Not too long ago there was an interesting entry on Romancing the Blog about the draw of romance being hero centric. Most of the replies agreed that the hero is the draw. I and a very few others disagreed. For me it’s the heroine that can make or break a book. If I don’t like the heroine chances are I either won’t even finish the book or if I manage to finish I’ll quickly trade it in. I’ve been thinking about what it takes for me to like or dislike a heroine and what it comes down to is growth in character. I can readily forgive a heroine that starts out TSTL but if she remains that way or I don’t see any growth in her character, that’s it, the book is toast.
One of my favourite books of 2003 was Lorraine Heath’s contemporary Hard Lovin’ Man. The heroine Kelley Spencer in a series of flashbacks is shown making some very serious mistakes and errors in judgment. Some readers didn’t like her for this reason but I thought they were being rather harsh. She was young and alone in a strange city and because many years ago I was young and living in a strange city, I could forgive her mistakes. By the time the story was taking place, I really thought she had grown as a person and because of this I loved this book.
In a similar vein, another book from the same year is Lady of Desire. I think the heroine Jacinda got a bit of a bad wrap for being foolish and selfish. I won’t argue, she was at the beginning of the book but she had been overprotected by her band of older brothers so I was willing to give her some leeway. By the end of the book, I felt she had really grown as a person and this made the book one of my favourites.
As I look over my all time favourites in case after case it is the heroine who “makes” the book for me. While I love Roarke in the In Death series, it is Eve who I find the most fascinating. It’s Faith Devlin and not Grey in After the Night and Janie Bright in Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard that makes these books so outstanding.
I look at the books that didn’t make the grade for me and in just about every case it was the heroine’s lack of growth or ongoing stupidity that annoyed me to no end. I loved Ride the Fire and almost as much, Sweet Release, but I couldn’t finish Carnal Gift due (what I felt) to monumental and ongoing stupidity of the heroine of that book. Meg Moore of Suzanne Brockman’s The Defiant Hero remains the heroine I LOATHE ABOVE ALL OTHERS. I simply cannot get over her incredibly stupid things she does. Sophia in Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas made this the only Kleypas book I truly didn’t like. In the cases above, I had no problem with the heroes of the books. It was lack of growth that did them in.