Jul 7 2011 3:00pm

Girl Power: Kick-Ass Heroines Coming into Their Own in Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance

Alpha and Omega by Patricia BriggsImagine being forcibly turned into a werewolf. Worse, imagine being treated by your pack as the lowest of the low.

Then, in a sorta-kinda Cinderella twist, you meet your mate—a sophisticated, powerful Alpha werewolf whose father leads all the North American  packs—and learn from him that you are a rare Omega werewolf, revered by other werewolves for your innate ability to keep other werewolves in control of their beasts when necessary.

That’s what happens in the short story that kicks off Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega series, an off-shoot of her lengthier Mercy Thompson series. It was originally published in the anthology On the Prowl, and it’s worth the price of the book simply to learn how Anna and Charles came together. Oddly enough, Anna’s initial mistreatment by her dysfunctional pack more or less matches the actual experience of Omega wolves in the wild. Briggs turned pack behavior on its ear for Anna and Charles, and I’m glad she did, for what I love best about their story is the Cinderella twist. Fitting your dainty foot into a glass slipper held by a prince has nothing on learning you have special powers that can stop a werewolf in high dudgeon in his tracks.

Anna isn’t the only heroine in an urban fantasy/urban fantasy romance to discover her girl power, although in many series it’s more about an expansion of power than the initial Wham! Bam! Pow! of it. Occasionally, though, as with Anna, something extraordinary and unexpected happens.

Night Magic by Jennifer LyonIn Night Magic, the third in Jennifer Lyon’s Wing Slayer Hunter series, Ailish first begins to come into her girl power at age sixteen after her bitch of a witch mother—who’d kept her in the dark about being a witch herself—tried to handfast her to a demon. Ailish escaped before the dastardly deed could be complete, but now, eight years later, she must break the bond, or die.

Though she was blinded in a bit of “witch karma,” she spent those eight years honing her body into a lithe fighting machine, becoming a professional kick boxer who relies on her other senses in the ring. She also possesses a voice that calls Wing Slayer Hunter Phoenix Torq...and heightens the magic of others. Once they come together, it turns out that they are inextricably tied together in an ancient cycle. He has long suffered through vague memories of dying in past lives and being reborn again and again, but with Ailish as his mate he will no longer need to rise from the ashes. Not only that, the tattoo of his phoenix actually allows her to see, and in turn, it reacts to her—how friggin’ cool is that? Their power when they work in synchronicity is immense.

Other heroines who come into their girl power include two from Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Universe series. First up: Ashlyn Darrow, heroine from The Darkest Night. Because she hears voices in her head, she’s been treated like a freak throughout her life. It is only with Maddox that what she sees as an albatross around her neck becomes something positive instead. Then there’s The Darkest Pleasure’s Danika Ford, who turns her dreams into paintings, which she eventually learns are actually visions of the future.

For those wanting an example of coming into your girl power in an erotic romance, there’s Charlene Teglia’s Animal Attraction. It’s definitely erotic, and it has a happily ever after, but not in a traditional sense, so for many of you, it won’t qualify as romance.

Animal Attraction by Charlene TegliaLet me explain: Chandra Walker is about to turn 21. Her birth parents died, so she hasn’t a clue she’s about to go into estreus and turn into a werewolf. She might have if she’d opened her mail and found the invitation from her ancestral pack, but lately her senses have been so skewed that she’s not stayed on top of things. After a near-attack by werepanthers and her disregard for her changing body’s needs, she agrees to join Zach, her alpha, and David, his second in command, at the pack’s estate, which houses in total eleven male werewolves. Female werewolves are extremely rare, so she’s actually their Queen, and the mate she chooses after, ahem, “sampling” on her Big Day, will be King.

Not only is Chandra a Queen in the making, her red hair means that, like the pack’s sole ginger werewolf, who can heal with a touch, she probably possesses special abilities as well. Her unique powers immediately begin to manifest themselves. Turns out she can she see the Lord of the Forest, whom no one has seen for years and who can be relied on for help against enemies, and—helpful before attacks from renegade werewolves or werepanthers—she is also developing psychic powers that allow her to see into the future. And though most werewolves only have one mate, her inability to give up David means that her being a Red Queen comes with different needs and requirements.

Girl power is a marvelous thing, and I’ve only touched the surface. Who are your favorite heroines who discover their kick-ass powers along the way?


Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Be one of the few who visits her at Toe in the Water or follow her may-be-too-political-for-you tweets at @laurie_gold.

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Great post, Laurie! You've piqued my interest in all these books--I do so love strong heroines, and special powers don't hurt either.
Grace S
2. Grace S
They don't "discover" powers but 2 of my fave kick ass heroines are Elena, the Guild Hunter turned Made Angel from Nalini Singh's Angel series and Lt. Eve Dallas from JD Robb's In Death series of books.
Laurie Gold
3. LaurieGold
I think Lt. Eve Dallas is the gold standard for kick ass heroines.
Marisa O'Neill
4. MarisaONeill
Great post Laurie. You've introduced me to some books and heroines I've yet to read; so thanks for that.

Off the top of my head I can't think of a heroine who 'comes into her girl power' - but I'm a devote of heroines who have strength, wisdom and courage – they are an automatic read for me. I’m particularly fond of Xhex in Lover Mine; one powerful heroine. Of course, as mentioned, Eve Dallas is also a heroine who is 'all that and more'. I think with these two heroines, it’s not so much that they come into their power – it’s that they are powerful women who finally allow other emotions/traits to become part of their power.
Grace S
5. Grace S
Ooooh, Xhex is a good one! I love her.

I guess I'd add Renata from Lara Adrian's Midnight Breed series. The only female badass enough to go out om missions with The Order is pretty impressive.
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