Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tuesday Talk Time - Imperfect Heroines

Stefanie London is here at the Pink Heart Society to defend the imperfect heroine...

I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen a review reference the heroine of a romance novel as being annoying, selfish, self-centered, vain, snobbish…and worse.

Here’s a direct quote from a review of my debut novel, Only The Brave Try Ballet:

“female lead was too much of a B…” 

I see these comments made so much more in reference to heroines than heroes. In general, the judgement of female characters is harsher than that of their male counterparts. Could that be because we place higher expectations on women to be likeable, polite, meek and selfless in real life?

In my previous life working in a male-dominated banking environment, I saw many woman verbally crucified for ‘aggressive’ behaviour which was no different to the behaviour of many men in that workplace. I can’t help but draw a parallel to the judgement on female characters and the double standard around character likability.

A lot of romance writing advice tells you to create heroines who readers would want to be best friends with. Fair enough. I have a few very close female friends whom I hold dear. None of them are perfect, just as I am not perfect. We have bad habits, we get cranky, and sometimes we argue. At times we’ve all had moments of vanity, selfishness, and snobbery.

We are real people.

These are the women I want to write. I don’t hold my female characters to a higher standard of perfection than my male characters. I don’t expect them to be nice all the time. I don’t want them to be pretty Mary-Sues without a dark spot on their personality.

So yes, at times my heroine from Only the Brave Try Ballet could be defensive and worrisome. The heroine of my second book, Breaking the Bro Code, describes herself as ‘emotionally deficient’. My latest release, The Tycoon’s Stowaway, has a heroine with anxiety who independent the point of self-detriment at times. 

 I love these things about them.

In fact some of the books I've loved most have had wonderfully imperfect heroines. Take Katniss from The Hunger Games trilogy - she's quite unlikable, at times emotionally closed off and often aggressive. I LOVED reading about her because she was different and she bucked the social conventions placed on women.

To me a romance wouldn’t be worth reading if the characters were perfect. In my opinion, the best part of a romance novel is seeing the way the hero and heroine help each other to change and grow in order to reach their happy ever after. Sometimes these changes are dramatic, sometimes it’s a subtle shift of belief.

Writing is such a subjective business and I think the phrase ‘you can’t please everyone’ applies here very strongly. As much as I hope that anyone who picks up my books will feel satisfied and enjoy the story, I know that’s not the case.

I’ll continue to write real women with real fears, real problems and real imperfections because it's what I believe in. After all, everyone deserves their happy ever after.

  Who are your favourite imperfect heroines?  And do you think it's important for the romance community to champion #StrongRomanceHeroines?

Stefanie's latest book, The Tycoon's Stowaway, is out now:

The one that got away…

Luxury yacht tycoon Brodie Mitchell and dancer Chantal Turner haven’t seen each other since that fateful night when the searing heat between them ignited, devastating everything in its wake. Yet it’s clear that their fire has never dimmed.

Now, they’re both single and Brodie’s determined to get Chantal out of his system. On Brodie’s yacht, exploring their electric chemistry opens Brodie’s eyes to what he really wants – what he’s always wanted: Chantal. This time he’s going to tame his little stowaway…for good!

You can keep up to date with Stefanie's latest releases by signing up to her newsletter or checking out her website.


  1. I love imperfect heroines! One of my favorite heroines is from a Presents by Michelle Reid and she was far from perfect. She hid her insecurity vulnerability under a mask of anger and when she got angry her claws came out. The hero said she sizzled when she was angry and he loved her best when she sizzled.

    Congrats on your releases, Stefanie!

    1. Sounds like a great book, Carol! I must admit I haven't read any of Michelle's Presents novels yet although I'm sure I have one or two on my iPad, must rectify that ASAP :)

  2. Which HP? I like the heroine in The Next Best Thing by Kristin Higgins and Lady Luck by Kristen Ashley

    1. I must get around to reading a Kristin Higgins book! She'd been on my TBR list for ages :)