By Anna Sugden
Greetings from Dubai. At least, that’s where I hope I’ll be when this blog posts. So, with a bit of luck, as you read this, I’ll be sunning myself on a beach. Or tucking into some lovely spicy food.
As I write this post, the stack of books for my trip is all ready to go. [Christie - Every Night I’m Yours is on top of the pile!] I’m very excited as this is one of the few chances I get to read uninterrupted for long stretches of time. And I’m looking forward to some excellent reads.
What does this have to do with the topic in hand?
Part of the reason I’m excited is that I’ve read some real duds in February. You know, the kind where you just have to give up because they irritate you so much?
How did this happen? January got off to a kicking start with Tawny’s Does She Dare? [OMG is that book hot!!! And Dante *sigh*]. And continued with Stacey Kayne’s Maverick Wild [ Fab, fab, fab! And Chance *sigh*]
But, towards the end of the month, I found myself struggling through books. Now, I’m not normally one to give up, but in the past few weeks I’ve given up on several. What’s going on?
I’ll tell you - annoying heroines!
Now, I don’t have to feel that a heroine will be my best friend for life, or that she and I have everything in common, but I do have to like her, empathise with her and root for her. And I certainly need to feel that she deserves the hero!
So what annoyed me about the heroines in the dud books? Well, they fell into one of the following five categories:
Too stupid to live.
We all know the classic TSTL heroine - who goes down into the basement with the broken window at night, during an electrical storm which has blown the power … and there’s a serial killer/rapist on the loose in her small town. Thankfully, you don’t see too many of these any more.
But you do get the heroines who go against all advice and rush in where angels (and SEALs/cops/FBI agents etc) fear to tread. I don’t mind if the author has given good justification for why the heroine acts like this. But when it’s just because she thinks she knows better … aaargh!
Too wimpy for words
TWFW is another classic heroine type which we see rarely these days (you know, the violet-eyed, heaving-breasted damsel with the back of her hand to her forehead whimpering “hey-yelp”). But, the odd one does creep in.
This gal doesn’t seem to be able to do anything unless the big, strong hero is there to hold her hand. She dithers at length over the simplest decision (like whether or not to kiss said big, strong hero). She wails when the hero even looks cross and practically faints if there’s an argument. She frets ad nauseum over the slightest wrinkle in her life-plan, until you want to yell at her to get some backbone.
She is probably half-sister to Too Good to be True - see below
Too good to be true
Again, at first glance, this heroine seems okay. But, as the story develops, the reader senses something isn’t quite right.
Can anyone be that perfect? She always says the right things, acts the right way. Never puts a foot wrong, never loses her temper, never has a bad hair day. Her house is always spotless, her kids are perfectly-behaved little darlings, her body makes Elle Macpherson weep and she can rappel down that cliff without smudging her lipstick or breaking a nail. And she’s so kind and generous and sweet, you get tooth-ache.
Too clever by half
TCBH is a new breed of annoying heroine. On the surface, she seems okay. But at critical moments in the story, she suddenly possesses almost super-human talents in areas she has no previous knowledge or skill.
This is the woman who can barely switch a computer on, but is able to hack into some complex system at just the right time to get the information that will bring down the bad guys. Or the one who can come up with a brilliant business plan to save the town, but has never balanced her own cheque-book. Then, there’s the one who has never picked up a gun in her life, but is able to knee-cap the villain who is running away from her, in a rainstorm, at night, in a forest.
If you’re going to give a heroine the chance to save the day, then please make sure you justify it somewhere in her back-story. (eg the reason she can rappel down a sheer cliff at night with a cat in her arms and a child on her back is because her evil father made her do that on holiday as a kid *g*).
Too clichéd and caricatured
This category includes both clichéd heroines and clichéd ‘other women’. And it’s less about their behaviour - though sometimes the contrast between the two would make for a good pantomime - than their looks and their outfits.
TCAC ‘other women’ always have long scarlet nails, perfectly coiffed hair, skin-tight slinky clothes in bold, bright colours and gorgeous shoes (well, they always sound gorgeous to me. Just because the heroine couldn’t walk in them, doesn’t mean they’re not!)
TCAC heroines have short, pale pink or bare nails, wisps of hair escaping their attempt at a perfectly coiffed style, almost demure clothes (but with a surprising dip at the back which leaves her skin conveniently bare for the hero’s touch) in pale, cool colours or basic black. She often can’t walk properly in her shoes, or slips on a pair that is less glamorous, but comfortable!
So, there you have it.
Over to you - what is it about an annoying heroine that bugs you? How much will you put up with before you ditch the book … and her?