Romance novels, and, in particular, the heroines who’ve driven these stories, have had a peculiar evolution as times have changed.
From the simpering 70s secretary who has the hots for her Alpha male boss, to the more adventurous journalist or ad exec of the 90s to the current breed of business women dominating romances, literally and sexually – romance writers have always had a strong sense of what is politically correct, or, often times, incorrect and been a part of the larger social conversation in a sense. We wrote Erotica and Same-Sex love stories, way before it became culturally ‘cool’ to be sexually adventurous and/or gay.
Even Historical Romances from popular authors didn’t have wilting violets as female leads. These women were kickass. They wore flounces and bustles with as much pride as they did their sneaky feminism. Who can forget that iconic scene in Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me where Kate wins a memorable game of pall-mall by sinking Anthony’s ball in the lake, on purpose? She struck a blow for love and empowering women everywhere with the Mallet of Death.
Whether it was a powerful witch in Nora Roberts’s “Face The Fire” or a quieter empire-runner in Barbara Taylor Bradford’s “Woman of Substance”, I have long since maintained this conviction that powerful women tell powerful stories. I am not just talking about the authors behind these wonderful creations but the characters themselves who undergo tragedy, heartbreak, adversity, apocalypses and come out stronger and triumphant at the end of it all.
They don’t just wait for the writer to come up with their happy ever after. They freakin’ make their own.
Inspired from Buzzfeed’s 19 Powerful Female Characters, here are my list of 8 totally badass heroines who have been a symbol of powerful females everywhere. (Not to be confused with feminist heroines…that is a post for another day). SPOILERS AHEAD.
1. Parker Brown from ‘Happy Ever After’ by Nora Roberts – Parker is a warrior in French plait and high heels. Whether it is planning a wedding down to the last detail, booting out her best friend’s abusive mother, or making sexy with her hottie Malcolm Kavanaugh, Parker doesn’t let anything stand in her way. She is calm, confident and her closet is a thing to be envied. See it for yourself, if you don’t believe me.
2. Emma from ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen – Often overlooked for the most badass woman in literature, Elizabeth Bennett, Emma nevertheless has a quiet charm and strength about her that shine through her interactions with the others. Whether it is playing bumbling matchmaker, trading barbs with the adorbs Mr. Knightly or running her father’s large household single-handedly, Emma does it all. Now, if that doesn’t make her badass I don’t know what will.
3. Dulcie Clark from ‘Don’t Fence Me In’ by Kathleen Korbel – This was the first legit M&B romance I’ve ever read. It was when I was still a starry-eyed teenager, so my expectations from romance were not particularly high. But what caught my eye was how small-town ranch girl Dulcie Clark managed a sprawling ranch estate, a precocious eight-year old musical prodigy of a daughter and a handsome man who was basically Cary Grant, reincarnated. Color me Drooling!
4. Amy Dunne from ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn – Granted Gone Girl is more killer than romance, but you have to hand it to beautiful, sweet, put-upon Amy, who cold-bloodedly and efficiently plans the downfall of a henpecked husband and her stalker ex-boyfriend. And she doesn’t get caught. Behind every successful murder…
5. Rumi from ‘Butterfly Season’ by Natasha Ahmed – The first thing I loved about Rumi was that she was no early-to-mid 20s going through a quarter-life crisis woman. She was 30, had trained as an architect and knew exactly what she wanted including hottie publisher Ahad. And she made some hard choices when she realized true emancipation came from freeing oneself from one’s own prejudices and not just those imposed by society! A personal favorite.
6. Draupadi from ‘Palace of Illusions’ by Chitra Banerji Divakaruni – She took on five men, a strong mother-in-law, was born out of fiery vengeance and could call the Most Badass Hindu God as her BFF. Enough said about Draupadi – the woman who made Karna’s heartbeat flutter. I so SHIP Karpadi!
7. Miranda Priestley from ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ by Lauren Weisberger – I know, I know. Andy Sachs tears free of this tyrant’s oppressive rule with a well-timed ‘Fuck you’ in the middle of Paris Fashion Week. But come on, can you even imagine Miranda-Meryl as she talks to you in her quiet, snake-cold voice about her lunch order, which you still haven’t got EXACTLY right? Isn’t she just so badass as she runs the world’s best fashion magazine making or breaking careers and people willy-nilly, as she pleases!?
8. Gauri Rao from ‘His Captive Indian Princess’ by Tanu Jain – Tanu Jain’s romances are full of Technicolor drama reminiscent of a wonderful 70s Bollywood movie. Women wear saris and heave their bosoms, but they also kick ass. Gauri, HCIP’s protagonist is a kickass lawyer at a slightly tender young age, an illegitimate princess and a crying shoulder for Vikram, the neighboring prince who totally falls for her hook, line and sinker. And who wouldn’t! She is demure without being coy and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself with the evil grandmother. Go, Gauri!
9. Honorary Mention goes to Mia Devlin from Nora Roberts’s ‘Face the Fire’ and Hermione Granger from the ‘Harry Potter series’ by JK Rowling. The only reason these two haven’t been waxed lyrical on is cuz I have to adhere to my personal blogpost length.
Who are your personal badass Babes of Romance? Like, share and comment to let me know. And we can discuss more about these awesome women.