07 September 2007

Kicking the Heroin(e) Habit

Since we're taking time off this month to revamp the website, here's a classic post from the fantabulous Zoe Archer.

Last month, I posed the question regarding heroes in unusual historicals, and now, in the interest of equality, I'd like to turn the discussion to the other critical element in a romance: the heroine.

Specifically, I'd like to open up the discussion regarding heroines in unusual romances. Most European historicals feature heroines from the upper classes, or, at the least, women who operate somewhere within the realm of higher society. They could be penniless relatives or country misses, but, by and large, we're talking about young women born somewhere above the class of tradesmen and laborers. Not to mention the convenience of secret family histories. Even mudlarks somehow wind up being related to dukes.

Some of these women have employment, many do not, though there is a greater trend now to have the heroines with some form of vocation or work. It's usually charitable, helping women, children, the poor or animals. Sometimes, they work in order to support their families. Almost never do we encounter a heroine who actually works for profit, as some heroes do. The governess, thanks to Jane Eyre, is still a popular vocation for heroines, since it gives her a particular, liminal social status that not only allows her access to brooding, handsome aristocratic heroes, but spooky, dark ancestral manors, as well.

What about age?

Heroes generally run to their late 20s to mid 30s, with a few variations, but heroines are generally in their early 20s. This is a marked change from historicals written ten or twenty years ago, where heroines in their teens were more prevalent (and possibly more historically accurate). The age disparity between heroes and heroines is growing smaller and smaller, and some heroines (who aren't even widows) have already had some kind of experience with -- gasp! -- sex.

But this is all as it relates to your more common historical romance. And, dear reader, you are on this blog because you read/write/enjoy unusual historical romances.

With all this in mind, here are some questions for discussion as they relate to unusual historicals:

-- Do you prefer the heroine to have some form of employment? If so, what? What would be historically accurate (bearing in mind that women in the workforce is something that varies greatly depending on time period and location)?

-- What kind of factor does age have for the heroine? Would you find it uncomfortable to read about an Iron Age heroine who is fifteen, and not twenty one? Is there room in unusual historicals for "older" heroines? In what circumstances might this be acceptable, or not? What about the gap in age between the hero and heroine?

-- Are there other factors to consider for heroines in unusual historicals? Race? Class? Sexual experience? Something else?

Zoe Archer