Those Anachronistic Heroines

Jon PAUL - Cover Art for Romance

Cover art by Jon Paul Studios

Something has been bothering me more and more about the historical romance genre recently, and it’s the heroines.

Recent criticisms of the genre as a whole are pretty well justified. It has become… anaemic… And it seems publishers believe the way to “fix” the problem is to strip away any and every detail of historical accuracy and replace them with irritatingly anachronistic heroines.

Authors: Saying your heroine “isn’t like other women” isn’t a good thing.

Why? Because, what in the holy hell is wrong with being female? Why do we have to adopt only “male” characteristics in order to be considered worthy human beings? That isn’t “girl power” and it isn’t “feminist”. It’s bloody sexist, friggin’ misogynistic, and I wish attitudes like that would disappear.

Tell me, how is it great or respectful for a woman in 1816 to act like the brattiest most annoying 21st century little sister? Why are we shaming women who survived as they had to in their time period and making out any historical romance woman who likes sewing, embroidery or fashion to be far too stupid for the hero? Why is it “cute” for HR heroines to be incompetent at everything they needed to know in the past in order to get through the day?

You know what an inability to embroider or sew meant back then? No clothes. Holes in the furnishings. The embroidery thing is particularly offensive to me because – as someone from a Ukrainian family – embroidery is at the heart of our culture and something people pass down to each other through the generations.

Take a guess what it meant in the days before television if a woman was incapable of singing/painting/playing the piano!

You know what it meant if you ran around making a fool of yourself in public, embarrassing your family and being wilfully ignorant of social mores? Despite what the books might promise you, it sure didn’t earn you public adoration and a duke for a husband!

You know how to fix the historical romance genre? Make it realistic! Stop shaming women for not acting like men. Show the struggles women had back then, instead of pretending they didn’t exist!

The reason this genre is interesting to me is because times were different. There’s no point putting a typical 2014 New Yorker in a dress and calling it Regency Britain.

3 thoughts on “Those Anachronistic Heroines

  1. Thanks for that post! And I agree wholeheartedly. The consequences for not conforming to social mores back then were significant. It wasn’t that women were weak, it was that their options were terribly limited. All their property was controlled by their husbands once they were married. They could be fired from a job for any reason, and only earned half what men did. It was a tough time to be a woman.

    1. Exactly! I can’t stand books where the past is portrayed as the same as 2014 – just with fancy dresses. What’s the point of the genre if that’s the case?!
      I have read some negative HR reviews where readers complained about the heroines being too conservative in their actions, and I just could not understand what the readers expected!

  2. Pingback: Those Historical Romance Heroes | Sonya's Stuff

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