Ask anyone not truly familiar with the romance genre and they will tell you that romantic heroines are cardboard cut out that fall into two different moulds:
- The damsel in distress – helpless in her circumstance until the hero provides release
- The bitch heroine – prickly and independent until the right man can tame her
As anyone who truly has anything to do with the romance genre will tell you, just like the readership, romantic herones come in every shade between the black and white.
Although not strictly considered a romantic heroine, 1960s icon Emma Peel is indeed fits the role and one that I am proud to claim as my feminist role model.
Played by Dame Diana Rigg, Emma the sidekick to uber spy John Steed in the TV series The Avengers, was not the first to don the leather cat suit. The honour belongs to Honor Blackman who as Cathy Gale hung up the boots to take on the role of Pussy Galore in Goldfinger.
Fun fact – three of James Bond’s ladies had a liaision with John Steed – Honor Blackman in Goldfinger, Emma Peel in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which also featured a young Joanna Lumley who later went on to star as Purdy in The New Avengers in the late 1970s.
So what makes Emma so appealing and therefore such a desirable romantic heroine?
She knows who she is – Emma is smart, educated, capable and comfortable in her own skin. She doesn’t need anyone to validate who she is. As a result she confronts every situation from an amorous Sheik to murderous robots.
She has a sense of humour – Emma never takes life too seriously and never allows her feather to be ruffled, even when the man in question is trying to kill her.
She is resourceful – judo, mathematical genius, sculptress, race car driver, gunslinger – Emma never waits for a man to rescue her, she’ll do her best to extricate herself but never resents it if Steed comes to the rescue.
She is not afraid to flirt – Emma is fully aware of her – ahem – feminine attributes and is not afraid to use it to serve a greater end. With John Steed, Emma is downright playful!
She is a fashion icon – Who wouldn’t love that! Her very racy catsuits took on a life of their own to become Emmapeelers.
I love to base my fictional heroines on women who may display a degree of vulnerability but who are, nonethless intelligent and capable.