New York Times bestselling author and good friend Cathy Maxwell joins us today with the first of two thought provoking blogs. The author of more than thirty published novels, Cathy is one of my auto-buy authors with many titles on my keeper shelves. Cathy is a woman of many talents. As stated in her website bio, in addition to writing, she also spent six years in the U.S. Navy - where she worked at the Pentagon and did a tour with Naval intelligence - managed a watch factory, was a news broadcaster and was in charge of costumes for a local theater. She's also smart, savvy and is one of the kindest and funniest people I've had the pleasure of meeting. Please give her a warm Romance Dish welcome!
Scarlett and Superwoman
by Cathy Maxwell
For some mysterious reason, the subject of Scarlett O’Hara has come up on the romance panels I’ve sat on over the past year. The question? Is Scarlett a good romance heroine?
And the question annoys me in the same way I grow testy when people act as if Romance readers don’t read anything other than this one genre. (Excuse me while I climb onto my soapbox. No, don’t excuse me. I’m glad to do it.) The truth, Romance readers are avid readers in general. They eventually gravitate to Romance because 1) they need more books to read. They want great stories and lots of them and I’m proud to say my genre delivers. 2) Stories about relationships intrigue them (even murderous ones). Romance readers are discerning readers, but voracious ones.
So where does Scarlett come in to all of this? Well, first, some people don’t get the Romance genre. They think any female character who can attract males and knows what to do with them once she has them is a “Romance” heroine. Not true. The “happy ending” is a strong expectation but so is the honorable heroine. However, honorable does not mean uncomplicated. GONE WITH THE WIND is not a romance but I could see Scarlett as a heroine of a romance novel, with tweaking, of course. GWTW is a story of survival; the Romance novel is a tale of commitment. These are not mutually exclusive concepts.
A heroine is true to her own code of conduct—and this is very true of Scarlett. I don’t mind a heroine who is feisty or who makes mistakes out of immaturity or who needs to grow into the woman she must become. My most memorable characters in literature, and also the people I most admire in life, are those who are willing to make mistakes. It is one thing to save the world but it is even more important to learn how to save yourself. And when do people truly become interesting—when they are doing what is expected? Or when they risk being themselves flaws and all?
Or have we at some point homogenized our heroines? Is there a one size fits all “fantasy” of what readers expect out of characters. I believe it is important to honor the happy ending, but I’m not convinced readers have a carbon copy idea of the sort of heroine they want, especially in this genre. Look at the Romance section. This genre takes in vamps and vampires, shape-shifters and missionaries, nurses, teachers, PHDs, administrative assistants, Regency virgins, and nuclear physicists and these books are all bestsellers.
In the meantime, let’s talk heroines. I’m interested in your thoughts. Feel free to disagree with me on Miss Scarlett or any of my ramblings. When you think of the word “heroine,” what comes to mind? Is she perfect? Or is she perfect in her imperfections? Does a reader have time to watch a character grow? Even a character involved in a series of books? What makes a character fresh and vibrant to you? Who are the heroines that still resonate strongly with you?
Cathy Maxwell believes each and every one of us is the heroine of her own life. She is the bestselling author of over thirty historical romances in which she celebrates men and women with a passion for life. www.cathymaxwell.com
What happens when a bride says maybe?
She’d once been the toast of London, but now scandal has brought her down. Still, pretty, petted Lady Tara Davidson can’t believe her new fate. She had wanted to marry for love . . . but her profligate father has promised her hand to none other than Breccan Campbell, the “Beast of Aberfeldy” and laird of the valley’s most despised clan! Well, Tara may have to marry him, but Breccan can’t make her love him—can he?
What happens when the groom insists?
Breccan Campbell is nobody's fool. He knows that Tara is trouble. Yet he's determined to reform the Campbell name even if it means forging an alliance with the arrogant beauty. There's no doubt that Tara is a challenge, and Breccan loves nothing more. For he's vowed to thoroughly seduce Tara--and make her his in more than name alone.
I am enjoying reading this series of books there awesomeReplyDelete
Hey, Everyone! Here is my confession of the day. I'm off to Driver Improvement class (yes, I can have a heavy foot). I'll be checking in between lectures. And thank you for your comments. I'm interested in hearing what you have to say. Feel free to disagree. Or agree! :-)ReplyDelete
I think Scarlett could have been a romance heroine with tweaking. There was a lot to dislike about her--her immaturity and her seeming lack of consideration for those around her (never fears hurting anyone's feelings)--but that's the neat thing about Scarlett. She's not overly concerned with being liked. She's an interesting heroine because she's the opposite of what females are brought up to be like. Would we have hated her so much if she'd been a man with these flaws? Are alpha males known exactly for wanting to be liked?ReplyDelete
Lady Tara was a bit of a brat, yes, and since we weren't in her POV much in the first book, you mostly wanted to slap her--so I think her redemption in the second book justified quite a bit of her behavior, at least you could understand why she was doing some of these things. In the end though, when it mattered, she did what she was supposed to. She may have been ungracious about it--but her character growth hadn't happened yet either. Loved these two books and can't wait for the third.
That said, I tend to also like the perfect heroine...if only for giving her a bunch of trouble that finally truly frustrates her to no end. *LOL* Have fun remembering goodness is its own reward when the Evil Villainess has stolen your man.
Ah, but Scarlett was only seventeen when GWTW opens. I felt it was the burning of Atlanta when she started to grow up. Now let me tell you, I was fourteen when I first read the book so I was very forgiving of Scarlett's selfishness. Here is an interesting thought--can we identify with characters who are vastly different than ourselves? And see PJ's comment below about our being unforgiving of heroines . . .Delete
I thought she was young--so usually I give a pass for teens--but a 17 year old in 1860 isn't the same as a 17 year old now, is it?Delete
Welcome back, Cathy! This topic has spawned some very lively discussions among my reader friends. I'm not sure why readers in general seem to be more forgiving of flaws in heroes than in heroines but that does seem to be the case. One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Hoyt took a lot of heat for Lady Emeline Gordon, the aloof and sophisticated heroine of To Taste Temptation and, more recently, readers jumped all over Mara Lowe, the heroine of Sarah MacLean's No Good Duke Goes Unpunished. Personally, I enjoyed the growth of both of these characters and felt they were true to their time and circumstance.ReplyDelete
As you know, I did not like the person Tara had become in The Bride Says No but I was willing to give her the time to find her way in The Bride Says Maybe. I enjoyed her journey.
We are hard on heroines. Are we also hard on other women and ourselves in real life? I think the answer is yes. All my female acquaintances strive to be all they should be--motherly, businesslike, healing, patient, thin, wise, creative, talented . . . I'm exhausted just starting to the list. Writing this series, I tried to portray women in search for their true place in the world. Women seeking acceptance of themselves. Aileen had to overcome her perceived failure, Tara needed to find meaning that resonates with her, and Sabrina? She's a tough one. To be honest, I'm still hashing her out. She could be perfect, but perfection is boring.Delete
I completely agree with you, PJ. I also enjoyed the growth of both Lady Emeline and Mara. I suppose I just accepted their reasons when others couldn't?Delete
I've been thinking about why we're so unforgiving of our less than perfect fictional heroines. Do you think it's because we fall in love with their heroes and want only the best for them? Is that why we're more accepting of the hero's flaws?ReplyDelete
Or do we happily believe we can fix them?Delete
LOL! You may be right, Cathy!Delete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
I was I could have edited, but it seems it's either leave it or delete it.Delete
As with real women, as in nonfiction ones, she can be anything the author wants her to be and if it is well written I will read it. I don't put my heroines in a box or in a corner.ReplyDelete
As to Scarlett, I never felt she was selfish. She was spoiled, pampered, and a product of her time and upbringing. If she had been truly selfish, she would have remained selfish throughout the book. Only Mellie saw her as she really was.
She was spoiled, pampered, and a product of her time and upbringing.Delete
Exactly! I think part of the problem is that many readers view these historical characters with "modern" eyes.
GREAT point, Sharlene! Didn't we have this conversation at RWA? ;-)Delete
Yes I think we did.Delete
I haven't read this series yet! I loved Gone With the Wind.ReplyDelete
This is one of my favorite topics....why? Because as someone mentioned above....I find women are so hard on other women! I do not understand this at all as I am a product of the feminist movement and had my share of sexism in the 70's and 80's. I think heroines have the right to be bratty, feisty, arrogant....anything, as long as it is well written, the reader has some underlying understanding of where she is coming from and frankly, many times we put the heroine in a box. SHE must behave like this because otherwise she is considered a "bitch"...why? because she is strong, has opinions, hates giving up all her power and choice because society dictates? Even impetuous heroines are left in that place of how could she do that, she deserves everything she gets now...really? I want to see a heroine that is true to herself and makes as many mistakes as it takes to get her place right in life. We forgive men, why? because they are men? Seriously WHY? This is a heavy topic but I must say, it is one that I am glad to see romance writers tackle. I am happy to see heroines with spine, with tenacity, with pouts and tantrums. I want to see how they handle adversity and do not care if society considers them persona non gratis. I want to see them grow...Thanks for Tara, thanks for all your thoughtfulness in your stories. I enjoy your depth of writing and how you try to push the limits.ReplyDelete
Your series is wonderful and once again, PJ has helped me find a great author that I had to catch up with and buy all the back books....I am pleased I took PJ's advice! GO Cathy!! and Tara for that matter!!!
Thanks for the good words on my books, Hope!Delete
As your point, WHY do we forgive romance heroes so easily? We don't forgive guys in real life (GRLs) for any transgression when we have our wits about us. Or do we?
I don't want perfect - how boring lol. I like variety so there's no one thing I look for. I guess as long as I enjoy the author's voice, I am going to care about the characters which is the most important aspect. I don't necessarily have to like the character as much as have an opinion on them - good or bad.ReplyDelete
Strong characters sell books. Think of your fave reads. Any namby pamby characters? I don't think so. Good point, Catslady.Delete
I enjoyed The Bride Says No and The Bride Says Maybe is on my TBR pile.ReplyDelete
How a hero or heroine changes is part of why I like Romance so much.
Hi, Cathy. I enjoy your books and the way you write with wit and warmth. I like heroines that are willing to stand up for themselves and value themselves as people. No one likes a doormat in real life or in fiction, I think. I do like "good" girls and don't like to read about a heroine that may be a courtesan, but that is just my preference.ReplyDelete
I agree with Sharlene that Scarlett wasn't selfish. Yes, she was a spoiled brat, a product of her upbringing and her own self-opinion. However, she had to survive and knew she was responsible for several people, so she redeemed herslef in my eyes with her fortitude and determination. I did not "love" her at the end of GWTW, but she had my respect for all that she had to do to win at the game of Life.
Thanks for being here at TRD today. TBSM is on my TBR pile!
Thank you for your kind words about my books, Deb. I appreciate them. BTW, don't you think Scarlett was a bit of a courtesan? She sold herself several times to keep her family afloat. Some would see that as calculating. Especially when she stole Frank.Delete
Oh, my goodness! You're right! I never thought of her in that light.....Hmmm. Well,....Delete
I don't like my heroines in a box. I do like most heroines as long as the author has a good voice and lets us see why the heroine is who she is. I agree with everything that was said about Scarlett. She was very pampered, a product of her time, and tough as nails.ReplyDelete
Imagine for a moment the sort of matriarch Scarlett would be in her sixties. Would she had compassion for young women with the desire to stretch their wings? Or would she become rigid with age?Delete
The term Heroine brings to mind a woman who is in a situation or put in a position that is not to her best advantage. She could be enduring hard times, under threat from an individual or situation, trying to help someone or make things right. She may not always be likable or a sympathetic individual, but there is an inner strength that enables her to deal with her situation. We will learn why she is the way she is and understand her faults and strengths. A good heroine will grow and develop. One that starts out less than likable can learn and grow to become the heroine she id meant to be. I enjoy series and don't mind if it takes more than one book for a character to grow and become their best self.ReplyDelete
As for Scarlett, I am still torn. She was a spoiled brat when she was young and self-centered when she was older. She did have an inner strength that allowed her to survive and succeed in terrible times. I still never liked her. Most of what she did was for herself first and if it benefited anyone else she didn't care. It has bee a long time since I read the book or watched the movie. I am curious what I would think of it now.
Do our experiences shape us? Or do we shape our experiences????Delete
I like strong ,independent women who aren't afraid to go after what they want and who are willing to make sacrifices to attain their goal(s). I like women who will speak their minds. I don't want perfection. I don't think there are any perfect people.ReplyDelete
I believe that whatever happens in our lives does effect us but it doesn't necessarily change us. We filter what is happening around us and to us on a daily basis.
I don't like heroines who are intentionally cruel to people or animals. I have to see something in them that is worthy of liking or redeeming.
As long as the heroine has some interesting thoughts and actions I will follow her through her story. I believe there is only one book I DNF where I actually hated the heroine. She was totally unlikable, stupid and cruel. I didn't care enough about her to want to see her change (if she did).
Heather Snow's heroines come to mind: a lady chemist, a lady chriminologist and a lady studying mental illness.
Sandra Brown's strong, intelligent heroines. Jade in Breath of Scandal, Avery in Mirror Image, Rusty in Two Alone
Linda Howard's heroine, Jay, in White Lies.
Heather Graham's heroine, Wendy, in Angel of Mercy.
Always a Lady Sharon Sala, Lily
Cindy Gerard Last Man Standing Stephanie goes overseas to rescue the man she's always loved her brother's best friend Brad
Thanks, Laurie--I appreciate your list of heroines. Characters live on. They challenge us to look at ourselves.Delete
BTW, have you heard the theory that instead of babies being born innocent, they are born feral and we, meaning parents and society, tame them? Would that mean we can change?
I've always liked Scarlett. Sure she made a lot of mistakes, but she was doing what she had to do to make sure her family survived. Nobody else in her family had the gumption to do it! She wasn't just being mean. She was insecure because she'd gone through such tragedy and didn't want to suffer that again.ReplyDelete
I think it is is better for a heroine to have flaws. Nobody's perfect. It makes it seem as if we too could be heroines!
Was Melanie perfect?ReplyDelete