Thursday, August 10, 2006

Jennifer Archer GuestBlog: Happily Ever After - With Or Without Him

Buon giorno, Bellas, e mi scusi! I had a little family emergency that got in the way of posting Jennifer's GuestBlog this morning. I know you know how that goes. Please welcome a terrific woman who writes lovely, honest, and thoroughly enjoyable novels. Jennifer, if you will...

I love a good romance novel. I’ve written three books in the genre. Actually, five if you count the two that never sold. Even so, currently I’m writing mainstream women’s fiction, which I also love, for Harlequin NEXT, and one question I’m often asked is: how does a women’s fiction heroine differ from a romance heroine?

I’m not sure I have the definitive answer to that, but I’ll take a shot at it. If you were to look at the heroine of a romance novel through a wide-angle lens, you might find she’s really not so different than her “sister” in women’s fiction. However, because romance novels are sharply focused on one aspect of their protagonists’ lives, their love life, we as readers aren’t privy to much information about their other desires.

That sharp focus on romantic love is why the genre is called “romance,” obviously! Eventually, every romance heroine shares a common goal of finding happily-ever-after with a man. Take Cinderella as an example – the ultimate romance. We see her meeting her prince. We see her falling head-over-heels – actually losing her heel, for this guy. We see them overcoming conflicts in order to be together.

In a mainstream women’s fiction novel, on the other hand, the character might be the same, but the focus is different. The story might focus more on Cinderella’s relationship with her stepsisters, how she tries to change what she can with them and accept what she can’t, in order to have a richer, happier life. She might meet the dashing Prince, she might fall in love with him, but their relationship will only be a slice of the story, not the entire pie. Or we might see Cinderella sixteen years after she marries the Prince, when she feels they’ve not only lost their passion for one another, she has lost her identity in the chaos of raising his children.

My NEXT heroines are looking for happily-ever-after within themselves rather than with a man. They might find romantic love along the way, they may even hope to find it, but if they don’t, or if they thought they did but the relationship doesn’t work out, the reader will close the book at the end knowing this woman will be okay. She’ll be happy, with or without that man in her life. Even if he did look like Hugh Jackman and Josh Holloway all rolled up into one buff package, he can say adios and she’ll get over it and move on. (With the help of a little chocolate, and maybe a couple of glasses of wine).

In my October, 2005 NEXT, The Me I Used To Be, the heroine Ally, must learn to let go of issues from her past, including an unresolved love and guilt over giving up a child she really wanted to keep, before she can embrace a new fulfilling life with another wonderful man. In Off Her Rocker, out this month, Dana Logan, who has made a career out of raising her son and daughter for the past twenty-two years, must learn to reinvent herself, to reassess her way of relating to her children when they finally grow up and leave home, before she can find fulfillment with her husband again and their new way of life.

In both books, as well as in all my NEXTS, the women have to discover happiness inside before they can find happiness in their outside relationships. While they search, they typically find themselves on some slippery slopes – sometimes figuratively, other times literally. In Off Her Rocker, for instance, the heroine’s car is stolen during a blizzard while she’s pottying down in the icy ditch on the side of the road, her jeans around her ankles! But as resilient real-life women do, she sheds a few tears and relies on her sense of humor and her wits to steady herself, find a way out of the situation, and continue on.

So if you’re in the mood to see Cinderella at the ball, pick up a good romance. If, instead, you would rather see her ten years later, searching for the Fairy Godmother to help her re-ignite the flame in her marriage and zap her teenagers, grab a women’s fiction novel. Either way, chances are you’ll end up with the happily-ever-after all story-lovers wish for – a satisfying read.


What qualities do YOU look for in a heroine? What novels have you read whose heroine stands out in your mind? What made her memorable?

39 comments:

Jennifer Y. said...

Welcome Jennifer!!

I love all types of heroines. I especially like those who are intelligent and witty.

Two heroines that stand out for me that I really liked were Sara Fielding in Lisa Kleypas's Dreaming of You and Penelope Featherington in Julia Quinn's Romancing Mister Bridgerton. Both were strong and intelligent women.

Hope everything is okay Michelle!

Playground Monitor said...

Hi Jennifer! We met at the eHarlequin PJ party and chatted about orthodontia. Romantic topic, I know. *g*

One of my favorite heroins is Sugar Beth Carey in SEP's "Ain't She Sweet." She'd used and abused her power and now the prodigal daughter has returned to a less than welcoming town. She is the character you love to hate (because face it, you've probably had a Sugar Beth or two in your life) and by the end of the book you're in love with this woman who has gone through such tremendous growth.

And that's what I look for in a heroine -- a woman who learns and grows. And finding Prince Charming doesn't hurt either.

Marilyn

Jennifer said...

Hi Jennifer Y.-- I also really enjoy strong, intelligent heroines. I really like it when they falter a bit, or even feel sorry for themselves, then use their wits to pull themselves out of whatever sticky situation they're in. And Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas *do* write great heroines...and heroes for that matter!

Jennifer said...

Hi Marilyn,
I remember you and our interesting talk about braces! I'm looking forward to the day mine come off. I hope soon. I feel as if I look like the world's oldest fourteen year old! As for Sugar Beth -- I loved her, too! SEP is so great at taking an initially unlikable character then making the reader love her/him by the end of the book.

MaryKate said...

I have two favorite heroines:

Jennifer Merrick from Judith McNaught's A KINGDOM OF DREAMS. She's sassy, graceful and loyal.

Merry Wilding from THE WINDFLOWER by Tom and Sheila Curtis. She grows in such wonderful ways throughout the novel. She goes from a victim to a survivor and remains completely likeable all the way through the book.

I really like my heroines to grow throughout a story. I want them to learn and become richer in personality. I hate whiny or victimized heroines. They tend to piss me off. I also don't like heroines that act like idiots, either in the context of making bad decisions, or in the context of literally just being stupid (like wandering down the hall without a candle during a thunderstorm in the haunted castle while there's a murderer out there).

I do agree though, I think SEP does an amazing job of creating likeable heroines with lots of foibles. I'd rank Sugar Beth up there among my favorites.

Jennifer, do you think we all love Penelope so much because we really have a chance to get to know her before her HEA ever happens? I think that might be why I love her so much. We know from very early on that she has an acerbic sense of humor, has a strong sense of self and is completely in love with Colin. So we yearn for her to be happy.

I liked Sara Fielding very much too, although, what I really love about DREAMING OF YOU has very little to do with her, and everything to do with Derek Craven (wink).

Julie in Ohio said...

I had a nice long post go and play Houdini on me...grrrr
Basically it went like this:

Welcome to RBTB, Jennifer!!

I like a strong heroine who knows what she wants and goes out and grabs it consequences be damned, with a heart of gold. I also like a heroine who has some growing up to do. She may need a push in the right direction but in the end she stands on her own.

I can't stomach a willy-nilly heroine. The only exception to that is if she learns her lesson in the end and stands on her own two feet. However it needs to be a well written story or I'll never make it to the end. :o)

Marilyn, I read that SEP and I agree with you 100% about Sugar Beth. Not to mention who could not remember and love a heroine with the name Sugar Beth. :P

rachd said...

Great explaination, Jennifer. Jennifer y, the first two heriones I thought of were Sara and Penelope too. How funny. I also really like Kate from THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED ME. I love the strong herione. Also, like MK I like to see them grow. One of my all time favorite heriones is

Kit from THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND. She faces adversity from the outset, but ultimately overcomes the challenges before her, never giving up on her true self. And, she gets her HEA. ;o)

rachd said...

Okay, I have no idea why there is that strange space between the parts of my post...

Vivi Anna said...

Welcome to RBTB, Jennifer!

My kind of heroine is tough, gritty, and doesn't take crap from anyone...

But she always has to have a vulnerable spot for the hero of the tale...she'll drop her guards for him, but only him!

Memorable heroines...

Stephanie Plum from JE's books...

Rachel Morgan from Kim Harrison's Wtich series

Dante Valentine from Lilith Saintcrow's Devil series

Sonja Blue from Nancy Collins collection

Anika Blake from LKH's series, until she slept with Micah...ewwwwww, hate him!

Julie in Ohio said...

I need to add one more to Vivi's list:

Kat from Vivi Anna's Hell Kat. If you are looking for a tough, gritty heroine, she's your girl.

Lyn Cash said...

I think one of the reasons I write both mainstream and romance is because of that 'how about me' that the displaced heroines cry. A woman needs to be the best SHE can be before she's the best partner for someone else. Mainstream ficton seems to allow that exploration, probably because of its length, a tad better than category does, but there are authors who handle both genres well. Anne Stuart's heroines, whether category or mainstream, appeal to me most of the time, as do those of SEP, & Janet Evanovich.

Jennifer, your 'Sandwiched' was marvelous - loved the relationships and the way each woman grew.

Vivi Anna said...

Julieeee...

You so rock for adding in my Kat!

smooches!

Jennifer said...

Hi Mary Beth,

I *do* think it's crucial for the reader to feel they know the heroine inside and out, her weaknesses, strengths, her dreams, her successes and failures, her struggles in order for us to fall in love with them and cheer when they receive their happily ever after. When a writer makes the heroine that real, I feel as if I'm watching a best friend finally get the happiness she deserves.

Jennifer said...

Thanks to all you ladies for the warm welcome. I'm so happy to be here! And Lyn I'm so glad you enjoyed "Sandwiched." It was great fun to write.

I agree that heroines who continually do stupid things are difficult to stomach. But I do like heroines to be true-to-life women and, let's face it, most of us in real life at least occasionally do something stupid or make a bad choice. When a heroine is too perfect at the beginning of a book, she bores me. I want to read about a woman who is flawed in some way, as real women are, and watch her grow beyond those flaws.

rachd said...

Jennifer, while occasional stupidity is fine, I get irritated when the herione *continually* does bone-headed things.

I know I'm going to bring on the hate here, but it's kinda like Ben Stiller's character in "Meet the Parents". Had I been him I would have gone home after the second mishap happened. Seriously. While I can concede the movie is funny, I didn't enjoy it because the man had no self-preservation (IMO anyway).

A herione who doesn't learn from her mistakes is a very frustrating one to read.

Julie in Ohio said...

I like my heroines flawed, but not silly. I can't get connected to a heroine if she is constantly things that just doesn't make sense. Yes, women in real life do make bad choices now and then but on a whole I think we have a common sense that sees that we learn from our mistakes. Mistakes are good as long as you don't repeat them.
I agree that a perfect heroine is just a nausous as a silly one. There needs to be a balance.



Vivi...right back at 'cha. :P

MaryKate said...

I totally agree Rach! I was listening yesterday to Jennifer Cruisie's ANYONE BUT YOU. It's an extremely funny book, and boasts a yummy hero. The heroine had such a frickin' hangup about one issue that it made me want to smack her one. At first it seemed realistic, but by the end of it, I was really ready to jump into the story, throttle her, and steal the hero for myself!

Julie in Ohio said...

OMG, Rach!! I had the same reaction to that movie. :o)

rachd said...

LOL, MK. I've had books I've hurled across the room because of similar things. I just wanted to smack 'em and tell 'em to get over it!

I guess I read romances for escape. Yes, I want the heriones to be "real", but darnit, not *that* "real"!!

Jules, of course you did. Duh, we're two peas in a pod you know ;oP.

Julie in Ohio said...

LOL, Rach. You should be a little worried about that... :P

rachd said...

Naw, you are most definitely the one who needs to be worried!!

Julie in Ohio said...

Rach- All in the eye of the beholder... :P


I am currently reading Connie Brockway's ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT. The heroine there appears to be strong and confident but there is a hidden insecurity that I am waiting to see what it is. I like it when you think you have someone pegged but there's something that you can't quite put you finger on. Of course that only works if the mystery gets solved. At the end of the book I need to feel I know this person and everything has come together. Unless there is a sequel coming out that continues where the first one left off. Like in HOT WATER, you get an introduction but it left things unfinished.



I put alot of exceptions in there. I hope you can follow what I am trying to say. The internet can make explanations difficult.

Jennifer said...

"A heroine who doesn't learn from her mistakes is a very frustrating one to read."

Well said, rachd! I agree. It's watching her make those mistakes, learn from them and become stronger for it that makes for an interesting, sympathetic heroine.

rachd said...

Julie, I get what you mean. And, Jennifer, that is exactly what I meant. Only you said it better =).

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

OK. Here's where I just zoom in and out w/o reading everyone's comments, so sorry if I'm restating stuff.

I love a heroine who laughs at herself, which is why I loved Jennifer's "Sandwiched."

I like heroines who learn about sex from the alpha hero, then shake him up anyway.

I have trouble reading man-eater heroines in romances (not talkin erotica here) who've done a million guys and set out to conquer the hero. It doesn't speak to me, but I know it speaks to many.

My fave heroine is still Kit from The Witch of Blackbird Pond, cause I love her vulnerability and the way she uses bravado to cover it. She also has great intentions, but manages to tick people off anyway. I i.d. w/that for some reason when I was younger.

I guess I really like a heroine who is soft in some way that speaks to the hero's nurturing instincts (guys do have em, even alphas).

Stacy~ said...

I like heroines who don't change who they are just to be with a man, but also those who aren't too stubborn to learn from their mistakes. Pride can only go so far in keeping a heroine from being too stupid. Kate from "The Viscount Who Loved Me" is a great example of a strong, fiesty heroine, Rach. She doesn't let Anthony push her around.


I also liked Teri from Suzanne Brockmann's "Over The Edge" because she was a military pilot - strong and brave - but who was also vulnerable enough to let the man she loved see that side of her. There were no excuses just because she was a woman - she was good at her job and proud to do what she did, and I loved that representation of her.

I am not a fan of the heroine who hates the world and does nothing but complain. That is not a tough, kick-ass heroine - that is a whiner LOL.

Julie in Ohio said...

Oh, I'm with you, Stacy. I don't like the whiners. I rate them with the willy-nilly-silly ones. Yuck. If you don't like something, do something about it. That's my kind of kick butt heroine. She takes matters into her own hands and gets results.

Michelle, I get what you are saying about a man-eating heroine. I kind of go both ways. I love it when the hero sweeps her off her feet and carries her off. A man eater wouldn't allow that.
However, I do enjoy reading about a girl who won't take any crap from anyone. Being a timid person in real life, I find it kind of liberating in a way. :o)

MsFlexie said...

Funny... we just had this conversation in another reader group and we all seemed to agree that we don't recall much of the heroines (one woman said "I AM the heroine in every book I read" LOL), we tend to drool so much over the heroes...

My favorite heroines have a sense of humor and can give as good as they get in banters/sarcasm. I'm not fond of uber-sensitive, tears always ready to fall kind of girls. I also LOVE heroines who are older than say... 28?! I have the hardest time reading about really young ones, even tho I know in the historicals that is the appropriate age.

I also like heroines who can kick some serious "petunia" (something I picked up from Karen Marie Moning's upcoming "Darkfever" *LOL*)

A few of my faves: Tabitha Deveraux from Sherrilyn Kenyon's "Seize the Night," Janna MacNeil from Deirdre Martin's "Body Check," Claire Fraser from Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series, Madelaine DuMais from Adele Ashworth's "Winter Garden," Jasmine Boswell from Susan Grant's "Star King," and Cameron "Scarlett" Tucker from same author's "Scarlett Empress," Chloe Zanders from KMM's "Dark Highlander," .... I'm sure there are more I can't think of at the moment...

Fun question!

Julie in Ohio said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Manda said...

Hi Jennifer, Welcome to Bella Central!

Hmmm. Heroines. I think my favorite sort of heroine is one who learns to trust her own judgement, like Anne Elliot in PERSUASION. Not only does she realize that her original assessment of Wentworth was valid, she realizes that the adults/authority figures she trusted were wrong. It's hard to realize that you've been steered wrongly, but it's wonderful to realize that your own judgement is sound.

rachd said...

"This, above all, to thine own self be true."

Excellent, point, Manda. Sometimes it is so hard to trust yourself when there are others who have more life experience and should therefore know more or know better. Seeing a herione do so is very satisfying.

And, Stacy, I hear ya on the whiners!

amy*skf said...

I too like a heroine who is flawed--just enough so I believe it. And I like heroine I can see myself in.

Maybe, that's why I like them flawed a bit.

Jennifer, I loved Dinah from My Perfectly Imperfect Life. I enjoy first person books, because then I can *really* see myself as the heroine.

But I think through out my life the heroine who stands out for me is Jane Eyre--can't give a lovely explanation why, she just does.

Julie in Ohio said...

Thanks for hanging with us, Jennifer!

Ronda Thompson said...

Jennifer,
well, I wrote out this long post and it lost it. UGH!

I like all of yours.:)

There, short and sweet.


Ronda Thompson

Jennifer said...

Bellas,

Thanks for having me! You especially, Michelle. I've thoroughly enjoyed this discussion. You have given me much food for thought and reminded me of many books with heroines I love that I now want to re-read, as well as many books I'm now eager to read that I never have! I'm looking for The Witch Of Blackbird Pond (hope I got that title right!) first thing tomorrow! I've heard it mentioned more than once here. You are a fun and thought-provoking group. I'll definitely be dropping by often! Thanks...

Until we meet again,

Jennifer

Haven Rich said...

Sorry I'm late to the topic but I've been busy uploading my site today.

Anyhow, I like a herione that is witty, sharp-tongued and knows herself. The ones that annoy me are typically lofty and weak minded. Those just make me want to smack them lol.

Great blog!

rachd said...

Jennifer, thanks for coming to play =). THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND is a YA book and is still available practically everywhere. It was written by Elizabeth George Speare and is fantabulous!

Enjoy! =)

Candy Havens said...

Jenny, Fantastic blog. I love all of your books, but I'm especially fond of the Next book. You write such wonderful heroines and their journeys are so unique. You totally rock! -Candy Havens (www.candacehavens.com)

Oliveria said...

I like a heroine to be strong. Not one that cries easily.