This week at Lady Smut we’re gearing up for the fantastic HarperImpulse digital romance festival happening this weekend. It’ll be a great way to connect with readers and fellow authors and as we virtually come together to chat about romance. It’s ironic, therefore, that while I’m looking forward to connecting with all these savvy readers and writers, I happen to be reading a romance containing one of my least favorite things – a nitwit heroine.
We all do things kind of nitwit-ish. A couple of days ago I went to the grocery store when I was starving. Big mistake! It explains how my freezer ended up full of vanilla chocolate chip. But the nitwit heroine does more than impulsively buy too much ice cream. She screws up her relationship with the hero, prolongs a problem that could be solved in a couple of sentences, or behaves in a way that makes women as a whole appear to have heads full of straw. She’s oft been referred to as the TSTL heroine – Too Stupid To Live. Gaaah!!
Compounding my frustration with the nitwit heroine is this: I see the behavior time and again in romances and not nearly as often in other fiction genres. Thrillers, crime, mystery, scifi, YA, detective … the heroines there may fall for the wrong guy, or make foolish decisions, or act impulsively, but what they don’t do is act like idiots. Not to the point where you, the reader, want to alternately cringe or throw the book against the wall.
One of my main problem with the nitwit heroine is that it’s tough to cheer for her. Not because I myself am above being a nitwit. No siree Bob. And hey, we’ve all had our moments. But the thing is, when we’re reading romances and inserting ourselves in place of the heroine, it’s her cool qualities we want to connect with. After all, it’s fun to be the really pretty girl who has a guy – or guys! – tripping over his own feet simply to adore us. Who has a glamorous job, lives in a hip neighborhood. Or maybe we want to be the heroine who singlehandedly runs the ranch and has the local rodeo champ want to ride more than a bucking bronco. These heroines will make mistakes, and poor choices, and have missteps along the way of falling in love, and that’s all OK. Mistakes we can deal with. We’ve all made them. But being an idiot? Pass.
In the book I’m reading, it’s the woman’s airheaded, cringe-worthy behavior that’s my biggest beef. She’s booked herself on a cruise to find her forever baby daddy. So any guy who raises an interested eyebrow her way is immediately pelted with questions about his level of commitment and how many kids he wants. Um, yeah. How about a cup of coffee first? See if maybe you actually have something in common to work with? And if you’re that set on only meeting men with baby potential, do you really think a cruise is the place to start?
Granted, she’s not the dumbest heroine I’ve ever come across and is certainly not TSTL. But why does she have to be even a little brainless? I don’t want to connect with her. And on a macro level, I’m frustrated that this kind of representation continues to be found in the romance genre. Give me a courageous, savvy, exciting, beautiful heroine who makes mistakes from time to time but who is admired and has a big heart and who always gets the cool dude in the end. Now that’s my kind of heroine.
We’re talking heroines and much more more at this weekend’s digital Romance Festival 2014, so be sure to sign up. And while you’re at it, follow us at Lady Smut, where we’re bringing you smart posts every day of the week.