THE TROUBLE WITH HEROINES

Creating heroines for historical romances is not an easy thing. I always compare it to a bit of a tightrope walk. On the one hand readers want heroines they can admire and identify with. They want a strong, assertive, independent woman who can stand alone and does not need to cling to her man for either support or protection. On the other hand, they want heroines who are historically believable. Women of Regency England were very different in almost every imaginable way from women of the 21st century. Legally they weren’t even persons. Almost invariably they belonged to some man as his possession. How on earth can they ever be seen as heroines to admire by readers today?

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Fortunately we have Jane Austen (Regency) and Charlotte Bronte (Victorian era) to show us the way. Austen and Bronte were writing contemporaries, not historicals. Yet they gave us Elizabeth Bennett and Jane Eyre, both of them heroines who drew power to themselves by daring to stand alone when they might have chosen to be safe and dependent. Elizabeth refused marriage offers she considered unacceptable from both Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy even though the alternative was a probable life of dreary spinsterhood and near-poverty. Jane refused to be Mr. Rochester’s mistress when it was discovered that he already had a wife and could not marry her–even though she knew he loved her deeply. She walked away and risked destitution instead.

I think a mistake many writers of historical romance make is in trying to suggest strength in their heroines by making them feisty (I hate that word!) in a contemporary sense. And so we have all sorts of Regency misses who defy all the rules of genteel society and stride off alone to take on the world, often to the accompaniment of foul language. They come across as unrealistic at best, shudderingly unattractive at worst. Swagger and a sewer mouth do not equal strength of character, especially in Regency England. When I read a Regency, I want to be swept off into that world, not back into my own. I want a hero who is a believable Regency gentleman and a heroine who is a believable Regency lady.

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My heroines run the gamut of human types. They can be quiet and dignified (Lauren Edgeworth in A Summer to Remember), talkative and klutzy (Cora Downes in The Famous Heroine), fierce and bold (Freyja Bedwyn in Slightly Scandalous) strait-laced and bookish (Mary Gregg in The Notorious Rake), widows determined to find love on their own terms (Hannah Reid in A Secret Affair),  prostitutes trying to find her way back to respectability (Viola Thornhill in More Than a Mistress) women deeply wounded by rape and a resulting single parenthood (Anne Jewell in Simply Love) and so on. But I try to do the same two things with all of them. First, I try to make them in the course of the book into strong women who can deal with their own lives and who can, if necessary, stand alone at the end of their book even though they are not called upon to do so, of course–these are love stories. But the love in which they share at the end is never a dependent thing. It is an equal love–the partners come to it from a position of equal strength. Secondly, I try very hard to make my heroines believable Regency types. I like to feel that they could find themselves in the pages of a Jane Austen novel without sticking out like sore thumbs. Whether I succeed or not is up to you to decide. Tightropes are not the easiest things to walk without toppling off at least once in a while.

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The picture is the inside, stepback cover of THE PROPOSAL.

To one person who leaves a comment before the end of next Tuesday, July 30, I will send an autographed copy of THE PROPOSAL or one of the books named above if you prefer and if I have a spare copy! Last week’s winner was Livia Quinn. Congratulations to her, and my thanks to everyone else who left a comment. As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed reading them all.

 

113 thoughts on “THE TROUBLE WITH HEROINES

  1. What a great post! I was actually looking for something along these lines today and this is absolutely perfect. And as a Bronte die-hard, I loved the Jane Eyre example.

    Love your books, and have for years!

  2. Then you are a very talented tightrope walker because you do a great job in having heroines that I can relate to while still not having them sound contemporary. It is very distracting for me to try to read a regency romance where the characters say and do things that are out of place. If the plot is good enough I can sometimes overlook it, but I love it when I don’t have to worry about it and whenever I read your books I know I can relax and enjoy :).

  3. I enjoy reading you novels. I like how you do not make your characters larger than life, as i am reading you novels I can imagine that character living during the time period you have placed them. You make them human, flaws and all. I think you do a wonderful developing historical characters. I also like how even though you have series each book can be read on its own.

  4. I think you do an excellent job of finding the balance to make your characters fit the time period. I would like to believe that the heroines in your stories quietly helped make the changes for women to be treated not as a piece of property but to be cherished and loved for their intelligence and independent thinking and the heroes in your stories realize the true value of these women.
    Who knows maybe they were the ladies that opened up the doors for future suffragettes.

  5. You are a consummate tightrope walker! One of the characteristics of a heroine that can stick out like a sore thumb to me is the age of the heroine. In a contemporary romance, you can get away with a heroine in her 30’s, but for a Regency I think upper 20’s is pushing the age range. For a modern reader, having a heroine that is 17-18 years old is probably considered unacceptable while more historically accurate.

  6. Women today can relate – we all have to suffer through battles of inequality in the workplace, at home, and those who periodically seek to move women back again. There is always something in your books to encourage all women.

  7. I find the characters who seek to know themselves and stay true to that self discovery the most interesting. Of course they have self doubts, and must wrestle with the concerns of the perceptions of others, but they chose themselves and their consciences as their lodestars, not the dictates of others. This motif is not confined to an era. Your heroines have styles of their own, hard fought and won, that make them “real” for your readers. Oh, and bathing….bathing is ALWAYS good in historical literature…keeps an attack of the willies at bay.

  8. I don’t think women have changed much, in general … we still chafe at the rules although our rules are much different than in the Regency era. It all comes down to what you know and what you’ve been taught. Interestingly enough, I don’t think men bowing to their lady-loves nagging has changed either. Men today don’t have the rules to follow either, so I think they are probably a little more lost than women would ever be… Opinionated on my part, obviously.

  9. I love your heroines, Lauren Edgeworth is one of my favorite and A Summer to Remember one of my top 3 books. I like losing myself in a book, and be swept away and not be distracted by less than believable ladies and gentlemen

  10. I don’t think people/ women are REALLY all that different.
    What society sees as acceptable may have changed, but women have pushing the envelope since the dawn of time

  11. I hadn’t considered the difficulties of writing historically appropriate heroines. I guess I was spoiled by having been introduced to the genre by the excellent novels of Georgette Heyer and subsequently disappointed by those of some other authors. Now I know the reason.

  12. When I enter into the world you create with your characters, I meet them as real people. You somehow manage to bare their souls, share their innermost thoughts and expose their vulnerabilities. I fall in love with them. I don’t experience that with many other authors–only a few, as a matter of fact. I love that your characters are not perfect and yet manage to find their way home to their hearts, allowing me to take the journey with them. I like the strong women and men in your stories; I love when they are people of honor.

  13. I’ve read a lot of historical romance books – most of them Regencies – I hadn’t really thought about the difference in the women who lived in those time periods versus how women are in present day. We take for granted the freedoms and opportunities we have today, besides the modern conveniences, that these women didn’t have. I appreciate that you strive to be accurate on all aspects of your stories. Tho I do think certain personality traits are inborn, tho they can be altered by their environment, and those traits may come out in subtle ways – even feistiness.

  14. I love that you strive to make your Regency heroines and heroes believable. When I read a historical novel, I want it to be historically accurate when it comes to the social mores of the time. Like you, I want to be swept away into another period when culture and society were different from today. Putting contemporary morals and actions onto a Regency heroine would be like dressing up a modern woman in a Regency costume – everything looks right but just doesn’t feel and sound right.

  15. I have been a devoted fan for decades. I love your Regency heroines, but I particularly admire the way you can animate your masculine characters — no matter how rugged the circumstances.

  16. I think that you do succeed! You’re right, we do want believable heroines. We read historical fiction for a reason, and so we want to be transported away from our world, and into theirs. I like that your heroines are so different. I’m curious though, why don’t you like the word feisty?

    • Often when I am told in a book that a woman is feisty, I find that means she is aggressive and self-centred and a bit of a twit. Maybe I don’t mind a character BEING feisty if she does it well. Hmm. That is not too well explained, is it?

  17. My favorite girls in Regency era books have a quiet dignity about them. They draw on their inner reserves of strength to help them out of whatever predicament they may find themselves in, and don’t necessarily need a man to save them. Their love interest does not need to save them or take care of them because they are perfectly able to take care of themselves! While managing society perfectly, of course. That is why I enjoy reading your books, because the heroines just fit so seamlessly into that time period, but their spirits are still relatable.

  18. Whenever I read a regency romance, I think, is this woman someone I can identify with and like? Would I go to her house for tea beause I enjoy her company? Many times I’d say yes. I’d seek out Freyja for a ride, Lauren for thoughtful reflection, and what was her name? Secret Mistress who loved hats? For shopping! I was raised as, and look for, the woman who thinks for herself, can communicate and listen to ideas and can run a house and plan a party. Those are the ones I admire.
    PS: please, just a signed bookplate, OK? I have the books! Thanks.

  19. I truly appreciate a well-drawn heroine whose words and deeds do not leap off the page screaming “historically inaccurate”. I was introduced to the world of historical romances through the works of Georgette Heyer and Roberta Gellis – both of whom remain favoured authors after years of re-reading. Your heroines, like theirs, come alive in and are true to the time and place in which the story is set. Thanks for walking the tightrope with style and grace!

  20. I agree with what you say. I like it when the heroine manages to be independent within the strictures of the time frame. She is not a wimp, but courageous. I think of all the women who stood for something, sometimes just working in the background to get things done. The heroine has to be someone likeable, also.
    I enjoy your books because I find the women who fit the time, but are able to rise above. Also the heroines are not all alike. Each time it is a new story, plot, not the same with new names.

  21. To me that is the great appeal of a Regency. To walk that line and do it right. Otherwise, why would I love to read it. I choose to ready Regency’s, I rarely read Contemporary’s because I live Contemporary, give me something else AND make me believe it and want it!

  22. I really enjoy reading about your heroines, they are realistic to the period with hopes and desires for themselves and those they love.

  23. I love your heroines! an old favorite of mine is Daisy in Lady with a Black Umbrella. She is strong and confident. She does not see herself as marriageable due to her age. She is selfless and trying to help her sister and the sister of the man she loves. She knows she is pushy, but also knows she cannot respect a man who can be pushed around by her.
    The other thing I love about your heroines is they are passionate but know there has to be more to a marriage than that, and they refuse the hero until they see that there is more. A lot of Regency authors have heroines that just set my teeth on edge, they are so silly or whiny. Yours are perfect.

  24. You have set the bar so very high in this area. I think the single most important characteristic you give your heroines is self-awareness. They know who they are and what that means in the society in which they live. So many writers today basically put a modern woman in a Regency dress and call her a Regency heroine. Frankly it takes a far more clever woman to carve out the life she wants and finally decides she deserves within the strictures of Regency society than it does for a woman to carve out her own life today. I love a clever, self-aware woman who finally sees her own worth and decides to get the life and the man she wants while perhaps bending the rules, but never breaking them. And most of all I love a hero who sees that woman and knows nothing less will do.

  25. It extremely difficult to create a heroine who is both believable in her time period but also someone modern readers can relate to (and that goes for male characters too). But the larger accomplishment is creating a lot of *different* believable characters over many books.

  26. I get frustrated by characters who are too modern in a Regency, too. I really appreciate writers, like you, who not only do the research but adhere to it as much as possible. :) Oh. I like that white outfit up there in the post. :)

  27. oanne N Dominick Marino In all my favorite venues ritten by well researched authors, I have found pleasure in meeting the following ladies: Lady Freyja Bedwyn, Duchess Honoria Cynster and her family of strong ladies, Jo March (Louisa May Alcott, although not Regency) and Pride and Prejudice’s, Elizabeth Bennet. These ladies possess strong character portrayed in historically represented story lines. Their counterparts are illustrated in their traditional roles and the balance is not offensive to me. These ladies illustrate the often touted phrase behind every good man is a strong supportive woman. In my life this is true and I am blessed with a man who stand beside me in partnership as well, each of us with are strengths and weaknesses to balance. Which is why I enjoy authors with strong writing abilities supported by accurate research that dobeyond the times

    • Joanne N Dominick Marino, I cut and pasted my FB post from your status to this blog. When I transferred, it cut off the J in my name.

  28. I love the way you make all your characters (male and female) seem real to the time settings they’re in … you do a marvelous job with taking us all back in time with believable characters. I guess I didn’t realize it was such a tightrope because it just seems so well done that I didn’t notice that it could be such a chore. I do enjoy all your books – thanks!

  29. I think you’ve hit upon it. It’s a kind of strength if character, strength if mind to carry on with life the best they can no matter the circumstances. If life is rough and unfair, they keep going and try to make the best of it. If they fall in love with a wealthy marquis, even better. But no matter what, they see life as valuable and rise to the challenge. Modern women, like myself, hate wilting violets, complaining misses, and Caroline Bingleys! Great heroines tackle everything–and do it with class. They’re everything we would hope to be if we were in their delicate ballroom slippers.

  30. I think you do a wonderful job with your heroines. Most have an independent, strong, rebellious streak, but you are able to balance that without scandal. You develop each one so that she has a strong personality and we know who she is. Then you maneuver her around to navigate the ton going right to the line pushing the envelope. Ultimately each one becomes a wonderful mother and wife who is respected, LOVED, and valued by her husband. They run the home, actively raise their children, host guests graciously, and keep their husbands happy.

  31. Jane Eyre also sprang to mind when I first started reading your thoughts, as she has always been a favorite heroine. But as I finished, my mind went to one of my favorites of your heroines: Claudia Martin. She is also quite contemporary, in that she chose to focus on career rather than the ‘womanly’ goals of wife and mother as her times almost required. Lots of my contemporaries (I went to college and law school in the 70’s) put off a family for a career. I also found your hero, Joseph Fawcitt, far more open-minded than one might expect, for the times, even given his feelings for his daughter Lizzie. More men, I think, were like his father. :D I think you illustrated Claudia’s dilemma perfectly, and showed the transformative power of love beautifully in that story. As Joseph said, Claudia put all her love into her school and her charity girls, but that love allowed her to finally care again for a man, and have her happy ending. You have done that in almost all of your books, I think. Particularly in the series, where you look in depth at each family member.

  32. I think that you a wonderful job with your heroines. Someone earlier said that they are “self aware”. I think I agree with that ……and the themes often deal with the issues of freedom of choice. You do a wonderful job.

  33. We all here say we love regency romance and sometimes dream to be transported to that era. So if we love them it means we love to read about the whole baggage that comes with that era, good or bad. So to me there is no question of not being able to relate to the heroines whose characters are true to the time period. More often than not I leave a book unfinished when I detect the heroines are too “feisty” or too “contemporary” in character. I’m not even a fan of contemporary romance.

  34. You make it look easy and your heroines believable. I love reading your books and the fact that each is unique. I hadn’t stopped to think how hard it must be to give each heroine her own life and story without just changing names and moving on. Thank you very much for doing what you do.

  35. Mary, yet another informative and very thought provoking article from you. There is certainly a growing trend for historical heroines to portray modern societal values. While they may have commercial appeal and attract a wider readership, they lack the subtleties that are essential to a regency era novel, and ultimately deflect from the believability of the story. Accordingly, your statement that resonated with me the most was that Austin and Bronte were writing contemporaries. Of course the were! That was one of those ‘light bulb’ moments for me – thank you! It only further emphasises how valuable their novels are as very accurate portrayals of societal values in that era – I will now be very carefully reviewing my own WIP to ensure that my protagonist can walk that tight-rope with the same believability that you so effortlessly achieve each and every time.

  36. You’ve spoiled me for other writers, you know that? There are some popular regency authors who have their heroines behave in completely (for the time) in appropriate ways that I wonder if they’ve done any research at all.
    A Summer to Remember is my all time favorite book for having a heroine who embodies so many of the sensibilities of the era, yet is still a very compelling character.
    Thank you so much for this post!

  37. I would have to say that the “strongest” heroines (in my opinion) are the “silent” ones. Outwardly they obey the rules, allow the men to believe they are in total control, and they may even purposely not enhance their appearance. But underneath all the subterfuge, they are moving mountains. Well, maybe not mountains, but large hills. These heroines are made up of many layers, and only a worthy man may peel them back.

  38. The Trysting Place even though one of your older Books has a perfect example of a heroine that fits into her Era. She does have to marry but finds love in her own way again. I won’t spoil it only add it is a beautiful Book that stayed with me for a long time.

  39. I agree with you – I read regencies and other historical romances because they’re historical. If I want so-called modern heroines, I can read a modern romance. I do think the huge drift into modern and PC heroes and heroines in the late 90s had a huge impact on the regency market because so many of the characters became 21st century people set in a quasi-regency world.

    When I saw the Samantha Morton/Ciarin Hinds Jane Eyre, I was sure that some of the language relating to women was added, it was simply too liberated and too modern. So I went back to that scene in the book, in the copy I had read in 8th grade, and found that I had highlighted that very language the first time I read the book. Finding strength in a regency era woman is not difficult. You, for example, manage it virtually every time, a strong sufficient woman who fits in her time.

  40. One of the reasons that I love your books so, is that you walk this tightrope beautifully. Writing an interesting heroine who still works within their historical period is probably the most difficult aspect of writing historical fiction and you do it extremely well. I find many talented younger writers today can not pull this off.

  41. I imagine keeping in mind the sexual mores along with class issues makes this extra hard. As books have moved to more sex it seems like making that happen in a believable way for women who could be utterly lost by having sex makes it tough.You were especially good at this stuff in the Proposal.

  42. One of the reasons I enjoy your books is that you have achieved that balance beautifully. I’m put off by the authors who write Regency romances with a heroine seeking to fulfill sexual curiosity. In the Regency era, there were devastating consequences for this behaviour, consequences which some authors push aside with the toss of a head. Regency women can be strong and still live within the strictures of their society. One of the keys is to find a delicious hero who admires that in their women (whether he realizes it or not!)

  43. Beautiful put, Ms. Balogh!….That is a balance act…How to portrait a time like the Regency without sacrificing your character…

  44. It’s fascinating and fun to get the behind the scenes look at so many of the the books I love. I get excited any time I see a mention of characters from the “Slightly” or “Simply” series. I think the characteristics you strive for are best found in your older heroines who’ve had more of a buffeting from life than some of the young misses who are being presented for the first time to the Ton straight out of the school room. The seasoning we get life from life makes everyone more interesting including a Regency heroine.

  45. I think that the impressions that we have of Regency women may not be accurate. Jane Austen’s women showed a variety of personalities. What comes down to us of “proper behavior” may well be some person’s idea of how the women “should” have been–not a description of how they actually were. I doubt women have changed all that much. We still work, laugh, cry, strive…and put up with the posturing of some of our menfolk.

    Nope–still the same! :)

  46. I found your books quite by accident and they have set the standard by which I judge most regency heroines. The strength of character that your heroines exhibit is timeless.

  47. You do an admirable job – your heroines are women who seem as though they fit into their time frame, and yet women who are likable with strong inner qualities we see today.

    I think the actual women of the Regency period must have had to maneuver on a very difficult tightrope. From our perspective, what a sad place to be.

  48. I agree and no one can walk that tightrope as you can! For your use of that gift, I am very grateful. You show me the frailties of life and how men and women both pursue happiness. It is that jurney that we write about. Recently, I was talking to my husband about a Regency I was reading. He asked a few questions and I realized even though the story had been set over 200 years ago we still have the same problems today. Our heroines are no different from us. They had to live in their world and survive. We may have tech gadgets and more information available to us but we still all want to be loved and cared about. We still want our children to be happy. I sometimes think about what an Afghan or Iraqi mother and how she is no different than I am. She wants her children to have a better life than she has had. Wouldn’t it be great if we could we could see the similiarities and not the differences?

  49. What a lovely and informative post; I enjoy hearing about my writers’ processes. And I do agree. They should be historically accurate for the time period and a too modern heroine just doesn’t work for me. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

  50. I think you do an excellent job of making them believable. I really enjoyed the fact that Margaret Huxtable’s mother in law acted silly and vapid in the company of men, but in reality she was much more complex. I really enjoy that all of your characters have demons they need to face (for lack of a better expression) and the male and female leads often help each other come face to face with those demons before they can move on. I also enjoy that they deal with the very real insecurities and fears that transcend eras.

    I really cannot abide alpha males as heroes. I really, REALLY hate that “You’re mine and I’ll kill anyone who looks at you and you’re to stupid and fragile to fend for yourself” attitude. Your heroes are much more likeable and human. They are well matched to your heroines.

  51. I always wonder who wrote the first Regency book with a teenage heroine, and why readers accepted it as historically accurate. I took an English history class in college. The average age for women in Regency England was 23-24. There’s a whole book about this very topic, too. I appreciate that you write heroines that fall into this norm because it was the reality.

    I love your heroines, especially Lauren Edgeworth. I appreciate the fine line you walk. I wish that more authors chose to make their heroines a wee bit more historically accurate and less modern.

  52. It’s difficult to remain in context when writing historical. It’s been my observation that people really haven’t changed much between then and now. I don’t care for 2 dimensional characters or caricatures myself. Each person has layers (like an onion), some deep, some not so deep, some not extending beyond the outer peel. But even someone we’d call shallow has something there (good, bad or indifferent) that makes him or her unique. What’s helped me as a fledgling fiction writer is trying to come up with equivalents, e.g. 21st century brainiac = 19th century bluestocking. Even today, many women still feel they have to hide their smarts around other people (especially male people) which means we really haven’t come as far as we’d like to think.

  53. Oh, wow! You have pushed my hot button with the other “F” word! Right up there with “the big misunderstanding” on my most hated in novels list is the “feisty heroine”. I will not finish a book with such a heroine. Much too often anymore, “feisty” translates to the equivalent of loud, obnoxious 12 to 14 year old behavior, despite the reported age of the heroine.

    Values and mores were very different in the Regency era, even if people are still fundamentally the same. An example that comes to mind is when in P & P, Elizabeth is visiting her sick sister and she and Caroline Bingley are conversing while Darcy writes letters. Jane Austen’s Elizabeth is never anything but calm and very polite to her hostess despite what she must have been thinking. In most of today’s Regencies however, she would be flinging out smart-aleck retorts before storming out of the room in a huff!

    Like the others here, I so appreciate your tight rope walk and your historically accurate writing. Thank you!

  54. What an interesting post! It’s fascinating to hear about things like this from the author’s perspective. I dinged a book on Goodreads earlier this week for a “historical” book that was set in the 8th century but had a fully modern heroine. I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes during the book. I’m so glad you are sensitive to this

  55. Mary, I have always appreciated the believability of your characters. It allows readers to relate to these heroines at an elemental level regardless of the century.

  56. I have just finished your Mistress Series. I have never checked out an author’s website but felt compelled to today. I whole heartedly agree with your thoughts as to how you design your heroines, they are truly believable. It was probaby difficult for women during the regency periods to be truly themselves as they had to conform to so many rules and regulations. Thank you for your novels, I look forward to additional books.

  57. Why I love Historicals (And yours in particular–Slightly Dangerous, is perfection) is that there are all these parameters that one must try to write within. The world of a Regency woman is narrow, but she still has all the feelings that a modern day woman has, she just must express them in a more subtle way. This is the challenge for the writer who chooses the historical path. The tightrope, as you call it, Mary. I think the best historical writers embrace these strictures and learn to move gracefully and creatively between the confines of their chosen world.

  58. I gravitate to the Regency Era historical romance because of the happy ever after ending in a time period that doesn’t infringe on our own and the slight unreality of what it depicts. I find that contemporary romance leaves me with more anxiety, not less–all too real.

  59. I think you do a wonderful job and love all your stories ! I have read other stories though and thought “would they really have said that , or done that back then ?”. It didn’t stop me from finishing the book but it did make me realize how difficult the task would be. So, I leave all the research and work to all you wonderful authors and just enjoy the finished work. Thank you for such amazing books !

  60. Mary you walk that tightrope just like a member of the Wallenda family. Thank you so much for the way you write your books, I don’t think I’ve ever read one that I didn’t like. I for one read to “escape reality” as many people say. I want my reading material to have characters that would fit in in the era of the story. If it’s a Regency romance I want the hero and heroine to seem like they actually would have lived in that era, not someone transported through time from this era to that, I don’t do actual time travel stories, much less those that seem like that is what they should be.

  61. Mary Wollstonecraft’s VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN was published in 1792 and is as valid today as when it was written. A Regency heroine could have read the book and demanded her rights as Ms. Wollstonecraft did.

  62. I have to agree that “feisty” females leads do not a heroine make. I find that to be a huge problem when selecting historical romances, as it seems some authors fail to walk that tightrope (you do it very well Ms. Balogh). It’s far more enjoyable to read a book where the female is a believable historical heroine, especially since strong women back then did have to face a great deal of censure when making non traditional choices.

  63. Mary, you are a master at creating believable characters for the era you are writing about. Their conversations are one of the ways you represent how people communicated at the time. And often your humor( some of it hilarious) teaches us so much about the character who is talking and also about the people around him(or her). You work really hard to keep everything authentic for the times and it shows. I wish I could express myself better, but I hope you understand what I’m trying to say.You can see I was not meant to be a writer.. but you certainly were!!

  64. You to a wonderful job of making the heroine believable & the books enjoyable. I love Jane Austen & I feel like your books take me back to the same period. I love the the inside cover picture, it is beautiful.

  65. It hadn’t occurred to me that regency women (and men) had to act within their time. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Mary. Perhaps this is why your stories are so credible- these ladies are not so far from us today, yet are living within the constraints of society they lived in.

    I just finished rereading A Promise of Spring. I have to say I am touched by Sir Perry’s reluctance to tell his wife what she can and cannot do, rather, allowing her to make that decision, despite how terrifying the thought of losing his wife is. And too often, the heroine picks the masterful and dark hero and I liked how she hadn’t. She picked constancy and kindness and respect.

    You walk the tightrope well, Mary and that’s why your books are so beloved by all your fans.

  66. The characters in your books always seem believable today even though they exist in your mind and in another century. I think it is because the reader can usually identify with the feelings your characters experience. Thank you for creating such diverse women in one period. Maria

  67. This is an interesting post. So many readers seem to expect a modern heroine in an historical setting. Although it’s fiction, it’s not always realistic to expect the heroine to be proactive.

  68. I love that your books find that middle ground. I think I relate to Abby of all your heroines (I talk a lot like her and my husband is the quiet type).I hope at some point I manage to do the balancing act a little better in my own writing rather than hopping off one side or the other. In the meantime, I get to read you write it!

  69. Thank you. I love this article. I so often hear people say things like, “If I lived then, I would have…” and then describe something that would be completely unheard of at the time. As if no one ever thought of it before. It’s important to have a character that is relate-able, but still follows the rules of the time period.

  70. I find your heroines interesting and appealing, women it would be a pleasure to know. Especially Cora Downes who is one of my favorites. She was able to overcome the stigma of her background just by being herself.

  71. I have enjoyed reading all your books. Your heroines are quite realistic. I think part of your success is that you don’t make them “over the top”.

  72. I completely agree it must be difficult to try to appeal to us women of the “now” and also make heroines realistic historically. I will admit that I have read and enjoyed a few historical novels with heroines who have 21st century mind-sets, but I do find myself thinking that they probably wouldn’t have thought or acted in certain ways back then. Maybe I enjoy the fantasy of a woman of our time finding herself living in a historical world and showing everyone else how wrong they all are!

    I truly enjoy your writing. Your books are of the few who I feel really transport me to another era and continent.

  73. I just finished reading the Mistress series also. I loved Viola and Jane, not so much Angeline – in that novel I preferred the unfolding of Heyward’s character. All three books were great, for different reasons. Tresham reminded me of Wulf. I loved seeing his softer side revealed by Jane in the sanctuary they created together. My favorite of the three was probably No Man’s Mistress – Ferdinand’s revelation of self-awareness was delicious along with Viola’s story. I love how you always have both hero and heroine act with honor above all.

  74. I certainly agree with this post. While reading regency romance novels, I prefer having the feeling of realism in the sense of how the characters and plot makes the story. I really love it when a historical romance novel is written with the sense of being true from it’s source. It makes you feel the era that they have been living. In the sense of the heroines, i have to agree that the best way to make them is how they are and from there creating the story. In the case of 21st century heroine type, I guess there is a certain degree of limitations when applying them to regency romance book because as said women then and now are so different. Lastly I really like this post and continue making beautiful stories!!!
    (By the way I just finished 7 of your books in a week and i really loved them!!..My favorite is Precious Jewel!!Thank you so much fro your beautiful books!!)

  75. I think even your most flamboyant characters still retain that Regency restrain to some degree and I love this!

  76. I have been reading and enjoying your books since the Signet Publications . What has always appealed to me are your strong heroines. No two are alike and they are made believable . My favorite is still Priss from “A Precious Jewel”. Thank you for years of great reading. Can’t wait for “The Arrangement”!

  77. I’ve read every book of yours that I’ve been able to find, because I love your plotlines as well as your heroines and heroes. A good friend and I are voracious readers and love to discuss books, but she reads many more authors than I do. Every couple of months, I find myself re-reading your books. Favorite? Who can pick. I LOVE Wulfric, but every time I read Slightly Dangerous, I have to read the other Bedwyn novels; I can’t read Alleyne’s story without re-reading Morgan’s. Then I have to go back and read the other three. I love the bold and funny Bedwyns, but I also love Lauren in A Summer to Remember, and Sydnam Butler and Anne’s story makes me cry every time I read it. And you re-releasing earlier books has given me so many other heroines to enjoy. In all your books, I do find the characters to be believable to my perception of that time period; I agree that not all authors are true to that. One more favorite character I have to mention is Priss in A Precious Jewel. She especially was making her way in one of the few options a woman had in that time period, but she had the strength to not let it conquer her. Please don’t stop doing what you’re doing.

    • So great to read your post Stacie. I love all the books you mentioned as well. Sydnam and Anne make me cry also.

  78. Thank you so much, Mary, for the great tip.
    I hadn’t thought of the ‘tightrope effect’ but can certainly relate to the idea/dilemma of refraining from throwing in both actions and language that are not suited for the times (whatever era that may be). I do have one heroine who is unutterably ‘feisty,’ which may feel like a questionable departure from reality, but discovering exactly why she is so is, in fact, a good reason to keep reading the story! At least, that was my intent…
    My first book was, oddly enough, written in the ‘first-person,’ which, I have to admit, had some serious (seriously crazy!) challenges of its own. I’m curious. Have you ever attempted (or achieved) such an insanity?

    • I have never written first person narrative, Jan. I sometimes enjoy reading it, depending upon the story. In a straight romance, I usually prefer third person. As a writer, I like to get into the heads of both my hero and my heroine.

      • Understandably so. That was probably my biggest difficulty. It was a first attempt and very enjoyable writing, nonetheless. :)

  79. I do so love your books. I’ve read every one I could get my hands on. I love the Bedwyn’s. I really get into your stories and sometimes find I am surprised to look up and not be in the setting I’ve been reading about. Wish I could do a better job of picturing the fashions in my mind. I think I have some of them down, but generally have to make believe. Thank you so much for the time you have taken over the years to present us (your public) with intelligent and gripping stories. Have you ever read Helen MacInnes? I think you would like her.

  80. The first book of yours that I read was Simply Unforgettable. And, I must say, that title describes your books perfectly! That book had been left on the nightstand in the guest room of my parents’ home by one of my mother’s friends. My first thought after reading the first chapters was that I had felt like I was reading one of Jane Austen’s books. I looked up your website and was not surprised to learn that you were influenced by her. I’ve since read all your books…many times over. They are well worn as my mother and sisters share them. We often pondered which actor or actress would play them in a movie. Do you ever have an actor or actress in mind when you write your novels? In any case, thank you for writing these wonderful characters and telling their stories. I love them all and look forward to meeting the rest of the Survivors!

  81. You are right on target with your heroines–all different but admirable. I dislike “feisty” and if the book description mentions that word, I don’t buy or read it.

  82. Your heroines are the reason you are my favorite author!

    I love that they feel like real Regency characters, and not modern characters in a time travel story. I always believe in the happy-ever-after of your characters, which isn’t always the case with some of the other authors I read.

  83. I very much enjoy the world that you created – the manners, society expectations, and the interactions of all the people. I like how over time the heroine generally matures into a more responsible person. It’s hard to think of a 17 year old, even with a great upbringing in a wonderful family, as being other than (even slightly) self-centered. As the characters age and weather different life experiences, they become more fascinating. Thank you for all your wonderful books and for the character overlap in them.

  84. I do love your books and your heroines. Lauren from A Summer To Remember is one of my favorites as well as A Summer To Remember being one of my all time favorite books. Thank you for all the hours of reading pleasure. I get so excited when a new book comes out and I’m so happy your earlier books are being released as e books. I look forward to each one.

  85. Just finished The Proposal (read it in 1 day) your best book yet and the best historical romance book I have read in a very long time. Thanks so much for creating such wonderful characters! I loved the humerous situations you created and the banter between the main characters.

  86. The tightrope takes courage. I thank you for employing it to write beautiful characters whom do echo Jane Austen’s world as much as we may know it.
    My favorite book of yours is Simply Perfect but I have enjoyed all of your books that I have read particularly the Huxtable’s stories.
    Thank you again for sharing your writing.

  87. I believe your Huxtable women have been my favorite of all of your heroines. Each one has a strength of character that comes from a different part of their personalities. I really enjoy reading about women who can be so varied in appearance and demeanor, but still be strong women.

  88. I went to the RWA convention and brought home a copy of The Arrangement. My 87-year-old mother is reading it and loving it. She has never read romance novels or a Regency, but she loved old movies, especially about the Austen and Bronte books. Keep on writing!

  89. Not only do I read your books specifically because you do take the time to create multi-dimensional women who demonstrate an astonishing array of strengths (rather than the flip, arch, page-thin “heroines” of so many modern novels), but I also admire your subtle observations on humanity that give so much depth to your conflicts and resolutions. I’ve read A Summer To Remember many times just to enjoy the highlight of Lauren saying “I’m a good listener” and then revealing how very valuable that non-flashy talent is. Similarly, Bewcastle’s unveiling of the “speak the truth so that no one will believe it” devastation took me completely by surprise and elevated Slightly Dangerous far above my expectations (and after enjoying Bewcastle SO MUCH in the preceding books, I had Very High expectations!) It is such a delight to read each new series, and discover brand new strengths of femininity, as well as the personal insights that make each relationship so complex and delicious to read about. Each time I finish one of your books, I think “well, THAT one has to be my favorite!” and that lasts until the next one arrives. Thank you thank you!!

  90. One of the things that draws me to your books is the fact that you don’t use vulgar language. I agree, a trashy mouth does not make one strong. In fact it shows a weakness in intelligence.

  91. As a writer, I feel you have learned to walk the tightrope on your heroines and your heros. Of all the different authors I read I find your new books are the ones I looked forward to the most. Then I devour them so fast I am left sitting wondering now what do I do? Wait a few days and hen on to other books while I wait for another lovely book by yours truly. Thank you for all the years of great reading.

  92. Every one of the Bedwyn’s stories was outstanding – I felt pulled into each and didn’t want to see them end. Fre’s pulled at the heart strings.

  93. Pingback: An interview and other writerly links of interest | Pegasus Pulp

  94. I’m relatively new to your writing, although now I have read all of the “Slightly” series and a few others. Your developement of characters and dialogue between characters are what makes me return. I also absolutely love how so many of your books are related to each other. It allows as to peek into the lives of our favorites such as Freyja and Wulfric. I do get frustrated on how the heroine is always beautiful. You’re character developement is so intense and lovely that they are beautiful w/o them being “short of a beauty” upon meeting the hero. Yes, I realize that traditionally, women are beautiful in romances, but I read you because you are much better than the “traditional” romance writer. Are physically beautiful women the only ones w/ good stories to tell? I loved Freyja! I allowed myself to love her because like the majority of us, her personality and spirit were what made up her beauty. Your writing is so good, it doesn’t need all the heroines to be classical beauties. Many of your heroes are “too” of something “to call handsome,” but somehow throughout the story, they become so to the heroines. I just wished we could see more of that w/ our heroines.

  95. Pingback: Regency Heroine Types » Risky Regencies

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