The Changing Heroines in Historical Romance

Female power. The new “alpha feminist” has arrived in the historical romance genre, becoming the new archetype of heroines presented to readers. The former heroines of eras past are now given twenty-first-century feminist empowerment by authors who are frustrated with the modern day female woes.

Should such role reversals be found only in contemporary romance or is it all right to change the facts of historical romance in order to rewrite what we dislike about a woman’s place two hundred years ago? The bodice-ripping dukes may soon be replaced by the female dominant who acts quite differently than a woman in want of a husband would have done so during the Regency or Victorian eras.

What are your thoughts about rewriting the historical aspect of historical romance to satisfy our strong female egos of the current century? Are you tired of reading about weak-willed and submissive women? Do you prefer putting period clothing on a twenty-first-century role model and ignoring the norms of the bygone days? Since staunch reviewers often chide authors that their historical romance contains modern-day dialogue, are the modern-day attitudes going to be embraced regardless of accuracy?

The growing change of empowering female characters from the past will have a huge influence on historical romance. Nevertheless, readers will gravitate toward what suits them as they read toward the happily-ever-after ending in search of romance.  It could be the typical dominant male hero that keeps your fancy or perhaps you’ll seek out the strong heroine who could care less what her place should be in the scheme of things.  Historical feminism will definitely be arriving earlier in historical romance books, according to the article below.

What are your thoughts?  Like?  Dislike?

Romance fans have long loved the genre for its unapologetic celebration of female power and sexuality. Now more and more writers are beginning to consider the ways in which their work can offer not just a happy ending, but a powerful statement.

Source: Who Gets A Happily Ever After In 2018?

4 thoughts on “The Changing Heroines in Historical Romance

  1. Do you have to rewrite history to have a strong female? Jane Austen wrote strong females, and she wasn’t bending reality to her will. It’s surely all in how you arrange the circumstances.


  2. I think authors of historical romance, and their readers, are discovering that we don’t have to rewrite history to have strong female characters: they have always been around! For some reason, people believe that because women had certain defined roles, and lacked many of the rights and freedoms that are enjoyed now, that all women of the past were quiet, subservient, docile, and timid homebodies. Nothing could be further from the truth! Research at our fingertips via the internet is finally opening eyes to the fact that history is littered with strong, fierce women who figured out who to empower themselves within the parameters society forced upon them. Alpha females – and thus alpha female historical characters – don’t have to break the rules to still be forces to be reckoned with. The savviest and smartest used those very limitations to their advantages, in fact.

    Speaking from the era I write about (the Regency), women served in the Navy, ran their own businesses (one even had a saddlery!), wrote novels (that society scoffed at while buying as many copies as they could and invited the celebrities to their parties), made scientific and medical discoveries, were inventors (how about using a kite to pull a carriage or boat?), spied on Napoleon and those pesky Colonials, formed private clubs to rival the men (my favorite is the Jiggy Joggies of the late 18th century), pirated on the high seas, created art, and explored the world.

    I think we modern women, looking backward from our much higher perch with more equal standing alongside men, tend to take pity on and assume our historical sisters lived the dreariest and most staid of lives. I think we do them a great disservice by presuming rather than knowing. So would I ever put a heroine smoking a cheroot while she walked down High Street by herself, wearing trousers, in 1812 London? Of course not; a writer couldn’t even do that to a character in 1940s America without it being anachronistic. But you better believe that 19th century lady could do all of those so-called modern things on the sly, in private, or with an eccentric air at her country house. (Just don’t make the historical women feisty; that meant that were flatulent, not high-spirited!)


  3. I agree with everything you ladies just said! Women can be strong in many ways, quiet ways, unusual ways. From what I have discovered from my own research, women have always been strong no matter what time period or culture they hailed from and far more than we assume they were. There literally is no need to rewrite history–use history as your guide!


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