The "Difficult" Heroine

Write Chic just posted an excellent article discussing the career of the anti-heroine in fiction. She uses Mary, from The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, and our very own Penelope of Blood Lily as two of her prime examples. The first ones who come to mind for me are Scarlett, from Gone With the Wind, and Amber, from Forever Amber.

Who are your favorite anti-heroines?


  1. Jessica S on January 28, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Mary and Penelope, of course!

    Scarlett is an interesting one, because I never really got to like her. It’s hard, because she wants Ashley so badly through all the book, and the reader knows she belongs with Rhett. But this clearly makes her an anti-heroine…just not one I wanted to root for!

    As for Mary and Pen, I feel that Mary is the most “anti”-heroine. Pen definitely fits with the (SPOILER) adultery, but I always got the sense that there was more going on. She’s more a non-conformist to me than a “bad girl” — I like to root for the non-conformists! With Mary, her book was a true revelation, because she was set up as an anti-heroine, through and through. Pen was aligned with two true heroines from Black Tulip on. But Mary was presented as Evil Girl who is too Pretty for Her Own Good from Day 1. Seeing things from her perspective was an eye-opener and made you root for her despite yourself. Vaughn, too. What a perfect pair!

  2. Hillary on January 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    My favorite anti-heroin is Maggie from Nora Roberts’ ‘Born In Fire’. She wants nothing to do with the hero and she feels that selling her hand-blown glass sculptures to him is degrading. Maggie is a ball of fire all in her own; doing what she can to provide for herself and her younger sister even though a lot of this anger stems from her mother resenting her. She’s a fantastic anti-heroine, and when she does come around to the hero, she’s still as feisty as ever!

  3. Nicole on January 28, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    When I first read the Seduction of the Crimson Rose, I thought that Mary and Vaughn reminded me of Scarlett and Rhett, but after reading Blood Lily I think that Penelope and Alex are more like Scarlett and Rhett. Scarlett does what she needs to survive as Penelope does to get along in India. Alex doesn’t take any of Penelopes nonsense and always knows what she is really thinking. Just like Rhett.

    Gone with the Wind has always been my favorite movie. Even though I could never do half the things Scarlett does, stealing her sister’s beau, fawning over Ashley to spite Rhett, she’s been my favorite anti-heroine because she can take care of herself. As Rhett says, “What a woman!”

    Oh and I was Scarlett for halloween when I was about 8 maybe! hehe

  4. Tracy Grant on January 28, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Thanks for the link, Lauren! I’ve always tended to find villainesses some of the most interesting characters in fiction (I thought Milady de Winter was much more interesting than Constance and Mary Crawford much more interesting than Fanny Price), so I love stories for anti-heroines. I often get hung up on the definition though (going to Jessica’s comment above about Mary and Penelope). Is an anti-heroine driven by selfish impulses? A nonconformist? Someone who does morally questionable things for a good reason (as many heroes do)? I’m never sure if Mélanie is an anti-heroine. She isn’t selfish but she definitely makes choices that are open to question.

    As for favorite anti-heroines, I love Barbara Childe in Heyer’s “An Infamous Army.”

  5. Gillian on January 28, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Interesting thoughts about the “anti-heroine”. I’m not sure about Scarlette O’Hara, I guess she fits the description, but I never really cared for Gone witht the Wind.
    If the definition of an anti-heroine is someone driven by selfish impulses, non-conformist, doing questionable things with an overall good intent, what about Jane Austen’s character Emma?? I definetly think that she would fit the profile of one of the most famous literary “anti-heroines”. I suppose watching the latest version of Emma on TV over the weekend made me think of this.
    Of course, I love the character of Mary from “Crimson Rose”. But also, what about Melanie from “Secrets of a Lady”???
    Have not yet had the chance to read Bloody Lily, cannot wait!

  6. AngelB on January 28, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Yeah. Never got into Scarlett. She did more harm then good and never really saw any good in her. Never really bought into her “love” for Rhett or Ashley.

    My favorite, by far, is Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair. While she always out for #1 and eventually caused all of her own drama, you feel for her because of her beginning and she really never was maliciously rude. Her greatest downfall was her total disinterest in her child.

  7. Elaine C. on January 30, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    I have three besides Penelope and Mary: Amber in Forever Amber (my first romance as a teen), Becky in Vanity Fair, and Madame Bovary in the novel of the same name. Such unrelenting sadness in these last. You have your heroines get some degree of happiness in their lives at the end. That is the essence of a romance – a relationship that eventually leads to a happy ending, right?

  8. The Difficult Heroine | The Bubble Bath Reader on December 10, 2014 at 9:06 am

    […] The time is upon us for a random Pink musing. I admit I had some trouble coming up with what to write about. I considered doing some research on Common Sense societies, or maybe digging into Vauxhall a little and the intriguing time in-between the social seasons that Crimson Rose is set in. Nothing really captured me and inspired me to write. Then, ta-da, riding to the rescue is our dear Bubble Bath Reader herself. She suggested a post Lauren has on her website discussing the Difficult Heroine (you can read her original post here). […]

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