A few years ago, my author friend Toni McGee Causey presented a workshop at the Romance Writers of America’s national convention called, “Smart Women, Short Skirts,” with a nod to the musical fun known as Jimmy Buffet. We focused on writing smart female characters – not only the kick-ass heroine, but intellectually smart. Few “too-stupid-to-live” moments, one of my greatest pet peeves in romantic suspense today. I’m not big into damsels in distress—which is probably why I never identified with most Disney Princesses. I like my heroines to be strong, independent, and smart—and in the process of pursuing their goals or feeding their obsession, learn to love and be loved by men who appreciate them.
Now that I’m caught up on Bones, I have a new obsession: NCIS. I’m in the middle of season seven and plan to be caught up long before season ten starts.
NCIS isn’t a romance, and doesn’t have much romantic subplot, though there definitely elements of the romantic thriller in some storylines and back story. For example, Agent Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and his past relationship with Jenny Sheperd (his boss for three seasons.) Their past relationship complicated their present and provided sexual tension and conflict even if they didn’t rekindle the flame.
Gibbs is attracted to women who want home and hearth—he’s a traditional hero, a man who fought for his country and was willing to die for his country; a man who is willing to break the law for the right reason, such as his avenging the murder of his family. He seeks justice, bleeds honor, and stalwart in his pursuit of what is right over what is expedient. He’s loyal, almost to a fault, and his team is his team. He’s a man of few words but deep emotion.
Tim McGee is the modern day geek—smart, nice-looking, courteous. He’s chivalrous and would give you the coat off his back. Like many geeks, he seeks courtship through the computer and role-playing games, attracted to women of a like-interest. To him, physical attraction is secondary—he’s definitely attracted to talent and intelligence, and it helps if you’re a level five sorceress!
But the hero of the team I have always liked best is Tony DiNozzo. Sure, he’s arrogant and a womanizer and can be lazy and pass the grunt work off to his colleagues when he can get away with it, but he’s a cop with cop instincts. He jokes around, but he’s all-business when it matters. He sees things as they are, even when he makes light of a situation. He’s the guy I’d want in a gunfight or to protect me or the people I love. His arrogance is a mask to protect his vulnerable center, he’s really a marshmallow just looking for someone who loves him, warts and all. But what really sold me on him is when he became a bit obsessed with a reporter. He admitted that she was perfect on all levels—she had an impressive history. When Ziva asked him who he thought the perfect woman would be, he said, “Aside from the obvious physical attributes, she’d be intelligent, successful, professional.” And Ziva responded with the one line that cut him down because it hit his greatest fear, “And what would this woman see in you?”
Ziva David, the former Mossad agent who is part of the team, is the perfect woman for all three men on different levels. I could easily write an entire blog about her!
What all three men have in common is their respect for women—Gibbs is more traditional and matter-of-fact, and treats women who have earned it through their actions as equals; McGee cares most about intelligence and women as intellectual equals; and Tony wants both—a woman who is independent and smart, who can fight side-by-side with him, and isn’t afraid to ask for help when she needs it. I’ve written all three types of heroes, but my women are consistent: they can take care of themselves, but they’re open to help, and love, when they need it.
Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of eighteen novels and many short stories. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, she lives in Northern California with her husband Dan and their five children.