Jun 14 2011 3:00pm

Most Hardcore Geek Heroines in Romance Novels

Glasses by mostaque via FlickrThere’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!

Just One Taste by Louisa EdwardsDr. 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.

One Con Glory by Sarah KuhnJulie, 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.

Hard Day’s Knight by Katie MacAlisterPepper 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.

Acheron by Sherrilyn KenyonTory 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.

Dark Desires After Dusk by Kresley ColeHolly 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).

Glasses image by mostaque via Flickr


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

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Linda Banche
1. lindabanche
I'm a geek girl. I like geek girls. I think there should be more of them
in romances. Women are more than just man-hunting machines, which is what a lot of romances make us out to be. I want to read books about
intelligent women who do something else besides husband-hunt, preferably something out of the ordinary that requires intelligence, dedication and training. And I want a hero who likes her precisely because she's the way she is.
Carrie Strickler
2. DyslexicSquirrel
@lindabanche: Couldn't have said it better. I like to think that I'm not a complete idiot (to quote Easy A, "I'm not as smart as I think I am."), so why would I want to read about one? It makes my brain hurt.

@Kelly: I loved Spell of the Highlander and Jessi was awesome. Very smart and kind of socially awkward in a very charming way. I loved the fact taht all of the KMM heroines have a good head on their shoulders (otherwise they would have been bowled right over by all that Highland testosterone).
Donna Cummings
3. Donna Cummings
What a fun post! I'm glad to see this list of geektastic heroines, and you managed to list the ONE Kresley Cole book I haven't read yet. :) I will get to that one very soon now. :)
Olivia Waite
4. O.Waite
This list doubles as an excellent recommendation list for someone of geeky persuasions (i.e., me) who's just getting more into paranormals and contemporaries. I was a classics major and I've liked Sherrilyn Kenyon's books in the past, so sign me right up for Acheron!
Rachel Hyland
5. RachelHyland
What with me running a little publication called Geek Speak Magazine, obviously I am... er... a little bit geeky. Y'know. A tad. So I'm always pleased when smart, savvy and -- especially, given my own proclivities -- sci-fi literate women make their way into novels of any kind, but romance novels in particular.

I especially love to see it happening more and more in YA romance, paranormal and otherwise: from so-called genius Claire in Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampires series to one of my more recent faves, The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading, there's a healthy trend towards putting more cerebral heroines in pride of place. For example, Bella Swan has a passion for Wuthering Heights -- and hey, even Gabriella from High School Musical was a Mathlete!

I also wholeheartedly agree with the definition of a geek as someone who is "very, very passionate about one area of knowledge." I have friends who are sports geeks, rock music geeks and even fashion geeks. They don't always appreciate the appellation, but it is nevertheless true. Dude, if you can name the entire Yankees roster from 1983, tell me who produced The Wall or identify on sight a pair of Marc Jacobs
slingbacks from three seasons ago, you're a geek. Deal with it.

Nice mention of Sarah Kuhn's One Con Glory, which I absolutely love. Kuhn is still beloved of hardcore Buffy fans, due to her hilarious episode recaps over at IGN.com way back when, where she also used to post kickass comic book reviews. No one has more geek chick cred; if you haven't seen it yet, check out the mini-sequel to OCG, My Epic Win.) Awesome.
Carmen Pinzon
6. bungluna
I have some favorite unconventional heroines whom I think qualify as geeks: Miki from Shelly Laurenston's "Go Fetch!" and Irene from "When He Was Bad" are both geeks. I'll also postulate Aeliana Caylon form "Scout's Progress" by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.
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