by Dee Tenorio
A long time ago, I was working with some newbie writers and we were putting together a group story, with each writer putting a chapter together. It was a lot of fun, but one thing that stuck in my mind was when one writer started a scene with the hero getting punched, dropped to the ground and nearly knocked unconscious and I had an immediate “No” flash in my mind. And I told her, rather foolishly in my own opinion now, that it would have to be reworked because, “It’s not heroic to see the hero get knocked down.” It was a completely reflexive response. Just how I felt any hero had to be presented, particularly in a romantic suspense.
Romance has come a long way since then and I’d like to think I’ve moved along with it. I mean, there’s still some things I won’t have a hero do. He’ll never hit a woman—who isn’t tactically trained and trying to kill him. He’ll never beg a villain—but he will show his vulnerabilities to his heroine. He’ll never take a life without knowing the weight of what he’s done…and feel it, no matter how necessary it was. My heroes still have to be heroic to me but I learned a while back, for me it’s not if they fall down. What makes them a hero is that they get back up.
But what about a heroines?
In the last ten years, the advent of the Kick Ass Heroine has changed the face of Romance—and hopefully a few other genres. Of course, not everyone is going to love this particular heroine type—I have a personal aversion to Mary Sues, myself, so I understand the disconnect. If she’s not your cuppa, she’s just not your cuppa and nothing is going to change that. And that’s totally okay. But for me, I love a heroine who can not only save herself, she’ll take some names while she’s doing it.
So here I am, with a new book out, Convicted, that has actually managed to contain both a faltering hero and a kick ass heroine. I also believe in the Character Arc, where characters start in one place (often a bad place) and grow to be in a better one. But something became clear to me as feedback rolled in. For some folks, having a heroine be the stronger lead at the start of the book is…out of sync.
Or, more to the point, not what they’re looking for in their romances.
And again, that’s okay. You won’t last in this—or any—business if you don’t accept not everyone will fall madly in love with everything you do. It just makes me wander down a mental road I hadn’t considered.
As a character, Trina is strong, nurturing, teasing, aggressive, sensual, proud, protective and yes, even afraid. She’s a dangerous woman in a dangerous place and she’s not blind to it. Occasionally reckless, but never blind. No one minded any of that, they specifically didn’t like that she was “more alpha” than the hero for the first part of the book. They were more comfortable when the hero took the hard lead.
Which leads me to wonder, is there an unwritten law out there that heroes—even wounded heroes—are required to never be “knocked down”? Is that something that should change? Is the Kick Ass Heroine only acceptable if she stays one step behind the hero? Can she lead a story outside of a first-person narrative? Or are characters like Aliens Ripley, Haven’s Audrey Parker and Cat Crawfield from Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series simply those rare exceptions?
Share your thoughts!
The only thing more dangerous than passion is the truth.
Former Marine and new Sheriff’s Deputy Cade Evigan is hanging onto his damaged soul—and his personal code—by a thread. His current mission? Weed out a violent motorcycle crew from a small mountain town. The problem? Katrina Killian, a woman standing firmly on the other side of the law, smack in the middle of the gang he’s there to destroy. She may get under his skin, but the sultry biker has criminal written all over her. So why can’t he see her like any other convict?
For two years, Katrina has been a DEA agent hiding in plain sight amidst a pack of killers, working to put an end to the gang that has terrorized her hometown. The last thing she needs is to fall in love with a man who could blow her cover—and her heart—to pieces, but Cade’s become an addiction she can’t break. Unable to risk either of their lives with the truth, she plays both ends against the middle to keep him safe. But lies can only last so long, and Katrina’s time has just run out…