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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday Discussion: Is She Experienced?

Some topics come easily, and after last week's fabulous discussion on heroes with experience (or not,) it's time to look at the other side of the coin. Does a heroine's romantic and/or sexual  history affect your enjoyment of the story?

Virgin  heroines are perhaps most common in historical  and  inspirational romances, as well as on the sweeter end of the spectrum. It makes sense. In historicals, women usually married at a younger age than many do today, and among the upper crust, a woman could find herself closely scrutinized from cradle to altar. Discovering love, romance and sex is new, heady and exciting. That rush of first feelings, the aspect of discovery are something to savor, and, in romance, first times generally go much more smoothly than the messy business of real life. If both hero and heroine are new to this part of life, we get to see them discover the wonder and newness together. If one partner is more experienced, love lessons can prove delicious, whether hot or sweet.

Some romance heroines are widows, divorcees or even single women, who have loved and lost. Perhaps their first husband or partner wasn't all he should have been, and it's up to our hero to show her all the joys that love can truly bring. There's baggage, to be sure, from relationships that weren't all our heroine had hoped, whether she'd lost a beloved husband, dodged a bullet by leaving an unsuitable lover or were themselves rejected by a man who couldn't see what a treasure he had.

Romance even offers us women some might consider beyond the pale. Mistresses, madams, courtesans and Other Women can find love in romance novels as well. Francine Rivers' landmark western historical, Redeeming Love, for example, features a heroine who is a working prostitute at the novel's inception...and that's in an inspirational, so you know there are no musts or must nots when it comes to a heroine's history.

It all comes down to what works for the individual author, story or reader. What's your pleasure?


  1. Great topic and you covered it so well.

  2. Cassie, thanks. I love being able to discuss my favorite genre here.

  3. Ki Pha, heroines with interesting backgrounds can make for interesting stories. Virgin heroines written as though they were widely experienced can be confusing.

  4. I have read several stories where the heroine was a prostitute or a courtesan. I enjoyed them because the heroine had to overcome so much more to reach her HEA.

  5. I like both - it really does depend on the story.

    In Moonstone Obsession the heroine was a virgin, in my second the heroine had limited but unsatisfactory sexual experience, in my current WIP the heroine is a demi-rep who has used sex quite openly in the furtherance of her ambition, in my fourth I'm shaping the story around a heroine who is a late Roman Empire-era slave who experience has been at the mercy of others.

    As Carol mentioned below a woman with a complex past is fascinating and has so much more to overcome before she can reach the point where she is ready for her HEA.

  6. Carol, such heroines do have a lot to overcome to reach their HEAs. I thought Judith James did an amazing job with her Courtesan's Kiss.

  7. EE, it really does depend on the story, and that's why we have such a wide variety in the romance genre. Characters can have any history, or none, and reach a satisfying HEA in every aspect.

    I'm definitely going to have to look into your books; they sound fascinating.

  8. The books are really enjoyed were Tempt the Devil by Anna Campbell, Unclaimed by Courtney Milan, Comanche Magic by Catherine Anderson and The Duke by Gaelen Foley. All featured a prostitute/courtesan.



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