I recently read a book by one of my favorite authors that featured a heroine in her 40s. Not too long after that I was in contact with someone else who had read the same book. In this conversation the other party mentioned she felt the book’s heroine acted “immature” and “juvenile” at times. This surprised me, because I didn’t feel that way at all. Naturally, I asked her why she thought this way. Her reply? “Well, the heroine was over 40.”
I think my head exploded a little bit. Seriously.
Further conversation elicited that the other reader felt a woman of that age would be more sedate, more in control of her emotions, more of a homebody. (Note that she didn’t think the same things about the book’s two heroes, both of whom were also over 40.) My head exploded a little more, and I interjected “More boring?” She backpedaled with “I didn’t say boring!”
Oh, yes, you did, honey chile.
I don’t know the age of the other reader, but I’m going to assume she’s in her twenties or early thirties. Young enough, certainly, to believe women over 40 have lost the ability to go a little wild, to get their sexy on, to have more than one admirer. This reader didn’t seem to grasp the fact that an over-40 heroine would get frustrated with a man and soothe herself with a half-gallon of Ben & Jerry’s, or dissolve into tears in the corner when life overwhelmed her. In short, to be just like a woman.
My first three books featured heroines in their twenties. When I began writing Sister Golden Hair and realized Rhett was 43 it didn’t faze me for a second. You see, Rhett wasn’t much different from 20-year-old Katie Scott in Crimson and Clover, 25-year-old Athena Chandler in Athena’s Daughter, or 21-year-old Spencer Moretti in Song Without Words.
Why should she be?
Both Rhett and Katie feel the same combination of excitement and apprehension about starting her life over, moving to a new city and leaving behind a life that hadn’t turned out the way she’d hoped.
Both Rhett and Athena know what it’s like to devote herself to her child. Both of them know what it’s like to want to be someone more than just “the mom.”
Both Rhett and Spencer experience the same frustration in loving a man who sometimes seems to have his head lodged up his own ass. And both women fight to make him drag said head out and see the light.
Just because Rhett has 20 years on these other heroines doesn’t make her different. Just like Katie, Athena and Spencer, Rhett is a woman. Just because she’s 43 doesn’t mean that she’s not impulsive or insecure. Just because she’s over 40 doesn’t mean that she doesn’t get giddy when the man she loves looks at her a certain way. Just because Rhett is 43 doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when her emotions make her do things she’ll later regret. That’s not “immature” or “juvenile” like that other reader thought. That’s just life.
“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” ― Madeleine L’Engle
Since I write romances, we need to have a quick word about sex, too. It’s better over 40. For the most part women over 40 have become comfortable with their bodies, so they don’t obsess too much over what some guy is going to think if he runs across stretch marks. They’re there. So what? They’re also smart enough to realize that guys don’t notice or care if they have a thigh gap. They know that men just think, “Hey! There’s a woman. I like those!” In Sister Golden Hair, Rhett got it on with Rhys in the back seat of a BMW X-5 in a parking garage, then sat up and began looking for her clothes while laughing with Rhys about making him late for his flight to Canada. Just because she’s over 40 didn’t mean she insisted on a quick shag under the covers with all the lights out. Seriously, the whole “close your eyes and think of England” went out with rotary-dial telephones. Women over 40 are hot, sexy, and ready for action.
So the next time you come across a book with a heroine over 40, don’t pass it by. That over-40 heroine isn’t much different from the young things in the New Adult genre. (Click here if you’d like to tweet that!)Shoot, your over-40 heroine might just be in the same college classes as that twenty-something girl, and they may even run into each other on the dance floor of the town’s hottest club some night. She sure as hell won’t be sitting around the house in a chenille robe and watching Gilmore Girls re-runs every single night. (Though she does do that, too!)
Put away those notions of gray-haired grannies hosting genteel tea parties. Those over-40 heroines aren’t dead, yet. They’re not even close.