Bad girl heroines hold a special fascination for many romance readers because these women go against the grain of what we expect in a romance in a number of ways. They are aggressive, they take the lead, they act selfishly or irresponsibly, and they may even be without remorse. They don’t mind using their charm and attraction for their own advantage, and they even use their bodies to get what they want. Often they are outcasts, be it from choice or from necessity. However, as many of them are strong, independent characters, they are highly interesting to read about.
There are several special title listings at AAR that contain such heroines.
The Tormented Heroines are at odds with their role in society, and this results in their acting against the rules of sweet and caring womanhood. They may be cynical, eccentric, manipulative, selfish, or any combination of these. In any case they are mad, bad, and dangerous to know, and it takes a very special hero to bridge their defenses and let them find happiness. With these heroines, it is often clear that even the happy ending is only a single step forward in a battle of wits that will last for and enrich their entire lives. No conventional happily-ever-after here!
The Experienced Heroines and Femmes Fatales are equally unconventional(at least in historicals), but with them the emphasis is on their sexual allure and the exploitation of their sexuality beyond what is considered acceptable for women in their period. For the experienced heroines, their “badness” may just lie in the fact that they are considered immoral due to living out their sexual desires. The femmes fatales, on the other hand, don’t necessarily have to be promiscuous, although many of them are: it is important that they confidently and calculatingly use the power that they gain over men through sexual attraction to their own ends. Their heroes must have the strength to break the vicious circle that imprisons the femme fatale just as much as the victims she despises, and show her that a different sort of relationship is both possible and desirable.
The Courtesans, Mistresses and Prostitutes are heroines (and heroes!) who don’t just use their bodies, or have used it in the past, to gain their own ends, but to earn their daily bread and, in many cases, ensure their survival. To qualify for this list, they must have sold their body to others than the partner they find their happy ending with. Their outcast position is cemented in most societies, and the happily-ever-after in these novels needs to reflect this and find a solution that is both acceptable for the reader and fitting within the customs of that particular society. (Heroines and heroes who have a pre-marital sexual relationship solely with the partner they end up marrying, even if they start off as a paid sexual partner, do not qualify for this list.)
We look forward to seeing your submissions for these lists starting today Thursday September 12 and going for the next two weeks ending Wednesday September 25 at midnight. As a reminder, any additions to the list have to be: (1) the best of the best, (2) stand the test of time, and (3) actually fit the list for which they were submitted.
We hope you have read some wonderful books that fit these categories and we look forward to your submissions. You will find the criteria and submission ballot here.
– Rike Horstmann, LinnieGayl Kimmel, and Cindy Smith