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‘Can't Buy Me Love,' or how the independent heroine challenges Romance

funny pictures - i luvz u but dis can nevr be

Over the past couple of months I have read a handful of books in which the heroine resists a relationship with the hero. I’m not talking about the "Oh, I really shouldn’t’ women, or the "no means yes’ girls, the females who are just playing coy so as not to appear desperate, or even the heroines who are shy of love from some past trauma. I’m referring to heroines who truly don’t want to make a romantic commitment because of a desire to be independent or from a strong career focus. These are women who seem to be resisting the very structure of Romance, because they resist the narrative path to True Love, marriage, and children. The anti-Romance heroine, I have begun to call them.

Take Tessa Hart from Kathleen O’Reilly’s Shaken and Stirred, for example. She was the first heroine who really started me thinking along these lines, because I was moved by both admiration and frustration for her struggle. A woman who had been terribly hurt by a man she had given up a college education for, Tessa is not going to make the same mistake twice, no matter how wonderful Gabe O’Sullivan is. And he is wonderful; we know this because we see from his POV how much he wants to be with Tessa FOREVER, and how decent and admiring he is. Tessa knows this, too, but she’s afraid that if she jumps into a committed relationship with Gabe she will lose herself and fall right back into entropic passivity:

“I’ve known you for four years. You’re the first person I met in New York. The first person who offered me a job, the first person who made sure I understood the difference between a local and an express train, the first person who explained to me how to cross against the light in order to not be run over by the eight thousand people crossing against the light from the opposite direction. There’s no one that I’ve ever depended on more, Gabe. Nobody. Not even Denny. I can’t depend on you like that.”

Gabe, who had taken care of himself for his entire life, shrugged easily. “Yes, you can.” . . .

“I have to learn to depend on myself first.”

“Tessa you can do anything you want.” . . .

“You’re right. I can do anything I want. But I have to actually do it. I can’t just want to do it. There’s a difference.”

Tessa understands that there is a difference between being an independent personality and being an independent person, and she is determined to be both, frustrating readers like the AAR reviewer who said that despite the book’s believability,

We know that a relationship with Gabe is inevitable, not only because it’s a romance with the requisite HEA, but because they are great friends who clearly have a steamy more-than-friends sex life. Not only is Gabe hot, he’s kind and understanding. Would Tessa really let a guy like this get away? Of course not, but she does her level best to do that before she finally gives in. It’s a short book, and I still lost patience with her endless hand-wringing.

SB Sarah had a similarly irritated reaction to Tessa, noting that

. . . Tessa needed to build her own pedestal of accomplishment and then place that pedestal next to someone else’s for equal protection and balance, and not erect a leaning structure that rested entirely on the strength of someone else’s foundation. Problem was, she hadn’t recognized that she had already established her own foundation by moving to Manhattan on her own, getting a job, paying her way through college (even if she was in the wrong major for her skill set) and working at a bar making a huge and solid circle of friends. She never fully gave herself credit for the accomplishments of her backstory.

However, every moment that Tessa bugged the shit out of me was underscored by the fact that, though her habits and hand-wringing moments of self-doubt were irritating to me personally, they were each and every goddam one exceptionally well written. They. Were. Real.

And so I wondered: is it the believability that makes Tessa’s character so frustrating, the fact that O’Reilly makes it all so compelling? Had Gabe not been the ideal guy, would Tessa have been less frustrating of a character? And just because Gabe is such a great guy, should we really be discouraging something that will make her feel more confident and complete as a person? In contrast to AAR’s Blythe, I believe that a real woman would let a guy like Gabe go, because we real women do all sorts of illogical things in relationships, in large part because we don’t have the guy’s true POV to factor into our decision making. And hey, love is emotional, and emotions often have a logic all their own. But in terms of the Romance, what makes a woman like Tessa so believably frustrating?

I think it’s that she refuses to cooperate with what the genre and its readers expect of her. Part of the fantasy of Romance, we are told, is that of being “swept away by love.” But Tessa refuses to be swept away; she refuses to proceed through the steps of a romantic relationship, from desire to commitment, maintaining a sense of distance from Gabe until the very end of the book. So in a sense, it’s not just that she’s fighting her feelings; she’s fighting the structure of the Romance novel to some degree, as well, because she’s fighting a hero we know would be perfect for her. And isn’t the purpose of genre Romance to bring the hero and heroine who are perfect together into romantic harmony, into the fantasy HEA? So when the heroine refuses to cooperate with that in a timely manner, she appears – for a time, at least – to be resisting the very purpose of the genre in which she has been created. And when her reasoning stems from an authentic desire to remain autonomous, she has the potential to subvert the entire genre.

There is, sometimes, a fine line between a heroine like Tessa and the novels in which the heroine is actively and aggressively pursued by the hero. At first, these heroines can look subversive, as well, because they resist the hero’s many charms. You know the type of heroine I’m talking about here: the one who doubts the hero’s feelings, or has a shameful secret she’s trying to protect, or thinks the hero is the wrong guy, or is technically promised to another, etc. etc. These heroines might not, at first, want to marry, but it’s not so much that they’re committed to independence, per se, and once their secret it revealed or the hero’s true feelings become clear, or their pride gives way to True Love, they fall right into love’s arms, swept away into a traditional HEA. The anti-Romance heroine is not so easily won over by love; in its complicated calculus, she is not convinced that giving in to True Love would be all that different from giving up other, equally important, things.

I don’t know how many heroines there are in the genre who are as adamant about not committing as Tessa is (in fact, it takes her three books and, as Jayne calls it, a “Care Bear epilogue” for her to finally be convinced into marriage). I have seen more heroines like Yvonne, from Seressia Glass’s No Commitment Required, a woman who, despite her strong feelings for Michael, is quite adamant that she does not want a serious commitment with him. Her resistance comes partly from trust issues and partly from a serious need to remain financially and professionally independent, as well as emotionally autonomous. She seems somewhat of an intermediate anti-heroine, shy of love because of her past, but sincerely protective of her independence, as well. I don’t think her autonomy is stronger than her trust issues, but they play a significant role in the way Yvonne had avoided a traditional romantic ending. For a large portion of the book, in fact, she actively fights against a committed relationship with Michael, especially when he becomes more insistent on claiming one. The part of Yvonne that is dedicated to maintaining her independence represents a small rebellion against the romantic formula, I think, in the way of her refusal to be swiftly swept away by love. She’s not simply the heroine who thought she was so independent and ambitious until she meets the irresistible hero; she is independent, and even after she finds happiness with Michael, I expect her to stay that way.

Although this type of heroine seems more suited to contemporary (or paranormal) Romance, I have found some prototypes in historical Romance. Francesca Bonnard, from Loretta Chase’s new release Your Scandalous Ways, for example, is one of the strongest anti-Romance heroines I have ever read, in part because of the clever way Chase manages to secure a romantic happy ending for Francesca without compromising her hard-won sexual and economic independence (the terms of their agreement are quite provocative). I wonder if readers will find Francesca over the top because of the active resistance she mounts to emotional commitment and then marriage. There is not a character I believe more when she said she really didn’t want to be trapped by a man ever again, no matter how wonderful that man might be, and no matter how much she loves him. Some of her reasons may come from a past betrayal, but her position remains affirmative; she is determined not to follow the conventional rules for Romance heroines. She is not, in other words, the naturally nurturing female who secretly wants seven babies and a nice little nesting place for her and the man of her dreams.

What I haven’t decided yet is whether this anti-Romance heroine is a relatively recent genre innovation, or whether she’s simply an updated version of the famously plucky heroines of 80s and 90s Romance – the heroines who did the most dumb ass things in the name of personal independence. Are these heroines just smarter and more economically liberated? Are they merely being tamed by the genre the way those alpha heroes are — potentially subversive but ultimately conforming? Or are they different, somehow, are they introducing even a slight challenge to the traditional Romance HEA by insisting that no matter how great a guy is, no matter how much she might love him, that her life is primary, even to love?

Jane had a very insightful comment after reading my first draft of this piece:

So I think a true anti-heroine comes when there is some position of power equality so that the heroine’s choice to remain free is real (instead of illusory). That ultimately makes the relationship more wonderful because it is the meeting of two equals.

This is a very appealing idea to me, because I have so often felt that the heroine’s freedom is illusory, that she only pretends to enjoy her independence until the perfect mate comes along. And once he does come along, the heroine becomes that woman who tells you how complete she is on her own and then goes loony with pheromone-fueled wedding plans. No, these anti-Romance heroines convince me that they’re serious about remaining independent even within a committed romantic relationship, that no guy is worth giving that up.

What I wonder, though, is how easily the genre can accommodate these women, what with the abundance of Care Bear epilogues and miracle babies. It’s not that a heroine (or a real life woman) can’t remain independent and still be a wife and mother, but that doesn’t seem to be how those endings play to me (the freedom seems illusory, as Jane puts it). So how free can a heroine be and still fit within genre Romance?

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

64 Comments

  1. Laura Vivanco
    May 27, 2008 @ 05:25:47

    are they introducing even a slight challenge to the traditional Romance HEA by insisting that no matter how great a guy is, no matter how much she might love him, that her life is primary, even to love?

    I have so often felt that the heroine's freedom is illusory, that she only pretends to enjoy her independence until the perfect mate comes along

    these anti-Romance heroines convince me that they're serious about remaining independent even within a committed romantic relationship, that no guy is worth giving that up.

    It's not that a heroine (or a real life woman) can't remain independent and still be a wife and mother

    I’m really puzzled by these quotes. Maybe it’s a question of definitions and I’m just not understanding what you’re meaning by “her life,” “independence,” and “freedom.” Or maybe it’s that because I got married at 22, I’ve never really been free, independent or had “a life” according to your definitions, so I don’t even understand what you’re describing? I really don’t know.

    The thing is that I can’t imagine what “my life” would be like without love. I think I’d feel very lonely if I didn’t live with other people that I really care about nearby. Maybe other people value their personal space and solitude more than I do? Maybe that’s what you mean by valuing “independence”? Or are you thinking of freedom in terms of the ability to make decisions about finances and career without having to take other people’s feelings/needs into consideration? It seems not, though, because you go on to say that someone can be both a wife and mother and be independent, and in my experience, parenthood (particularly of a baby/young child) means putting someone else’s needs first and that someone else will make highly inconvenient and unpredictable demands on your time in a way that another adult never would. I suppose if a parent employed a full-time nanny then maybe they could feel independent.

  2. Jackie
    May 27, 2008 @ 06:02:37

    Here’s the thing: once you marry (especially once you have kids), that IS the end of the me-me-me independence, whether real life or a romance novel. You’ve chosen to share your life with someone. If you share, you aren’t completely independent anymore: there’s someone with you. Now you might not be making his meals or paying his bills or picking out his clothes, but you are sharing your time, your life, with him. You’re invested in his life, just as he’s invested in yours. That’s the point of a relationship. Why on earth would anyone, whether a real person or a heroine, want to be in a relationship without a **true** relationship? If all the heroine wants is sex, she should get a vibrator. Or go the Samantha route from Sex and the City and have a score of bed buddies, and be satisfied with that. A loving relationship means it’s the end of “me” and the start of “us.”

    Let’s not even get into how independence goes out the window once there are kids involved.

    Here’s my question: Why is this lack of me-me-me independence a bad thing? You can be in a relationship and still, as Janet says, have an independent personality. That’s healthy. But it’s unreasonable to be in a relationship and still be completely self-centered. (Because that is another way of looking at such independence: being self-centered.) Once a romance heroine commits to her hero, that’s the end of the me-me-me. Or it should be.

  3. Angela
    May 27, 2008 @ 06:13:51

    So I think a true anti-heroine comes when there is some position of power equality so that the heroine's choice to remain free is real (instead of illusory). That ultimately makes the relationship more wonderful because it is the meeting of two equals…This is a very appealing idea to me, because I have so often felt that the heroine's freedom is illusory, that she only pretends to enjoy her independence until the perfect mate comes along. And once he does come along, the heroine becomes that woman who tells you how complete she is on her own and then goes loony with pheromone-fueled wedding plans.

    I was musing about something along similar lines as I reflected upon Madeline Hunter’s historicals. I’ve enjoyed a good number of them, but all of them have rubbed me wrong over the one constant characterization of her entire catalogue: spirited heroines who are under the control and domination of the hero. Historically, women have been subjected to the control of men, but it irks me that in Hunter’s historicals, not only are the h/h on unequal footing throughout the entire book, but the very concept of an independent heroine comes across as abhorrent. At the end of the novels, I’m left feeling a bit angry over the patronization of the heroes and other male characters towards the female characters and that the “HEA” is really just the heroine falling into the hero’s “sensible” and “level-headed” plans. Essentially, the heroines are neutered of any hint of independence outside of the boundaries set in place by the hero (and at the same time, society) and that love feels like love with conditions.

    I think the difficulties lie in both the traditional roles assigned to women and to individual personalities. Because this is a genre, certain tropes are expected, and with expectations there comes cliches. I don’t think the truly independent heroine, like the ones you’ve described, are unwelcome in the genre, but I have to ask what role exactly the romance genre is supposed to fulfill? As a whole, despite the surge in popularity for erotic and more recently, m/m romances, this genre is very traditional and espouses traditional values and traditional gender roles (or the madonna/whore complex would never have taken root within the characterization of the female protagonist). Because of this, I wonder what is the ultimate agenda of the romance genre beyond “love,” “fairy tale” and “fantasy”? I don’t believe this discussion can get to the root of this issue unless we delve deeper than analyzing a few books here and there.

  4. Nora Roberts
    May 27, 2008 @ 06:34:44

    ~Because of this, I wonder what is the ultimate agenda of the romance genre beyond “love,” “fairy tale” and “fantasy”? ~

    For myself, I don’t think of the genre as having an agenda, but of its purpose.

    I don’t have to have the fairy tale–though they can be delightful. I don’t have to have the fantasy–though that can be entertaining, too.

    But I need love. Or what’s the point of the book?

    For me, the core is the love story, the journey of two people in a developing relationship. The purpose–beyond a good read–would be to show the power of love, how it changes or strengthens the characters. How it affects them. What do they each bring to the other, what do they make together. Who are they?

    Love matters. If there’s an ultimate agenda that would be mine.

    ~A loving relationship means it's the end of “me” and the start of “us.”~

    ~The thing is that I can't imagine what “my life” would be like without love.~

    I agree completely with these two statements, personally and professionally. Which just tells me I chose the right life and the right career.

  5. Laura Vivanco
    May 27, 2008 @ 07:01:33

    I reflected upon Madeline Hunter's historicals. I've enjoyed a good number of them, but all of them have rubbed me wrong over the one constant characterization of her entire catalogue: spirited heroines who are under the control and domination of the hero.

    I don’t think this is the case in her By Design, because the balance of the power shifts back and forth between the hero and heroine, and they seem very equal at the end. At least, that’s how I read it. And in The Protector there are similar shifts backwards and forwards throughout the novel (the heroine saves the hero’s life twice), and although marriage does limit the heroine in some ways, the hero does his best to make sure she can continue the activities she loves.

    Because this is a genre, certain tropes are expected, and with expectations there comes cliches. I don't think the truly independent heroine, like the ones you've described, are unwelcome in the genre, but I have to ask what role exactly the romance genre is supposed to fulfill?

    I’m with Jackie on this, inasmuch as I don’t really see how you can be fully independent and be in a long-term relationship. So a really independent heroine isn’t compatible with a genre that’s about people falling in love and deciding to commit to having a long-term relationship with each other. That doesn’t mean, in my opinion, that either party have to adopt traditional gender roles, but they are going to have to take each other into consideration.

    As I said, though, I wonder if we’ve all got slightly different definitions of the word “independent”.

    Why is this lack of me-me-me independence a bad thing?

    To put this in a wider context, I think one could argue that no-one is truly independent because “no man is an island” and Mrs Thatcher was wrong to suggest that there’s “no such thing as society.”

  6. Michelle
    May 27, 2008 @ 07:51:11

    One relationship that struck me (but in the mystery genre) was Dorothy Sayers Harriet Vane and Peter Whimsey relationship. Initially she owes him a great deal and she is coming from a stressful/traumatic situation, while he was “Wham this is the woman I want to spend my life with”. Dorothy Sayers does a really good job, and Harriet Vane’s struggle does seem realistic and not TSTL. Really good story-Stong Poison, Have His Carcass, and Gaudy Night.

  7. DS
    May 27, 2008 @ 08:07:00

    I really don’t see independence defined as the me-me-me type. That reminds me of the “Me generation” and of a very interesting analysis I heard on NPR of the recent crop of mortgage brokers that lead to the current financial situation. I like heroines who have a worthy goal outside of a relationship. And some of my favorite couples are outside the strict bounds of romance for that reason. I like the idea of a partnership of equals.

    I don’t think it should be assumed that this precludes marriage, children or anything else. Some of the most pitiable situations I have seen are the individuals (of either sex) who have leaned too much on their partner then had the relationship end through death or breakup.

  8. Jackie
    May 27, 2008 @ 08:20:01

    I like heroines who have a worthy goal outside of a relationship.

    Absolutely agree with you, DS. And I also agree that it’s very possible for a heroine to be in a relationship with the hero and still pursue/achieve that goal either independently or in partnership with the hero. One doesn’t preclude the other. And I also agree that once the heroine is married and/or has kids, she can still pursue/achieve that goal, again either independently or in partnership with her husband/the children’s father/the hero.

    Having a goal outside of the relationship is, to me, part of the heroine having an independent personality as Janet defined it. And I completely applaud that. This doesn’t mean that an independent-minded woman cannot be in a romantic relationship that ends in an HEA.

    Maybe it’s the concept of a heroine thinking that by choosing to share her life, she’s sacrificing her independence. That does resonate; it’s an understandable fear (and, hopefully, not a paralyzing fear). But I think the heroine AND the hero both truly grow when they both realize that being in a loving relationship means that it’s not so much that they’ve become dependent upon each other as it is that they have wound their lives together. That’s not sacrificing independence, to my way of thinking. That’s evolving from an I to a We, a Me to an Us.

  9. GrowlyCub
    May 27, 2008 @ 08:27:45

    I believe there are men and women who truly are better off by themselves (be it by inclination or due to things that happen to them in their lives and historically it’s been easier for males to do this, i.e. hermits, frontiersmen, the guy who lived by himself in Alaska for decades). In a way, you could describe these people as independent. But by that very token, they don’t appear to lend themselves as material for a romance novel or any kind of relationship story (except possibly a tragic one), because they would be miserable with the demands a shift from ego to taking into consideration the feelings of more than just themselves would require.

    It was really interesting to read this article because it put the finger on why I found Tessa dissatisfying as a heroine. She does not seem to be striving to stay/become independent, rather she seems egotistically wanting to have her cake and eat it too. ‘Love me, fulfill my emotional needs, but don’t expect anything back from me, because I was hurt and I’m not going back there again.’

    Either she’s somebody who wants to be single by choice and forever or she’s not. Stringing Gabriel along and making him miserable for three books and beyond does not describe a noble quest for independence but seems rather immature to me. Especially after the line in the epilogue ‘Gabe, being Gabe, didn’t mind’ their relationship seems terribly one-sided to me.

    I’m not sure I understand why one would need to write/want to read a romance about persons who are truly better off by themselves. The whole premise of romance, to me at least, is that despite the obstacles, the hero and heroine will be better off together rather than apart. I cannot really see the place of a true anti-heroine in romance because by the definition I get from the essay, she would not be suitable to a relationship. So if there’s to be one, the heroine would have to give up something that’s essential to her person which does not make for a healthy, happy couple in the long run or a sane, fulfilled heroine.

    Btw, the epilogue in Nightcap really baffles me. It just didn’t seem to fit the story line and, to tell the truth, I felt kind of mocked by it as a reader.

    I’m not sure if you meant this by ‘care bear epilogue’, but it seems Tessa must have some strong nesting instincts after all, she just had cats instead of children. Not much difference in the need for emotional attachment, except cats don’t go to college and – at least in my house – they only make babies when I tell them to. :) And I guess they don’t get tattoos and fall in love with the wrong people either (although I know of monogamous studs and even gay ones, not that the latter stay studs for very long. :)

  10. Stephanie Z.
    May 27, 2008 @ 08:28:59

    A loving relationship means it's the end of “me” and the start of “us.”

    The problem with this is the weight of history. I know it isn’t true for the majority of real-life relationships (at least now), but the perception is that the woman will stop thinking ‘me’ and start thinking ‘us’/’the family,’ but the man will not — he gets to remain ‘independent’ and continue thinking ‘me.’ These heroines that Janet has described, I think, are fighting against THAT. Especially in historicals. Think about Devil Cynster and Honoria — she only gets to be faux-independent by COMPLETELY submitting to his will.

    I’m pretty young and just barely engaged, but I’ve been living with the fiance for the last year and, as far as I can tell, we’re more like a Venn diagram. There are still areas that are distinctly ‘me’ and distinctly ‘him,’ but there’s a nice overlap in the middle that is ‘us.’

  11. TracyS
    May 27, 2008 @ 08:52:53

    I think SB Sarah hit on what bothered me about Tessa:

    Tessa needed to build her own pedestal of accomplishment and then place that pedestal next to someone else's for equal protection and balance, and not erect a leaning structure that rested entirely on the strength of someone else's foundation. Problem was, she hadn't recognized that she had already established her own foundation by moving to Manhattan on her own, getting a job, paying her way through college (even if she was in the wrong major for her skill set) and working at a bar making a huge and solid circle of friends. She never fully gave herself credit for the accomplishments of her backstory.

    She had this idea of what independence meant, but didn’t realize all she had accomplished. The only other thing I would add is that she knew Gabe for 4 years. She knew him so well she should have known he would not make her loose her independence, that he would support her. It’s not like they had just met; she had seen him “in action” so to speak for long enough to know his character.

    That being said, I loved the book!! LOL Just because a heroine or hero makes me want to pull my hair out, doesn’t mean the book doesn’t work for me!

  12. Maya
    May 27, 2008 @ 09:07:02

    Fascinating question and exploration!

    The part about two equals coming together solely through mutual choice, as opposed to a situation where economic or status/influence desire may play a partial role, reminded me of a real life situation where i learned of the upcoming wedding of a distant acquaintance. This was a woman who had built a business that became highly successful (national chain of stores), and the person sharing the news added how the bride was very happy to have found not only a life partner, but one who was very successful career wise in his own right. My first, unthinking, knee-jerk reaction was ‘but why would that be necessary, if she is well able to support them? how much money does one couple really need?’ The answer was that the bride would have had no problem being the main or even sole family supporter, if it came to that, but she felt a great sense of freedom in never having to wonder if her fiance was attracted to her for herself, or for the financial perks she offered.

  13. Jackie
    May 27, 2008 @ 09:22:07

    I'm pretty young and just barely engaged…

    Congratulations on the engagement, Stephanie!

    The problem with this is the weight of history. I know it isn't true for the majority of real-life relationships (at least now), but the perception is that the woman will stop thinking ‘me' and start thinking ‘us'/’the family,' but the man will not -’ he gets to remain ‘independent' and continue thinking ‘me.'

    Good point. I’m talking specifically about contemporary heroes and heroines. Real women who pump their own $4 gas, and real mean who eat quiche. Real couples, who have an HEA that’s all about their lives together, which includes their own individual goals.

  14. Fiordiligi
    May 27, 2008 @ 09:27:45

    I have read all three O’Reilly’s from this series, and I can honestly say, I didn’t enjoy the books BECAUSE of the heroines. The worst was Tessa, because to me she appeared immature, TSTL, and sometimes downright mean to the hero. All the more so, because Gabe was a truly nice and trustworthy person.

    Btw, the epilogue in Nightcap really baffles me. It just didn't seem to fit the story line and, to tell the truth, I felt kind of mocked by it as a reader.

    I can only ditto that. Tessa won’t have children because she’s afraid they will act equally stupid as their mother? What MOTHER is that? That is like as if the heroine needs a heart or kidney transplantation at the end of the story, the spoiler to top all spoilers. I don’t expect every ending to be filled with crying babies and white picket fences, just look how well Jennifer Crusie can pull that off, but I do want it to end without such … bullshit, for lack of a better word.

    After years of reading romance, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t stand 150% career oriented heroines. Neither do I expect them to give up their jobs, nor to produce five children in a row. She can be a CEO, or a princess, for all that it matters. But when the heroine and hero fall in love and decide to spend the rest of their lives together, I do want to “feel” this commitment, without having to fear that sooner or later this relationship will go down the drain because work has become more important. Come to think of it, the same applies for heroes. One of the main reason why Match Me If You Can from SEP never really worked for me like say This Heart of Mine or It Had To Be You, was because I didn’t trust the hero to keep his promises.

  15. Janine
    May 27, 2008 @ 09:43:07

    Janet (Robin) said:

    I don't know how many heroines there are in the genre who are as adamant about not committing as Tessa is (in fact, it takes her three books and, as Jayne calls it, a “Care Bear epilogue” for her to finally be convinced into marriage). I have seen more heroines like Yvonne, from Seressia Glass's No Commitment Required, a woman who, despite her strong feelings for Michael, is quite adamant that she does not want a serious commitment with him. Her resistance comes partly from trust issues and partly from a serious need to remain financially and professionally independent, as well as emotionally autonomous. She seems somewhat of an intermediate anti-heroine, shy of love because of her past, but sincerely protective of her independence, as well.

    Growlycub said:

    It was really interesting to read this article because it put the finger on why I found Tessa dissatisfying as a heroine. She does not seem to be striving to stay/become independent, rather she seems egotistically wanting to have her cake and eat it too. ‘Love me, fulfill my emotional needs, but don't expect anything back from me, because I was hurt and I'm not going back there again.'

    I haven’t read the books in question, but Growlycub’s description makes me question the distinction between heroines like Yvonne and heroines like Tessa. It sounds like Tessa was hurt in the past, too, so doesn’t that mean that at some level her need for independence stems partly from trust issues as well?

    And to take it further, isn’t fear of commitment always based in trust issues? After all, if you trust the other person as fully as it is possible to trust another human being (recognizing that all human beings are fallible), doesn’t that include trusting that they will do their best to continue to support your pursuit of your goals even after you commit to one another and establish interdpendence, just as you will do your best to support their pursuit of their goals even after you make that commitment to be together?

    If you don’t believe that, then isn’t that because your fear of the other person’s falliblity is greater than your trust in that person? Trust issues, in other words?

  16. Lisa
    May 27, 2008 @ 09:54:23

    This is a great discussion and so many have already made great points. This quirky “faux-independent” heroine is why I stopped reading historicals for the most part. Sure, at the end of an historical, the hero might accept the heroine as his equal, but society does not. Since he stands between her and society, if something happens to him or his reputation she’s SOL. In historicals, the heroine’s independence is solely at the discretion and power of the hero. If not, then it’s almost always anachronistic. Some authors can make me forget that temporarily, but those are rare.

    I like the Venn diagram idea and I think this can work well in contemporaries and paranormals. In these types of stories the heroine can have her own career, her own money etc. and because of that a marriage of equals.

  17. Stephanie Z.
    May 27, 2008 @ 09:55:42

    Thanks, Jackie!

  18. Jill Myles
    May 27, 2008 @ 10:05:11

    I'm not sure if you meant this by ‘care bear epilogue', but it seems Tessa must have some strong nesting instincts after all, she just had cats instead of children. Not much difference in the need for emotional attachment, except cats don't go to college and – at least in my house – they only make babies when I tell them to. :)

    Whoah whoah whoah!!!!!!!!!!!

    Stop the car!

    Not much difference in the emotional need from children and cats??

    I have two cats and I cannot even fathom having children. Neither can my husband. Just because you have pets doesn’t mean that you want to raise children. Not everyone is born with an innate ‘nesting’ instinct, no matter if you’re born with ovaries or not.

    I like fuzzy, cute animals. I do not like children. So I can understand Tess liking cats and not wanting kids. There’s a difference between wanting to change the kitty litter and wanting to raise a small human for the next 18 years.

  19. TracyS
    May 27, 2008 @ 10:28:30

    I like fuzzy, cute animals. I do not like children. So I can understand Tess liking cats and not wanting kids. There's a difference between wanting to change the kitty litter and wanting to raise a small human for the next 18 years.

    I agree with you here. I have a cat and kids. Huge difference. The cat: all I have to do if feed it and change her litter and she’s happy. The kids need a little more than that! LOL

    However, I think Tessa’s reasons for not have kids was just, ummm, to be blunt~dumb! If we all chose not to have kids because of stupid choices we made and we were afraid our kids were going to make the same choices, the human race would end. Fast.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people choosing not to have children. Jill, you said you do not like children and do not want to raise them. I applaud you for understanding that about yourself and making the right choice for you. However, Tessa saying she didn’t want to have kids solely because they may make stupid choices like her~ WTF? I don’t get that.

  20. Lisa
    May 27, 2008 @ 10:29:53

    I have two cats and I cannot even fathom having children. Neither can my husband. Just because you have pets doesn't mean that you want to raise children. Not everyone is born with an innate ‘nesting' instinct, no matter if you're born with ovaries or not.

    I have one of each and I don’t get the comparison either. Sure, both require considering an entity other than oneself, but that’s as far as the comparison goes. The level of commitment required for becoming a parent cannot truly be understood until one lives it.

    I don’t have that intense nesting instinct either. It’s there, but not of the same intensity it seems to have for others. Some people, with or without ovaries, have personalities ideally suited to child care-giving, and I salute these people. However, I resent the stereotype that solely because I have ovaries my personality is innately suited to childrearing. I also resent the idea that if a woman isn’t all psyched about childrearing that she’s somehow less of a woman or less of a mother. We’ve let men get a pass on this for eons, so it’s a double-standard.

  21. Helen Burgess
    May 27, 2008 @ 10:35:32

    This is a slight detour but, oh god, my cats love me to turn up and open the tin – that’s it – they don’t have to be (tactfully) talked out of something too short/tight/low cut etc as my 15 yr old daughter does. Cats are less strain on the nerves. To get back to original subject, an emotionally healthy person should be capable of being in a committed relationship and still retain a sense of self. I read and liked Sex Straight Up but not Tess’s story. I thought she was a pain.

  22. Marianne McA
    May 27, 2008 @ 10:36:26

    Michelle, I agree about the Sayers books, though they don’t exactly fit Janet’s model, because obviously Harriet was traumatised by her first relationship. But in the end it’s clear that she can have a happy and fulfilled independent life – she has a genuine choice to make. Gaudy Night very explicitly shows the contented and productive single life she could aspire to, as well as the unhappy alternative.
    They’re such romantic books, but Peter’s never shown as her destiny, nor does she ever shelve her brain and allow emotion to guide her actions.

  23. Janine B
    May 27, 2008 @ 10:38:51

    I’ve got the kids, but no cats. I’ll keep it that way. ;)

    Interesting points… and you all helped me decide on whether to read O'Reilly's series. I think I’ll pass. I may not need an ending with a wedding or a baby on the way, but I need a emotional connection. Sounds to me the heroine couldn’t deliver on that.

  24. Lizzy
    May 27, 2008 @ 10:44:35

    I probably won’t articulate or fully extrapolate this idea correctly, but for me, the idea of the anti-romantic heroine (or inasmuch as she is being defined here, the romantic heroine who resists the romance because of career or other important concerns) has the potential to be very frustrating.

    By that I mean this: We, as readers, know there will be a HEA. So when she protest too much against love for whatever reason, we all know it’s for show. And I really don’t like feeling that way — that the heroine’s words are hollow right from the get-go. (A little protest is OK; it’s normal, we expect it in almost every romance novel. But if the whole story demands it … well, that’s a bad way for me to begin, knowing the bulk of the story revolves around the heroine getting worn down or having her ideals worked over.)

    It’s going to have to be a skillful author that will then create a story where that DOESN’T happen.

    Romances are full of people changing to compliment each other, sure, but I don’t like to read stories where the heroine at the end is totally unrecognizable from the woman at the beginning.

    P.S. I like O’Reilly’s series for the most part. I definitely recommend the 2nd one. Epilogue, though: Sorry, FAIL.

  25. Shiloh Walker
    May 27, 2008 @ 11:07:52

    Here's the thing: once you marry (especially once you have kids), that IS the end of the me-me-me independence, whether real life or a romance novel. You've chosen to share your life with someone. If you share, you aren't completely independent anymore: there's someone with you. Now you might not be making his meals or paying his bills or picking out his clothes, but you are sharing your time, your life, with him. You're invested in his life, just as he's invested in yours. That's the point of a relationship. Why on earth would anyone, whether a real person or a heroine, want to be in a relationship without a **true** relationship? If all the heroine wants is sex, she should get a vibrator. Or go the Samantha route from Sex and the City and have a score of bed buddies, and be satisfied with that. A loving relationship means it's the end of “me” and the start of “us.”

    Amen.

    The thing with falling in love with somebody, making a commitment, is that you can no longer put yourself first. It doesn’t mean you have to always put HIM first, although usually, when you love somebody, that is what you want to do-or at least in my experience. But it does mean that you have to think about him/his needs/happiness as much as your own…and he should do the same for you.

    I read romance for a HEA-two people falling in love and deciding to spend their lives together-or at least work at it. If I want women’s fiction with romantic aspects, I’ll look for that.

    But when I read a romance, I want the two of them in love, or at least willing to admit they are on the verge by the story’s end.

    I don’t need a picket fence, I don’t need kids in the epilogue-in real life, not everybody is cut out to be a parent, so the same can work in books. But I don’t want to go on that journey with them and then they turn away from each other for whatever reasons on the last page. For me, that isn’t a romance for me.

  26. Jill A
    May 27, 2008 @ 11:11:47

    I actually think I would like this heroine, because I would appreciate her struggle. Stephanie Z. said it very well for me,

    The problem with this is the weight of history. I know it isn't true for the majority of real-life relationships (at least now), but the perception is that the woman will stop thinking ‘me' and start thinking ‘us'/’the family,' but the man will not -’ he gets to remain ‘independent' and continue thinking ‘me.' These heroines that Janet has described, I think, are fighting against THAT. Especially in historicals. Think about Devil Cynster and Honoria -’ she only gets to be faux-independent by COMPLETELY submitting to his will.

    Even in today’s society, this happens A LOT that I see. So I can understand that it would take a lot of work and hand-wringing for an independent woman to take a chance on love. Personally, I’m single and I don’t know if I’ll ever be in a permanent relationship. Part of this is because I am very wary of potential inequality, and part is because it takes a lot for me to enter a relationship in the first place – I enjoy being single a lot. So many relationships I see still have a strong dynamic of the woman being the primary caregiver as well as the primary homemaker, even if they also have a full-time career. The man can pursue a hobby or be a workaholic, but the woman usually can’t until the kids are taken care of (i.e. around teenage years). And I don’t think I want that kind of relationship. So I can sympathize with someone who takes a long time to trust that her partner won’t ask that of her now OR in the future, and who takes a long time to decide that yes, SHE can also be a committed half of an equal partnership. It’s the rest of her life, it’s understandable that it could take a while to be confident enough to commit.

    In fact, this type of heroine will probably resonate more with me than any other type; it sounds very similar to the way I see myself. Then again, that means that she will resonate less with the majority of the population.

    Edit: This heroine’s struggle reminds me of a Carla Kelly historical heroine – from Miss Grimsley’s Oxford Career. Does anyone know if she is similar? I really enjoyed that novel.

  27. Kathleen O'Reilly
    May 27, 2008 @ 11:31:24

    Oh, I can comment on this one!!!! It’s fascinating to me to read how different people have different reactions to the ideas of a females role with life and within a relationship, but I think they all exist within the world.
    Most importantly, I think there are all sorts of different types of independence. Emotional independence (i.e. I don’t want to need anyone, or I don’t need anyone), financial independence (I must be able to fend for myself), physical independence (i.e. leave me alone kid, don’t bother me). I fit into the financial independence, and sometimes, when life is really tough, the physical independence, but not the emotional independence.

    I have all sorts of friends that I grew up with. Almost all married. Some are still “independent”, even within the relationship. Both financially, and also personality-wise, but they are committed to that relationship, just as much as the other friends I have who have completely altered their life to conform to a new role within the marriage.

    For me, and I’m speaking only for me, now, I have to be able to support myself financially. It’s sort of a primordial survival need thing for me. i started working when I was fifteen, I needed my own money, I needed my own car, I needed my independence to be me, it was simply an expectation that I grew up with, both from myself, and my parents. If I doubted that I was able to support myself in some manner without my husband, I would go NUTSO-CUCKOO! In other words, I would be Tessa. I do not want to have to depend on a having a roommate forever for the rest of my life. I would truly be nuts if I didn’t have “my space”.

    So, I think there’s all sorts of independence, and I don’t think it’s a one size fits all label. I’ve seen heroines or heroes in romance who believe they are emotionally independent, but truly aren’t. This is pretty common, and I actually think it’s fairly true to life. People get burned, and think, “I don’t need anyone,” but the fact is, it’s a rare bird that doesn’t need someone emotionally, both male and female. I didn’t create Tessa to be emotionally independent, only worried that she was too emotionally dependent, which she worried about because in her past she had been too emotionally dependent, and ignored her need for financial independence, so for her, at least what I intended, was two different pieces coming in conflict. The needy emotional piece of her against the financially independent piece of her.

    The physical independence thing is the aloof people out there, when it’s almost tangible. And there are people who come across as aloof, but they’re like totally needy-people on the inside. That’s my DH, who comes across as cold, but hates to be alone, and I think it’s also Daniel as well. Sometimes they think they want to be aloof, (again, my DH), and sometimes they’ve created the wall themselves (i.e. Daniel). I don’t know many women who fit here. I do have some female friends who are, and all of them are married, but from the outside looking in, I wonder if they truly do hold something back. I don’t know, and I would never ask, because i’m not sure they would honestly know or think about it.

    The financial independence thing is inbred into men, and I think it’s coming around in women. I see it a lot in friends of mine, and I know it’s within me. Financial independence is power, and let me be clear that I’m not talking Trump-level “financial independence,” but the mere living your life in the manner that is financially comfortable to you. And as a lot of people have mentioned, there’s a balance of power in romance novels, and also in relationships. The common belief is that whoever has the financial upper hand in contemporary times has butt-loads of relationship power, and I believe that is true. But I think within some contemporary women (not all), there is a Darwin thing, a need to be able to take care of yourself, to know you can do it without help from a man. I have some friends who are like me, and some that aren’t. Honestly, some of my really good friends don’t think about whether they can support themselves if their DH dies, or if they get divorced. I don’t know if it’s that they never thought about it, or if, they cannot imagine a life where they have to do it, or whether their needs are so small that they know they can, or what. However, I am by nature, a worrier and a planner. It’s my DNA, and I see more and more of it within women around me.

    So, to summarize, I think there’s ALL sorts of independence, and for me as an author, IMHO, I want to dig deeper than just “being independent” to know what’s at the heart of the characters. Because it’s not a one-shot label, at least to me. YMMV. Probably more than anyone in the entire world has ever thought about independence. :)))))

  28. Jill Sorenson
    May 27, 2008 @ 12:02:49

    I can relate to a heroine who doesn’t want to have children, or even like them. I love my own children to pieces, but before I had them I didn’t experience any particular longing to reproduce, or have so much as a twinge of maternal instinct.

    Becoming a wife and mother has changed my life for the better in ways I never imagined, however, and although I still consider myself an independent woman, I don’t mind a “Care Bear” HEA.

  29. TracyS
    May 27, 2008 @ 13:01:42

    I have some friends who are like me, and some that aren't. Honestly, some of my really good friends don't think about whether they can support themselves if their DH dies, or if they get divorced. I don't know if it's that they never thought about it, or if, they cannot imagine a life where they have to do it, or whether their needs are so small that they know they can, or what.

    I can’t speak for your friends Kathleen, but I can tell you where I am in this :o) I chose to be a SAHM for 8 years. I stayed home with my kids and worked a part-time job from home. Certainly nothing I could support myself on; just a little extra to stretch the budget. Now both boys are in school full time but I only work part time~substitute teaching. I made these choices because I wanted to be home with my kids as much as possible when they were small. It was my choice (and my hubby’s!), but not one I feel everyone needs to make. It’s what we want for our family. We live in a very small house on a very tight budget because of living off of one income. We don’t complain because it was our choice.

    Of course I don’t like to think about something happening to my hubby. I think I don’t worry about it because I know I have the ability to get full-time work that would support me and the kids. I could get a full-time teaching job or an office job. I worked many temporary office jobs (in the summers) while teaching and had a few companies try to get me to break my teaching contract to stay with them. I know I have that ability so I don’t stress or worry about it. I don’t feel the need to be financially independent right now because in my heart, I feel that what I am doing is what I am MEANT to do so the money doesn’t come into it.

    Are all women like me? Nope. Do I expect my heroines to me like me? Nope. Do I want to read about people just like me? Nope. But sometimes I find it hard to understand those that are so completely different than me that’s all.

    I understood Tessa’s wanting to be independent, but I really didn’t understand her reasons for not having kids~or did I misunderstand that her reason was because she was afraid they’d make mistakes like her? I just don’t get that. Like I said above, I didn’t get it, but I still enjoyed the books~Esp. Daniel’s story.

    Thanks for your comment above, it was interesting to get your perspective.

  30. Kathleen O'Reilly
    May 27, 2008 @ 13:17:53

    Tracy,
    Like you, I’m what I consider a SAHM. And also like you, I know that I could take care of myself. I have my writing, which wouldn’t put us where we are now, but me and the kids could handle it. Also, I have a background in computers that I could fall back on as well. That’s my comfort zone, and it’s why I am comfortable with my place and my decisions. If I didn’t have my writing, or my computer stuff, I don’t think I’d be this comfortable with where I am now. And I do believe that everyone has different worries in life. Security (i.e. some sort of financial security) is huge for me, and I think it’s huge for Tessa. She didn’t have that comfort zone, and needed to get it before she could fully commit to a relationship with Gabe.

    As for the kids, LOL, this is truly embarrassing, and I realize how I get caught up in things, and people only see my words, not my brain (a scary place). I didn’t think Gabe and Tessa would be happy with kids because of Gabe owning the bar and being there at such crazy hours. i worked through high school in a restaurant, and the managers had an atrocious schedule, and I couldn’t see either Gabe or Tessa rearing a kid in a bar. i can see Tessa bartending there on the weekends and pulling her weight whenever he needed her, but i couldn’t fit a kid into that dynamic, and also, i think Tessa would be nervous about whether she’d be a competent mother or not, because she had these rigid ideals of what life should be, and i think her ideal would be a SAHM mom, being there when Gabe couldn’t, because his hours would be crazy and long. And I needed somebody to take over the bar, because it’s been in the family for generations, and what would happen if Gabe and Tessa didn’t reproduce, and then, aha, Cleao and Sean’s kid, which in my head (again, a scary place) made perfect sense.

    ROFL about the Care Bear epilogue. My apologies to those who didn’t enjoy it. I can honestly say that I hated the end of Revenge of the Jedi for that exact reason, so I understand the frustration and will keep this in mind in the future. My editor wanted me to indicate that the bar storyline got wrapped up, and I knew that I needed to ensure that future O’Sullivan generation inherited the bar. And thus, the epilogue was born.

  31. Janet/Robin
    May 27, 2008 @ 13:18:52

    Wow, such interesting responses. I can’t comment on them all, but I do want to say generally that the nerve this piece hit in some readers is the same nerve it hit in me — only in reverse. That is, I think there is a false opposition in the idea that independence precludes a relationship (i.e. independence = alone), and that the very conflict around those terms gave rise to my interest in this topic.

    IMO, some of this goes back to what both Kathleen O’Reilly and Laura Vivianco remarked on, which is the need to define independence and the different senses of the word. Frankly, I hadn’t gotten to that point in my thinking yet, because I was still trying to sort out the pattern I was noticing in my reading. But it’s a really important point, nonetheless, because clearly for some readers independence = alone, and for others (me included) it doesn’t have that connotation at all. And that may, very well, have to do with how we each define independence. Some of it, too, comes down to simple preferences and expectations as readers.

    But the fact that such a strong connection exists between “independence” and “alone” tells me that we, as a society, as women, have *a lot* of conflict when it comes to the way we view the notion of “self” within a romantic committed relationship. And the way I so often see that conflict resolved in Romance is through what comes across to me as a faux independent heroine, the woman who thinks she’s okay as an individual until she meets The One and then all that desire to maintain some autonomy goes out the window. She no longer needs to own her own company, she no longer needs to sustain strong relationships with her female friends, or whatever, because Billionaire Bob has swept her off to his villa on some fabulously lush Greek isle.

    Now every reader’s mileage varies, so to speak, when it comes to how a heroine’s independence is perceived, and I agree that there are many types of independence that we’re talking about (the comments of Stephanie Z. and Lisa about history and power in Romance are along the lines of what I was trying to get at). This morning, a friend of mine summarized the point I tried to make in this piece as follows: the independent heroine is looking for complementarity and not completion. That is, she does not *need* a man to make her happy, to make her whole. She wants to feel whole and then, perhaps, share her life with a man who is a good match. But I don’t know how common that type of woman is in Romance, so we tend to see heroines struggling with this notion, rather than routinely actuating it within the genre. Because, as a number of people have pointed out here, our society is still struggling with how women are valued (and how women’s equality is perceived and achieved).

    To me, the essence of Romance (ideally, of course) is not to show two people who can only be fulfilled through a relationship, but rather to show two people who fall in love and find a great happiness in that relationship. I don’t need that love to be a destined thing, because frankly, I think it’s an incredible gift to fall in love with someone who respects you for who you are, and with whom you can be your best, both as an individual and as a partner. But I don’t see the first part of that phrase reflected in the genre as much as I’d like. That doesn’t mean that other readers aren’t thrilled with the genre, or that they don’t see it in a completely different way than I do. As a number of people have said here, their view of relationships is different, and what they are looking for in the genre is different. I think the genre is big enough to support all sorts of stories, even though I wonder if it will always look the same, depending on the types of heroines we have and depending on the types of stories that are told.

    I could have devoted almost this whole column to one heroine, Eve Dallas, who I think is like the prototypical anti-Romance heroine. Many readers find Eve selfish and self-absorbed, but I love that she and Roarke must constantly negotiate the balance of power within their relationship. Now in many ways I think Eve has grown up in her relationship with Roarke, and I believe unequivocally that she has become a stronger, more secure woman, and love has bloomed her, so to speak. But I still see her as deeply independent, even as she bonds more and more closely with Roarke. She hates feeling financially dependent on him, she values her job, her identity as a copy, at a core level, and in a way that I think is as strong as the way she values her relationship with Roarke, only different. And he supports her in that without becoming a lap dog hero. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t provide her with unique things; it only means that he can’t give her *everything,* and without her independence, without her dedication to being a cop, *she* would be a different woman, and a different kind of heroine.

    So it’s not that I’m trying to draw a contrast between love and independence. It’s the opposite, in fact. I’m trying to say that — IMO — independent heroines can find love, too, but the path may be very different, and it may be opposed to the expectations that genre Romance has set up for us, as readers.

    Also a word in response to Janine’s post about trust issues and commitment. I definitely see the tension you are talking about and struggled with it a bit in thinking about this issue. But ultimately I came to the conclusion that the difference lies in how the heroine deals with her issues. Does she do what she can to make herself whole within herself? Does she focus on developing her own strengths? Is she simply afraid of being hurt again, or does she build a life for herself in which she knows she’ll be okay no matter what happens to her? The thing about Tessa is that she wanted to make sure that she would be okay no matter what happened with a man — that she would not sacrifice more of her life for some guy. So it wasn’t that she didn’t love Gabe, but she didn’t want to be with him in a relationship until she felt she could stand on her own. I don’t know if that’s responsive to your issue, but I think it depends a lot on individual books and how, as readers, we individually respond to them.

  32. Suze
    May 27, 2008 @ 13:25:47

    Count me with the fear of dependence folks. I think this is just the romance genre catching up with women’s fears.

    I know women who, at 25, are terrified they’re going to die alone and marry the first guy who asks, because they’re desperate old maids. I know women in their 50′s who’ve been single for decades because they haven’t met a man “worth the time”. I know women who were financially and emotionally dependent on their husbands, and were crippled when their husbands died or left them. I know women who negotiate their hairstyles with their husbands, which just baffles me.

    I think in past generations, the majority of women had a background fear of never getting married. I think more women today are instead afraid of not being able to afford food and shelter after they retire, and are afraid that if they merge their futures with a man, they’ll come to depend on him. And then, if he dies, or runs off with a hot new model, she’ll be hooped.

    So, based on my theory that one of the purposes of romance novels is to provide psychological reassurance that there’s somebody out there for everybody, and anybody can have a happy ending, this is just bringing into the fold those women who fear losing themselves if they fall in love.

  33. Lisa
    May 27, 2008 @ 13:51:33

    I could have devoted almost this whole column to one heroine, Eve Dallas, who I think is like the prototypical anti-Romance heroine. Many readers find Eve selfish and self-absorbed, but I love that she and Roarke must constantly negotiate the balance of power within their relationship.

    I’m still working my way through the Eve Dallas series, and from what I’ve read so far I mostly agree with you. However, the first love scene in the first book really threw me. It was set up as a power play between two strong characters and one had to give in. It turned out to be Eve, even though Roarke knew at that point that she had something nasty in her past that made her so closed off. He held her hands above her head and said something like “You can’t always be in control.” This is, of course, true, but the flip side to that is that he can’t always be in control either. Maybe I’m singular in this opinion, but Roarke would have won more points with me if he’d said that same line and let her take control — with a smirk that said “Next time, it’s my turn.”

  34. Janet/Robin
    May 27, 2008 @ 13:56:27

    I'm still working my way through the Eve Dallas series, and from what I've read so far I mostly agree with you. However, the first love scene in the first book really threw me. It was set up as a power play between two strong characters and one had to give in. It turned out to be Eve, even though Roarke knew at that point that she had something nasty in her past that made her so closed off. He held her hands above her head and said something like “You can't always be in control.” This is, of course, true, but the flip side to that is that he can't always be in control either. Maybe I'm singular in this opinion, but Roarke would have won more points with me if he'd said that same line and let her take control -’ with a smirk that said “Next time, it's my turn.”

    I actually disliked Roarke for the first few books in the series because of the way he IMO railroaded Eve and manipulated her into committing to him. But over the course of the 20-whatever books, things have evened out, and she’s gotten her own back more than once. So now I see things as more equal. Had the series not continued past, say book three, though, I wouldn’t have included Eve in this category at all.

    My editor wanted me to indicate that the bar storyline got wrapped up, and I knew that I needed to ensure that future O'Sullivan generation inherited the bar. And thus, the epilogue was born.

    I just want to make it clear that I’m the critic of the epilogue, although I’m using a term Jayne has clear TM rights to, IMO.

  35. limecello
    May 27, 2008 @ 14:07:44

    I’m going to have to re-read this (especially the end) – but, while the “anti” heroine you’re talking about isn’t “normal” in romances, it’s what I expect. I think that’s why I end up describing myself as “twisty” or “sadistic” and “cruel” – because I like characters to be put through the wringer, for their emotions to be real, and for them to know what they want. Even if it is frustrated. (Although, I admit, I can only take so much frustration. Because, it is a book. If I want 100% real life frustration… I could get that on my own, easily. However, I avoid it. Like the plague.)

    These heroines might not, at first, want to marry, but it's not so much that they're committed to independence, per se, and once their secret it revealed or the hero's true feelings become clear, or their pride gives way to True Love, they fall right into love's arms, swept away into a traditional HEA.

    - I hate that. Hate that. So many times, I’ll read a romance (especially historicals) – everything is going so well, the heroine is a strong, developed independent woman… and an absolute moron in regards to the hero. He treats her like crap for 200 pages (although he’s sexing her up the entire time) – 20 pages to the end, he’ll realize he’s been a jerk and is in love – he’ll tell the heroine “whoops – guess I do love ya!” and when she accepts him, to me it’s as if she rolls over and dies.
    Although… maybe I am too cynical – a lot of people think her just getting over it shows how much she loves him. Apparently I’m just vindictive. Do I think they should end up together? Undoubtedly. I just think she should make him work for it. [Or, her work for it, if she's been the jerk.] I need the “I love you too, but you treated me like shit – and you’re going to have to learn that that’s not ok” scene that, unfortunately, rarely takes place.

  36. TracyS
    May 27, 2008 @ 14:18:46

    Kathleen, ahhhhhh I totally get the not wanting to rear a child in a bar. This conversation has been sooooo interesting. Thank you so much for letting us into your head. I feel a reread coming on (I have all 3 books) now that I have some more info!

  37. Kerry D.
    May 27, 2008 @ 14:25:50

    I don’t know if this will add to the conversation, but let me try to get my feelings on this out.

    After reading through all the responses (fascinating stuff) I think for me, the “independence” can be a case of being confident in oneself that you could stand on your own if something happened and you had to do so. Hopefully that won’t happen and it won’t be an issue, but you could if you had to.

    This hits home to me because I suspect I couldn’t. I have a chronic illness and I can’t work because of it. I am financially dependant on my husband and while I know he loves me and doesn’t mind that that is the situation, if I let myself think about it too hard it terrifies me. If something should happen to him I have no idea what I would do. Maybe it is burying my head in the sand, but there’s nothing I can do to change the situation right now so I don’t think about it and live in the (happy, if financially tight) situation that we have now.

    But to know that one can/could look after oneself alone if necessary while having the luxury to chose not to do so, that must be very empowering and a good place to be. So I guess maybe that’s what I see an “independence” in a heroine. The trick is to have the ability and still take the choice to combine your life with that of someone else in a way that allows you to complement each other.

    I don’t know if this makes sense as I’m just trying to respond to the feelings this topic raises in me.

  38. GrowlyCub
    May 27, 2008 @ 15:08:25

    I didn’t mean to upset anybody by pointing out that having 9! cats could be considered fulfilling a nesting instinct in Tessa. I’m sorry I didn’t express myself well enough because I didn’t mean to say that wanting cats meant one really wanted to have kids, rather the opposite, actually.

    I don’t have kids, never wanted them, never will. I do have a houseful of cats and there are people out there who say that they fulfill my need to nurture and I agree with that. I would never want to nurture a human child. Too much ego, not enough patience.

  39. Janine
    May 27, 2008 @ 15:10:46

    I just want to make it clear that I'm the critic of the epilogue, although I'm using a term Jayne has clear TM rights to, IMO.

    Actually I believe Jayne has said that Mrs. Giggles coined the term “care bear epilogue.”

  40. Janet/Robin
    May 27, 2008 @ 15:23:01

    Actually I believe Jayne has said that Mrs. Giggles coined the term “care bear epilogue.”

    Oh, thank you for letting me know, Janine. I had not seen it used before, so if Mrs. Giggles coined it, then she gets the TM credit! It’s hysterical, whoever came up with it, though.

  41. Jayne
    May 27, 2008 @ 15:31:33

    Yep. Hats off to Mrs. G for that wonderful term. But “Disney Whores” is mine, all mine.

  42. Janet/Robin
    May 27, 2008 @ 15:31:46

    This hits home to me because I suspect I couldn't. I have a chronic illness and I can't work because of it. I am financially dependant on my husband and while I know he loves me and doesn't mind that that is the situation, if I let myself think about it too hard it terrifies me. If something should happen to him I have no idea what I would do. Maybe it is burying my head in the sand, but there's nothing I can do to change the situation right now so I don't think about it and live in the (happy, if financially tight) situation that we have now.

    Kerry, although I don’t share your particular situation, I understand your fear, I think. I think the fear of not being able to support oneself, especially as a woman, is very real for many women. And it has great historical precedence. Which is partly why I think there’s a certain element to much Romance in which the heroine ends up with a guy who’s so rich that she will likely never have to worry about such a thing. And perhaps there is still a good deal of social anxiety for women that we, as a group, will never achieve that status through our own work and abilities.

    I was watching a rare episode of Oprah not that long ago (not that she’s rare, but my watching her is), and she and Salma Hayek were talking about how unnecessary it is for women to marry these days, and how it’s just a piece of paper, etc. And I kept thinking about how privileged that position is — for women who aren’t financially independent, marriage is VERY important because it secures certain economic rights that they would not have without it (and most states have done away with common law marriage, too), especially when there is property and/or children involved. Of course, women still get the short end of the stick, even with these legal protections, but the economic inequities between men and women are not to be underestimated, IMO. Which is probably one of the reasons I’d like to see more Romance heroines who seek or have some financial independence and are not so quick to relinquish it for a man, no matter how wonderful he may be.

  43. Jayne
    May 27, 2008 @ 15:33:35

    Although… maybe I am too cynical – a lot of people think her just getting over it shows how much she loves him. Apparently I'm just vindictive. Do I think they should end up together? Undoubtedly. I just think she should make him work for it. [Or, her work for it, if she's been the jerk.] I need the “I love you too, but you treated me like shit – and you're going to have to learn that that's not ok” scene that, unfortunately, rarely takes place.

    Say “Amen Sister!” Praise baby Jaysus, limecello you took the words right out of my mouth and gold plated them.

  44. Jayne
    May 27, 2008 @ 15:39:50

    Of course, women still get the short end of the stick, even with these legal protections, but the economic inequities between men and women are not to be underestimated, IMO. Which is probably one of the reasons I'd like to see more Romance heroines who seek or have some financial independence and are not so quick to relinquish it for a man, no matter how wonderful he may be.

    Finacial independence is key for me. I must have it. Period. My grandfather’s sister’s husband walked out on her and their two children. And this was during the height of the Depression. Luckily, she had a college education to fall back on. After that, my grandfather made damn sure that his three daughters also had college educations in case that ever happened to them. And my mother did the same for my sister and me.

  45. Lisa
    May 27, 2008 @ 15:39:59

    Which is probably one of the reasons I'd like to see more Romance heroines who seek or have some financial independence and are not so quick to relinquish it for a man, no matter how wonderful he may be.

    IMO, if he’s really hero material, he wouldn’t ask the heroine to give up anything for him. Like Janet/Robin said, my favorite story is where the relationship is about “complementarity and not completion.”

    Say “Amen Sister!” Praise baby Jaysus, limecello you took the words right out of my mouth and gold plated them.

    Or in geek-speak w00t! I couldn’t agree more.

  46. GrowlyCub
    May 27, 2008 @ 15:47:53

    I just think she should make him work for it. [Or, her work for it, if she's been the jerk.] I need the “I love you too, but you treated me like shit – and you're going to have to learn that that's not ok” scene that, unfortunately, rarely takes place.

    Say “Amen Sister!” Praise baby Jaysus, limecello you took the words right out of my mouth and gold plated them.

    If he treated her or she him like that, I agree that such a scene is necessary, but can I say that I’d prefer if we had people in romance who didn’t behave like that to each other to start with?

    In other words, books like that don’t do much for me, because even if you get the abject ‘I’m sorry I was a jerk’ scene, I don’t trust that it won’t happen again later. Something about leopards and spots…

  47. Lisa
    May 27, 2008 @ 15:50:53

    If he treated her or she him like that, I agree, but can I say that I'd prefer if we had people in romance who didn't behave like that to each other to start with?

    “Say “Amen Sister!” Praise baby Jaysus…you took the words right out of my mouth and gold plated them.”

  48. Janine
    May 27, 2008 @ 16:01:34

    Yep. Hats off to Mrs. G for that wonderful term. But “Disney Whores” is mine, all mine.

    And if we ever meet in person, I’ll be tempted to pin a medal on you for that one. I think I laughed so hard I cried when I first saw “Disney whores” on my computer screen.

  49. Gail Dayton
    May 27, 2008 @ 16:06:59

    LESSONS OF DESIRE by Madeline Hunter has a heroine who’s been raised by a famously independent woman of the Victorian era, one who absolutely refused to marry because it would corrupt her independence. The daughter is trying to live up to her mothers’ ideals, but because of the time, she Needs a man’s help. And the man in question is the hero.

    It’s been a while since I read this, and I do recall thinking somewhere in there that the hero was “winning” a little too often to make me comfortable. And yet, I also recall discussions between them about how independence could accommodate love, and whether it should, and how it should. And because of the era this story took place, the accommodations were different than they would be now, but they were there.

    I’ve enjoyed this discussion, and I tend to fall on the side of “If he (or she) has really been a jerk about this, he needs to seriously suffer before he gets what he wants.” At the same time, I haven’t had a dayjob for much of my married life because I believe the SAHM has value beyond the “income” and so does my spouse. That’s what insurance and retirement is for, because that family contribution Does have value and it needs to be recognized and rewarded if something happens. This is another of those instances where society doesn’t often recognize the value of a woman’s work, because it’s not a paid gig–and yet if one had to PAY someone to do all the things the SAHM does, it will cost you a big bundle. Independence is being able to do what one wants to do because one wants to do it. Having the support of the other people in one’s life allows for independence, because if you go it alone, too often you can’t do what you want to do. You do what you HAVE to do just to survive.

    And though I’ve waxed long and winded, I’m still not sure I got round to what I really meant to say–but hopefully I got sort of close to it and made sense to boot.

  50. Janine
    May 27, 2008 @ 16:34:21

    Also a word in response to Janine's post about trust issues and commitment. I definitely see the tension you are talking about and struggled with it a bit in thinking about this issue. But ultimately I came to the conclusion that the difference lies in how the heroine deals with her issues. Does she do what she can to make herself whole within herself? Does she focus on developing her own strengths? Is she simply afraid of being hurt again, or does she build a life for herself in which she knows she'll be okay no matter what happens to her? The thing about Tessa is that she wanted to make sure that she would be okay no matter what happened with a man -’ that she would not sacrifice more of her life for some guy. So it wasn't that she didn't love Gabe, but she didn't want to be with him in a relationship until she felt she could stand on her own. I don't know if that's responsive to your issue, but I think it depends a lot on individual books and how, as readers, we individually respond to them.

    I see what you are saying. Since I haven’t read either Kathleen O’Reilly’s books or the Seressia Glass book, it is harder for me to make that distinction, but I think I understand what you are getting at.

    For what it’s worth, I think I might like these books, since I’ve noticed I tend to enjoy books where the hero takes a lot of rejection. I don’t know how much of it in my case is wanting the heroine to be independent and how much it is about the way those heroines in effect make the heroes work hard to prove themselves. I know that I tend to like those elusive heroine/rejected hero combinations.

    One of my favorite books that deals with the question of whether or not it is possible to maintain a strong sense of self within a romantic relationship is A.S. Byatt’s Possession. The heroines in that book (there are two of them, in parallel Victorian and contemporary storylines) are both fiercely independent. One of them, referring to the other, has this conversation with the man she loves:

    “I feel as she did. I keep my defences up because I must go on doing my work. I know how she felt about her unbroken egg. Her self-possession, her autonomy. I don’t want to think of that going. You understand?”

    “Oh yes.”

    “I write about liminality. Thresholds. Bastions. Fortresses.”

    “Invasion. Irruption.”

    “Of course.”

    “It’s not my scene. I have my own solitude.”

    “I know. You–you would never–blur the edges messily–”

    “Superimpose–”

    “No, that’s why I–”

    “Feel safe with me.”

    “Oh no. Oh no. I love you. I think I’d rather I didn’t.”

    I’m quoting because I love the book and this question of independence vs. interdependence vs. depedency is one of its most central themes. I don’t think I’ve ever read a better exploration of it, or at least, one that resonated with me more. And even after thinking about it a lot, I’m not sure which side I fall on when it comes to the question of whether there can be independence within a romantic relationship or not.

  51. TracyS
    May 27, 2008 @ 17:29:17

    “I love you too, but you treated me like shit – and you're going to have to learn that that's not ok” scene that, unfortunately, rarely takes place.

    oh yeah, I write those scenes in my head when necessary!

    but can I say that I'd prefer if we had people in romance who didn't behave like that to each other to start with?

    Depends on what kind of jerk we are talking about. If it’s the kind of hero that is a jerk for 249 pages of a 250 page book (a la’ Diana Palmer) then yeah, I can do without those heroes. If it’s a hero that is being human and making human mistakes, I can handle it. I hope that makes sense.

  52. Janet/Robin
    May 27, 2008 @ 17:50:13

    At the same time, I haven't had a dayjob for much of my married life because I believe the SAHM has value beyond the “income” and so does my spouse. That's what insurance and retirement is for, because that family contribution Does have value and it needs to be recognized and rewarded if something happens. This is another of those instances where society doesn't often recognize the value of a woman's work, because it's not a paid gig-and yet if one had to PAY someone to do all the things the SAHM does, it will cost you a big bundle. Independence is being able to do what one wants to do because one wants to do it. Having the support of the other people in one's life allows for independence, because if you go it alone, too often you can't do what you want to do. You do what you HAVE to do just to survive.

    First I want to highlight this sentence: Independence is being able to do what one wants to do because one wants to do it.

    Yes, yes, yes. And your point about needing support for that is a great one, IMO. I think that’s what some readers mean when they talk about “partnership” within a relationship. That the “right person” helps you become the person you want to be, and vice versa.

    As to the SAHM issue, I haven’t focused on that in my piece or comments, but I do want to address it, for exactly the reasons you give here. I realize that I probably come across as a reader who doesn’t want SAHM heroines, but that’s not the case at all, and I definitely agree with you that the contributions of SAHM’s are completely undervalued in our society. But I sometimes think they’re overvalued in Romance, or rather that they are a default position in the genre, such that heroines who previous to meeting the hero are very career focused but after falling in love with Mr. Right don’t think twice about abandoning those ambitions for SAHM status. It’s that knee-jerk thing that signals faux independence for me, not the choice itself.

    Unfortunately, in the same way that working for some real life women isn’t a matter of choice, staying at home with kids isn’t a matter of choice for others. Which means that, given your definition of independence, neither the working woman nor the SAHM are independent if their choice isn’t made freely. And just like in society, I think that men in Romance *still* have the advantage in terms of freedom and independence, which is something that irks me, especially because Romance is essentially idealized in terms of the way it represents relationships. But even within that idealized structure there seem to be invisible limits for heroines that heroes don’t have to observe, from sexual histories to child-positive attitudes and beyond. I guess what I’m musing on, to some degree, is how independent heroines are allowed to be within the genre as it’s been normed over the years.

  53. Janet/Robin
    May 27, 2008 @ 18:04:23

    For what it's worth, I think I might like these books, since I've noticed I tend to enjoy books where the hero takes a lot of rejection. I don't know how much of it in my case is wanting the heroine to be independent and how much it is about the way those heroines in effect make the heroes work hard to prove themselves. I know that I tend to like those elusive heroine/rejected hero combinations.

    I would be especially interested in your reactions to Glass’s book, Janine, because I think it does a good job of dealing with the heroine’s past traumas, which are quite extensive. It’s an interesting mix of traditional and non-traditional elements, IMO.

    I haven’t read Possession in years and years, and have all but forgotten it, I’m afraid, but it’s sitting on my bookshelf, and I really should go back to it.

  54. TracyS
    May 27, 2008 @ 20:35:46

    First I want to highlight this sentence: Independence is being able to do what one wants to do because one wants to do it.

    Yes, yes, yes. And your point about needing support for that is a great one, IMO. I think that's what some readers mean when they talk about “partnership” within a relationship. That the “right person” helps you become the person you want to be, and vice versa…Unfortunately, in the same way that working for some real life women isn't a matter of choice, staying at home with kids isn't a matter of choice for others. Which means that, given your definition of independence, neither the working woman nor the SAHM are independent if their choice isn't made freely

    I agree with this. I was/am a SAHM because I chose it. My husband and I talked long and hard about this before we had kids. Luckily for us, we were both on the same page. That made the decision and the support that goes along with it easy. So, in my situation it is independence for me because I was able to make the choice I wanted to make.

    However, if a woman is a SAHM because her hubby makes her and she really wants to work, then she is not “independent”. She did not make that choice freely.

    Same goes for work. My SIL works for the insurance (hubby is self imployed). She’d rather not be working. So, even though she has a career, the kids, the supportive hubby she is not truly independent (though some would think so just to look at her) because she is not making the choice that she feels is best for her.

    I never thought about it that way. Thanks for stating what I was thinking but didn’t know it! :o)

    So, when reading a book, if the reader feels the heroine has made the decision she really wants to not the decision she has to then the reader will feel the heroine is independent. Well, this reader anyway! ;o)

  55. Jane
    May 27, 2008 @ 22:20:44

    I think its fascinating that both Gail Dayton and Angela brought up Madeline Hunter because when I shared with Robin my own struggles with Hunter’s books as it relates to Robin’s article. Hunter does a great job of presenting fairly unusual heroines such as in Lessons of Desire, but like Gail, I felt like the heroine’s independence was illusory. From my review:

    The biggest problem in the portrayal of Phaedra is that she is constantly getting into situations which require her to be saved by Lord Elliott. Elliot's arrival was necessary for her release from prison. She could not even mount a donkey by herself. Further, Phaedra is depicted as headstrong and Elliott rational. Phaedra is irrational where Elliott is wise. Elliott is portrayed as the noble man. Elliot is the one to teach Phaedra that true freedome is illusory. I felt that there were few lessons that Elliot was taught in this man/woman struggle.

    Again in the most recent book, Secrets of Surrender, the heroine is presented as someone who desires to live on her own terms, yet her actions require her to be saved in the most basic way – to give up her choice to marry in order to save herself from utter ruin.

    I told Robin that I think I get where Hunter is going with these books and I questioned whether my own feminist construct (which is far different than the construct of say a Ferraro or Steinem) prevented me from truly understanding these characters.

    At the risk of oversharing, I’ll state that financial independence is hugely important to me as well and I identified with the issues that Tessa struggled with in the O’Reilly book. When I was in law school, I lived off my student loan money. It was a very hand to mouth existence. I lost weight primarily because I couldn’t really afford to buy a lot of food (ramen noodles FTW!). I met Ned in my third year of law school and he was in position to help me out. He fed me and housed me and then ultimately married me and this allowed me to take a position with a firm that gave me great experience but not great pay. To a great extent, I saw Tessa as taking the harder road. It would have been much easier for her to cede to Gabe and not pursue a career, not pursue her own independence, but she choose the more difficult path. And ultimately, I think that made her relationship with Gabe stronger because Tessa had security in herself as a person and would never doubt that she was the equal of Gabe.

  56. Nora Roberts
    May 28, 2008 @ 06:56:22

    For me, independence means being capable, and willing, to take care of yourself. Being capable of making a life, pursuing goals, making decisions and living with them. Being smart enough to ask for help when help is needed, and offering it.

    A relationship, a healthy one to my mind, involves the choice of blending, of making a life with another person–and that involves compromises on both sides. Letting someone take care of you, and allowing yourself to take care of your partner doesn’t negate independence–or the capabilities you had when you entered the relationship.

    When I was a single parent I was capable of making household repairs–not much choice anyway. The guy I fell for lived on his own and was capable of cooking decent meals. When we blended our lives, I happily turned over household repairs–as a carpenter he was a lot more capable in that area. I’m a better cook, so I cook.

    This is small stuff, but for me its principle applies up the levels. We play to our strengths, and while each of us could take care of ourselves, it’s nice to have someone put a hot meal on the table, and to know there’s someone around who can fix the toilet.

  57. Chicklet
    May 28, 2008 @ 09:15:28

    Perhaps some of the disconnect between these independent heroines and generic expectation is due to the audience being privileged in terms of knowledge, i.e., we know the heroine and hero will be together by the end of the book, but the characters don’t know that. The writer’s challenge is to make the characters’ actions logical within that framework. I think when the author fails to do that, the book itself fails on some level. We’ve all read books where it seemed like the characters were doing and saying things only because there were 15 pages left to get to the HEA, not because their actions were consistent with their behavior throughout the rest of the book.

    As for Tessa, I understood where she was coming from, and since she didn’t know she was a character in a romance novel and therefore would be with Gabe by the end of the book, I bought into her reluctance. Especially because I read it as her attempt to keep herself from giving up her independence like she had done with Denny, and not that she thought Gabe would take control of his own volition.

  58. lisapaitzspindler.com»Blog Archive » 8 Ways To Be A Happier Mom
    May 28, 2008 @ 13:09:28

    [...] there is some great discussion on the independently minded heroine in the Romance genre titled “’Can't Buy Me Love,' or how the independent heroine challenges Romance.” The discussion has led to the working inside vs. outside the home decision that all mothers have to [...]

  59. XandrG
    May 28, 2008 @ 21:36:22

    …such that heroines who previous to meeting the hero are very career focused but after falling in love with Mr. Right don't think twice about abandoning those ambitions for SAHM status. It's that knee-jerk thing that signals faux independence for me, not the choice itself.

    I think part of that is, at least for many of us who’ve been confronted with that choice, is that we instinctively know that it isn’t something you just up and do one day because you got a wild hair. And when heroines do it, it rings false because we expect to see some hint of a discussion, an agonization,some *conflict* that acknowledges the gravity of the decision, because it’s a big one to make.

    Unfortunately, in the same way that working for some real life women isn't a matter of choice, staying at home with kids isn't a matter of choice for others. Which means that, given your definition of independence, neither the working woman nor the SAHM are independent if their choice isn't made freely.

    I think there are going to be shades of gray on this one. The majority of us are not completely free to make the decisions we want all the time. We can, however, make the best decisions we can live with, taking into account our circumstances. A woman who has to work when she really wants to stay at home with the kids can still be considered independent because she’s taken an active part in deciding her own fate, even if it’s not her ideal.

  60. Janie Harrison
    May 29, 2008 @ 11:00:53


    Lizzy wrote:

    I probably won't articulate or fully extrapolate this idea correctly, but for me, the idea of the anti-romantic heroine (or inasmuch as she is being defined here, the romantic heroine who resists the romance because of career or other important concerns) has the potential to be very frustrating.

    I agree. Romance novels are about love stories, people falling in love and deciding to share a life. Truly independent people, as idealized in this discussion, do not share. The heroines used as examples become frustrating not because they are truly subversive, but rather because this kind of conflict cannot be sustained within the genre. The genre is about fantasy, fairytale, and building relationships.

    Janine wrote:

    I'm quoting because I love the book and this question of independence vs. interdependence vs. depedency is one of its most central themes. I don't think I've ever read a better exploration of it, or at least, one that resonated with me more. And even after thinking about it a lot, I'm not sure which side I fall on when it comes to the question of whether there can be independence within a romantic relationship or not.

    Byatt’s Possession is a romance, where we learn what independence really is, better yet, what it IS NOT.

    My take is that relationships are never really 50/50, and independence, dependence, and/or freedom mean different things to people. But romances are about relationships. We can put all kinds of window dressings around the romance, over it, etc. etc. but in the end, it’s about creating a society, where two people want to make something new together.

  61. Janine
    May 29, 2008 @ 21:18:22

    I would be especially interested in your reactions to Glass's book, Janine, because I think it does a good job of dealing with the heroine's past traumas, which are quite extensive. It's an interesting mix of traditional and non-traditional elements, IMO.

    Thanks; I’ll put it on my list of books to try.

  62. Janie Harrison
    May 30, 2008 @ 18:23:19

    Just a note. I finished reading Chase’s book this afternoon, and I don’t think Francesca is frustrating at all. I’m not even sure I consider her anti-romanctic. But it was certainly a change for Chase, in language and in voice.

  63. Lena
    Jun 02, 2008 @ 00:04:12

    This is a long winded conversation, but i really want to pitch in. To me a anti-romantic heroine in the romance genre doesn’t exist. Because even thought she appears that way, we all know that at the end they are going to end up together. If there is a anti-romantic heroine then it’s not romance story but a story with romance. I have read books with heroine like that but i don’t consider them a romance book.

    I’m all for Independence but when someone doesn’t want a relationship because of their independence they are just plain self-centered. To me entering a relationship does not signify the end of independence, if it does then they weren’t independent to begin with. To me part of the romance is convincing them that a relationship is not the end of independence but the beginning to a partnership. These independent heroine don’t bother me, if they come into their “senses”, since i can understand their unwillingness to commit to a relationship.

    I hope everyone understand what i’m trying to say.
    I

  64. Hello, I’m Jane. I have a lot of reader baggage. | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Jun 03, 2008 @ 04:01:33

    [...] comments showed that we all have bias and filters when it comes to reading a book. Robin wrote about independent heroines in romance and how they challenge the very structure of romance. The comments revealed any number [...]

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