Over the twelve years since the Cynster series by Stephanie Laurens first debuted, I sometimes honestly believe I’ve spent more time defending her heroines to other romance readers online than I’ve spent reading the books. Her heroines, mind you, not her heroes. To me, that’s significant because I’m not sure what other author’s heroine’s I’d think deserved the defense.
Not needed it, mind you, but deserved it.
In the one and only review I ever wrote, I said this about Honoria, the heroine in Devil’s Bride, and in many ways I think it holds true for most of Laurens’ heroines to some degree or another:
Poor Honoria, her fate is sealed, or so Devil keeps telling her. And, lest anyone think it’s as simple as that, Honoria is one of the most sensible and memorable historical heroines I’ve ever encountered. She knows exactly who she is – the social and aristocratic equal of the St. Ives family. She also knows exactly how to BE a duchess – she wasn’t a finishing governess because she needed the money; she was one because she is exactly what her charges aspire to be. If she has a weakness, it’s that she’s too good at being what Devil wants – the perfect Duchess. Unable to escape his web, Honoria decides to make the best of things, enjoy herself and, help Devil find his cousin’s murderer.
It is here that a comparison to the irresistible force meeting the immovable object came to mind as this pair begins trying to out-maneuver each other.
Now granted, most of the other Cynster or even other Laurens heroines aren’t ready to be a Duchess but they are matches for their men. Otherwise they would not be in those particular stories. Or more to the point, they shouldn’t be in them.
Then again, I suppose, that’s what the discussion were all about. 😉
Now, there were authors who had heroines going toe-to-toe with their heroes before Laurens’ Cynsters females. Heck I don’t even read her but I know for a fact that Nora Roberts’ heroines aren’t pushovers – and that’s primarily because my daughter is a diehard J.D. Robb fan. Of course, those are futuristics, you say? Okay, Jayne Ann Krentz in all AKAs comes to mind and I just talked about Amanda Quick a couple of posts ago, so there. See, the Quick heroines get a pass at times – I said at times – because they’re quirky. At other times, they loose points for that very same eccentric quirkiness. It’s always seems like a no-win scenario for heroines.
But Cynster heroines? Oh, boy. I’m not sure what it is exactly about them. A heroine doesn’t have to be kickass to be tough but for some reason let one have a true core-of-steel spine in a historical and it sets off all kinds of alarm bells all over the place. Some readers see them as too tough. Some as not tough enough. Some as acting totally wrong for the time period. Some as strong enough, proper enough but still totally wrong for their heroes. Then there are those that end up blaming it all on the overbearing heroes. Did we just go back to square one? I mean, talk about not winning for losing.
The one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that Stephanie Laurens’ books alone have kept me from losing interest in online book discussions for the last twelve years. O.O
Of course, then there’s the sensuality level of the Cynsters books. Because if I’ve heard too many love scenes said once about her single title books, I’ve heard it said a hundred times. I would probably agree except for the niggling suspicion that I might not be able to accurately count the number because I might not be able find where some of them started or stopped… as in, er, what constitutes a love scene?
See, I’ve never quite figured out if that, um, flowing narrative was a good thing or a bad thing. Writing-wise, I mean. Some readers love it. Some hate it. Those are both givens. It’s just all so confusing. 😉