Friday, June 12, 2020

Empowering Women through Fiction

Women in today’s fiction are often brave, confident and self-sufficient. In this respect, they reflect modern society.

In the Kim Reynolds mystery series, for instance, Kim, a quiet, introverted librarian of moral integrity, solves murders. She teams up with tough Bert St. Croix, police detective and woman of color, as well as her fiancé, Lt. Mike Gardner.    

In BLOOD FAMILY, 5th novel in the series, Kim is intent on finding her biological father. Unfortunately after locating him, James Shaw dies unexpectedly. It is up to Kim to connect with the family she has never known. In doing so, she discovers a half-sister who is in need of emotional support. Kim is concerned that Claire Shaw is being exploited and wants to help her. Kim also learns that Claire’s stepmother died under mysterious circumstances and her stepbrother disappeared. When Kim becomes involved, her life is placed in danger, but she refuses to stop her pursuit until the truth is uncovered.

There are many empowered women in mystery fiction, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple for one. The P.I. novel was male-dominated until the late 1970’s and early 80’s when writers such as Sara Paretsky, Marcia Miller and Sue Grafton began creating women investigators who were as tough as men. These novels offered more in-depth characterization and, in the case of Paretsky, a social agenda.  

In romance fiction, no longer is the-too-dumb-to-live female in distress who needs rescuing particularly popular. Women want to read about females with strength of character who are the equal and can go toe to toe with an alpha male. Jayne Ann Krentz’s romantic suspense novels are good examples. Nora Roberts also gives us strong, competent female protagonists.

Today, more women than ever have an “I can do” philosophy. They often run their own businesses, serve their community, while still nurturing their children, and being supportive wives. That sense of female empowerment is increasingly reflected in literature.

Your comments welcome here. What empowered female characters can you think of? As a reader and/or writer what books reflecting female empowerment would you recommend—either your own or those of others?


  1. One of the pleasures of reading crime fiction is enjoying the strong female characters and how they solve problems--they're creative, strong, steady, and lively. Good post, as always, Jacquie.

  2. I love strong women even when they do need rescuing OR they do the rescuing. Great post Jacquie.
    Good luck and God's blessings

  3. Hi Pam,

    I've written it both ways. In Sinful Seduction, the hero and heroine get to rescue each other at different times.

  4. Great topic!
    Sometimes, a female character may "seem" weak but there's often a good reason for that. The important thing is that, as the book and/or the series progresses, she changes and grows.

  5. Hi Pat,

    Your point is well-taken. In a really good book, the main characters change just as real people do. A woman who considers herself can strengthen when dealing with adversity.

  6. Strong female characters have appeared in literature for a long time (e.g., Scarlett O'Hara, Hester Prynne, Tess of the D'Urbervilles), but you are right, so many current books have female protagonists today--they have practically become a genre of their own. One of my favorite main characters is Rachel from The Personal History of Rachel Dupree. When I find myself in a difficult spot, I try to channel Rachel's strength and determination. If I can summon half as much fortitude as she had, I can survive anything.

  7. Saralyn,

    Thank you for an excellent discussion.

  8. An excellent discussion as usual. I've long been an advocate for women cops, detectives, and P.I.'s to counter the bro-culture that male detectives have always projected over the genre.

  9. One that stands out to me is Katniss from The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Even though this series is aimed at a young adult audience, I found Katniss to be a refreshing female character. No one rescues her - she takes care of it herself. She is vulnerable and not perfect, but takes care of herself and her loved ones.

    1. A fine example. A good many adult readers appreciate this series along with teenagers. Many YA novels are first-rate. The YA's I've written have been enjoyed as much by adult readers as teens.

  10. Hi Jacqueline
    Nice to meet you here. You are quite accomplished! I have written nine books beginning in 2011 but just now am marketing. Not that I didn't try (numerous rejections), I feel unsatisfied with my direction. Maybe you have some tips. I write under Caroline Clemens, all are self published, and have written mystery/thriller, contemporary drama, and historical fiction. I even self published a short story collection. I do not have a readership. I've been told many mixed messages via the internet but conclude I enjoy and like my finished product. I have learned an extraordinary amount of knowledge by self production!

    1. Hi Caroline,

      Nice to meet you as well. Building a readership is difficult. Like you, I write mystery, romantic suspense and historical fiction. So it's hard to be branded.

  11. Thank you for highlighting this, all the movies in my region, women are played vulnerable to all problem, and men can become protagonists only when they save women.
    It's time, my favorite characters are Tracey Whitney from Sidney Sheldon's If tomorrow comes, Sophie from Da vinci code. I am looking forward to read your work, I regret missing you all the while.
    All the best !

    1. Sree,

      Thanks for reading this post and commenting.

  12. Summer reading evokes wonderful memories of leisurely and pleasurable visits with favorite books, like Gone With the Wind and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The books in my Detective Parrott Mystery Series: MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT and A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER,qualify as beach reads, also. Happy summer, and happy reading, everyone!

    1. Nothing better than a cozy mystery for summer reading!

  13. Hello Jacqueline,

    I hope you don’t mind my reaching out to you. After reading your blog, I felt that I should post about my upcoming debut thriller.

    TAKE ME HOME is due to be published in October 2020 by Orion Publishing and the lead character Harper who defies convention, paints outside of the lines, yet relentlessly strives for the truth. She is someone who despite her outwardly spiky edges is sensitive and warm hearted. If there’s anyone who is a member of Netgalley you can request it here for review:

    What’s the blurb I hear you ask...


    How much would you risk for a child who isn't yours?

    An ingenious, taut, global thriller for fans of Linwood Barclay and Harlan Coben...

    * * * * * * *

    When struggling journalist Harper returns a dress to the shop she bought it from that morning, she sees the same little girl sitting in the exact same place she saw her hours ago.

    No one in the shop knows who the girl is.

    No desperate parents have contacted mall security to say they've lost their daughter.

    And the local police have no new reports of a missing child.

    The girl says she misses her mother.

    But why is nobody looking for her?

    And what if finding her home is the worst thing you could do?

    * * * * * * *

    From the chilly streets of New York City to the electric blue skies of coastal Florida - this is an emotional, page-turning road trip that follows a trail of theories, all the way to a devastating revelation...

    An ingenious thriller with a big hook and twists galore - for fans of Linwood Barclay's No Time For Goodbye and Harlan Coben's Tell No One.

    I hope this interests some of you. Would love to hear your thoughts on the book!

    Best wishes,

    Alex Hart


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