I love tough women. Not just strong women, although those are great too, but tough. The list of kick-butt women that make me squeal delightedly is a long one: Black Widow, Peggy Carter (oh god Peggy Carter!), Eve Dallas, Mako Mori, Kara Thrace, Mary Morstan from BBC’s Sherlock… I could keep going.
But I want more. And I want them in romance.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against alpha males as a general rule. Lee Wheeler, the hero from my upcoming book As Lost as I Get, is as alpha as they come—former Marine turned CIA agent working undercover in Colombia. I have a military kink so big you can see it from space. Throw in an abundant amount of competency, and I’m hooked. (That last is true of any character, any gender.)
But nothing hooks me so hard as when it’s a female character with the alpha traits. And if she’s got a hero who admires and respects her for her toughness and competency, and can keep up with her (even if maybe he’s not so alpha)? Damn.
What I love about these heroines is that they come from a whole spectrum of stereotypical “femininity”, from Peggy’s stylish clothes and flawless makeup to Kara in her flight suit and no-nonsense hair. And they have women friends, almost all of them. (The ones who don’t are almost always victims of the Smurfette syndrome, damn it.)
What I don’t love about them is that we almost never see them cope with romantic love and get a happy ending. I mean, on the one hand, I was pleased that Pacific Rim subverted the trope and didn’t give us an overt romance between Raleigh and Mako, but on the other hand, what a pair they make! (This is what fanfiction is for.) One of the many things that makes Agent Carter such a standout is that we don’t just see Peggy kick ass, we see her grieve, question herself, be vulnerable.
There’s something super compelling about a heroine who not only isn’t looking for love, but actively doesn’t want it, only to have their mind unwillingly changed by the right person (usually a guy in mainstream romance, to be sure, but ask me sometime about my love for Peggy Carter and Angie Martinelli—more fanfic fodder). It seems to be ingrained that a woman can’t be a badass and also a lover—or maybe the problem is that a lot of my heroines come from male-dominated genres, where too much romance stinks of girl cooties.
You’ll see this problem reflected in my list above: none of them are romance heroines! (You could argue about Eve Dallas, but…) I want to fix that. I know I’m not the only person out here writing about these heroines falling in love, saving the day, and having really hot sex (not necessarily in that order). So who’s out there? Sound off with your alpha romance heroines!