Older Heroines, Younger Heroines – Which Are Best?

I grew up reading romance novels with 20 year old heroines, virgins, whose mother and father were conveniently vacationing in Europe or dead. While I loved embarking on an adventure of first love (and first-time sex) with these all-alone-in-the-world, pure-as-the-driven-snow waifs, my tastes have changed as I’ve grown older.

I find a complex, mature heroine with a caring (okay – meddlesome) family, who has experienced love and been disappointed (okay – burned), who finds it in herself to take a chance on love again, to be more appealing. To me, when a person with baggage and a less than ideal background finds true love — finally — it makes for a truly rewarding reading experience.

How do you feel? If you are older than 40, do you like the reality turned fantasy of reading about what other women (and men) your age are going through, or do you prefer to relive simpler, less complicated times in your life, to dream about what it would be like to be young again, to start all over?

If you’re young, would you even pick up a book with an older heroine? Or is reading about close-to-forty year-olds involved in a steamy relationship akin to thinking about your parents having sex? Does a good love story, and wonderful characters, render age irrelevant?

In Night and Day, my heroine, Jensen, is 38 years old. She is not a virgin – in fact, she’s involved in one relationship when the book begins, and becomes involved in another (via the Internet) soon after. Her family is alive and well and very opinionated.  I’ve heard from a lot of readers that they like the complexity of my characters. Some hope she’ll end up with Ed – some with Anders. I think that means I’ve done my job well. Nothing in life is simple and clear-cut.

I’ve heard from some younger readers and they say they like the book. Maybe age doesn’t matter.

If you’re a writer, and knew that books with a heroine of any age would sell as well as the next, would you rather write about someone your own age, or do you prefer to write young, first love, first career stories?

I’m curious to hear which you think is more appealing in a story line – age and experience, or youthful exuberance?

3 Comments

Filed under fiction, life, musings, Sherrie Hansen, writing

3 responses to “Older Heroines, Younger Heroines – Which Are Best?

  1. Sherrie Hansen

    The following is a short excerpt from my new release, Night and Day, featuring heroine Jensen Marie Christiansen, age 39, and her somewhat meddlesome mother.

    Her first thought when the phone rang was that Ed had woken up, her second, that it would never happen. Ed had had his fill of venison and sex. Without her there to bother him, he wouldn’t stir until his alarm went off.

    It was her mother, and she sounded ridiculously cheery, even for her. Jensen groaned. She needed to talk to someone, but the subject of Ed was a little too close at the moment. And she definitely knew better than to tell her mother about her encounter with a bobcat.

    “Good grief, Mom. Do you know what time it is?”

    “I knew you’d be awake. Your father is asleep and I felt like talking.” Her mother paused dramatically. “Are you alone?”

    “Yes,” Jensen said, feeling as if she was in the eighth grade again. “Does that make you happy?”

    “Yes. No. I’ve been thinking about what we talked about earlier. I know how much you’ve always wanted children. And you know we love Ed. We’ve always assumed, wished, I mean, we always thought that eventually you and Ed would get married and start a family… I mean, your father and I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. We know times have changed, but, still…”

    “Mother, you do remember that I’m thirty-nine, don’t you?”

    “I do,” her mother said emphatically. “I wouldn’t give your love life a thought if you were still in your twenties and had time to spare. But as Grandpa Jensen used to say, time’s a wastin’. If there’s any hope of you marrying while you can still have a baby, you need to get a move on. Give old Ed a wristwatch and tell him to take the hint.”

    Tears leaped to her eyes and started to stream down her cheeks so quickly that she barely had time to reach for a tissue. “There aren’t going to be any grandkids, Mom. At least not from me. Ed had a vasectomy last month.”

    “Oh, sweetheart.” Her mother sounded as shocked as Jensen had been when she’d heard the news. “You never said a thing. Did the two of you decide this together?”

    Her throat was so tight she could barely force out a sound. “Ed made the appointment and went in one day when I thought he was at work. I didn’t know about it until it was done.”

    “You’re such a cute couple. You would have had darling babies,” her mom said quietly.

    Jensen dabbed at her face. “I know.”

    “You should go to a sperm bank then,” her mother said. “If you really want a child, you should just do it.”

    “I do want a child. I never thought it would come to this. I mean, I want someone to love me, too, you know?”

    “A child would love you, sweetheart,” her mom said.

    “I wouldn’t know how or where to start,” Jensen said, choking back tears.

    “Use your computer,” her mother said in a reverent voice, like Jensen’s PC could mysteriously and magically solve any problem, anywhere, any time, with the simple act of flipping a switch.

    “You hate computers,” Jensen reminded her.

    “They use computers for everything else,” her mother said, undaunted. “You tell them you want some nice Scandinavian sperm from someone who’s smart and funny and musical and hard-working. I’ll bet they can match you up in no time.”

  2. Oh wow. I’ve just finished A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and loved the protagonist there. Reading this, I know I’d love Night and Day too. Thanks for introducing me to her.

  3. Mairead

    Sherrie – nice post. I look forward to seeing some more comments on this.

    When I write, the storyline is the main influence on the age of my characters. I found it more difficult when I was younger to write from an older person’s perspective, but now that I am older, I seem to be able to switch pretty easily from one to the other.

    From a reader’s perspective, one of the things that drives me crazy is when writers randomly assign ages to their characters based on some perception that the hero or heroine must be between the ages of 18-25, yet the storyline doesn’t support it.

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