Romance novels don't feature enough neurotic heroines. Actually, they don't feature enough flawed heroines in general. The same can't be said for heroes' there are plenty of stories featuring mentally and physically damaged heroes and the women who love them. But finding quirky heroines isn't so easy.
Why are quirky heroines a tough sell? Maybe writers are afraid a heroine's emotional struggles will endanger her happily ever after. Maybe they're afraid the readers—or the hero—won't find her lovable. But some of literature's most damaged heroines are also the most sympathetic and endearing. For fellow readers who share my predilections, I've compiled a brief sampling of romance novels featuring quirky, emotionally imbalanced heroines.
Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly is the third book in the Austen Addicts trilogy. Sisters Sarah and Mia Castle, both fans of Austen’s work, used to be close until they fell for the same Willoughby-like heartbreaker during a summer holiday. Three years later, both sisters attend the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. Older sister Sarah, a divorcee struggling with O.C.D., meets Lloyd, a photographer and fellow germaphobe who doesn’t find her quirks strange at all. Meanwhile, younger sister Mia meets an older architect named Gabe whose kindness and friendliness make her re-evaluate her usual romantic type. Drawn together by the new men in their lives, both sisters are forced to confront each other and their past hurts. There’s hope for reconciliation until the old flame who tore them apart makes a reappearance.
The heroine of Oxford Messed Up by Andrea Kayne Kaufman also struggles with obsessions and compulsions. Rhodes Scholar Gloria Zimmerman has lived a life of diligence and perfectionism in her academic pursuits, but it’s taken a toll on her mental health. She’s deathly afraid of germs and scrubs her hands until they're raw. She feels like an outcast until she meets Henry Young, another damaged soul. Henry, a former addict who’s still grieving the death of his mother, is a talented musician with self-esteem issues stemming from a lifetime of criticism by his father, an Oxford Don. Henry helps Gloria heal from her illness, while Gloria helps Henry write his thesis. They begin to fall in love, but Henry's keeping a secret that could destroy their happily ever after.
The Coveted series by Shawntelle Madison—which includes Coveted, Kept, and a prequel novella called Collected—features another heroine struggling with O.C.D., but she also happens to be a werewolf. Because of her illness, Natalya Stravinsky was rejected by her pack in South Toms River, New Jersey, and she spends her days on the outskirts of their territory, selling antiques and compulsively collecting Christmas ornaments. In Kept, the latest book in the series, Nat is learning how to manage her illness, but she has to gather all her newfound strength to save her father from nefarious Russian werewolves to whom he owes a debt. She’s also torn between her ex-boyfriend Thorn, the new alpha of her pack, and Nick, a wizard she met in her therapy group. Readers praised Madison’s realistic depiction of O.C.D. and the effect it has on a sufferer’s life.
Neurotic heroines are difficult to find in category romance, but the heroine of The Shy Bride by Lucy Monroe, which is a Harlequin Presents from 2010, suffers from agoraphobia. A former child piano prodigy whose life was micro-managed by her father and later her manager, Cassandra retreated from the limelight when her parents died. She guards her privacy zealously and has few friends, but she auctions off piano lessons for charity each year. Neo Stamos, a Greek billionaire workaholic badly in need of a hobby, receives lessons with Cassandra as a gift from his friend. Neo and Cassandra are two flawed individuals who become friends and then lovers as Cassandra struggles to overcome her anxiety and Neo learns to value love and relationships over work.
Another romance featuring a phobic heroine is Claustrophobic Christmas by Ellie Marvel. The heroine Darcy is a travel writer who, unfortunately, is afraid to travel. James, the hero, is the photographer she hired to illustrate her work. James, who doesn't know her secret and has only ever communicated with her over the internet, believes Darcy is a fellow free spirit and kindred soul and flies to her hometown to meet her and take their relationship to the next level. Afraid he'll discover her secret, Darcy rebuffs his advances, but they get caught in an ice storm together and their relationship starts to heat up. Darcy must overcome her fears in order to embrace the love that flew thousands of miles to be with her.
Described by readers as a darkly comedic tale, Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman by J.B. Lynn features a heroine with questionable mental health. As a result of a car accident that killed her sister and injured her niece, Maggie Lee acquired the Dr. Dolittle-like ability to hear and talk to animals. In desperate need of funds to pay for medical treatment for her niece, she agrees to kill a mobster’s evil son-in-law. Sexy Patrick Mulligan, a police detective by day and assassin by night, mentors Maggie, but even with his help, her plans go awry. Maggie’s adventures continue in Further Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman.
Who are your favorite lovable neurotic heroines?
Brittany is a freelance writer, aspiring novelist and small business owner who hopes that heaven will be like a bookstore with an endless supply of free books, free coffee and super comfy chairs.