Since I’ve become a published romance writer, I’ve learned a lot about the unspoken “rules” that govern what you can and cannot write. Or…well…should not write, if you don’t want to be raked over the coals by readers and reviewers. One of those rules is that the heroine should not be flawed, lacking in confidence, or damaged by past abuse.
Problem is, absolutes can be very confining. A lot of women are imperfect. A lot of women have had traumatic past experiences. A lot of women are still searching for that strength inside themselves. I don’t think that makes them doormats, losers, or failures as heroines. I think it just makes them real.
In my newest BDSM romance, Deep in the Woods, the heroine is not a strong, self-actualized woman working at a six-figure job and completely reliant on herself for her own happiness. No…Sophie is more like the women (and men) I meet in my day-to-day life. She’s not sure where she wants to go in life yet. She sometimes makes mistakes -- like sticking around in an abusive relationship long past the time she should have. She’s still learning to stand up for herself and demand healthy relationships. All of these things, perhaps, make her a failure as a romance heroine, but sometimes I find “strong and perfect” really boring -- and not just in heroines. It’s boring in heroes too. Sometimes I want to read about someone who still has some work to do. Then, when they reach the point where they find strength or redemption, we all get to enjoy the success.
A few decades back, romances were a lot different. Women were definitely portrayed as weaker, men were always stronger (and sometimes abuse masqueraded as romance.) I definitely don’t want a return to those days, but I do think there is a danger of making our romantic heroines so strong and perfect that we can’t relate to them anymore. Sometimes I wonder if, in our determination to distance ourselves from the non-PC romances of the past, we’ve robbed ourselves of a bit of the complexity and tenderness that comes from letting the heroine be a little weak and imperfect sometimes. I don’t know about you, but I like leaning on my hero’s broad shoulders every once in a while.
Annabel is a multi-published erotic author specializing in the romance of the BDSM lifestyle. She writes contemporary stories of couples trying to balance romance, real life, and BDSM kinkiness, although she has also been known to dabble in a historical or two. Annabel lives in the deep south with her husband of twelve years and her children. Besides writing erotic romance, she also dabbles in mainstream fiction and screenwriting. You can learn more about Annabel and her books at http://annabeljoseph.wordpress.com.