Apr 25 2012 12:00pm

Author Elle Kennedy on Kick-Ass Heroines (’Cause Heroes Shouldn’t Get to Have All the Fun)

Midnight Rescue by Elle KennedyToday we’re thrilled to welcome author Elle Kennedy to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Next week, Elle will release Midnight Rescue, the first book in her new Killer Instincts series. With words like “desperate,” “sex,” “dangerous,” and “passion” in Midnight Rescue’s blurb, who better than Elle to offer her picks for the finest in kick-ass heroines? (See the end of the post to find out how to enter for a chance to win a copy of the book!)

Welcome, Elle!

I’m one of those readers who absolutely adores kick-ass heroines. To me, there’s nothing more satisfying than a woman who can hold her own against an alpha male, a woman who can save herself rather than rely on someone else to save her, a woman who instills honest-to-God fear in those she comes up against. 

I know that most readers enjoy strong heroines, but when it comes to kicking butt, I’ve spoken to many readers who’ve admitted they prefer the hero to be the one doing the butt kicking. Which I understand. Powerful alpha heroes are sexy. Who doesn’t want a tough, capable man coming to your rescue and sweeping you off your feet? 

In romance, particularly romantic suspense, you’re always going to have those strong alpha males, in the form of mercenaries, cops, government agents, assassins, military men, warriors. And sure, plenty of heroines have these jobs too, and can definitely kick some butt, but I’ve read far too many romances where the heroine, as strong-willed and witty and awesome as she may be, gets the man at the end of the book, but doesn’t get the I-saved-the-day glory.

This is why when I discover a book with a powerful heroine, a physical, mental and emotional warrior, I nearly pass out from happiness. So I thought I’d share a few of my all-time favorite badass heroines. Weirdly enough, they come from three different genres (though there is a suspense element in each book), which goes to show that no matter the sub-genre, romance heroines are absolutely capable of kicking some butt.

Ultimate Weapon by Shannon McKennaHeroine: Tamara Steele (Shannon McKenna’s Ultimate Weapon)
What Makes Her a Butt-kicker?

Um, what doesn’t? I don’t know if you’re familiar with McKenna’s series about the McCloud brothers—if not, go out and buy the books. You won’t be disappointed. The McClouds are super alpha and super hot, and I cannot get enough of them. Now, Tamara shows up in Behind Closed Doors, but you get to know her better in Standing in the Shadows. From the moment I met this character, I was hooked. 

Career criminal, sharp tongue, designer of deadly jewelry used to kill people, absolutely no modesty or tact. This woman, simply put, is a huge bi-otch, and yet I still love her. So much, in fact, that I shrieked in delight when I found out she was getting her own book, and pre-ordered Ultimate Weapon the second it was available. Tamara is a total badass. She can kill without batting an eye, uses her sexuality without hesitation, speaks her mind, and doesn’t let anyone bulldoze her—and that’s why I love her.

What Doesn’t Kill You by Iris JohansenHeroine: Catherine Ling (Iris Johansen’s What Doesn’t Kill You)
What Makes Her a Butt-kicker?

Um, everything. Grew up on the streets of Hong Kong, trained to survive at all costs, dealt in information, learned to kill in a hundred different ways under the guidance of an assassin and master poisoner. Now, Catherine works for the CIA and has a reputation for being a true warrior. She popped up in some earlier Eve Duncan novels, Johansen’s better known heroine, but now Catherine finally has her own book, and I am psyched for it. 

What I love about this heroine is how cool under pressure she is. Catherine can be ruthless and dangerous and manipulative, but above all else, she’s smart. She thinks before she acts, and she’s able to see ten moves ahead, the big picture rather than short-term gain. I cannot wait to learn more about her background and see her in action again.

Lover Mine by J.R. WardHeroine: Xhex (J.R. Ward’s Lover Mine)
What Makes Her a Butt-kicker?

Again, everything. A symphath assassin, Xhex is my vampire hero. Dresses in leathers, hair cut short, works as head of security at a club, and because she’s a vampire, she has extraordinary strength and lots of tricks up her sleeves. In all honesty, Xhex terrifies me. If I bumped into her on the street, I’d probably run—not walk, but run—in the other direction. Yet J.R. Ward does a fantastic job giving Xhex a softer side in Lover Mine

We meet Xhex in earlier Black Dagger Brotherhood books (usually through John Matthew’s POV, in which he’s lusting after this badass female) but it isn’t until Lover Mine that you get to experience a more feminine side to her. However, this is not to say that she still isn’t the deadliest, strongest, most stubbornly determined warrior I’ve ever read about. Like I said, she terrifies me. In a good way.

Those are just three of my favourite female butt-kickers. They are the number-one reasons I adored these books (well, that and the hot heroes, of course!) and whenever I discover heroines like this, it makes me want to high-five all of womankind and say, see, we CAN be the heroes of our own stories!

So…what about everyone else? Do you like warrior heroines or do you prefer the damsel in distress? Who are your favourites?


To enter for a chance to win one of two copies of Elle Kennedy’s Midnight Rescue, make sure you’re a registered member of the site, and then simply leave a comment about the post below.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 or older. To enter, fill out entry at beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) April 25, 2012. Sweepstakes ends at 11:59 a.m. ET on May 3, 2012 (the “Promotion Period”). Void outside of the 50 US and DC and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules at Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


Elle Kennedy currently publishes with Signet Eclipse, Harlequin Romantic Suspense, and Samhain Publishing. She loves strong heroines and sexy alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to keep things interesting!  Her latest release, Midnight Rescue, is the first book in a new romantic suspense series Killer Instincts, featuring a team of male mercenaries and female assassins—and yes, there is a kick-ass heroine. MIDNIGHT RESCUE releases on May 1 and is available for pre-order now! Check out Elle’s website, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Awesome post, Elle! Warrior heroines are my favorite for sure. Alyssa Locke from Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters series is another I really enjoy. And I love the trend in YA these days toward strong heroines, like Tris in Divergent, Deuce in Enclave, Katniss and Johanna in The Hunger Games series, etc.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
First off, Elle, your cover is awesome! I love it. I love kick-ass heroines, too--probably my favorite is Dante Valentine from Lilith Saintcrow's Valentine series. I like Xhex, too (even if I sometimes have issues with her being with John Matthew). Like redline_, I really like the kick-ass heroines in YA--not a surprise, since I get recs from her frequently.
Katy L
3. Katy L
In the right circumstances, a damsel in distress is ok, but she can't be a total shrinking violet - she has to be willing to at least assist in her own rescue. Generally, I prefer the feisty heroines who kick butt first and take names later. I like your examples, but another great example of female vampire bad ass-ness (is that a word?) is Mira from Jocelynn Drake's Dark Days series. She's so tough all the vampires and vampire hunters are scared of her. She can start fires with the power of her mind, and the fate of the world literally depends on her.
Katy L
4. ElleK
Redline, Alyssa Locke almost made it in my top 3, but I had just finished reading Lover Reborn, so Xhex was on my mind LOL And I agree, I am LOVING the new YA trend of strong heroines. Hope it's here to stay!

Katy, I've never read the Jocelynn Drake Dark Days but Mira sounds pretty darn awesome. Might have to pick that up, asap!

And I agree, the damsel in distress isn't the WORST thing ever, but I do want to see her doing something awesome. I'll always prefer the badass heroine though.
Molly Frenzel
5. dg_molly
Great post. I love snarky, sarcastic warrior heroines. Damsels in distress turn me off. Women should be strong and empowered!
6. ChelseaMueller
Great post, Elle! I'm with the others in loving the ass kickers in YA. My favorite on that front is Rose Hathaway from Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series. She trains hard to be lethal.
Kiersten Hallie Krum
7. Kiersten
Another high-five for Alyssa Locke from me. I too love the strong warrior woman, part of why I'm such a fangrrl for the Lost Girl TV series (I know, I'm so predictable) b/c that is one kick-ass heroine with a huge heart who stands side by side w/her alpha hero w/out being dimished by him. I also like when authors allow their warrior women to be bitchy and sexual and not apologize or judge them for it in any way. You don't see an alpha male apologizing for being who is he, why should an alpha female do any different?

Great post! Kick-ass cover!
Katy L
8. TrishJ
Love kick-ass heroines. In real life I tend to be the quiet one hiding in the back .. so I live vicariously thru my books. I like my heroines to take no .prisoners. Tamara was one of my favorite characters. Your book sounds like my kind of story.
9. sharisse
I love this post! I like Kate Daniels (Ilona Andrews) and Rhyannion (JA Saare)
Jessica O'Brien
10. JLOBrien

I am all about Tamara! I totally love her in the McCloud books. Being a fan of Shannon McKenna, I have to say that even though Tamara stands out as the most kick-ass, most of the females the McClouds hook up with are pretty strong in their own way. They end up proving themselves worthy partners of those macho McClouds.

I agree with TrishJ...your book sounds like my kind of read.
Katy L
11. ElleK
Kiersten, very well said! Yeah, why SHOULD our heroines apologize? The heroes never stop to apologize for being sexed up, alpha jerks LOL!

JLOBrien--you're right, the McClouds did end up with some worthy heroines. I loved Margo, and Liv was badass too. Tam could kick their asses, though!
Carmen Pinzon
12. bungluna
Anita Blake was the first kick-ass heroine I encountered, way back in the day - ducks and runs for cover!

I also like Ana from Patricia Briggs' Alpha and Omega series and Mercy from the Mercy Thompson series. Both heroines take turns saving the world with their mates.
Teri Crosby
13. TeriC
That was a greta post, I relaly think that strong fearless heroines are a plu in books today. They need no apology.
14. Squenn
My favorite kick ass heroine is Eve Dallas from the JD Robb In Death series. She is so awesome! Doesn't take crap from anyone.
Sheree Fournerst
15. smfsprout
I love strong heroines. I agree with Elle - why should men always be the hero? It doesn't happen that way in real life and it shouldn't always happen that way in books. Thanks for writing about kick-a$$ women.
Amanda Bonilla
16. Amanda Bonilla
Great post! Xhex is by far my favorite kick-ass alpha female. I also love Jill Kismet and Mercy Thompson. :)
Lege Artis
17. LegeArtis
I have two favorite kick-ass heroines. They are both #1 and I love them both the same.
First is Kate Daniels. One of the best female characters ever created in rich UF world.
Second is Smokey Barret from Cody McFadyen's series of the same name. Smokey is very unique woman. She is a FBI Special Agent; she graduated top of her class at Quantico, and she was assigned to a unit that deals with worst of criminals after only three years in FBI (normally it takes ten years of experience in Bureau ). Smokey's job cost her lives of her husband and daughter who were killed in front of her and she wears terrible scars across her face and body as a reminder of her tragedy. It's written in first person so her lost and pain is heartbreaking and chilling to read... Smokey and I have one thing in common also- markmenship. In book she ranks within 20% handgun shooters worldwide. I compete with my handgun since I was ten years old. When I read how she feel when she takes her gun, I could relate; I feel the same... So, maybe that's the reason I have soft spot for Smokey of all agents/forensics/psychiatrists in thriller fiction.
Great post, Elle, and I wish you all the best with new series!
Jessica Kayuha
18. jk2the4th
Love this post! My favorite books are always those written with a woman that can hold her own against the men, whether it be by her physical skills, or even just be witty enough to have the best of any conversation, since the Regency romances I still adore probably won't have too much ass-kicking happening.

My absolute favorite kick-ass heroine is from G.A. Aiken's (aka Shelly Laurentson) Dragonkin series. Annwyl the Bloody is just so amazing, and she continues to be amazing throughout the entire series. Of course all of the women Aiken/Laurentson writes are able to kick-ass, but Annwyl remains my favorite.

I am now excited to go and read some of the other books mentioned here that I haven't read, and will be looking forward to reading Midnight Rescue next week!!
Heather Massey
19. HeatherMassey
Great post! (And many happy sales for your new book!)

You had me at "I-saved-the-day glory" because I crave exactly these types of heroines. My go-to subgenre is sci-fi romance, which often delivers for me in that regard.

I compiled a list of kick-ass heroines from that neck of the universe for your reading pleasure:

Erotic sci-fi romance:

Katya Ortaega from Kim Knox’s LOST GODS

Mercury from Nathalie Gray’s AGENT PROVOCATEUR

Kirillian Harmony Knox from Lindsay Bayer & Michelle Marquis’ HUNTERS

Zeta Verity from Manda Benson’s MOONSTEED

Kat Darah from PJ Schnyder's HUNTING KAT

Non-erotic sci-fi romance:

Captain Ari Idylle from Marcella Burnard's ENEMY WITHIN

Delilah Oliver Clementyne from Pauline Baird Jones’ GIRL GONE NOVA

Alpha from Catherine Asaro’s ALPHA

Sola from Diane Dooley’s BLUE GALAXY

Val Blue from Susan Grant's SUREBLOOD

Tia Sen from Karin Shah's STARJACKED

Queenie from Heather Massey’s QUEENIE’S BRIGADE (in the interest of full disclosure, that's me!)
Katy L
20. ElleK
Oh, I can't believe I forgot about Eve Dallas. She'd definitely be #4 on my list.

Legeartis, I haven't read any of the Smokey Barrett books, but you've kind of won me over. Might have to check them out now.

And Heather, if I was a sci-fi romance fun, I'd be all over that list. I might have to pick one up just out of curiosity, because you know what, I don't think I've EVER read a sci-fi romance, and I'm all about trying everything at least once :)
Robbie Thornton
21. Button
I like "tough" heroines, but there are different kinds of tough. Rather than women that go totally masculine with the kick boxing and the throwing stars and the like, I prefer the heroines to come with a skill or set of skills that either aides the hero or even wins the day outright. But in the physical dynamic, I like for the hero to have the advantage.

My perfect "tough" heroine is Chess Putnam from Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts. Yep, a drug addled church witch from the wrong side of the tracks with serious emotional issues. There's something about the whole vulnerability to her addiction, and the fear that surrounds all addictions, that makes her so wonderful. She walks into dangerous situations, and she's realistically apprehensive, but she faces her fear, jacks up her pants and heads in to face whatever it is. She's vulnerable to DT's, she vomits when she's overwhelmed, and even in the gritty world of Downside, she still manages to be a girl. It's her primary relationship with Terrible that rocks my world. Chess is a powerful witch, Terrible is tremendous muscle, and together they fight back to back, each using their own skills, and with equal respect for the skill of the other. That's my definition of a true partnership. Not so much two people with equal skills, but two people with complimentary skills that work in sync with one another. When a writer gets that combination right for me, it's magic.
Melissa Craig
23. Sophia9
Xhex is definitely one of my all time favorite bad-ass heroines.
I also very much enjoyed Anita Blake from the first few books in her series; she's not afraid to take on supernatural baddies, though after a while she kind of lost her edge as she accumulated her harem.
I'm really excited to read some of the things everyone has suggested. :)
Marian DeVol
24. ladyengineer
Like HeatherM, my favorite kick-ass heroines frequently come from the science fiction/fantasy genre. Many, but not all, have romantic elements to them. The following are some of my favorites:

Captain Cordelia Naismith of Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan saga, especially her own two part story in Shards of Honor and Barrayar, also published together as Cordelia's Honor.

Diana Tregarde in Burning Water, Children of the Night, and Jinx High by Mercedes Lackey. CotN gives Diana herself some romance.

Kerowyn in By the Sword, also by Mercedes Lackey.

Meriel Owen of Lauren Dane's Heart of Darkness.
Katy L
25. clarkac64
I first loved Anita Blake from Laurell K Hamilton then moved onto Kate Daniels from Ilona Andrews and now I am loving Chess Putnam from Stacia Kane's Downside Ghost series. But seriously any Heroine that remains true to herself and can kick butt works for me.
Carmen Pinzon
26. bungluna
I got my copy today and I'm saving it for my beach vacation in July. I tend to hoard books for my vacations. Thanks!
Jaci Joyce
28. Wilder
Xhex, Chess Putnam, Anita blake, Merry Gentry, loved all of them, sometimes it doesn't matter what the genre. in the (fantastic worldbuilding fantasy) genre, I loved Shannari, the Rose of Shanhasson (Blood & Shadows) from Joley Sue Burkhart, although some of the plot twists broke my heart! I bawled like a babe for some of it and had to put it down.... all of these heroines have me laughing, crying and feeling like what I read was far more empowering than a self-help book.
Katy L
29. SandieLarson
Great post. I WILL be reading every book montion on here. I love strong women, who do their own damn rascuing. I love sassy, cofident, hell to condent-with bad-ass heroines. Its pisses me off there arn't more out there. But with posts like these, perhaps the demand for them will be heard and supplied.

For me the ULTIMATE bad-ass heroine is Gin Blanco from the Elemental Assains Series. Has to be read. The woman takes the cake in a real good way.
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