For this Top Ten Tuesday, I’m listing my favorite heroines in romance books. This was an easy list to make, as it includes some of my favorite books as well!
It’s Top Ten Tuesday
Today is another Top Ten Tuesday, where we post a list of 10 of our best/favorite/most important bookish-related items, depending on the weekly themes.
Thanks so much to That Artsy Reader Girl for coming up with this fun feature. She also has provided alternate ideas bloggers can use if we want to try a different theme. Each week we enjoy coming up with answers for these creative lists.
“Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.”
My 10 Favorite Romance Novel Heroines of All Time
I’m doing a theme of my choice this week, so I decided to recycle one of my first posts from Spring 2021. That article was about five great female protagonists in vintage romances.
Now I’m expanding it to include a few more women for my list of 10 best heroines. Thankfully, I didn’t have to think about this too hard. I looked at my Goodreads shelf, and sure enough, I had around ten favorite heroines chosen already.
My list of all-time best female main characters in romance is pretty eclectic, as it includes “bad girl” heroines and gentle souls.
The GOAT: The Woman Who Knows What She Wants and Gets It
There can only be one! As I grouped the list into three categories, there was one choice that stood out from the rest. This heroine was so refreshing and unique, and I’ve never seen another one like her again. And she was created by the great Johanna Lindsey.
How could I not choose her as my favorite?
1. Amy Malory – The Magic of You by Johanna Lindsey
A heroine in pursuit of a hero who is uptight and wants nothing to do with her, even as he fights his desire? Oh, there is no plot better than that. No one has done it better than Johanna Lindsey in The Magic of You with Amy Malory.
A free-spirited, confident heroine in pursuit of an uptight, stuffed-shirt hero who tries his best to resist her is my absolute favorite trope. I don’t think I’ve seen it done better in any book than this one.
Nothing will stop the 17 years and 11 months heroine from getting the man she wants: Warren Anderson. He is her aunt-by-marriage’s much older brother, who despises the entire Malory clan. On top of that, he’s sworn off romantic entanglements with women due to a past betrayal.
But Amy won’t let little obstacles like that get in her way. She is a Malory, after all. And she wants it all from grumpy Warren: his body, his love, and his laughter.
Lindsey’s written her share of caustic unlikeable heroines. She’s also written some fantastic ones. I like Tedra, Reina, Georgina, and Cassie, but Amy’s the best.
Heroines Who Fight Adversity and Rise Above It
Among all of these female main characters, there is one particular trait they share. The heroines of these books have their trials to overcome. Each one of them overcomes tremendous adversity and rises to the occasion.
They show the world that they are capable of great things.
2. Caroline “Fancy” England-Gillard – Captive Angel by Deana James
It was hard to pick a favorite among Deana James’ heroines. Ultimately, Caroline “Fancy” Gillard from Captive Angel rose to the top.
Caroline, or Fancy as she prefers, has a fantastic character arc. She is one of the greatest heroines ever–in romance or anywhere else! Unfortunately, she has the distinction of being paired with one of the most unlikable heroes ever.
After the death of her only daughter, Caroline fell into a deep depression and gained a lot of weight. Her handsome husband, a sea captain, is a cheating louse who abandons her, taking their son and all their money with him. Along with his young pregnant mistress, they set sail across the Atlantic for a grand Europe tour.
When Fancy hears about the legend of lost treasure in Madagascar, she assembles a crew and a captain who ostensibly will be in charge of the ship.
But it is Fancy who is really in command, and she fights marauders to get the gold, get her confidence back–and yes, even her man.
3. Fenice d’Aix – Fire Song by Robert Gellis
Fenice D’aix is such an unusual heroine in that she is highly insecure but will ignore her doubts about herself to do right for those she loves. Fire Song is my favorite book by Roberta Gellis, a dazzling melding of history, action, and romance.
Fenice is the daughter of a French lord and a serf. Although she was raised as a lady in her father’s house and was married to a nobleman, Fenice thinks very little of herself due to her low-class origins. She harbors great doubts that her handsome second husband, Aubrey, the epitome of a perfect knight, will ever love her due to her heritage.
But whenever faced with impossible obstacles that would paralyze another woman–and though she trembles with fear–Fenice always uses her wits and cunning to save the day. She never thinks of herself, only those she cares for.
Through overcoming impossible odds to save her loved ones, Fenice proves she is worthy of Aubrey’s love. The twist is Aubrey doubted Fenice would ever love him! Many insecurities plagued him, one being he thought she was still in love with her first husband.
4. Sirena Cortez – Captive Passions by Fern Michaels
Fern Michaels created a rollicking read with her first book, the bodice ripper, Captive Passion. The heroine here is one of legend. Sirena Cortez swears vengeance after a group of pillaging pirates both rapes her and her sister–and her sister dies from the assault.
Sirena assumes her sibling’s identity to marry the stranger her sister was arranged to wed. The very man she believes was behind the planned attack.
Sirena assembles a crew of rag-tag sailors to become a pirate. Not just any pirate, but the fiercest, most feared marauder who raids ships all over the South China Seas.
Sirena Cortez van der Rhys (what a name!), aka the Sea Siren, the pirate scourge of the East Indies, is a great kickass heroine. Even if she was treated to multiple instances of rape and abuse, she overcomes it and wins out in the end.
Lamentably, the treasure the Sea Siren obtains wins, in the end, is the love of her husband, Regan. He’s a swine of an adulterer who will continue to cheat in book #2 of the Captive series, but still, Sirena comes out on top.
Captive Passions is of the most outlandish and fantastic bodice rippers and is undoubtedly overdue for a review here.
Anti-Heroines: Bad Girls Need Love Too
These favorite heroines of mine are not your typical perfect heroines who always do the right thing. Call them bad girls, call them anti-heroines, but in the end, they win–always!
5. Melissa – Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter
Savage Possession‘s Melissa’s not the “baddest” girl on this list, but to me, she is the most relatable heroine ever. Margaret Pargeter created one of my favorite heroines in Melissa. She has good intentions… but her laziness always gets in the way.
In my life, I’ve been lustful, angry, greedy, envious, and prideful. But it is “sloth” that’s my #1 Deadly Sin. And boy, howdy, does Melissa outdo even me!
She butts head with Ryan Trevelyan, her parents’ landlord, a decent man who has allowed her parents to live in their home despite not having paid rent for two years.
Melissa does not act like the stereotypical caricature Harlequin heroines are supposed to be: swooning, selfless, kind to all, and eager to engage in hard labor hard to prove her worth.
No, she’s a lazy freeloader with good, old-fashioned morals and a serious aversion to work!
6. Melusina Wilton – Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrove Payes
Melusina Wilton of Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrove Payes is a teenager forced into prostitution. Her beloved “john”–a middle-aged Earl who has never touched her– buys her way to freedom.
The Earl brings her to his estate, but to Mellie’s horror, he intends for her to marry his young son. The son isn’t interested, as he’s involved in a torrid love affair with his older male tutor. But the Earl needs heirs, and he’ll get them one way or another.
What makes Mellie so bad? She’s young, frivolous, and not overly concerned with social agendas or intellectual matters. She is beautiful, knows it, and uses her beauty to attract attention.
What makes Mellie so great? She kills those who would hurt her. Melusina exacts the cruelest revenge upon those who have wronged her. And she does what she must to win the heart of the man she loves.
Mellie never stops believing in herself. Even when she is at the lowest in her life, she holds out hope for a better day. Mellie is self-centered, prideful, and vain, but her confidence and resilience are endearing, no matter what!
7. Rhawnie – Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters
Rhawnie is half Russian nobility, half Gypsy princess, and the wonderful heroine of Natasha Peters‘ Dangerous Obsession. She is an unrepentant thief, a liar, a con artist, a gambler, and a madame. She has two handsome and–ahem–well-endowed brothers who are her lovers, but only one will have her love.
American Seth Garrett has business to deal with in Russia. There, he will meet Rhawnie, and there begins a rocky love story that will span continents and years. Rhawnie is not a simpering, treacly-sweet girl or spunky, foot-stamping heroine. She lies for the hell of it: to strangers, to the people she loves, to herself! Rhawnie even lies on her (near) deathbed!
Rhawnie is not a mere mortal. She is beautiful, a professional thief, a fortune-teller, a gambler, and card cheat, and a baroness. Men duel and die over her. She is the mistress to a king, a threat to a nobleman’s power, a world-famous singer, a saloon owner, the savior of an orphan, and a wronged woman.
Last and most of all, Rhawnie is the love object of two brothers, who are as opposite as day and night.
Heroines Whose Great Personalities Win the Hero Over
It’s not looks or sex that win the heroes’ hearts but the personalities of these fantastic heroines. These ladies show that love is a matter of souls, not flesh.
8. Emily Lamb – Temporary Wife by Roberta Leigh
In Temporary Wife, Emily Lamb’s a practical woman in a marriage of convenience to a man in love with another woman.
Luke Adams has everything: good looks, a job at a top firm, and his boss/best friend’s wife as his mistress. However, the boss’s nephew has caught wind of the affair and threatens to out them. Luke’s mistress, Gina, arranges a marriage of inconvenience for Luke to an old friend from school, plain-looking Emily Lamb.
Emily is a magnificent heroine who knows her marriage is strictly business and accepts the world as it is.
Watching how Luke fell in love with Emily was a wonderful experience. Luke was genuinely in love with the wrong woman. But he falls even harder for Emily.
She shows him love is a joy to be shared, not a sordid thrill to get one’s kicks. Marriage should be a meaningful relationship of shared experiences with a partner who doesn’t worship him but accepts him for the flawed but good man he is.
Her frank, realistic attitude about the bitter truths of life doesn’t prevent her from being positive. Emily has a joie de vivre that’s infectious.
9. Topaze Benoit – Promise of Summer by Louisa Rawlings
Topaze, the heroine of Louisa Rawlings‘ A Promise of Summer, is a poor waif trying to support her large family. She is a pick-pocket, stealing coins from the wealthy fops who walk the avenues of 18th-century France.
A calculating anti-hero propositions her to pose as a long-lost heiress so he can regain his family fortune. Despite the crimes and schemes in which she is involved, Topaze is entirely innocent. However, she also has a dark past that comes to the forefront.
Topaze is relatively powerless in the grand scheme of things. Even so, she remains cheerful. Her positive, life-loving attitude is contagious, making everyone adore her–especially the hero, who fights his feelings.
Topaze carries herself with great dignity, showing an inner strength far greater than that of the aristocrats she finds herself among.
10. “Low Down” Louise –Silver Linings by Maggie Osborne
The heroine of Maggie Osborne’s Silver Lining, “Low Down” Louise, is not a soft, frilly -dress wearing woman. She’s a rough gal who works in a mining community with men. She’s not a beauty but plain-spoken, straightforward, hard-working, and cheerful.
When a baby is born to a dying mother, Low Down vows to care for the child.
Lousie had nursed the large group of miners through a terrible sickness, saving their lives. So the miners feel they owe it to Lou to marry her and give her a family. They draw straws, and the hero, who is already engaged, is picked. He reluctantly weds her.
When he brings her home to his family, they’re shocked at this low-class woman who talks boldly. Later, they all find she’s a wonderful human being beneath her undignified airs.
Even as he longs for his old love, the hero can’t help but fall madly for the fantastic, down-to-earth Louise, who gives with all her heart and never demands anything in return. She’s not only a favorite heroine of mine; many fans of Romancelandia love Low Down.
What do you think of this week’s theme and my choices for the ten best heroines romance books? Do you agree with any of my picks? If not, who makes your top ten favorite heroines lists?
As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.
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5 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Heroines in Romance”
Thanks, Jacqueline. Nice cover pics.
But I have questions. Who are these great heroines? Why are they great heroines?
What makes a heroine great? What separates a bad heroine from a good one, and a good one from a great one?
And should all heroines be essentially the same? Or is there room for variety? Can two heroines be very different, even in the ways that really count, and still be great, both of them?
As I’ve already stated in my “Why Romance? Why Vintage?” article, one of my problems with today’s romances is that the heroines all seem to belong to one type. The strong woman—strong in the rom fic sense, not according to my definition. Nowadays the typical romance heroine can control anything and anybody. With the emphasis on her greatest challenge: a man who’s trying to control her. Guess who always wins.
It’s a kind of heroine I don’t care for. I know, millions of readers do. But I wonder: what if we were offered a variety of heroines? Would alternate heroines go over well?
Unless and until that happens, we still have access to vintage romances. With more variety in heroines. Some don’t work with me. But I can’t get enough of those that do!
Ok, let’s try this reply again.
Ooh boy, that’s one of the problems posting an Instagram message on this blog. What works for Insta, may not work here. I’ll try to tweak any future Instagram lists with more info, and this one if I can. My intent was to link each image to a book, but couldn’t do that, and only one of those books on the list, Temporary Wife, by Roberta Leigh has been reviewed on SSF.
These heroines are from different backgrounds and time periods with unique love stories. What makes them “great heroines” to me is their resilience and how they face obstacles with a can-do attitude.
In My Name is Clary Brown, the heroine who is a failed actress is dumped by her “protector” and must return to her hometown in disgrace. Plus she’s part Roma so her mixed heritage has always made her an outsider. Mysterious disappearances and murders start to occur and there are a couple of people who are suspects. The way Clary stands up for herself is thoroughly in keeping with her time period (1700s).
-In Promise of Summer, the heroine is a poor thief on the streets of 18th century France, trying to support her large family. A calculating anti-hero propositions her to pose as a long-lost heiress so he can retain his family fortune. She’s young, cheerful, and despite what she’s involved in quite innocent, with a dark past that comes to the forefront. She’s quite powerless in the grand scheme of things, but the way she carries herself shows an inner strength that is greater than the aristocrats’ she finds herself mingling among.
-Low Down Louise works in a mining community with men. She’s no beauty, but simple, hard-working, and positive. When a baby is born to a dying mother, Low Down Louise vows to care for the child. Because Lousie nursed the miners through a terrible sickness, saving their lives, the miners feel they owe it to Lou to marry her. They draw straw and the hero, who is already engaged is picked. He reluctantly weds her. When he brings her home to his family they’re aghast at this low-class woman who talks boldly. As they get to know her, they find she’s a wonderful human being beneath her undignified airs.
-Temporary Wife, I have reviewed on this site, but in brief, she’s a practical woman in a marriage of convenience to a man in love with another woman. Her frank, realistic attitude about the bitter truths of life doesn’t prevent her from being positive and she has a joie de vivre that’s infectious. This is a great vintage romance.
-Lady’s Choice is a more modern, “independent” character, different from the previous heroines, but still a woman of her time. She proposes to her lover who wants nothing to do with marriage, so she wants nothing to do with him. Later he tries a business takeover, and she meets him head-on. Her family is horrendously greedy, and the hero is an overbearing, macho hunk who tries to steamroll her, but Juliana will have none of that! She’s no shrew, but secure in who she is and what she wants. She’s probably the only one of my picks who comes under the modern definition of “strong heroine,” but is nowhere as annoying as most of them.
The way I formatted this post, I can’t make edits, so hopefully, readers will see in the comment why I chose these women.
HI, Mary Anne/Arkansas Annie:
“But I have questions. Who are these great heroines? Why are they great heroines?
What makes a heroine great? What separates a bad heroine from a good one, and a good one from a great one?
And should all heroines be essentially the same? Or is there room for variety? Can two heroines be very different, even in the ways that really count, and still be great, both of them?”
“But I wonder: what if we were offered a variety of heroines? Would alternate heroines go over well?
I highlighted your questions because I have some of the same questions when I read this post. I wanted to know what it is is about these books and these heroines that make them special.
I also wanted to mention this to you, Mary Anne. I love the fact that you ask such incisive, insightful questions in your replies and posts. Hopefully, we can-whether through answers to this post in the comment section or in blog posts, to use a current term, run it back and try to find answers to some of these questions. I for one would be very willing to participate in such a discussion.
Dear Blue Falcon, I posted to Mary Anne why I chose these heroines. My bad for not delineating more clearly why these heroines were chosen. I had uploaded this to Instagram, but I see Instagram posts don’t necessarily work as blog posts. I’ll make sure in the future to add more descriptions if I create this sort of content.
Sometimes things seem like a good idea, but in this case, I should have eschewed the cool looking and made a standard post. I thank you and Mary Anne for pointing out where I could have clarified this better. This is why feedback from you guys (youse guys, y’all, yinz) is so helpful and essential to me! 🙂
Thank you for expanding the article. I know when I read it, I wanted to know more about both the books and the heroines, and you have provided the information I needed. Thank you again.