There’s a lot of ways to be a geek. In fiction, it’s easy to pick the one way that doesn’t work: Slap a pair of dorky glasses on a girl and call it a day. It takes more than a pair of Roy Orbison specs, but let’s use this simplified definition:
Very, very passionate about one particular area of knowledge.
With that definition in mind, here are some of the most geektastic heroines in Romancelandia.
Note: I could have included many of the ladies on a post I wrote earlier—The Better To See You With, My Dear: Glasses-Wearing Romance Heroines of spectacled heroines, including Dr. Jane Darlington and Imogen Wilson. For the sake of making everyone’s TBR pile as uncontrolled as mine, I’ve left them off this list — but consider them cross-referenced!
Dr. Rosemary Wilkins, Just One Taste by Louisa Edwards
She blinded him with food science! Wes sees cooking as something alchemical and spontaneous and lively. He’s at the top of class at the Culinary Institute, but he just can’t seem to wrap his brain around Food Chemistry 101. Then Dr. Rosemary Wilkins strolls into the classroom, wearing baggy khakis and Converses and a shirt with a Wookie on it. She has two PhDs, she’s the first to admit she’d rather be researching than teaching, and she dearly loves her chemistry.
Abby Stepp, Getting What You Want by Kathy Love
Abby loves genetics. At one point, she compares a great night out to the feeling of acing a final in Biophysics of Macromolecular Assemblies. She loves her chosen field so much that it’s enough to entice her back to her hometown for a prolonged period of time. She’s offered a six-month fellowship in Millbrook, Maine, and she takes it, despite her distaste for the idea of facing the high-school classmates who once taunted her for being both poor and an egghead. Reformed bad boy Chase Jordan is very intrigued when he discovers just how much Abby has changed in the 15 years she’s been gone—but also entranced by her passion for her profession.
Julie, One Con Glory by Sarah Kuhn
Julie is probably the most hardcore, traditional geek on this list, as she is well and truly devoted to her love of genre. She’s a reporter for Mammoth Media, assigned to cover GinormoCon. But her agenda goes beyond getting good copy. Somewhere in the convention center is a Glory Gilmore action figure, and she’s going to acquire it. This character’s genre references are constant and her credentials bona fide.
Jessi St. James, Spell of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning
Karen Marie Moning has contributed a number of intensely focused brainacs to the romance canon. There’s physicist Gwen Cassidy, and Chloe Zanders, antiquities nerd extraordinaire. But the one that stands out is Jessi St. James, a woman wholly, completely devoted to her PhD. She spends her time studying, researching, and trying to make ends meet, which leaves little time to date. That kind of dedication requires true, passionate, geeky love of subject.
Pepper Marsh, A Hard Day’s Knight Katie MacAlister
Pepper is in serious denial about her own geekiness. The frustrated, job-hunting programmer is out of patience with the Seattle dating pool, which is heavy on unemployed software engineers. She reads a lot of historicals and wants to bag herself an Alpha male. But where does she go to find the big, strong, good-looking man of her dreams? A two-week-long Renaissance Faire. That’s geek-girl strategy, right there.
Libby Drake, Dangerous Tides by Christine Feehan
Libby and her hero, Tyson, are a match made in geek heaven. They spend much of this book together in the laboratory. He’s a scientific genius awarded a Nobel at an unrealistically young age. And while Libby’s life is devoted to her magical talent for healing, she’s more than able to keep pace with him intellectually. Their idea of flirting is to trade details about ancient paint technologies. The relationship works because they’re well-suited, both in brainpower and obsession with medical science.
Tory Kafieri, Dream-Hunter and Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon
When we first meet the woman who will eventually win Acheron’s heart, she’s something of an awkward duckling. Long, dull hair; big thick glasses; gawkiness hampering her every move. She’s also obsessed with assisting in the family quest to find the lost city of Atlantis. That means that, even as a teenager, she already knows way more about the ancient world than your average intellectual. She’s a Plato-reading bookworm and she chats with her cousin Geary in their own mishmash of ancient Greek and Latin.
Avery Nesbitt, You’ve Got Male by Elizabeth Bevarly
When it comes to computer wizardry, Avery is the real deal. As the story opens, she’s already done two years of hard time for (accidentally!) wreaking international havoc with a devastating computer virus. That kind of damage requires both talent and a sincere love of craft. Unfortunately, she’s also severely agoraphobic and therefore lives alone in her Manhattan apartment, only emerging to take her cat to the vet. Then Agent Dixon of the Office for Political Unity and Security shows up and enlists her in an effort to take down a criminal plaguing the Internet.
Holly Ashwin, Dark Desires After Dusk by Kresley Cole
Holly is so devoted to numbers that she actually has a positive outlook on teaching remedial courses—or as her colleagues refer to it, “Digits for Idjits.” She’s wedded to her computer and devoted to her math. And thanks to a case of OCD, she’s got some serious eccentricities, as well. What she doesn’t know is she’s also only half-human. Her other half is Valkyrie, which she discovers in the most violent, scarring fashion possible. Luckily demon Cadeon Woede is there to watch her back during her bumpy intro to the Lore.
Jessica Howell, Arm Candy by Jo Leigh
Some of us would gnaw off our own arms to escape an Excel spreadsheet. Not marketing whiz Jessica Howell. She’s up at 5:30 every morning to tackle the latest ad campaign, and not even the appalling sexual harassment from her boss will stifle her determination to advance in her career. What makes her an intriguing variation on the career woman motif is her statistically-minded approach to advertising cosmetics, and it’s that passion for data that puts her squarely in the realm of the geek.
Are you a geek? Do you like reading about geeky heroines? (And if you like geeky heroes, check out the From Zero to Hero: Geek Love Turns Up The Heat post).
By day, Kelly Faircloth covers innovation and technology. She spends the rest of her time reading and writing about books. Her work has appeared at io9, Inc and The Big Money, and she blogs intermittently atwww.NoKindaLady.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyFaircloth.