I recently finished a romance novel that is very popular at the moment and for good reasons. It is not only a new release, but it’s something different and a solid, good book. As I made my way through the book however, I felt like the odd reader out, because I didn’t find myself liking it as much as my friends seemed to.
Before I started reading, I saw it all over YouTube and Instagram. The book was hard to avoid, and while I typically try really hard to wait for the hype around a book to die down a bit, there was no dodging this one. So, I caved and read it. Once upon a time, before I began reading romance, I was a very plot driven reader. I wasn’t too focused on the characters and their growth. It was the plot that was make or break for me. As I began reading romance though, I became really fascinated with the characters. I pay way more attention to them now, which I think as a romance reader, you kind of have to.
My issue with this book rested on the heroine. I found myself really frustrated with her. Our heroine has had something really crappy done to her by a douchebag ex-boyfriend. The way she was made to feel because of how things ended between them, is what she now believes about herself. We, being in her head, hear her tell herself this falsity over and over again. It wasn’t this constant diatribe that bothered me. What bothered me is that when I finished the book, I didn’t feel that she, our heroine, gave herself enough credit, owned up to all the pretty damn good things she had done, or worked through these issues on her own. The bit of growth we did get felt very rushed and thrown in at the end. It felt as though the hero came along and made things right, rather than her making things right for herself. I was frustrated with that. I sat the book down and reflected: have I become too picky with romance heroines?
I decided to reach out to my romance reading friends from the internet. In 2019, we have seen some very strong female protagonists. Heroines who for me personally, have set the bar very high. A perspective I got from my friend Bethany, a YouTuber at BeautifullyBookishBethany, was that there is space for all heroines. Bethany, loved this book! It was a favorite read of hers this year. Chatting with Bethany was the reminder I needed that we all read books differently. We read the same book, but interpret things in different ways.
I chatted with a couple other friends on Instagram about it. One friend relayed to me she doesn’t mind a heroine who is riddled with insecurity if throughout the story we see her grow. Another friend shared how the constant self-doubt she reads from the perspective of some heroines has affected her rating of the book. She as the reader wants to see the heroine accept it, work on it and improve. So during my reflection and chatting with friends getting their perspectives, I began to formulate my final thoughts.
The beauty of the romance genre is it is so vast. There is literally a romance out there for everyone, yet two people will never read books quite the same way and the conversation about what we want to see in our heroines will remain an open-ended discussion. In this current phase of life I’m in, I’ve read some really amazingly strong heroines who have the set the bar high and have become the current standard for what I want to see reflected in future heroines in romance I read. I am a 32 year old woman with flaws, stitched together with good intentions and the determination to work through my issues. This is what I want to see in the stories I read. I want to see my heroines put in the work. I want her snagging the guy to be the icing on the cake. And as a few friends told me, there’s nothing wrong with my expectations. I think what we look for or want from the stories we choose will look different depending on our lives at the moment. Sometimes you want something light and fun. Sometimes you want something dark and atmospheric, but when reading romance and spending so much time in the mind of the heroine, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being specific on what you want to see from her. So, no. I don’t think I’m being too picky with my heroines. I know what I like to see in them at the moment and I am okay if that changes. I encourage you to be okay with it too.