There’s a book I read a little while ago that I really enjoyed: Willow Springs by Toni Blake.
However, predictably, the reviews were mixed. Now, people have every right to dislike a book, but the reasons negative reviewers were giving annoyed me quite a lot.
They didn’t take issue with the writing or the plot. What they took issue with was the heroine. Mostly because she was a virgin, but also because in a series of heroines who tend to be extroverted, Amy was much more reserved.
I’m NOT saying that you have to be a virgin to be nice, but for all of the people saying how unrealistic Amy was, there were plenty of others coming forwards and saying they really appreciated the character, the book and the circumstances. The virgin thing isn’t what I appreciated; what I appreciated was that in many aspects of her life, I felt like I understood her – and liked her.
Recently, there has been a lot of focus on modern day romance heroines and making them more up to date. I am 100% on board with this, because some of the old school books are many decades out of date. Hell, even Fifty Shades of Grey is woefully inaccurate, with a university graduate who doesn’t even have a computer or understand the internet!
On one hand, I bristled A LOT when I read romance discussion forums and came across half a gazillion women complaining they don’t like new books because the women are ‘shrews’. Being confident, modern and successful are not bad things! And if the men can be those things, why can’t the women?
However, there’s this weird belief that in order to be a modern woman a character has to be a bit pushy, supremely confident, and quite happy to punch someone in the face if they annoy them.
In Willow Springs, we have a heroine who is running a business, has solid female friendships, and is best friends with the hero. She isn’t some silly little weak-willed ninny, but nor is she a gun-toting superhero. It could even be said the reason she has been overlooked by men her whole life is because she’s nice. And when a flashier, more confident woman turns up in town, guess who the hero goes after?
I am on the record a million times saying I hate books where women only exist to be rivals, but I thought Willow Springs handled it well. I also saw in Amy someone whose actions I understood. She didn’t have to be a superhero to be a good heroine. A woman can be overlooked for reasons other than that she lives in her father’s hand-me-down lumberjack outfits and gets laughed at by the ‘mean’ cheerleaders (cough*Twilight*cough). That is not Amy.
I suppose there’s a middle ground that authors aren’t searching for as often as I want. People who can be strong at the same time as being nice. People who can have their lives together without a man in it, but still want a relationship. Heroines who can be a combination of different traits instead of one or the absolute, total other.
Mostly, I want more heroines who are nice, and who I genuinely like and wouldn’t mind being similar to.