When I was in university, years before I ever started writing, I was still an avid romance reader. I had a friend, however, who commented on my romance novel habit every chance she got—and her comments were not positive. One that is still seared into my memory is the night that she came over, found me reading my newest Nora Roberts on the couch (I think it was Key of Valor!) and said “romance novels aren’t good for you—they’re only written to make women feel badly about themselves.” Turned out she didn’t like reading about female characters who, in a nutshell, were confident and had their shit together, because it made her feel less than.
If I’d been older and wiser then, I might have understood that this was her problem, not the problem of every woman out there. I did realize that that wasn’t how romance novels made ME feel. When I started writing myself, I looked back at this conversation and wondered which of us was right.
After nearly ten years of publication, I’ve come to this simple conclusion about that long-past conversation: not everyone is a romance reader. Those of us who are—the massive, alpha-loving herd of us? Romance novels don’t make us feel bad, because we start to read each one wanting to feel good. We want our heroines to be strong, because then we can see ourselves in them. We want our heroes even stronger, so that they can be the man our heroines need. Attractive, successful characters don’t make us feel small—they let us be whoever we want to be while we’re in between the pages of our books.
In Claiming the Enemy, it took me a long time to figure out my characterization. Piper, my heroine, marched to the beat of her own drummer, but I wanted to make sure that she was doing it for the right reasons—because that was who she was, not because she was hiding behind a mask. She needed to be unique and independent to be a match for her hero Ace, because a bossier, crankier man you’ve never met. And while writing this book, I got to be her for a while, channeling a sass that I certainly don’t have in my own life.
Did Piper’s strength make me feel bad about myself? Not even a little bit. Because anytime I need to borrow some of her spunkiness, I can just go dive back into that world.
Some of my favorite strong heroines in fiction:
Mil in the Eagle Elite series by Rachel Van Dyken
Oakley in Call On Me by Roni Loren
Juliette in Hidden Devotion by Mari Carr and Lila Dubois
Tessa Savage in the Savage Interactive series by Daire St. Denis
Birthright by Nora Roberts
Erin in After Hours by Cara McKenna
Mia in Calendar Girl by Audrey Carlan
Lex in Beyond Control by Kit Rocha
Audrey in The Wrong Billionaire’s Bed by Jessica Clare
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Lauren Hawkeye has published with Harlequin, Avon/Harper Collins, Penguin/ Signet Eclipse, and Entangled. She lives in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada with her husband, two young sons, pit bull and two idiot cats, though they do not live in an igloo, nor do they drive a dogsled. In her nonexistent spare time Lauren can be found knitting, reading anything she can get her hands on, or sweating her way through spin class. Her work has been mentioned in Time magazine. She loves to hear from her readers!