Even as a little girl, I was pretty sure the world was comprised of basically four kinds of women, or heroines. There was the strong-willed tomboy, the spoiled beauty, the soft-spoken matron, and the ephemeral martyr/saint.
And then, I read Little Women.
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.
“We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.
Now maybe it wasn’t crystal clear in that first moment, but as the pages to come quickly revealed the rug-sprawled Jo to be a lover of books and words, a girl possessed with a can-do attitude, an inquisitive mind, and a quick and witty tongue I knew what kind of heroine would always speak to me.
As the years passed and more novels read, I came to love Pollyanna and Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennet and even eventually the latter’s modern-day reincarnation known as Bridget Jones. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that all my favorite fictional heroines share a propensity for speaking their minds and the ability to surprise the men in their lives and make them laugh. These women rarely possess more than a comely feature or two—their beauty resides in their beautiful minds.
Yet men are drawn to that, and to their confidence … to their sense of self … to their integrity.
Thanks to authors like Louisa May Alcott and Jane Austen, I spent my life looking not for the most handsome boy on the block but the one with the most fascinating mind—never doubting that he would favor me over others, because my favorite authors had assured me that there is someone out there for each of us, someone who will have eyes only for us.
Such fellows have their own definitions of what makes a woman comely. Maybe, it is eyes that flash with passion. Maybe, dimples that only his wit can evoke. Maybe, a mind the equal of his.
I like to think the best romance authors are wise enough to write stories with heroines and heroes such as this. Stories that entertain, yes, but stories that also quietly remind us to stay true to the best in ourselves . . . Stories that—in an age of narcissism gone wild—dare to suggest that working on one’s character is more likely to bring love than chasing the perfect nail color or hair extension.
How about you . . . what heroine speaks to you?
— Jeanne Devlin