I grew up in the Eighties. A fun time for a teenage girl with the emergence of Madonna and Cyndi Lauper (to name only two of the plethora or female singers). We piled our hair high and used a can of hairspray a day. The fashion of dangling earrings as big as dangling bracelets, fishnets under shorts, floppy bows, and large necklaces that said “Boy Toy”.
As a young girl I had such romantic ideas spurred on by the fantastical romance of Harlequin Present and LoveSpell novels. Books that told of breathless passion between men and women. I couldn’t wait to grow up and find that kind of love. I was about twelve when I started writing my own romance novel, longhand of course. My first typewriter was manual and my best friend was a new invention called White Out.
Females in romance novels back then were very stereotypical. Most were secretaries, receptionists, nurses or schoolteachers. The men were usually wealthy and hard-bitten, playboys and irresistible. They whisk the girl away from her downtrodden job or life and sweep her into future of love, wealth and privilege.
As movies like “Working Girl” swept in a new generation of women’s lib, tastes started to change. I started to read more stories with stronger females, love that had to be fought for, flawed heroes with emotions. My perspective on romance changed, and so did my taste in what I wanted to read. So, too, did my writing. I discovered I wanted to write about women like me. Older women, perhaps finding true love after a series of wrong men. My question when I sit down to start writing a heroine is “What would I do in this situation?” Would I survive an apocalypse? Would I be able to kill to keep my family safe?
Now I prefer flawed characters redeemed through love. Heroes or heroines who may start out weak and use love to transform themselves. The role of females in romance has changed significantly since the Seventies and Eighties, and the introduction of e-readers has allowed many fantasies to be explored. Women are allowed to explore sexual situations once thought taboo, a sort of “burning of the bras” computer style. And though sometimes I have the hero saving the girl, more than likely I make sure the girl can save herself.