Updating the Tormented Heroines List

scoundrelkiss The Tormented Heroines list, for us, is one of the “you know it when you see it” sort. The main female character is deeply unhappy and dissatisfied for some reason, and this reason may lie in her own character, or in dramatic events in her past that influence her self-image to a strong degree. Amending the definition was not so easy, and we ended up making it more descriptive than it used to be. This is how it stands now:

“These tormented heroines are at complete odds with the world around them – either because there is something in their past for which they feel deep remorse or shame, or because they are misfits who have not found yet a place in which they can be happy and fulfilled. They could be cynical, emotionally distant, unhappily eccentric, or wild. What they share is an edge that stems from their deep frustrations.”

We hope that you will find it more helpful than the last version. Now one problem was that when we asked you to nominate books for this list, the old definition was still in place. Fortunately, almost all nominations fit the new definition very well, and we are pleased to add 38 new titles to the list. Only a very few books didn’t make it, mostly because although the heroines are eccentric, we felt they lacked the desperation that makes a heroine truly tormented. One example is Yasmeen from Meljean Brook’s Heart of Steel, who has an extremely colorful past but actually deals quite well with it. Another example is Millie Fitzhugh from Sherry Thomas’s Ravishing the Heiress. Millie is unhappy, but that unhappiness stems mostly from her unrequited love she feels for her husband. Otherwise, she has forged a place for herself very nicely in revolutionizing the concept of marketing for the company she owns with her husband.

With the older titles already on the Tormented Heroines list, we were left with a dilemma: Do all of them really fit the new definition? We checked those we had read, but with many, we just didn’t know. That’s where you come in: Do you spot a title on the Tormented Heroines list whose heroines is not truly tormented according to our definition? If so, please let us know and we can remove that title.

Please don’t forget to nominate Virginal Heroes and May/December and December/May romances! The ballots are still open until Thursday October 24 at midnight.

- Cindy Smith, LinnieGayl Kimmel and Rike Horstmann

14 thoughts on “Updating the Tormented Heroines List

  1. I wouldn’t call the heroine of Carla Kelly’s “The Lady’s Companion” “tortured” at all. She is a very buoyant heroine. She is in a difficult situation because her father has lost all their money but rather than stay to become a unpaid companion to her aunt she branches out on her own to secure a paying job. While it can be a struggle for her at times and she has many challenges she never seems at odds with the world, desperate (hard up for money at one point surely) and she has an optimistic spirit. She hasn’t had any horrible traumas (aside from a lowering of expectations) and generally approaches everyone and her situation as positively as possible. She’s no annoying Pollyanna but she is definitely not (IMHO) tortured and I think a reader looking for that specific type of angst would be disappointed. Though it’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed in this excellent book in general.

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  5. To those readers who are pointing out further books to us: We are not, at this moment, asking for further nominations for the list. We did that starting five weeks ago and ending to three weeks ago. Right now we are only asking whether you see any titles on the present list that do NOT fit the revised definition.

    This list will be revised further in the future, and if you nominate these books again then, they will be highly welcome! But please keep in mind that we (having only limited time at our disposal) need to concentrate on a limited number of lists at any given time, which right now are the May/December and the Virginal Heroes lists. Thank you!

    • Although I really like and use the Special Title Lists, I don’t keep one of my own, so Keegan’s Lady is likely lost for the future. Why not collect individual suggestions for future consideration for when there is time?

  6. Caitlin O’Shannessy from “Keegan’s Lady” by Catherine Anderson definitely fits this category since she has deep shame and behavioral reactions resulting from violent past abuse, and at the 3/4 mark in the book (where I am now) it is still unresolved. This is in the American/Frontier Historical category.

  7. Beatrix Hathaway in Lisa Kleypas’ “Love in the Afternoon”. Beatrix falls in love with a man who thinks he’sin love with Beatrix’s friend. She writes him letters while he is away at war, using her friends’ name, and falls in love during their exchange of letters. Beatrix is also a member of a very unconventional famil, and has never really “taken” by the ton. AND when she is anxious she steals little things from houses she visits.

    • I wouldn’t categorize Beatrice as deeply unhappy or tormented. She’s eccentric but she’s rather a happy fulfilled person in her own world and with her close very loving family.

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