I have a big problem as a romance writer. I actually love when the hero swoops in to rescue the heroine. Or just help her. Take over things for her when her life is all fucked up. I find this the very apex of romance, in kinky or mainstream stories.
Imagine my surprise when I learned this actually annoys most romance readers! Okay, I understand the whole deal that women don't like to be perceived as weak, that they shouldn't have to depend on a man for happiness or assistance when things get tough.
But if that's so, why are so many of our heroes alpha? Why are so many of them strong, tall, rich, and quite capable of solving any problem the heroine might encounter? If we enjoy these qualities in our heroes, what's so wrong with the hero using them to give the heroine a hand in her more frustrated or helpless moments?
Perhaps I fetishize helplessness when I shouldn't. It might interest readers to know that when I wrote Firebird, Prosper was originally painfully shy, insecure, self-doubting, and basically failing at life. In fact, her name, Prosper, was actually meant as an ironic nod to the fact that she wasn't prospering at all.
I didn't write her that way specifically so Jackson could save her. I wrote her that way because I feel that way sometimes--and sometimes I want someone to save me. Of course, I was told to change her as a condition of publication, to make her strong and able to function independently of Jackson's help. My editors were undoubtedly right to require the change...most of my readers probably would have disliked the weak Prosper. I wonder why I liked her so much?
I blame Cinderella. As a child I made my mother read the fairy tale to me at least three hundred times. There was something about her being lifted from abject misery and powerlessness to a wonderful life at the hands of the prince. Forget the fairy godmother. To me, she was just a bit player. It was the prince who really changed Cinderella's life. What a dream for her! What a new lease on life! Oh, and that ethereal silver gown! That prince was my first hero, and I suppose Cinderella and the prince somehow embedded themselves in my young brain as the apex of romance and the power of heroism.
I did actually write another book with a weak, needful heroine, because I wanted to have it for myself, to read myself. Ohhh, the hero rescues the shizz out of this girl, believe me! I won't ever publish it--I don't want the blowback. But I'll continue to enjoy feminine weakness and a male sweeping in to make it all better. Maybe that makes me a bad person. For sure it bars me from any self-respecting feminist circles. For a long time I've struggled with that, but I decided now that it's okay.
The funny thing is, none of my three daughters had any interest in Cinderella growing up, despite my pushy reminiscing desire to read it to them. My much-loved copy is gathering dust downstairs on my bookshelf, patently rejected by my strong and capable daughters.
Maybe that's for the best.