Finding Feminism in Romance
When I was a little girl my father would read me to sleep with C.S. Lewis. When I finally learned to read myself I could be found curled up with my Babysitters Club series in my fort built with couch cushions, and stolen sheets from the laundry room. I graduated to books like Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang in high school, and then to Toni Morrison in college. I’ve always had a passion for books. Yet, when I first began working here at Avon I had never read a modern romance novel. I’m not including Jane Austen as modern, even though she was a romance writer. In preparation for my new position I decided to try a number of sub-genres. I was amazed at the strong female characters that graced every page! Regency era, contemporary, paranormal, they were all vibrant, strong women who followed their hearts without ever losing their identities. They found themselves in equal partnerships with their dashing duke, rustic cowboy or pyrokinetic shape shifter. Did other people see the feminism I did when I read of heroines refusing to follow the rules over their own hopes and desires no matter what century? Well, yes, when I asked Carrie Feron, William Morrow/Avon, Vice President and Editorial Director, what made a successful romance she explained, “Romance heroines must always be a match for the hero. So the stronger he is, the stronger she needs to be.” Here, here. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
A perfect example of this is Karina Cooper’s heroine Naomi West. In LURE OF THE WICKED, it’s her most un-apologetically ballsy woman yet. Karina described to me what she loved most in a heroine and romance, “Naomi, like all my favorite kick-ass heroines, does not need a man to come save her (in fact, she saves the hero, who isn't quite as prepared for events as he'd hoped). I started reading romance when I was 13. I found historical romance around that age, and I was swept away. Aside from the obvious—princesses who were more than damsels and Prince Charmings (okay, maybe Black Knights were more my thing, even back then) and happily ever after. Romance is about the pay-off, the finding of one's forever love. Unlike a lot of the 1980s and -90s patterns, it doesn't have to include the degradation of the heroine's edge to do it. In some modern urban fantasies, romance may not even be in the cards. Yet a kick ass heroine can still stand strong, with or without a partner; a warrior who is also a woman with no loss of self.”
Another benefit to working here at Avon is being able to check out amazing blogs like Smart Bitches, Trashy Books for work. I’m a huge fan of their recurring tag Covers Gone Wild! It illustrates the shift in cover design over the past three decades. Covers are still sexy and fun, but older designs don’t reflect the strong women in the books being published today. Sarah Wendell, proprietor of SBTB points out, “The cover art from some houses is changing to reflect the heroine front and center - and facing the reader. That change shows me the heroine is the center of the story!”
I am now fully indoctrinated to loving the romance genre, but still discovering “new” authors. Have you heard of this author Julia Quinn? She’s fantastic! Her heroine Anne Shawcross in A NIGHT LIKE THIS is resolute, hilarious, and… What’s that? Oh, you’ve heard of her… well I’m always looking for new suggestions and love talking about doing away with damsels in distress. You can tweet me suggestions @HillsofIowa.