Last week I talked about villains and how we love to hate them.
Today, my subject is the heroine (ha, I expect you thought it would be the hero).
I like strong heroines, women who know their own minds and aren't afraid to go after what they want. Sounds just like a 21st century gal, doesn't it.
But today's women are shaped by today's society. You can't take at 21st century woman and plunk her down in the 19th century unless you are writing time travel. Women back then were as much the product of their times as a woman of today.
My heroine, Damaris, would no doubt be scandalized by today's women. She was raised to be subservient to men. First, her father, who gives her away in marriage without so much as a by-your-leave.
Today's woman would object loudly and strongly. Damaris is understandably upset, but she goes along with it. Because that's how she was raised. She never expected to marry for love.
When her husband ignores her and treats her like an uninvited guest, openly flaunting his mistress, Damaris doesn't like it. But she has no recourse. No where to go. No other family since her Papa committed the unpardonable sin of suicide, an act that leaves her further ostracized by her former "friends." And divorce, back then, was not an option.
Damaris, lonely and forgotten, is the perfect prey for Simon, who sees her as a pleasant interlude during his tenure at Riverbend. Only when Damaris falls in love for the first time and then is placed in danger of her life does she dare step beyond her boundaries, self-imposed and otherwise.
Her act doesn't necessarily make her any braver. She is still afraid of what "society" will say about her transgression. She is desperately afraid of being caught out in her lies, exposed as the "fallen woman" she has become.
It wasn't easy back then. I'm not saying it is easier now, but if you leave an abusive husband your friends will still talk to you.
In "Riverbend," I have to ask the reader to walk a while in Damaris' shoes. Maybe her choices won't seem so spineless. Maybe they will see her as a heroine of her time.
Who is your favorite heroine? Mine is Scarlett O'Hara, even as I remind myself that her strength was forged in war and loss. If the Civil War had never happened, she might well have married one of Tarlton twins and spent her life raising children.