Where Are the Older Heroines?

Where are the older heroines in romance novels?

Not there. Not often. Not that I’ve seen.

And by older I only mean, like, getting close to forty. It seems to be okay for romance heroes to be forty or above – though I’ve noticed the author may let you know only once or twice and then not mention it again – but heroines? Not so much. Fifty and above? Even close to fifty? Where are they? Are they there, only hidden away in specialty imprints?

I wonder if this will change, now that the world’s population is aging? Or if there’s some ingrained marketing belief that post-fifty people are assumed to want to read about people younger than themselves, much as kids are assumed to want to read about kids who are a little older than themselves?

My favorite romance with a post-fifty heroine is Stitch in Snow by Anne McCaffrey.

And as a side note, I’d love to read a romance novel with a heroine for whom age is a feature, not a bug. Who’s perhaps happy she’s grown in wisdom and self-knowledge, because it gives her more resources to fight the vampires.

What do you think?

If you have examples of romance novels with heroines past forty, please share them! I think at this point I’d even take past thirty-five.

Published by Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s writing showcases her voracious lifelong love of books. She reads over 120 new books each year, especially historical romance, fantasy, and space opera, and incorporates these genres into her erotic fiction. Her first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. When not writing, Victoria conducts research in libraries and graveyards, lectures about writing and selling erotica, and speaks at literary conventions on topics such as paranormal romance, urban fantasy, erotic science fiction/fantasy, and the empowerment of women through unconventional means. Her daily writing blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and author interviews. She also guest blogs for Heroes & Heartbreakers and The Criminal Element. She lives in Philadelphia.

21 replies on “Where Are the Older Heroines?”

  1. I have two heroines in a short story I am writing. One is nearing mid 40's and other is nearing mid 50's. I didn't even think to do it any other way. (Yes, it's a F/f story)

  2. Well, I have several who are 35. But I can't claim any past that. But you make a good point. I have seen, and written, heroes in their forties, but no heroines. I guess that shows we still have at least a mild double standard about the "stigma" of aging in the entertainment world.

  3. The whole age thing is fascinating, ESPECIALLY because of the paranormal craze in which the heros are all above 300 years old or into the thousands and somehow, someway, they meet some 20-something who just "gets" them. Really? In a millennia of searching you never connected with a woman until the hot barely legal gal blinked her long lashes at you? Granted, I still ADORE these novels, but there are some eye rolling moments. I believe Robin Schone writes erotic romance with older heroines.

  4. Lynne, I have occasionally seen the immortal heroine – Kresley Cole has written some – but, yeah. I think the male immortal/young innocent thing might be related to the Wise Older Millionare/Sweet Young Thing trope, just exaggerated.

  5. Kinda like the Twilight thing IMO. It's just like, ummm you're how old? And miss thing is not even legal. Sorry, I find it messed up. The heroines in my stories tend to be in their 30's and 40's. They aren't published yet but they are written that age. I imagine that as I age so will my characters. Can't say that I've seen any heroines in their 50's but I have read some mysteries with a lady in her 60's or 70's as the main character.

  6. The heroine in Jennifer Crusie's Anyone But You is 40. The hero is 30.

    That's a particularly excellent book, too!

  7. This is something very close to my heart, it seems – and my heroines are both in their thirties.

    In "Ask Me if I'm Happy", Emily is 35, almost 36 years old. Davide is about 37 or 38. It's a squeaker for the criteria you cited, but hey – at least she's not in her twenties, right?

    (I'm happy to say that novel is coming out this Summer. And *no-one* had a problem with her age.)

    In my WIP, "27 Stages", Abigail is almost 39. Federico is 28. Again, no-one is taking issue with her age, or his being younger than her. If anything, it's a vital part of the story, and my editor is totally cool with it. :)

    I think there's hope, yet, then. :)

  8. I have a vampire short romance with an over forty heroine, SHADOW RESCUE at Red Rose Publishing in their Autumn Rose line, and am currently working on a scifi romance with an over forty heroine and hero. Neither of mine are cougar stories which seems to be the most popular over forty heroine pairings.

  9. Don't get me started on the whole age-prejudice thing that still continues in romance novels… I mean, that's one reason I started writing my own… the sweet young thing, I just couldn't stomach it anymore… to be brutally honest.
    That's why I'm a BIG BELIEVER in niche subgenres for us romance readers… something for everyone, age-wise and other-wise.

    Okay, most of my heroines are older. However, since aging isn't the same in future/fantasy and paranormal otherworld stories, the heroine's age may not play out the same way as on good ole contemporary Earth.

    Sun Rocket, my red lioness heroine, who lives in the year, 3051, would be considered around 50… in actual years she's much older.

    Lady Sheridan in my aristocratic fantasy other-realm story would be around 40 in comparison.

    Corporal Kattalonia in my sci-fi galaxy world is definitely hitting what would be middle age here, but it's of no real consequence in her world.

    Sedona, my heroine, living during the 2012 endtimes, is 61. Yeah, I don't think the young readers like her. For one thing, they don't seem to get the generational difference in sexual expression. No, guess what, Sedona's generation did not approach sex the same way.

    Sable Kiki, my black cat girl, is young at cat heart, but is much older in her wisdom… more in the late thirties range of age.

    Wendy, my superheroine, is in her mid thirties, approximately.

    Seneca, my heroine in a contemporary shapeshifter, is in her mid thirties.

    However, Kylie, my latest heroine, the story due out in August 2010, is 27 because her age fits the 2009 contemporary parallel Earth story… Sliders meets Bonanza meets the Three Star Republic of Texas.

  10. All the heroines of the Last Rose of Summer line at the Wild Rose Press are older. In fact their guidelines state the heroine must be over 40.

    Anna T.S./Michal Scott

  11. First, thank you Anna for the information about the Wild Rose Press line!

    In the romances I have written so far, all my heroines are late-thirties or older. I, myself, am nearly 44 and I LOVE reading romances with women closer to MY age. It's a personal preference but I find it hard to connect with a twenty-something heroine.

  12. Go, Sherry!

    It's nice to see there are some folks out there writing older heroines.

  13. Little promo here, but the heroine of my first EC release, LIBERATING LACEY, is 36, and her hero, Hunter, is a very intense cop named Hunter…

  14. I'm so glad I popped back into this discussion, because holy cats, I did NOT proofread my last comment. Bad writer (or bad mommy for trying to "work" after school's out for the day).

    Hunter's 28, so there's an eight-year difference between him and Lacey. I wanted the age difference to be significant but not overwhelming. Their conflict relates more to socioeconomic issues than age, however, but it is part of the picture. The ebook won the EPIC for best contemp erotic romance this year, so I did something fairly well!

  15. I like older woman/younger man romances as well, because it goes against the norm in romance novels.

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