2020, not 1820… 21st Century Desires & Paranormal Romance
Guest Post By Beth Linton, Author of The Guardians’ Trust Series.
Today we have a post provided by New author Beth Linton. Her take on the 21st century heroine is one that I completely love and agree with. I am reading an enjoying her debut novel Ana. Ana is this strong heroine she craves. Because shouldn't we write the books we want to read?
I stumbled upon paranormal novels quite by chance. I was twenty-two, new to the city of Chester, UK, after gaining my first job post-university and I was working my way through the new, exciting shelves of the city’s library.
Between Nora Roberts and LaVyrle Spencer, I came across a thin, unassuming book that unexpectedly blew my mind. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the title or the author of this book but what has stuck with me is the unexpected journey the paranormal romance took me on. In the story a woman, brought low by life and circumstance, travelled to a remote English estate to marry a handsome, wealthy recluse – initially, the novel was not so different from a hundred romances I’d read before but then I learnt why the hero had withdrawn from society. I still remember my surprise when I learnt he was both blessed and cursed by his ability to transform into a wolf at each full moon. I was excited by the supernatural elements of the story, intrigued by the hero as he prowled the cliffs around his home and I fell in love with the added heat and passion the genre twist added to what would have otherwise been an enjoyable but normal romance.
I still love Roberts and Spencer but the chance discovery of paranormal books changed my experience of reading… forever.
But, here’s the thing… as a 21st century woman, how do I balance my love of paranormal romance novels – and yes, sexy alpha romance – with who and what I am? I’m a mother and a wife, but I’m also a woman in my own right: I’m a professional, a published author, I’m educated and (I’d like to think) strong.
I loved that book, but as a reader in 2020 what I want from a romance novel is more than a hot lead character and a night (or ten!) of sizzling passion. Of course, a good story means a villain, a twist and a conflict that keeps me turning the pages, but I want heroines that are bold and strong and take the lead, rather than always being led. I also want heroes who are actually heroes – not men who are called that because they stumbled into the lead role. And, they should value the heroine's strength, not seek to undermine it or feel threatened by it. No passive aggressive macho behaviour please!
The heroines I was fed as a little girl were passive. In fairy tales and (some) romance novels, alike, the heroines waited pliantly and suffered at the hands of the ‘heroes’ before they found happiness. All hoped for a man to ride in on his white horse or motorcycle (depending on the century of the story) and change their lives for them. More alarmingly, the women of these stories were portrayed as seemingly enjoying the abusive behaviour of their would-be-husbands, controlling boyfriends, or kings.
The bad relationship was presented in these stories as… well, ‘good’, because it was a RELATIONSHIP and little girls who are brought up to play weddings with pillowcases on their heads and practise being mummy with their baby doll are also brought up to expect a man to save them, to provide for them.
While I might have been sold this narrative, I didn’t buy into it – and they’re certainly not the kind of characters I want to write.
I may love to read paranormal romance novels but that doesn’t mean I switch off my twenty-first century self and suddenly embrace those concerning tropes I just mentioned.
I don’t want to get home from a chaotic but satisfying day at work to read about a damsel in distress that needs saving, nor do I want to nail that presentation only to pick up a book about another woman made rich by marrying a wealthy man with questionable morals (although, let’s face it, having money in a romantic novel – whether the cash belongs to the male or the female leads – takes out some of the daily grind I read to escape!).
I don’t long for a re-telling of Rumpelstiltskin, or Rapunzel, or Cinderella when I search for a new e-book. I’m with Dr Ana Jones in The Guardians’ Trust: Ana (book one) when she thinks about these fairy tales. No way should a heroine marry a ruthless maniac just because he’s king!
I want to read about strong women. Professional, educated, confident women. Women who have passion for their career, who take care of themselves and then, yes, comfortable in their own skin, standing on their own two feet, they take the passion and love on offer because it suits them – not because they need to.
Every day, I’m surrounded by strong women: doctors who are mothers, business leaders who are compassionate, professionals who are unapologetic in their femininity. These women don’t try and change who they are to fit into another stereotype. They are smart and successful and – yes – feminine.
In my first paranormal romance series I have done my best to create women I’d like to be friends with. They are intelligent, fun and strong: doctor, vet, survivor or soldier (for Greenpeace and the British army!). They all have passion and guts. They are all strong. They are all ‘real’ women.
I care about them all… I hope you will too.
To learn more about The Guardians’ Trust series visit www.bethlinton.co.uk
Beth is also on Goodreads and you can buy her books from Amazon, iBooks, Smashwords, Kobo, Barns & Noble and Evernight Publishing.