one to produce a condom before consummation without shock and distress.

Now that we are only just beginning this century, we've already seen a colorful quilt of heroines from various ethnic groups. Not enough, in my humble opinion, but I think we are moving forward at a healthy clip to re-define the heroine in the 21st century.

And as always, the classic romance story will remain timeless.

Michelle Monkou


Michelle Monkou said...

[Posting on behalf of Patsy]

Great article Michelle. I remember reading harlequin romances when I was a teenager and wondered, as a young black female why there were no romance novels with people of color. I still read harlequin romances but I love reading about people who look like me. I like the strong heroines whether they are black or white.

Patsy Nelson
"I am only as strong
as the coffee I drink,
the deodorant I use
and the friends I have."

Michelle Monkou said...

I believe that publishers are paying attention to what's happening with our readers. Regardless of whether it's historical or contemporary, our readers are sophisticated and can articulate what they want from the stories.

My intent isn't to criticize our past in romances, but celebrate the fact that it's a journey that we all recognize and appreciate.


Maureen said...

I still enjoy a traditional romance too where the emphasis is on the hero and heroine.

Nathalie said...

I also like trad. romances :) and when the heroine is a bot old-fashionned.