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Reading the mature heroine

I am a mature woman, in years if not in actions. Perhaps like our last Guest Blogger, Tawny Weber, I just don’t want to think of myself as aging. ;) Though I should identify heavily with them, I have little desire to write about the mature heroine. When sitting down to type this post, I examined the why of that and decided I’d either have to make her life so much more exciting than mine, I’d be hugely jealous or I’d write her too realistic and no one would want to read about her.

I like to read about mature heroines, though. Really, I do. I guess I’d like to think that, if I found myself single again, I’d have the option to find love and romance again.

The mature heroines I enjoy seem to have certain traits I admire. They have the guts to modify their circumstances or their habits, to step out of their comfort zone and embrace change in order to give their lives more meaning. For instance, if an empty-nester has been “coasting’ through life as a wife and mother, wrapped up in the minutiae of day-to-day survival so much that she’s lost sight of who she once was, she takes steps to rediscover the things that once made her excited about life.

Do you like reading about mature heroines? If so, what makes her interesting to you? What traits do you find you admire in them or expect to see them adopt and make their own during the course of the book?

Anna Steffl - September 15, 2009 - 3:32 am

Carol, thanks for the honesty about not wanting to write about the mature heroine and I think that goes a long way to explaining why readers don't flock to them. We all still want to identify with the part of us that's 25. Its typically when so many of the big decisions that are the stuff of romance happen. Not that after that age there are any less decisions to make — but they're not the stuff of the romance genre. Maybe literary. Maybe women's fiction. Lots of non-fiction/self-help.

Debbie Kaufman - September 15, 2009 - 3:56 am

I think a mature heroine has to be dynamic and give us the promise of the life expected in their youth. Otherwise, it's a downer.
Maybe we like the younger version because there is so much promise of what's to come and of what can be. That's what we have to keep in the mature heroine story.

Cyrano - September 15, 2009 - 4:30 am

The thing is, life doesn't end after fourty, fifty, sixty…
I believe there can be as much "promise of what's to come and of what can be" after these birthday mile-stones. (I love Debbie. I guess I'm just trying to broaden the wisdom of her words)
A mature woman can have as much fun, as much adventure, as much passionate sex as her 20 yr old counterpart. It simply depends on her character, her physical condition and, well…her partner.
Of course, sadly, there are many, many mature women that have lost their sense of self over the years, but a brilliant love affair can have the power to re-awaken their hibernating souls.
In romance, this too can be, if the author does their job.
I haven't read many mature heroine romances, but that's not because I don't like them. They just seem to be too few and far between. And also, they're hard to locate on the bookstore shelves, shoved among the infinite number of young heroine romances. But, the few I have read were wonderful and written well.
That's the key.
I'd read the phone book if it was compellingly written, full of twists and turns, ups and downs, conflict and more conflict.
A mature romance, like any other novel, needs to be written with the same high standards in mind that any great work of fiction holds.
And then, no matter if your heroine is 30 or 50, readers will love her and her story right down to the last word.
That's what we all should strive for after all. Write about whatever the hell you want to, just do a damn good job of it.
Have a lovely, if not rainy, morning, Carol.

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde - September 15, 2009 - 4:49 am

Hey, Carol! I read a couple of them, one where she was bemoaning her weight all the time, and ended up with a dr who was 15 years younger than her, bah. But he loved her ample curves and mature attitude–I felt it was like a momma complex and never could get into the sex bit…the cover of course showed a very young woman with a great figure and no extra curves. And the other was more mainstream where her husband was dumping her for a younger woman at the office and she lost her job over it because the younger woman took it, and she was bemoaning all this to her far out son and daughter who were doing weird things…I wanted to toss her a life raft. She eventually met up with a guy she'd had a fling with years ago, and they got together, but it seemed so contrived. Sooo, two mature stories, and neither appealed!!!

Sandy Elzie - September 15, 2009 - 5:15 am

Hi Carol,

Well, I've written one mature heroine but haven't sold it…yet. (only sent it to two editors) She's professional, active, loves her two grown daughters, but spends only a little bit of book time bemoaning what he'll think of her stretch marks if she goes to bed with this somewhat younger man (she's 49, he's 44)and what her two grown daughters think. Then she kicks her concerns to the curb and gets on with having a fun romp with the man of her dreams.

I don't mind writing about mature women…afterall, I am one!…but I usually don't since I want to sell.

I agree, make the story upbeat…write it pretty much like you would for a 35 year old and the story won't drag.

Sandy

Sally Kilpatrick - September 15, 2009 - 5:19 am

Carol–your post in interesting as is the discussion it's generated. I think there are a lot of factors as to why stories of mature women aren't resonating. I think of the Nora trilogy set in Memphis with the older heroine in the middle book. I liked the book because I liked the spunky character and really wanted her to have another chance at love. One of my good friends was totally grossed out by the idea and never got into it. Right now I'm reading I Wish I Had a Red Dress by Pearl Cleage, and the heroine is 45ish–it's really compelling but not just because of her story but also all of those stories around her. Cleage's book has the conflict abounding that Tamara's looking for. A last plug for Baggage Claim where the housewife discovers her husband has a gambling problem and it forces her to reevaluate their relationship–that one worked because it was both honest and fresh, defying convention.

Ultimately, I think the problem is that people see the more mature heroine's story as something radically different from that of the 20 something and the result is often the "contrived" stories that Terry was referring to. Since, as Tamara pointed out, women are constantly losing sight of their true selves in the midst of child-rearing/marriage/etc, I think there's plenty of room for the more mature heroine to shine and have a great story. We just need some passionate authors to walk that tightrope between a dour reality and a pollyanna fantasy and bring those stories to life.

Sally

Carol Burnside - September 15, 2009 - 5:26 am

Anna, I think you're right. I know I felt like the world held many more possibilities when I was in my twenties.

Carol Burnside - September 15, 2009 - 5:30 am

Debbie and Cyrano, I get what you're saying. That zest for life is what I love to read about and can certainly be attributed to any age, but it's not easy to write it and not stretch the bounds of belief.

Carol Burnside - September 15, 2009 - 5:35 am

Hey, Terry! Thanks for stopping by. :)

Those books don't sound too exciting. If you can find it in a used bookstore, try The Merry Widow by Susan Crosby. It's a Harlequin NEXT book. I really enjoyed it because the author used lists that the woman made to show her growth through the book. I thought it was clever and well done. The lists told the reader a lot about the woman.

Carol Burnside - September 15, 2009 - 5:38 am

Hi, Sandy. Kudos to you for tackling the mature heroine! Who knows? Maybe one day they'll be all the rage and you'll sell it after all. :)

Cyrano - September 15, 2009 - 6:06 am

I really loved what Sally said, "I think there's plenty of room for the more mature heroine to shine and have a great story. We just need some passionate authors to walk that tightrope between a dour reality and a pollyanna fantasy and bring those stories to life."
Wow! Now that's compelling writing along with compelling a truly argument! That's the shit I'm talking about. (Umm, are we allowed to cuss. I actually cuss like a sailor in real life – sorry to those I might offend with that admition – and alot of times I want to cuss in posts and comments, but I try to keep it PG unless something really inspires me) And Sally's words of wisdom did.
I really love how the PFHT blog gets us communicating our ideas and views. It's so f*$#ing cool.
PG…I'm keeping it PG.
Great post Carol.
Luv to all, Tamara

Carol Burnside - September 15, 2009 - 6:08 am

I definitely see the mature heroine's story as different from the twenty-something. From a love standpoint, I think you can fall in love at any age. I just don't think you do so with as much reckless abandonment at 40 or later.

However, I do believe there are wonderful tales of mid-life love waiting to be told…by someone. :)

Carol Burnside - September 15, 2009 - 6:12 am

Hey, Tamara, it's my blog day and I don't mind if you cuss. LOL! Love that you're so passionate about this stuff.

Cyrano - September 15, 2009 - 7:09 am

You're so sweet Carol.
And it's my wonderful blog sisters that get me so passionate!
Tamara

J Perry Stone - September 15, 2009 - 8:25 am

Good Lord. Where do I begin?

I like mature heroines/women/friends becasue:

1) the bullshit factor lessons with every birthday

2) they know who they are, faults and virtues, therefore know what they want, know what boundaries to set with others, know what they will and will not do.

3) They are significantly more confident than their younger selves, thus are significantly sexier.

4) When you stop relying upon the youthful cutes, you really start exploring the full potential of your personality.

5) They're more likely to take responsibility for their own pleasures instead of expecting someone else to provide it for them

6) At this point, if they have any hidden eccentricities, by the time they've aged enough to say what the hell, their true originality has the opportunity to shine.

7) Life weathers women in the most interesting ways.

Carol Burnside - September 15, 2009 - 9:58 am

J Perry, you're making me think! LOL The heroine who knows what she'll put up with in a man and what she won't is infinitely more interesting, don't you agree? She's a force to be reckoned with and makes a better match for a strong hero, IMO.

Nicole North - September 15, 2009 - 10:18 am

Great post, Carol! I haven't written what I'd consider a "mature" heroine, at least none over about age 30. (And I don't generally read them either.) Part of this I think is because most editors and readers expect the heroine of most romance novels to be in their early to mid 20s. And part of it is I feel kinda immature myself. (Not mentioning age here. LOL) I stand by the belief that we are as young as we feel, and that can be a psychological age rather than actual age in years.

Carol Burnside - September 15, 2009 - 11:03 am

LOL, Nicole! You certainly don't act immature, and I agree that a person is as young as they feel. Some days I'm twenty-something, some days…um…much older. Ha!

Marilyn Baron - September 15, 2009 - 12:20 pm

I would enjoy reading a story about a mature heroine and I am trying to write one. Mature women have different problems than younger ones and opportunities to inject humor.

I like what J Perry had to say on the subject.

I enjoyed your post and reading everyone's comments.

Marilyn Baron

J Perry Stone - September 15, 2009 - 1:53 pm

I think every story starts with character growth. Character A needs to learn lesson one in order to become her best self.

Maybe readers feel there's no more growth for women after 40, but come on. I learn lessons everyday. My mother learns lessons everyday. My grandmothers are learning the most valuable/difficult lesson as their bodies are fading and they're looking death right in the face. They're both in nursing homes. The last time I saw Canadian Gramma, she needed a new watch. She stared at it for a minute then said, "This will probably be the last watch of my life." That's one heavy friggin' lesson!

It just makes me very angry that people are so short-sighted when it comes to love stories, but I'm not sure I can blame readers. Maybe it's the pub houses unwilling to push the status quo.

I must restate, however, that my favorite romantic comedy of the past few years was Something's Gotta Give.

Here we had a mature heroine, top of her game professionally, but with some lingering insecurities. There was still some things to learn about life and love. It was an incredibly satisfying story and very romantic. And at the end, it was she who saved him.

Susan May - September 15, 2009 - 1:59 pm

I agree Carol. The mature woman takes life in her own hands. Just because we get old doesn't mean that we do enjoy that tingle of new love.

Liz Falkner - September 15, 2009 - 2:20 pm

Hi Carol!! Great post, by the way.
I haven't tried writing mature heroines, mostly because I don't see myself that way – yet.

I've read one or two in the past. One stands out in my mind because it involved an older heroine who didn't have children. I believe her husband died and she'd moved away to new city. The hero was a chef at a well-known restaurant and the author unveiled their falling in love like a four-course meal. It was very well-written and the love scenes were hot! I wish I could remember the author's name. It was either published by Harl/Sil or St Martin's Press.

That book made it to my keeper shelf just because the author dealt with the issue head-on and didn't shy away from the embedded conflict.

Basically, I'd enjoy reading a really great love story that just happens to have a mature heroine.

Carol Burnside - September 15, 2009 - 3:35 pm

Ooh, J Perry, I loved Somethings Gotta Give! That one slipped my mind.

Marilyn, I hope I get to read your mature heroine story some day soon.

Susan, sometimes the old love resurrects itself in tingly ways too. ;)

Hey, Liz! Thanks for dropping by. If you remember the name of that book, let me know. It sounds great!

Carol Burnside - September 15, 2009 - 3:36 pm

I'll be back late this evening, ladies! I'm going to spend some quality time with my son, who's in town for a couple days. :)

Linsey Lanier - September 15, 2009 - 4:34 pm

Hi Carol! Hope you had fun with your son.

Interesting post and discussion. It seems pretty clear that youth sells best in this market, but I think as readers, part of us relates to the more realistic problems of the older heroine. However too much whining is a turnoff whether it's done by an older or a younger heroine.

My heroines of late tend to be 36. Nicely in the middle.

Linsey

Maxine Davis - September 15, 2009 - 4:36 pm

Carol,
I really enjoyed your post today – and apparently everyone else did too!

Iwould read a mature heroine book. Of course the older I get the older a "girl" can be in the book.

I remember an old b/w movie. She was older, loved 2 men, her husband and her lover. The lover knew she was married, but the hub knew nothing of the lover. They both showed up at her funeral (Yeah, well, I really don't want to read a story that starts out like this). After a fierce fight, the men actually become very good frineds and talk about why they each loved her.

I like what J.P. said too. The older woman doesn't give a rat's a– what most younger men think. She is sure of herself and if he can't be man-enough to take her on, that's his loss.

This was a great thought provoker (if that's a word).

Ana Aragón - September 15, 2009 - 5:47 pm

Hi, Carol,

The mature heroine needs to be like we'd like to see ourselves at that age for us to appreciate the book, don't you think?

I agree with whoever said that the reason we like younger heroines is that we imagine ourselves that way. I think if the story is well-written, the plot is believable and the heroine is spunky, likeable and knows what she wants from life, then I'd read that book!

Oh, and the guy and the romance has to be hot. That is one of my criteria!

Great post!

Tami Brothers - September 15, 2009 - 7:21 pm

Another great post!!!

I was just about to type that I didn’t think I could write a mature heroine, then I remembered that the woman who time travels back to the age of 16 in my WIP YA book is 46 years old.

Hhhhmmmm. I surprised myself!

Thanks for putting us on the spot, Carol!!! Before I go, is anyone else finding some of the younger heroines a bit silly? I’ve read a few comments that left me thinking they were too stupid to live…grin… Maybe that’s just me.

Have a good one!

Tami

Carol Burnside - September 15, 2009 - 9:03 pm

What great comments today! I enjoyed the discussion. And yes, Linsey, I had a great time with my son.

Thanks, all!

Mary Marvella - September 16, 2009 - 10:47 am

I am at the age to want to read about heroines over 35, or 38, my daughter's age. I like to believe those of us collecting Social Security can look forward to fun and romance.

Women over 40 often need to reclaim their lives and rebuild their self images. They don't need to be slim and have perky boobs. Many of us know perky books at 50 plus are fake.

I love it when a heroine's old grandma is 60. I'm older than most book grandmas!

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