I am not saying I’ve only come across a few good heroines. To the contrary, I’ve enjoyed many great heroines.
All heroines are reincarnations of a few archetype women, most of whom fall into one of three categories. First is the totally helpless but lovable Snow White often encountered in early romances, where the story depends on the hero saving the heroine. If you’re old enough, you might remember the beautiful but stuttering virgins of Barbara Cartland’s romances. Next is the girl-next-door heroine exemplified in Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels, or Beauty in Beauty and the Beast. In fantasy, it might be the healer Snake in Vonda McIntyre’s Dream Snake. These heroines are smart woman making their own choices but often bound by the limits society set on them. The third commonly encountered heroine is the in-your-face, self-willed and determined woman who emerged to prominence in fiction after the 1960’s. These women take nothing sitting down, whether they sling verbal arrows or throws real daggers such as Arafel the Sidhe, in C.J. Cherryh’s The Dreamstone.
However, Besides Snake and Arafel, only a very few have imprinted themselves on my mind. Phillipa in Dorothy Dunnett’s the Lymond Chronicles is one. The reader meets her as a precocious but stubborn twelve year old bearing a grudge in The Game of Kings and watches her develop into a wonderful character, an educated, politically savvy woman worthy of the hero by the end of Checkmate. Others are Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, and Morgaine in C.J. Cherryh’s Exiles Gate.