Drumroll: The First Annual Reformed Brat Contest

paris-hilton-001Okay, I’m joking about the annual contest.  But this is a blog about reformed brats.

They say that reformed rakes make the best husbands.  Well, if that’s the case, then reformed brats should make the best wives.

After all, they’re both people you should stay far away from.  Arguably, they’re both inherently ill-mannered and immature, and probably selfish and spoiled.  And they’re both people that for some reason just attract the opposite sex.  (Come on, Paris Hilton?  Hugh Grant?  The worst of the kind, but very, very attractive in their own way.)  And maybe, just maybe, the right person will bring out the best in them.

I tell myself that.  But honestly, brats don’t do it for me.  (And this includes Paris Hilton.)  I asked my colleagues on this issue, and most of the time I’m with Pat Henshaw on this, who can’t stand brats.  Ever.  But Heather Stanton makes a good point, that there’s a line between acceptable and unacceptable bratty behavior, like “a 20-year-old heroine behaving in a self-centered manner vs. a 35-year-old woman behaving like a spoiled, petulant child.”  The former, Heather considers fairly realistic; the latter, pathetic.  And isn’t it preferable to at least have a heroine with a strong personality (even if we wouldn’t want to befriend her) rather than bland mush?

And where do you draw the line, anyway?  What divides bratty, spoiled, feisty, and spirited?  I think the line’s pretty blurred, and often it’s something as simple as age that pushes the heroine over the edge.  That being said, I can think of distasteful heroines who were successfully reformed (Sandy Hingston’s Katherine Deveraux in The Suitor comes to mind), but I had a really hard time thinking of a Brat (as defined above) whom I liked and would read again.

So in the spirit of Sandy’s call to Dump the Crankypants, I solicited my colleagues to get a list of reformed brats, and they came up with quite a few.  Some I know I’m not going to read, some I actually have on my shelf (so they’re going to get bumped up the TBR list), and some I’m going to make a point to seek out.  Maybe this time next year, I’ll have a whole new brat list – except I might be calling them spirited.  Or feisty.

In no particular order, here are some reformed brats from the AAR staff:

  • Mackayla Lane, Fever series by Karen Marie Moning: “I wouldn’t call her a “brat” per se, but when the series begins she’s a sort of shallow party girl. Over time she evolves and loses her naïveté. I know some people found her portrayal at the beginning of the series distasteful, but I actually liked and related to her, having been a shallow party girl myself once upon a time. And I enjoyed the concept of a clueless, immature girl being plunked into a dark, dangerous world and forced to transform in order to survive.” (Heather Stanton)
  • Whitney Stone, Whitney My Love by Judith McNaught: “I guess you could say I’m a reluctant fan of Whitney, My Love. Yeah, Clayton was a jerk at times, but I always thought Whitney was a brat and they deserved each other.  But there isn’t just one redemption here – both hero and heroine need redeeming.  Thankfully, Whitney matures into an agreeable young lady and I found the romance quite satisfying. But I have to wonder – if I hadn’t been so interested in Clayton’s redemption, would I have made it to the “liking Whitney” part of the book?  I doubt it.” (Lea Hensley)
  • Zoe Armstrong, Wicked All Day by Liz Carlyle: “Zoe is young, spoiled, headstrong, and, frankly, annoying. As the book begins, she’s in her fifth season and isn’t interested in anything but causing trouble and heartbreak. Pretty much because she’s bored, she throws herself at her best friend Robin, and when the two are caught, she agrees to marry him even though they don’t love each other, romantically.  She’s sent to live in Robin’s brother’s home – Mercer’s – where she tries to become someone she’s not just so she doesn’t let Robin down. Over time, she realizes she belongs with Mercer and she slowly grows up because he, though filled with lust for her, is a grown-up and she can’t be with him unless she’s one too.” (Dabney Grinnan)
  • Lucy Waltham, Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare: “She’s not an awful brat (more immature than totally bratty), but she definitely starts the book with childishness and more than a little bit of willfulness.  However, she grows up as the story moves along, and definitely gets redeemed.”  (Lynn Spencer, Jane Granville)

Susan Elizabeth Phillips gets her own section, for she managed to garner three Best Reformed Brat nominations alone:

  • Meg Koranda, Call Me Irresistible and Francesca Day, Fancy Pants: “They’re both cut off from their money and forced to learn to take care of themselves.  These girls meet my definition of brat not just because they are (initially) rich, but because they expect others always to step in and take care of them. The books have them become independent before they get their hero.” (Maggie Boyd)
  • Sugar Beth Carey, Ain’t She Sweet?: “Horrible brat becomes very nice woman.  Sugar Beth was the prettiest, most popular girl in school.  She could and did get away with horrible behavior because of her wealthy parents. Years after a scandal involving a schoolteacher, Sugar Beth has come back, disgraced, broke and alone, and the whole town hates her for her past actions. But what no one realizes is that Sugar Beth is now a decent person, having gone through some difficult life changes.”  (Wendy Clyde)

So now it’s your turn.  Where’s the point where a heroine goes from feisty to bratty?  Do you have any reformed brat recommendations?

- Jean AAR

13 Responses to “Drumroll: The First Annual Reformed Brat Contest”

  1. Jane G says:

    Brats belong to my favorite fictional character types. Much more enjoyable to read about in general compared to the other ones. Might be because they are more often allowed to have a personality.

    Hoping for some good recommendations here!

    I’ll add “Indiscreet” by Kasey Michaels myself.

  2. Kim T. says:

    One of my favorite romances of all time, The Duchess by Jude Deveraux, featured a secondary character nicknamed Brat. I forget if she ever got her own story or if her HEA was implied at the end of this one? One of the few romances I’ve read twice and I don’t believe I don’t remember!

    • Azure says:

      Kim T.: One of my favorite romances of all time, The Duchess by Jude Deveraux, featured a secondary character nicknamed Brat.I forget if she ever got her own story or if her HEA was implied at the end of this one?One of the few romances I’ve read twice and I don’t believe I don’t remember!

      Brat, if I remember right, married Harry–the duke her sister Claire was planning to marry at the beginning of the book. Although I don’t know if we would call Brat’s ending a “traditional” HEA–she got what she wanted in life, which was to be rich and live in high society–I never got the sense she loved Harry, or that he loved her.

  3. Victoria S says:

    Yes, Whitney Stone (historic) Sugar Beth Carey (contmp) are reformed brats at their best.

    Bryony Asquith “Not Quite A Husband” Sherry Thomas…even though she was smart as a whip,( dedicated to being a doctor when that was almost impossible for a woman), when she married Leo Marsden and then proceeded to punish him without telling him why..bratty behavior. When she insisted on going over the mountains when a more experienced person told her it was dangerous, and almost getting them killed in the process…bratty behavior. But when she started to examine her self and actions ….some of the best redemptive writing ever by Ms. Thomas!

    Olivia Wingate-Carsington “Lord Perfect” and “Last Night’s Scandal” Loretta Chase. This girl was so bratty she needed two books. Although I don’t know if Olivia can truly be considered reformed.

  4. Eggletina says:

    I normally don’t like the bratty type, but when an author can show how the character changes over time, it can be interesting. Catherine in Marsha Canham’s “The Pride of Lions” is a good example of one.

  5. bungluna says:

    This is one of my hot-button issues. I loath bratty heroines and just don’t care if they are redeemed, so I avoid all books that feature them. I love SEP but haven’t read the “Ain’t She Sweet” for this reason.

  6. lauren says:

    Hmm…well there are brats and then there are girls who become women by means of stubbornness, speaking out, being tough so on…I actually see a difference…I don’t mind the outspoken “brat” character at all, reminds me of me, but as a woman evolves the “brat” can go either way they can become self centered and selfish or they can become an independent woman in a strong relationship…I have read many books where the “brat” stays the brat and I do not like those at all!

  7. Victoria S says:

    Ah bungluna, I urge you to try “Ain’t She Sweet”. This is a wonderful story masterfully told. You will love the characters SEP has in this book. And while Sugar Beth’s behavior is not excused, you can really understand what was going on to cause it. I don’t know how, but this is one of the first books I ever read by SEP, and while I am not truly a big SEP fan, this is one I read over and over again, it’s just that good!

  8. xina says:

    I love Ain’t She Sweet. I have read it a few times. I put off reading this book because I thought I would dislike the heroine. I have to admit, she was pretty shocking, but I understood her as the book went on.
    The only other truly bratty heroine I can think of has been mentioned by Jean…Katherine Deveraux by Sandy Hingston. What a great turn around by the heroine and it is due to the skill of the author.

  9. Corie says:

    Lulu Vandermeer from BEAST was a huge brat…I love how the book started off. I sort of understood her longing, restlessness, and fears and why she acts the way she does. But after a while it gets annoying and irritating…in the end I wasn’t convinced she truly loved Charles.

  10. Carrie says:

    Like several people have already stated, “bratty” can be acceptable if the characters mature and grow. But sometimes the book is about a character who should know better. I can name several books where the heroine ruined it for me due to what I considered selfish, manipulative behavior. But how we react to a character is so individual. I guarantee if I were to name the heroines I can’t stand, there would be many who would come to their defense. Since I haven’t read *any* of the book so far mentioned (in the article or the comments) I don’t know how to compare what I consider unacceptable with the examples given of acceptable “bratty” characters.

  11. Jean Wan says:

    SEP definitely doesn’t take the easy way out with some of her heroines; some of them do or have done some really questionable things (um, Molly?), but what makes her such a powerful writer for me is that the road to redemption is often long and hard, but also fair. And successful – This Heart of Mine is a personal DIK for me.

    @Corie – I haven’t read Beast in ages – I actually ordered it from Better World Books then discovered I’d messed up the titles and ordered Sleeping Beauty instead. But I do remember Lulu (or Louise?) was really, really, /really/ long. And spoiled.

  12. SHZ says:

    Oh I HATE brats. It seems many authors believe that the only way to give a female character a personality is to make her a “feisty” brat. That’s why Lillian from Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflowers is my most hated historical romance character – ever.

    Brats aren’t fun – they’re immature. Immaturity is not a trait I look for in a character I’m supposed to find common ground with.

Subscribe without commenting