One of the most common types in romances as of late is the extraordinary heroine. Heck, maybe it’s always been that way, but heroines are either exceptionally smart, incredibly rich, overwhelmingly beautiful or all of the above. In paranormal romance, the trend is usually that she is ten times more fabulous. And there’s really nothing wrong with that, except that it can give the reader the notion that being a woman, with our weight issues, job woes, relationship struggles and what-have-you isn’t quite good enough.
While there are women in the real world that are close to perfect, I think there is something to be said of the rest of us who make up the ninety-nine percent of normalcy. Ordinary women, the women that we meet, hang out with and that are fabulous in their own right, in all their real-world glory, deserve love and to be loved by someone.
And they’re loved in romance novels, too: For me, the most memorable heroines are women to whom I can most relate to. They are quite ordinary, sometimes remarkably so.
Consider Sookie Stackhouse. Not the flaxen, beautiful True Blood embodiment of her, but the small-town waitress from Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series who also happens to be part fairy. When the series starts, Sookie is earning a modest income, living with her grandmother and brother and finds herself isolated by her telepathic ability. Back in those days, Sookie seemed to be trapped in a town where everyone thought she was freakish. Most of us have felt some discomfort because of who we are, which made readers want to root for her in the hopes that one day she can truly find love and happiness. As the saga continues, we don’t really know where she will end up, but we are at least able to find some strand of identification with her.
A contemporary women’s fiction entitled A Year to Remember by Shelly Bell introduces Sara Friedman. Sara is incredibly average, but with a spunky personality. One of the qualities that define her character is the battle she fights within herself to improve her self-image. Sara is candid and straightforward about her personal issues and refusesto settle for something less than her ideal life. That is what makes her the most relatable and allows the reader to see that ‘hey, I can screw up and still manage to find love…’.
And then there’s MacKayla Lane of the Karen Marie Moning Fever series. She is a really pretty girl, but at the same time when we first meet her, she is just very much a believable small town maven, working in a bar and wiling away her time poolside in her family’s home. She does have a unique family trait that makes her special, but at the same time her inexperience (again, at her age she really should be) helps the reader to be concerned when she is confronted with something that is otherworldly and very freakin’ scary. She is often injured during her entanglements and has a difficult relationship with a man who can be both megalomaniacal and adorable.
Sure, there are really exceptional women in the world and their presence should not make us feel one way or another about ourselves, but isn’t it nice to sit down with a book and find someone to whom you can actually relate? At the end of a book, whether it’s HEA or HFN, we should romanticize the characters, feel good about their circumstances, and know that happiness is possible for everyone—even for us normal folk.