May 31 2012 2:00pm

Smart Women—And the NCIS Men Who Love Them

All we need now is a dog and a Mystery Machine.A few years ago, my author friend Toni McGee Causey presented a workshop at the Romance Writers of America’s national convention called, “Smart Women, Short Skirts,” with a nod to the musical fun known as Jimmy Buffet. We focused on writing smart female characters – not only the kick-ass heroine, but intellectually smart. Few “too-stupid-to-live” moments, one of my greatest pet peeves in romantic suspense today. I’m not big into damsels in distress—which is probably why I never identified with most Disney Princesses. I like my heroines to be strong, independent, and smart—and in the process of pursuing their goals or feeding their obsession, learn to love and be loved by men who appreciate them.

Now that I’m caught up on Bones, I have a new obsession: NCIS. I’m in the middle of season seven and plan to be caught up long before season ten starts.

NCIS isn’t a romance, and doesn’t have much romantic subplot, though there definitely elements of the romantic thriller in some storylines and back story. For example, Agent Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and his past relationship with Jenny Sheperd (his boss for three seasons.) Their past relationship complicated their present and provided sexual tension and conflict even if they didn’t rekindle the flame.

He just has a few simple rules to live by.Gibbs is attracted to women who want home and hearth—he’s a traditional hero, a man who fought for his country and was willing to die for his country; a man who is willing to break the law for the right reason, such as his avenging the murder of his family. He seeks justice, bleeds honor, and stalwart in his pursuit of what is right over what is expedient. He’s loyal, almost to a fault, and his team is his team. He’s a man of few words but deep emotion.

Tim McGee is the modern day geek—smart, nice-looking, courteous. He’s chivalrous and would give you the coat off his back. Like many geeks, he seeks courtship through the computer and role-playing games, attracted to women of a like-interest. To him, physical attraction is secondary—he’s definitely attracted to talent and intelligence, and it helps if you’re a level five sorceress!

It’s all in the badge really.But the hero of the team I have always liked best is Tony DiNozzo. Sure, he’s arrogant and a womanizer and can be lazy and pass the grunt work off to his colleagues when he can get away with it, but he’s a cop with cop instincts. He jokes around, but he’s all-business when it matters. He sees things as they are, even when he makes light of a situation. He’s the guy I’d want in a gunfight or to protect me or the people I love. His arrogance is a mask to protect his vulnerable center, he’s really a marshmallow just looking for someone who loves him, warts and all. But what really sold me on him is when he became a bit obsessed with a reporter. He admitted that she was perfect on all levels—she had an impressive history. When Ziva asked him who he thought the perfect woman would be, he said, “Aside from the obvious physical attributes, she’d be intelligent, successful, professional.” And Ziva responded with the one line that cut him down because it hit his greatest fear, “And what would this woman see in you?”

Ziva David, the former Mossad agent who is part of the team, is the perfect woman for all three men on different levels. I could easily write an entire blog about her!

What all three men have in common is their respect for women—Gibbs is more traditional and matter-of-fact, and treats women who have earned it through their actions as equals; McGee cares most about intelligence and women as intellectual equals; and Tony wants both—a woman who is independent and smart, who can fight side-by-side with him, and isn’t afraid to ask for help when she needs it. I’ve written all three types of heroes, but my women are consistent: they can take care of themselves, but they’re open to help, and love, when they need it.


Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of eighteen novels and many short stories. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, she lives in Northern California with her husband Dan and their five children.

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1. Adria03
Oh please write a blog entry about Ziva! Lol. I love NCIS because of the WOMEN in that show. There are hardly any true heroines on tv that don't have "too stupid to live" moments in every episode.

Ziva has raised the bar on what female heroes should be. She's tough, sassy, smart, vulnerable and for goodness sakes, she's an investigator that knows NOT to wear heels on the job and to pick up her damn hair! It's more of a compliment to the writers of the show that they make Ziva believable as an investigator and former Mossad agent by putting practicality over sex appeal. You don't see Ziva running after the bad guy in 6-inch heals with her hair all sexy flowing behind her. It's just not realistic and she'd look pretty stupid.

Plus, you gotta admit she kicks some serious ass. And can kill a man using a credit card ;)
2. Kathrin P.
OMG! Yes, please! Write a blog post on Ziva :D You'd make me over the top happy & I would even give you my firstborn! (Almost no kidding there.) There are so many facets to Ziva's personality, it would be a great opportunity to show the brilliant and capable heroine.
Allison Brennan
3. Allison_Brennan
Next time Adria and Kathrin! I love Ziva. She is one of the finest examples of a tortured and complex hero. Definitely will write about her character. Hmmm ... I might just have to have an NCIS marathon now that I'm done with all 9 seasons. Just got to finish this book first ...
4. TracyS
I've watched this show since Season 1 and LOVE it! Hubby and I DVR it and watch it together after the kids are in bed.
5. Nikki H
I admire Tony, too, but Gibbs is my man. He just does it for me.
I also want you to write about Ziva. I've watched NCIS from the beginning, and I watch reruns on a daily basis. I was sorry when Kate was killed, but I really, really like Ziva. I especially like when she gets a saying wrong--those misspoken idioms are hilarious.
Allison Brennan
6. Allison_Brennan
@Nikki -- I love Gibbs. He's the patriarch and the leader, the anchor. He's the older, wiser, mature Tony. ... I liked Kate, but she was never one of my favorites. Ziva is more complex and interesting as a character.
7. mewofford
Bravo on your insight into NCIS and its wonderful, complex characters. Especially Ziva. I would really enjoy any further thoughts you might have on her. I too find her one of the most complex and interesting females on any TV series at the present time.
8. SassyT
I LOVE that show. I too began watching it from Season One (it was a spin-0ff of JAG another show I watched). I think I like it because I'm a military brat and just love shows about military folks (the people I grew up around). Ziva is awesome (I think she's got the best fighting skills on the team and I think Gibbs and crew think so too). I really liked Kate and was kind of upset when they killed her off but Ziva has grown on me. Is it just me or is anyone else waiting for Tony to express his undying love for Ziva? I think he really, really has feelings for her but neither he (nor she) is ready or equipped to deal with it. Also, could they please find Magee a love interest. I feel sorry for the poor guy. Tony, Ziva, and even Gibbs get their flirt/relationship on every now and then (short lived though it may be) but Tim never seems to have anybody but his computers.

I also like NCIS:LA although I know some folks don't like it. However, it has LL and Chris. What's not to love there? I could watch them read the phone book.
9. suelee
Aw cmon. You missed the sexiest guy of all. Ducky! He was the Man From Uncle. The blonde moptop was gorgeous then and his British accent only adds to his charm.
10. Juliann
My whole family loves NCIS! My mom, sister, and I make sure we get together for every new episode and watch it. It has just such a wonderful cast; they compliment each other perfectly.

Ziva is by far one of my all-time favorite characters - book or movie or TV show - because she is practical, realistic, and intelligent. She's so layered! I'd love to read a post about her. ;)

I also will say that I love Abby, too. She's funny and very intelligent, and she loves the team to pieces.

This show is just my life.
11. sierrakiera
The person who wrote this blog do not like Ziva.Why else do you think she did not write anything else more on Ziva? Because she do not like her. Next time you do not like a character just come out and say, do not lie, you are not fooling anyone because we are not stupid.
Megan Frampton
12. MFrampton
@sierrakiera: Allison said in earlier comments she would be writing a Ziva article. Please keep in mind Allison has word count limitations, and cannot cover everything about the show she likes in one post. Check back for a Ziva post later on.
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