The Cultural Gutter

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"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

Heroine Addict

Chris Szego
Posted August 5, 2010

HAWEE.jpgApparently,
once I get started on archetypes, I can’t stop. So having touched
on the archtypes found in stories and in heroes, I’m going to have
to complete the trifecta.

Theories
about the nature of the modern Romance heroine are legion. She’s a
placeholder. She’s an expression of modern femininity. She’s an
aspect of human personality for the writer to explore. Okay, sure.
Those sound good. But the basic truth about the heroine is simple:
she’s the point.

The heroine is what it’s all about. And she powers the whole
billion-plus-dollar Romance industry. So it’s time to become
acquainted with some of her most common disguises. A few caveats:

-These categories are wide ranges, not tickbox lists of personality
quirks.

-The sliding Golden/Dark scale, which you’ll remember has nothing to do
with ‘good’ or bad’, applies to heroines as well. Though her
spot on the scale sometimes has as much to do with the events that unfold around her as with her own inner drives.

-No matter what category a heroine falls into, or what point on the
scale she touches, Nora Roberts has written her. Seriously.

The Innocent

Believe it or not, this has little to do with sexual status – rather, it’s about how the heroines regard the world. Which is with wonder, delight, and a belief in the power of good. They’re aware of the dangers and drudgeries of daily life, but Innocents are never made cynical by them. They look for the best in themselves and others, and often find it. At her best, the Innocent relieves pain and spreads joy; badly written, she’s a clueless naif, the kind readers call, Too Stupid To Live.

Golden Innocents: Merry Wilding from The Windflower by Laura London; Emily Faringdon from Scandal by Amanda Quick.

Dark Innocents: Annique Villiers from The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne; Angeline Fortin from Royal Seduction by Jennifer Blake.

Nora Roberts Golden Innocent: Adelia Cunnane from Irish
Thoroughbred

Nora Roberts Dark Innocent: Darcy Wallace fromThe Winning Hand.

The
Caretaker

(Because
Earth Mother is just too last century). She’s everybody’s best
friend. She’s the good daughter, the model employee, the giver who
dispenses ease and wisdom to those around her. The Caretaker mends
fences and feelings, and makes a house a home. She makes sure
everyone else’s lives run smoothly – occasionally at the expense of
her own. At her best, she’s near magical in her ability to soothe
and comfort. Badly written, she’s a stubborn martyr.

Golden
Caretakers
:
Jessie Benedict from Sweet
Fortune

by Jayne Ann Krentz; Elena Baxter from Shadow
Touch

by Marjorie M. Liu.

Dark Caretakers:
Dawn Sheffield from The
Fire of Spring

by Elizabeth Lowell; Sophie Davis from Still
Lake

by Anne Stuart.

NR
Golden Caretaker
:
Laurel McBane from Savor
the Moment
.

NR Dark Caretaker:
Lily Mercy from Montana
Sky
.

The
Prisoner
Heroine Poster.jpg

These
heroines are trapped. They could be tied down by fiscal or family
responsibilities; by their own self perceptions; by past emotional
defeats. Sometimes they’re afraid to step out of their particular
comfort zones; sometimes they may not even know they’re Prisoners.
They endure rather than enjoy their lives. Included in this category
is the buttoned-up business woman who needs to let it all hang out,
and the abuse survivor who is slowly putting herself back together.
At her best, she’s a source of strength and inspiration; badly
written, she’s joyless and self-pitying.

Golden
Prisoners
:
Sarah Patterson from Golden
Girl

by Joan Wolf; Minerva Dobbs from Bet
Me
by Jennifer Crusie.

Dark
Prisoners
:
Jane Sherwood, from Mistress
of the Groom

by Susan Napier; Anne Wilder from All
Through the Night

by Connie Brockway.

NR
Golden Prisoner
:
Nell Channing from Dance
Upon the Air
.

NR Dark Prisoner:
Princess Adrianne of Jaquir from Sweet
Revenge
.

The
Empress

The Empress is in charge, and she knows it. She makes the rules, for
others and for herself. She doesn’t just carry a lot of
responsibilities, she thrives on them. The Empress fully exercises
all aspects of her personality: her intellect, her emotions, her
sexuality. She likes admiration just fine, but she requires respect
as her due, which she earns with dedication and hard work. At her
best she is immensely responsible and dazzling; badly written she’s
vain, selfish and demanding.

Golden
Empresses
:
Jessica Trent from Lord
of Scoundrels

by Loretta Chase; Sophy Stanton-Lacy from The
Grand Sophy

by Georgette Heyer.

Dark
Empresses
:
Kirra Danalustrous from Thirteenth
House

by Sharon Shinn; Princess Melanthe from For
My Lady’s Heart

by Laura Kinsale.

NR Golden Empress: Mia Devlin from Face the Fire.

NR Dark Empress: Margo Sullivan from Daring
to Dream
.

The Warrior

This is a fighter, pure and simple. Not necessarily physically, though
nowadays she often does that too. But the Warrior is one who stands
up for those who can’t. She might be a doctor fighting disease; a
lawyer trying to free the innocent; a social worker trying to help a
child. Or firefighter, cop, or even a soldier. At her best she is
passionate, dedicated, and highly effective. Badly written, she’s
blindly aggressive and does as much damage to her allies as to her
enemies.

Golden Warriors: Maggie Ferringer from
by Alicia Scott; Sara Fielding from Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas.

Dark Warriors: Lily Yu from Tempting Danger by Eileen Wilkes; Jane Whitcomb from Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward.

NR Warrior: Although Nora has written several Warrior heroines, one stands above them all: Eve Dallas, from the ‘In Death’ series. The horrifying
trauma of her past makes Eve a Dark Warrior; her unflinching determination to obtain justice for the dead makes her Golden. She is the epitome of the Warrior archetype, and a fitting place to stop.

~~~

Chris Szego would like to go swimming now, please.

Comments

6 Responses to “Heroine Addict”

  1. Lini
    August 17th, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

    Hello,
    I am basically a lurker – but i enjoy the space so much – thought I should drop a line – it is fun, witty, and is honest. As an intelligent and smart woman who loves both books and especially those romance novels, I find this a lovely place to spend whatever leisure minutes that I get!

  2. Chris Szego
    August 17th, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

    I’m so glad you enjoy it. Welcome aboard.

  3. Anonymous
    September 5th, 2010 @ 10:36 am

    I don’t understand what the terms “golden” and “dark” refer to, but I agree that Jessica Trent acts imperiously. But to my mind that imperiousness is manipulative and condescending. Like a mother who “knows” best, she manuevers arrogantly to make certain that “best” occurs.

  4. Chris Szego
    September 5th, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

    There’s a little more detail about the golden/dark scale on the matching column about heroes (click the link to ‘heroes’ at the top of the page). Basically it’s just a way to add another descriptor.
    But I’m going to have to disagree with you about Jessica Trent. Imperious, yes. Manipulative, no. She comes right out with what she wants, and what she expects. That the opposite of manipulative.

  5. dick
    September 13th, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

    @Chris Szego:
    Well, what is manipulation is, I suppose, determined by the point of view. While I was reading LOS, Wylies’ “Generation of Vipers” kept popping into my head. To me, Jessica treated the hero as if she were a mother knowing what was best for a troublesome child, often setting things up so that he had little true choice.

  6. Chris Szego
    September 16th, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

    @Dick
    I still totally disagree with you about Jessica Trent, but you’ve made me spend some time considering manipulation and the nature of interaction, and that’s good.
    There’s a bit at the end of Jennifer Crusie’s MANHUNTING, in which the heroine and hero have a frank discussion about how to communicate, and the choices all boil down to manipulation or confrontation. Neither choice is good or bad on its own, only in how it is used. Hmm. More thinking needed.

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