Creating the Difficult Heroine
By Victoria Hamilton
"I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." - Jane Austen, on writing ‘Emma’.
Lady Anne Addison… wealthy, opinionated, passionate and particular. I had in mind Jane Austen’s infamous words concerning Emma Woodhouse when I created Lady Anne; I was pretty sure some readers would not like how outspoken and challenging she could be. My thoughts were prophetic. I have indeed seen some criticism of Lady Anne, in particular concerning her treatment of her love interest, the intensely magnetic Anthony, Marquess of Darkefell. One reviewer was particularly put off and said no man would fall in love with a woman like Lady Anne, who talked back, was stubborn, and refused to do as she was told.
But… I beg to differ. Some men… maybe. But there are and always will be men who are unafraid of being challenged by strong women. The marquess is one such man.
In creating Lady Anne Addison, a Georgian era daughter of an earl, I had in mind several Georgian and Regency ladies who truly existed. The foremost pattern for Lady Anne Addison and another heroine I created (Miss Emmeline St. Germaine, heroine of my book A Gentlewoman’s Guide to Murder) is the forthright, intelligent and self-reliant Mary Wollstonecraft (mother of Mary Shelley), writer, philosopher and women’s rights advocate.
At one point in the first book of the Lady Anne Addison mystery series, Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark, she expresses her frustration that she lacks the formal education that would have put her on an equal grounding with the men about her. Mary Wollstonecraft addressed just that issue in her treatise, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) in which she argues that women are not mentally inferior to men, they just appear to be so because of tragically inferior education. She was a true revolutionary, and I think she would have been in complete sympathy with Lady Anne, who worries that marriage will unutterably change her life for the worse, since after marriage her identity will merge with her husband’s. In essence, she will become her husband’s chattel, something, as Anne states in my current release, between a beloved pet and a favourite carriage.
I think that the reviewer who criticized Lady Anne’s stubborn refusal to back down to the marquess’s commanding manners did not consider how she would deal with such a society. Every single right we have today, as women, was unheard of then; free movement to go where we want when we want; our own money; our own bodies, and decisions when and if we wish to have children. Imagine a world without those rights (some women in today’s world don’t need to imagine it, it’s how they live) and think how you’d do.
So Lady Anne’s behaviour, though it may seem outrageous to some, is the result of strong feelings and a determination to be herself. And there will always be men who appreciate that.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s life was, in so many ways, tragic, but it was not without love, and her widower was left heartbroken by her death after childbirth. So though some may dislike Lady Anne Addison’s stubbornness and independence, I think more will like her joie de vivre, her resolute passion for life.
It’s why I don’t regret creating, in Lady Anne, a woman for all time, a woman of spirit and independence… a woman not every reader will appreciate. For the Georgian era she may have been somewhat of an anomaly, but she is not alone in her time in her determination to live life on her own terms.
I hope readers enjoy that about her! Happy reading, my friends.