July 23, 2013

The Wanderer and The Newcomer: A Robyn Carr Twofer and a Couple of Thoughts on Small-Town Cotemporaries and Branding

Source: both books were provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

After many, many books, Ms. Carr has left Virgin River and moved to Virgin River, I mean, Thunder Point. But it is a change, even if it doesn't feel like a change at all.

The Wanderer and The Newcomer both make references to Cooper, the former Marine who comes to Thunder Point to visit an old friend and ends up staying when said friend dies and leaves him everything. At first, Cooper plans to settle everything and leave, but once he develops a relationship with the community and with helicopter pilot, Sarah, his plans become roots.

Cooper’s story serves as a thread that unites a series of secondary characters whose lives are featured as prominently as his, making this a true ensemble cast. So we also get to know the town’s sheriff, Mac, a single father of a bunch of kids, including a teenage daughter who gets a secondary, YA-ish romance, and Mac’s friend, Grace.

July 14, 2013

Heroine Week: Closing Thoughts and Many Thanks

That was good!

I wanted to offer some final thoughts and reflections, but I’m pretty much speechless and overwhelmed by every single one of the contributions. The guest posts speak for themselves and pretty much scream that our love and appreciation for the heroine is alive and well.

If there’s something I learned this week, is that our relationship with these characters is complex and personal. In a way, heroines (in Romance in particular, but also in literature in general) offer us a space to explore different aspects of ourselves, as well as serve as tools to reflect issues affecting women. But there’s still a long way to go, and my wish is that Heroines and the books they inhabit become more welcoming and diverse.

Heroine Week, Day 7 – Girls Who Do Things by Angie from Angieville

Angie is one of my favorite bloggers, and Angieville is the first blog I visit every time I’m looking for a book to step out of my Romance comfort zone, and in many years of reading it, I’ve never been disappointed. Even when we don’t agree, I find Angie’s reviews helpful and enlightening. So as you can imagine, I’m really excited with her contribution to Heroine Week, which also happens to be the last guest post of the event. 


Girls Who Do Things by Angie from Angieville

 I am (and always have been) drawn to fantasy heroines because, as Robin McKinley so aptly puts it, they do things. In fact, I have an entire Goodreads shelf devoted to books about Girls Who Do Things. More often than not these girls? They fight. They fight with an astoundingly wide array of weapons, and their individual choice of weapon is--in many ways--an extension of their inner selves. Some of them fight with swords, others with words. Some battle with strands of thread and some with the knowledge they hold in their heads, while others face their demons (both literal and figurative) with nothing but their bare hands. Most are terribly afraid while they do it. Because these women are also smart. They comprehend the dangers they are braving and the value of what they will lose if they fail. They are simultaneously like me and not like me. As I read their stories and swallow their words, I am able to step into their shoes for a time and fight with other weapons against other demons than my own. As a result of turning and returning to them, my relationship with these women is not a casual one. And, perhaps not-so-strangely, it feels far from one-sided. Every time I walk with Aerin up the neverending staircase of Agsded's fortress, every time I kneel next to Senneth as the fire in her veins burns trails of pain through every tendon and sinew of her body, every time I stare out the window with Liadan cupping a lit candle in the darkness, I lend my strength to theirs. And I take courage in return, in knowing I am not alone in my jumbled hope, anger, longing, and determination. No small thing, that.

Heroine Week, Day 7 – Shooting Yankees and Pink-Martini Friends: Women's Friendships in Romance by Shelley Ann Clark

Shelley Ann Clark

I met Shelley on Twitter (this has been a great year to Twitter friendships!) and I anxiously wait to read her books. In the meantime, we can find her over at her virtual home, Wonkomance.


Shooting Yankees and Pink-Martini Friends: Women's Friendships in Romance by Shelley Ann Clark

Friendships among women are tricky things.

They’ve been fetishized, idolized, idealized. They’ve been demonized. We have Steel Magnolias; we also have Mean Girls. Women are competitive, we’re told. Women friends are for life, we’re told. It’s normal to have a frenemy; but your BFF should be closer to you than your husband.

Like nearly everything else about being a woman, ideas about our friendships are presented in a swamp of contradictions, all of them designed to make us feel insecure, to wonder if we’re doing it wrong.

July 13, 2013

Heroine Week, Day 6 – Fanny Price: Physically Weak, Mentally Strong by Ros Clarke

Once Upon a Time, Ros Clarke wrote a book about a Sheikh who fell in love with a woman. Nothing new, right? Think again! It turns out that the woman was a tycoon. Need I say more?


Fanny Price: Physically Weak, Mentally Strong by Ros Clarke

Strong heroines are popular right now. Readers, mostly, like women who'll fight their corner, make their choices, and determine their own destiny. Which is great, but in my reading experience, all too many of those kickass heroines turn out to have an inner core of marshmallow. Faced with the right guy, they go weak at the knees and weak in the head.

Heroine Week, Day 6 – The Contrasting Strengths of Mary Balogh’s Lauren and Freya by Jennifer Lohmann

Author Jennifer Lohmann

Jennifer Lohmann isn’t afraid to make risky decisions, something that reflects on her unique, interesting heroines. These women feel real because they go get what they want, make difficult choices and sometimes, they get angry and want to be left alone.


The Contrasting Strengths of Mary Balogh’s Lauren and Freya by Jennifer Lohmann  

A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh
Whenever I am asked who my favorite heroine is, I have a ready and easy answer—Lauren Edgeworth from A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh. In a Historical Romance sea of feisty heroines, Lauren is quiet, calm, and (dare I say it) timid. But she is not weak. Bedwyn after Bedwyn makes the mistake of believing her politeness is a sign of weakness and she demonstrates her backbone, while remaining polite. Her family presents her with safe futures in the form of safe husbands and she rejects the easy path. Lauren wants what she wants. She won’t be loud about it and she wouldn’t be rude about it, but neither will she be pushed around. And she may be afraid of swimming, riding horses, and climbing trees, but her kindness means she’s not afraid of difficult emotions. When faced with the messy and unhappy Butlers, Lauren looks around and thinks, “I can fix this.” More than being willing to participate in wrenchingly emotional conversations—she’s willing to start them. Lauren ends the book much as she begins it. Her journey requires her to learn that she can be imperfect and still be loved—that she is loved—but she doesn’t take this knowledge and become a different person. She becomes a bigger version of herself.

Heroine Week, Day 6 – An Un-Heroic Heroine: Dorothea of Middlemarch by Amara Royce

Author Amara Royce

Amara’s bio says that she “writes historical romances that combine her passion for 19th-century literature and history with her addiction to happily ever afters.” I think we all approve of this. Her contribution to Heroine Week is particularly interesting because it comes from the perspective of someone who is both an English scholar and an author.


An Un-Heroic Heroine: Dorothea of Middlemarch by Amara Royce

As I prepared to write this contribution to Heroine Week, I started out with a very clear and confident focus: the heroism (or is it heroine-ism?) of Dorothea Brooke from George Eliot’s Middlemarch (one of those “loose, baggy monsters” of a Victorian novel that you may have been assigned in high school or college).  So, of course, the very first thing I did was go back through the novel to remind myself of why she is my favorite literary character. And that’s when I got all discombobulated.

July 12, 2013

Heroine Week, Day 5 – Katsa, Fire and Bitterblue: Feminism in Kristin Cashore’s YA Trilogy

To anyone familiar with the Graceling books, this post will feel like nothing new, because I’m sure there’s been a lot of discussion surrounding them. But when I think of heroines, these three characters immediately come to mind, and I thought that a celebration of female characters would be a fitting place to talk about the themes and messages of their stories.

In Graceling we meet Katsa. A girl in the cusp of womanhood who’s been trapped by her powerful gift and an uncle who uses her to commit murder and torture. She doesn’t own her body. She doesn’t own her life.

And then she meets a boy who offers her an out. But that out doesn’t come in the shape of love. What he does is show her that what she sees as the curse that enslaved her, is actually the gift that will free her. She takes that knowledge and uses it to her advance. And when love comes, she refuses to give in to it, because to her, love and marriage go together, and she doesn’t want to belong to anyone but herself.

Heroine Week, Day 5 – The Other Brave Girls of YA by Sarah from Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

I discovered Sarah’s blog last year and immediately became one of my go-to places to find book recommendations, insightful discussions and more recently, a must-listen podcast. Also, her mom is one of her co-bloggers!


The Other Brave Girls of YA by Sarah from Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

In the young adult fiction universe, there’s a common association with strong characters and their physical strength. I love some of these tough female characters. Katniss’ fierce loyalty to her sister is admirable in The Hunger Games; I loved Cassie’s tenacity and unflinching willingness to do what it takes to survive in The Fifth Wave’s post-apocalyptic world. But, the YA novels that speak most to me are those featuring heroines whose journeys are fraught with internal conflict.

Being a teenage girl is hard, and sometimes the bravest choices aren’t whether to pick a faction a la Divergent’s Tris, but rather the bravest choice is that of living one’s own truth.

This is something that today’s YA authors do very, very well. They acknowledge that growing up is hard; that young people often deal with grown-up problems all alone; that secrets are kept, that lies are told; that family and friendship are often messy. The fictional teen heroines who tackle realistic challenges in YA novels aren’t often labeled as “brave” girls, like Katniss, Cassie and Tris, but in my eyes, they’re the most courageous.

I’ve highlighted twelve (I tried to limit myself to ten, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be) brave heroines from the YAverse whose personal journeys speak to the struggle of finding their path. I’ve actually omitted a few of my favorites, because I think they’re quite well-known already. The Jessica Darling series, for example, is one of my favorites in terms of the messy realism of growing up. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks is another that’s quite popular which would definitely qualify as a brave YA heroine, the same with multi-award winning author Sara Zarr’s heroines.

Heroine Week, Day 5: Can Romantic Suspense Be Feminist? By Jill Sorenson

Author Jill Sorenson

One of the reasons why I love Jill’s heroines so much, and this is something I've never had the opportunity to comment on before, is that they know their bodies well and know what gives them pleasure and how to get it. It seems like a silly, inconsequential thing considering how many other virtues her books have, but in a genre where the heroes seem to have all the answers to the heroines’ sexual fulfillment, books like hers always make an impact.


Can Romantic Suspense Be Feminist? By Jill Sorenson

There have been a number of discussions online about feminism and romance. Some people think the romance genre is inherently feminist because it’s written by women, for women. Others think it’s inherently non-feminist because the heroine finds happiness (and self-worth, perhaps) through her relationship with a man.

Narrowing the genre down into categories further complicates the question. Are some subgenres more feminist than others? Fans of m/m say they enjoy the gender equality and lack of sexism. Paranormal romance readers discuss problematic themes such as “fated mates” and captive heroines. Alpha males run rampant across genre lines.

July 11, 2013

Heroine Week, Day 4 – Kickass Heroines for Kickass Readers: Jen’s Favorite Urban Fantasy Heroines

You probably know Jen from places such as Red Hot Books and the slightly NSFW Tumblr, Red Hot Men. I know her from my earlier days as a reviewer, because she was one of the first bloggers I met, and we have been friends ever since. If Jen were to become a heroine, she would get a book like Dirty (take a look at her Tumblr if you don’t believe me).


Kickass Heroines for Kickass Readers: Best Urban Fantasy Heroines by Jen from Red Hot Book

I know contemporary romance is the Big Thing right now, but if you are looking for a little girl power, there is no better genre than urban fantasy to find it.  These women have it all: kick ass powers, sexy heroes, and often a razor sharp wit to round things off. True, they have their fair share of problems as well, but you can’t have a story without conflict! Here is a look at some of my all-time favorite UF heroines.

Heroine Week, Day 4 – Team Smexy Books' Favorite Heroines

Team Smexy Books doesn’t need an introduction. After all, they make the community sofa king happenis! Tori, May and Mandi are clever, funny and don’t take themselves too seriously, so if they were to become Romance heroines, their book would be something like Welcome to Temptation (you know, the one about porn).
Tori:  As a reader, I encountered hundreds of heroines over the years. Good heroines...bad heroines...and heroines who fully embrace the ugly and leave me with a permanent WTF? look on my face. Heroines appeal to me on many different levels. I enjoy heroines who are humorous. Heroines who are strong and can think for themselves. Heroines who can make horrific mistakes and not only own them but learn from them. Heroines who aren't afraid to take chances; be it in love or battle.  I need a heroine who can COMMUNICATE. One who can stand tall and let her needs be known even if it isn't the popular decision. Lord save me from a whiny heroine. One who allows the crush of emotion to completely incapacitate them. She is allowed her emotional OMG moments, but I don't want an entire book about it. Get your freak out and move on. Make the best of a bad situation. Fight, scheme, lie, steal...do what needs to be done to survive.  Also not a fan of revenge sex heroines. You know what I mean. Those who have sex with an enemy or a low level love interest in order to "get over" her main love interest. It never works and always makes the heroine look like a jerk. The "it's not fair" heroine will also get a permanent place on the PITA list. Life isn't fair...deal with it.

Heroine Week, Day 4 – Demons, Warriors and Machiavellian Caregivers: The Women of Meljean Brook’s Guardian Series

Fuck yeah, heroines!

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead, especially for the third book, Demon Night.

To me, Paranormal Romance* has fairytale quality. The stories feel fantastic beyond the obvious, probably because, in some ways, it sticks to traditional genre conventions and gender roles. The men are strong, dominant and possessive; whereas the women, regardless of strength, most of the time need to be saved and are visibly weaker than their male counterparts.

However, in the past few years this has started to change. The women have reclaimed their agency, the heroes have discovered their sensitive, respectful sides, and the different relationships established between heroes and heroines have moved towards a middle that begins to resemble true partnership.

Meljean Brook’s books perfectly fit this developing pattern, and we should stand to attention and take note of it. Her heroines push boundaries, defy expectations, and question conventions. They have agency and know their strengths and limitations well. They save the day, but also know when it’s wise to let someone else do the saving. These are complex and interesting characters that make their heroes work hard to become worthy of such wonderful women.

July 10, 2013

Heroine Week, Day 3 – For Colored Girls Who Can’t Find Themselves Between the Pages by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Rebekah was one of the first people who joined Heroine Week. When she told me that her Happily Ever Afters came in every color, I knew her contribution would be interesting and invaluable. I was right, and you're about to see why. 


For Colored Girls Who Can’t Find Themselves Between the Pages by Rebekah Weatherspoon

I talked to Brie briefly about Paula Deen and how it was affecting my headspace as I put this piece together. I wanted to leave Paula out of this cause really fuck Paula, but then something else happened. Rachel Jeantel took the stand in the George Zimmerman trial. I think Rachel did her absolute best. A murder trial is not an easy thing to participate in. I don’t know what I would do if I had to speak on behalf of my dead friend, under national pressure to tell the truth and additional pressure to bring an accused killer to justice. Rachel testified for hours. Both the defense and the prosecution handled Rachel poorly.

They handled other witnesses poorly as well. Jennifer Lauer, the neighbor whose 911 call picked up the sound of the gunshot, was asked the same questions over and over and was even accused of following George Zimmerman’s brother on twitter by the prosecution who didn’t understand how twitter works. She was not following the brother. Twitter had just suggested she follow him, probably because they are both associated with the case. In the following 24 hours I didn’t hear much about Jennifer Lauer, but I heard A LOT about Rachel Jeantel.

Heroine Week, Day 3 – Heroine First by Mary Ann Rivers

I met Mary Ann before she published her first book (it actually took me a while to realize she was an author). Her comments and blog posts are touching and insightful, and she can wear hipster glasses without looking like she's trying too hard.

Heroine First by Mary Ann Rivers

My favorite time of day is right before I fall asleep.

I’m a practiced, lifelong, devoted daydreamer, but it’s this half hour or so, sometimes much longer, after I’ve put the book I’m reading away, after I’ve put most of the day away, that I am able to see new characters for books most vividly.

Hear them, too, small verses lifted from their story. As if I enter this space where I am the Studs Terkel of my own imagination, my microphone light glowing green on a table between us, an author and her character, and I’m not asking questions, not exactly, maybe I’ve suggested a prompt, and then she’ll talk to me, at least a little, and that’s the first time, then, I’ll pick up on some mannerism – maybe it’s tucking her flyaway hair behind her ears, or a tendency towards a stray tear when she talks about her mom, or how she taps out the salient points of her story on the table with her index finger.

Heroine Week, Day 3 – Giving the Heroine a Second Chance: A Hero-Centric Reader’s Journey Toward the Middle by Kaetrin

Kaetrin is one of my favorite Internet people (she’s also a regular person, but she’s in Australia, so I like to pretend that she lives in my computer). If she were to become a Romance heroine, her book would probably be Her Outback Rescuer, except that this time she would be the rescuer.

Giving the Heroine a Second Chance: A Hero-Centric Reader’s Journey Toward the Middle by Kaetrin from Kaetrin's Musings

People who know me and my reading tastes might think “what are YOU doing posting for Heroine Week?”.  It would be a fair question.  I tend to be all about the hero.  But, recently, I re-read (or listened actually) to a book which had me changing my tune about a heroine with whom I’d previously had problems. And, I think I know why.

July 9, 2013

Heroine Week, Day 2 – Flawed Heroines and the Likeability Standard by Rebecca Rogers Maher

No one better to join Heroine Week than an author whose heroines and their journeys are always at the core of her books, and sometimes that journey exists outside of the romance itself, which make her stories even more compelling and rich. 


Flawed Heroines and the Likeability Standard by Rebecca Rogers Maher

In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman insists that the most important thing in life is to be likeable. “Be liked,” he says, “and you will never want.”

Is this true? Is likeability what we all should be striving for? In a recent interview about her novel, The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud was asked whether anyone would want to be friends with her angry heroine, Nora. Messud responded with an outraged, “What kind of question is that?” She suggested that it would never be asked of a male author, about a male character, and that it was not necessary to be friends with a character in order to be moved by her. The question of likeability, or the “critical double standard—that tormented, foul-mouthed, or perverse male characters are celebrated, while their female counterparts are primly dismissed as unlikeable,” was later posed to a panel of authors at The New Yorker, with compelling results.

Heroine Week, Day 2 – Sexual Double Standards in Romance Novels or She Wants It - And That's Okay by Molly O’Keefe

I think that sometimes we confuse difficult and unlikable with complex and flawed. But being a Mary Sue can be tiresome, y’all! And no one knows that better than Molly O’Keefe’s heroines, who risked not being liked in favor of having fun and doing what they want (while wearing pink cowboy boots).


Sexual Double Standards in Romance Novels or She Wants It - And That's Okay by Molly O’Keefe

I live in a bubble. My friends, the women I follow on Twitter, the blogs I read - our viewpoints upon the world, feminism, sex, romance novels - they match up the majority of the time.  I work from home so I don't have to see people or converse with people I don't like, or who routinely anger me and I've stopped reading the comments sections on line, where so much ugliness seems to reside.

Heroine Week, Day 2 – The Appeal of the Unlikable Heroine or Why I'd totally Root for Scarlet to Beat Up Melanie by Nicole Helm

Unlikable heroines seem to be really appealing (unsurprising, once you think about it). Nicole Helm has been one of their fiercest champions and I’m glad she’s here today to tell us why.


The Appeal of the Unlikable Heroine or Why I'd totally root for Scarlet to beat up Melanie by Nicole Helm

The unlikable heroine. She saunters onto the pages of a book and takes no prisoners. She might be mean. She might be arrogant. She might find a way to get what she wants no matter what.

These are characteristics that make many romance readers swoon...if we're talking about the hero, but more often than not they are the characteristics that make a heroine totally polarizing and labeled "unlikable". You love her or hate her, and there's very little in between.

July 8, 2013

Heroine Week, Day 1 – True Grit: Western Heroines by Wendy the Super Librarian

Wendy already is a heroine -- a superheroine. But if she ever feels like having her own book, may I suggest What the Librarian Did?


True Grit: Western Heroines by Wendy from The Misadventures of Super Librarian

Since discovering the romance genre, I’ve always been a reader that immediately gravitates towards the heroine character.  Yeah, yeah – hunky heroes are great.  I love a good side of beefcake as much as the next gal, but they’re never the driving force in my reading.  It’s always the heroine.  There’s always plenty of lip-service to be found regarding feminism and the genre.  Debates and dissections, themes and symbolism.  But for me, when discussing feminism and romance you can simply chalk it up to the fact that many romance novels are, first and foremost, a story about the heroine’s journey.  Not all of them mind you, but a good many of them.  If that’s not feminism I’m not sure what is.

Heroine Week, Day 1 – The Heroine's Point of View by Stephanie Doyle

What I love about Stephanie Doyle's books is that they are risky and push boundaries, and this reflects on her heroines. These women are self-reliant, brave and refuse having their bosses’ secret babies, even when the opportunity presents itself.


The Heroines's Point of View by Stephanie Doyle

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I think most of us will universally acknowledge that Pride and Prejudice stands out as one of the first great romance novels. Our Alpha if you will. I will add to that and say Jane Eyre is (in my opinion) the most incredible romance heroine of all time. She hedges out Elizabeth ever so slightly for me.

When I started thinking about heroines and who my favorites were I started with where it all began. One of the obvious things that stands out with these two books is that the story is told from the point of view (POV) of the heroine.

Heroine Week, Day 1 – The Care and Feeding of the Everyday Heroine by Sarah Mayberry

Welcome to Heroine Week! I'm so excited to finally share all the fabulous guest posts with all of you. I know you're dying to get this party started, so here is one of my favorite authors, Sarah Mayberry. Her heroines are admirable, approachable and relatable, and this post pretty much explains why.


The Care and Feeding of the Everyday Heroine
by Sarah Mayberry

Sometimes I think us contemporary romance authors have it tough, having to spin romance and lust and love out of the ordinary plain cotton of everyday life. Our heroines don’t get awesome swords or fighting skills or backstories that involved magic spells and paranormal powers. We don’t get to dress them up in hats and gloves and petticoats and send them out to roam the streets of London in a high perch phaeton with some gorgeous aristocrat at their side.

July 6, 2013

Heroine Week: Wherein I Tell You How Awesome It’s Going to Be and Why

Welcome to Heroine Week, an event whose main purpose is to celebrate female characters and focus the conversation on them.

Heroine Week is all about, well, the heroines, but also about the guests. They made this event possible, and I’m grateful and honored to host their insightful, funny and thought-provoking posts.

Here’s a tiny preview of what you can expect:
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

FTC Disclaimer

The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.