Yes, she’ll be totally pissed at me for telling you, but look at her! As radiant and full of fun as she’s been all my life.
And my stepfather, Dave? Love him to death. He’s my mom’s third husband, too. Because she’s been widowed twice now. Bad luck that she’s turned into three loving and happy marriages.
This is why my mom is my standard for the best kind of heroine.
We often lament the young romance heroine being called “feisty.” Usually because – especially in those rapetastic romances of the 80s – that meant she said spunky things to the alphahole hero before succumbing to his all-consuming lust. (Not that I didn’t gobble up this trope – don’t get me wrong.) Feisty became cliché really fast, largely because these heroines rarely experienced any true tests of character.
And no, being rescued from the villain just doesn’t really count – even if she feistily aided the process.
For me, the true test of character for any of us is resilience. Nobody gets a perfect life, after all. We all suffer. Bad things happen. People we love die. It’s awful and unfair and nobody gets to escape that kind of loss. No choice there.
Our only choice is how to handle that loss.
My mom was first widowed when she was 27. My Air Force fighter pilot father died when his F-4 crashed, leaving her alone with a three-year-old daughter. She married my first stepfather four years later and they were married for nearly thirty years when he died of a rare form of Parkinson’s Disease. (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy or PSP – same thing that got Dudley Moore, if you’re interested.) So she experienced the sudden, shocking death of one husband and the painful, slow death of another.
More than enough to test anyone’s character.
Then she went on to marry again. Happily, again. This is far more than feistiness. This is a mature woman’s resilience.
Something I admire very much.
This, I think, is part of why I like to write heroines with this quality. Some deal with smaller set-backs than others, but they all have an inner core of strength that lets them deal with challenge face-forward. For all of them, seeking happiness is not only important, but a core goal in life. They might seek it from love or career or sexual fulfillment or what-have-you, but they are all resilient in their own ways. All determined to live life to the fullest.
That’s my kind of heroine.