Romance readers, especially those of us who read paranormals, know how it goes. It’s not enough for the heroine to be a gorgeous shapeshifter, she needs to have powers that no female in 9000 years has manifested. Or perhaps the animal familiar that only responds to men suddenly responds to the heroine, marking her specialness not only to the hero but to the entire community. So, what’s the everyday, average vampire, shapeshifter or psychic to do? Can’t they find love, too?
Though I’ve noticed this phenomenon in other books, I thought of this it recently as I read Ascension by Caris Roane. As the story unfolds, the heroine seems to unveil one amazing talent after another. First, she has been called to a higher dimension. Okay, fair enough, this needs to happen for the story to go anywhere. Then we learn that she’s telepathic. Again, plenty of people in the supernatural realm can go that, so good for her. However, the talents keep piling one on top of another until everyone sees that she is just the most amazing thing since sliced bread.
And it’s a little much. After all, it’s romantic when the hero and heroine find each other amazing and notice all those extra special things about one another. However, when the hero or heroine(though I’ve been seeing this more often with heroines) has to be The Very Best at everything, it makes them less relatable and sometimes the heroine seems more like a trophy than an actual character. When the heroine is too special a snowflake to mix with the rest of us mortals, the character just doesn’t seem real and it can be hard to see what drives the romance – unless they’re fated mates, which could be a whole blog entry in and of itself.
In the way these heroines get presented, I cannot escape the uncomfortable sensation that it smacks somewhat of sexism, too. I’ve read a lot of books where the hero is strong, competent and a wonderful shapeshifter/vampire/werebeast/whatever. He’s unusual, but he often has other guys around him who are also unusually super-talented and it’s the heroine who sees him as The One. However, when the heroine has superpowers, is amazingly good at what she does, and shows unusual ability, I too often see characters in the story carrying on like this is some kind of freakish and even mystical occurence. That’s not the case in every book to be sure, but it’s still out there.
Talent and power are wonderful, but they are better when not shorthand for actual characterization. The ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound is really cool, but what about the things that make a person want to actually talk to you, hang out on a Sunday morning doing nothing in particular, or build a permanent relationship? I like for my heroines to have a little more to their character rather than being tagged for the reader as “heroine” based upon their freakish level of talent. After reading enough of these books, I have to say I long to meet the everyday average shapeshifter and see what makes her tick.
– Lynn Spencer