Alongside such a strong hero, it’s very possible for the woman of a Regency Romance to be overwhelmed. Still, it takes a lot to wrangle these guys into a marriage and so most of these girls need a spine. It’s when they’re really insipid that one needs an even larger leap of romantic faith. Really? A dynamic worldly 35 year old and an waifish 18 year old virgin…uh huh. But let’s lay the ground rules of our leading ladies:
Your heroine is beautiful but not always the most beautiful woman in the room (except, of course, eventually to the hero). She’s unusual, different, unique. The reigning beauties may look pale, washed out, dull in comparison, etc next to her. That’s one take, another is that she’s very attractive but in the shadows, waiting for some man to discover her and shine the limelight upon her. Blond is the most preferred hair color, though any myriad version of that shade will do (Golden, honey, white blond, etc). But even with this pale hair color, make sure her eyebrows and lashes are naturally much darker. Red hair also shows up with alarming regularity. Strawberry blond is the best of both worlds. If her hair has to be brown it must be chestnut and only on rare occasions where someone had a gypsy ancestor does black hair show up. Her face, if you’re following the Barbara Cartland tradition, is heart-shaped. Eyes are large and luminous (belladonna applications anyone?), pools of color to be fallen into. Again, brown eyes not so much, we really prefer a crisp green or blue or, randomly, violet. I’ve never met anyone with purple eyes, but apparently they were all over the place in the Regency.
Height is either unusually tiny, where she doesn’t come up to his shoulder, or she’s unusually tall and is the same height or taller than most of the men. ***If I seem to use “unusual” overmuch, it’s because some authors do.*** But then, with all those taller-than-everyone-else-men, it helps to have a girl who measures vertically up to them. Figures are at most full. She might have an impressive bosom but earthy figures are left to older women or those of a less moral nature. Often she’s not incredibly endowed but has a wonderful figure, slim and healthy, that doesn’t really ever need a corset. So ideally we’re going for curvy but slim. Got that?
Your heroine generally gets one of two personalities: the self-sufficient feisty girl or the delicate flower who needs someone to build her a backbone. The first is getting to be far more popular, probably because too many readers were getting sick of these wistful waifs who couldn’t say boo to their husbands. Backbone, willingness to work hard and possibly break a few rules, and generally having spunk is a good thing. Still, she should at all times also be incredibly well mannered, kind to small children, animals, and old servants, and beloved by all but the inconvenient family members who mistreat her. (More on those relatives in later posts.)
Whatever it is she’s done or doing, she’s doing or has done it well. Whether that be singing (golden songbird), dancing (no stomping on toes here), drawing or painting, raising her eight siblings after both parents died, speaking Latin, preserving her virtue, or dealing with some sort of weaponry, she’s awfully good at it. Occasionally, you find the rare girl who admits an inability to sing/play well, when others around her are virtuosos, but more likely while she might not play perfectly, she plays with so much more emotion that everyone has to stop and take notice.
Your heroine really should be from a good family. It is slightly less imperative that she be born aristocracy than it is with the guys, but not by much. She still needs to come from a good family: gentry and aristocracy preferable, if her family is merchant, then she should have been raised and educated as a lady so she’ll at least fit in neatly. Even if she has been demoted Cinderella style to servitude, she was brought up well and that always shines through when it needs to.
Yes, many of them have a Cinderella complex. Either personality, or evil family, or whatever….she’s waiting for Prince Charming to take her away from her life of servitude and shower her with wealth, security, children, and the greatest opportunity of her life: being his wife. She’s amazingly self-effacing in all this too. Yes, I know, options for women were rather more limited than they are now, but seriously.
What’s her view on marriage? She wants to be married a fair portion of the time, though not always to the hero. She has idealized the boy next door (who, if he’s not the hero, is totally unacceptable). You could go with the idea that she doesn’t want to marry so she can take care of siblings, relatives, etc etc. There’s the rare gem of a heroine who doesn’t want to lose herself in marriage, worried she’ll lose herself, but the hero always sweeps past this. Oh, and yes, occasionally she’s a widow. But with the exception of one of the Bridgerton books by Julia Quinn (and it’s a lovely book), I can’t come up with very many where it was a happy marriage. Usually the first husband was a profligate and subjugated her personality, was manic-depressive, left debts, and may have abused her. And if that doesn’t make one just want to RUSH right into a second marriage :-p
So there’s your lady. Go forth and make a lady, countess, or other title of her.
Next up? Meet the in-laws.