In the past, the archetype of a female, romantic heroine has been an ingénue- an innocent, virtuous female who lacks sophistication and cunning. Typically, an ingénue is beautiful, gentle, sweet, virginal, naïve, and, at times, in danger. These ideal leading ladies are beloved because they represent the typical ‘Girl Next Door’.
Please excuse me for a minute while I spit out my coffee…
Okay. Back now.
Fast forward to my reality. The gal who lives next door to me has been married twice, has a blended household of eight children, three dogs, four cats, two guinea pigs, and a lizard, is the clinical director of our hospital’s cardiac unit, runs our neighborhood improvement committee, and pitches in a women’s softball league. Her Christmas cookies are also the most coveted treats at our annual cookie exchange. How does she do it all? Like most modern women, she makes it work and I completely relate to her… especially when she knocks on my door at seven a.m. to borrow milk wearing a hastily tied robe, her hair swirled in a towel, one slipper missing. Of course she forgot to pick up groceries after a long board meeting last night. With her schedule, I’d forget my own address. But despite her hectic life, she’s funny, helpful, strong, smart, caring, and -yes- not perfect. I couldn’t admire her more as an ideal leading lady- if she wasn’t already happily married to a very hunky captain in our local National Guard unit. SHE is today’s girl next door. And those are the women I want to feature in my romances.
My heroine preference became clear while watching Les Miserables. I kept comparing Eponine, the daughter of villains, to darling Cosette, the story’s romantic lead. Cosette is a loving and obedient daughter mistreated in her younger years by Eponine’s parents. I should, and did, admire and pity her for her misfortunes and her gentle, caring personality. Nevertheless, I could not relate to her. Cosette is the archetype ingénue. She is literally locked away in a nunnery for most of her life. She is beautiful, young, idealistic, and pure… Yet my heart went out to Eponine, the gritty young woman who joined the resistance rather than staying safely behind the iron gates of her father’s home. While Cosette flounced around in virginal white dresses and passed notes to her love, Eponine wielded a gun for the rebel cause, even after learning that Marius, her unrequited love, now loved Cosette. I couldn’t help but wish that Marius would fall for this strong, determined young woman. She wasn’t the fragile, female romantic ‘ideal’. Yet, she was more real and lovable for her imperfections and grit. Eponine is a leading lady for today’s modern woman.
No debate about classic versus modern female heroines would be complete if I didn’t compare Bella Swan of Twilight to Buffy Summers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Bella is an ingénue. She’s innocent, naïve, and in constant danger from her vampire boyfriend and his enemies. Her hero, Edward Cullen, rescues her several times and is the dominant alpha male in their relationship. Buffy, on the other hand, is a strong, equal partner to her vampire boyfriend, Angel. In fact, although he’s a powerful vampire (and may I say mega hot!), she can easily best him in a fight. Yet her strength, cunning, fierceness, and loyalty deeply attract this strong, confident man. He’s not put off by an independent woman. He loves her all the more for it. Buffy is the rescuer rather than the rescued. Minus her stake-wielding prowess, she is relatable to women today.
Modern women make their way in the world without a man to rescue them, and they demand a lover who respects and admires them for it. (Hugs and kisses to my strong, self-assured husband Greg for reading and giving this post two thumbs up!)
Vote for your preference in the Cosette vs. Eponine or Bella vs. Buffy Battle of the Romantic Leading Ladies. (Though I should warn you that Buffy will probably kick everyone’s butt if she doesn’t get your votes. lol :) Post a comment and enter to win today’s giveaway, a copy of Amy Knupp's amazing Heartwarming LONE OAK FEUD, friendship bracelets- one for you and one to share- and an autographed bookmark for my upcoming Young Adult romance CAMP BOYFRIEND, available for pre-order now on Amazon. A scan code on the back of the bookmark will direct you to a free download of the prequel novella to the series, CAMP KISS. The winner will be announced on this blog and on my author facebook page www.facebook.com/JKRockwriters tomorrow. Good luck and I can’t wait to see who gets your vote!!