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The Wenches

  • Mary Jo Putney

  • Patricia Rice

  • Susan Fraser King

  • Anne Gracie

  • Nicola Cornick

  • Andrea Penrose

  • Christina Courtenay

In Memoriam

  • Jo Beverley
    Word Wench 2006-2016

  • Edith Layton
    Word Wench 2006-2009

Word Wenches Staff

Wench Staff Emeritae

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  • Want to read ALL the posts by a specific Wench? Just scroll down to the bottom of her post and click on her name!

June 2023

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Wenches Statistics

  • Years published: 164

    Novels published: 231

    Novellas published: 74

    Range of story dates: nine centuries (1026-present)

    Awards Won:

    • RWA RITA

    • RWA Honor Roll

    • RWA Top 10 Favorite

    • RT Lifetime Achievement

    • RT Living Legend

    • RT Reviewers Choice

    • Publishers Weekly Starred Reviews

    • Golden Leaf

    • Barclay Gold

    • ABA Notable Book

    • Historical Novels Review Editors Choice

    • AAR Best Romance

    • Smart Bitches Top 10

    Kirkus Reviews Top 21

    Library Journal Top 5

    Publishers Weekly Top 5

    Booklist Top 10

    • Booktopia Top 10

    • Golden Apple Award for Lifetime Achievement

    Bestseller Lists:

    NY Times

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    • USA Today

    • Waldenbooks Mass Market

    • Barnes & Noble

    • Amazon.com

    Chicago Tribune

    • Rocky Mountain News

    • Publishers Weekly


« Tales of the Royal Oak | Main | WWR — What We're Reading in May »


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Mary M.

That was a swell rant, Christina!

Wow, a whole series with a spoiled brat. I don't think I could have done it. So many books, so little time, as I once saw on a B&N book bag. As my life gets shorter and my TBR pile gets bigger, I am completely focused on reading only what appeals. It definitely wouldn't have included these books.

Christina Courtenay

Thank you, Mary - hope I didn't go overboard! You're right though, there are too many books and too little time and usually I know when to quit. I just really liked the hero and wanted him to have his HEA.

Mary T

When I was younger I did finish GONE WITH THE WIND even though I couldn't stand Scarlett O'Hara. But as I got older and started reading purely for my own pleasure, I gave that up. I'll give a book 3 or 4 chapters, but if it doesn't grab my interest by then I'll drop it like a hot potato. And one of the necessary things to grab my attention is liking the main characters.

Some authors have been able to turn an unlikable character around. Mary Balogh has done it a few times. And there have been times when I enjoyed a book even though I couldn't fully appreciate all aspects of a heroine's (or hero's) character.

Really interesting post Christina.

Jeannette Ruth Halpin

I have to care about both of them, or at least feel they have redeeming qualities and will grow as the tale progresses. I will give up, or (shame on me) skip to the end and see what happens. If that intrigues me I go back and see how they got there. One thing I absolutely cannot stand is sadistic or "rapey" sex, or any kind of coercion, whether it's the man or the woman as the perpetrator. I immediately get rid of that one.

Not the same thing, but anyway.... one of the plot devices that always annoys me is when the secrets are just too TOO much and nobody will talk to anyone else and explain the situation so they can work together. I realize their society had many more restrictions and rules and the roles of men and women were much more narrowly defined but sometimes I find myself shouting, Just Talk to Him Woman! Get on with it! I continue reading though, at least to get it solved.

Minna Puustinen

Oh yes, I've definitely come across some "heroines" I've wanted to strangle, not to mention "heroes"! And often enough they are both in the same book! =P

Christina Courtenay

Thank you Mary! I wall-banged GONE WITH THE WIND for a different reason - I actually liked Scarlett in the end and was annoyed that she didn't get the chance to redeem herself, but unfortunately she'd been so awful beforehand that she wasn't given her happy ending, which was a shame. It is possible to turn characters around, as you say, and I like it when that happens and the reader finds out a plausible reason for why they've been acting badly. It has to be a very good reason though for it to be believable!

Christina Courtenay

I totally agree Jeannette - that is a definite no. And LOL, I sometimes skip to the ending as well to see if it's worth persevering!
I also agree about the 'just talk to him' - it is frustrating when a misunderstanding could be solved very easily by a simple conversation, isn't it!

Christina Courtenay

LOL Minna - in that case I don't think I would have carried on reading! As I said in my post, I did love the hero so I kept turning the pages for his sake. If I don't like either of them, I would give up for sure. Glad it's not just me - thank you!


I’m with you about bratty, immature and/or TSTL heroines. (TSTL=Too Stupid to Live)

Scarlett O’ Hara (Gone With the Wind) is my absolute least favorite heroine in books and movies. Every time I run across the phrase, “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn,” I want to stand up and cheer!

So nice to know someone else has trouble sticking with books featuring nasty heroines!


I do not finish a lot more books these days than I did when I was young. I'm too old to waste time on bad books. I may miss out on some books that improved greatly, but then I might not have time for all the good ones that I read instead.

I am definitely with you on the irritating heroines. The one that gets me the most is the one who is so self-centered and selfish that she never considers how her behavior is affecting other people and just shrugs off the problems she causes. I steer clear of any book in which the heroine is described as "feisty".

Christina Courtenay

Thank you, Faith, it's great to know I'm not alone!

Christina Courtenay

Yes, I agree Lil, I really don't want to waste time reading books I don't enjoy when there are so many others out there. The sheer variety available now ensures that we can always find something good. And oh yes, selfish heroines are not at all appealing!


I am a 'lady of a certain age'. Because of retirement and this pandemic isolation I read a lot.
Nearly a book a day.
I can't force myself to read about a heroine doing stupid things or behaving poorly. In the past I would throw the book at the wall and tell her to grow up but now with my E-reader I have to restrain my violent tendencies. Deleting her is not nearly as satisfying. I need explosion sound effects with my delete button!
As to your question: yes, if the author asked for an honest review I would give my honest opinion. Because maybe she intended to make her heroine more likable or I missed some redeeming factor.

Donna H.

Oh Christina, I did so enjoy your post. I immediately thought of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, whom I detested intensely but other characters in the book were so well done that I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened. But I still disliked Scarlett at the end!!
I give a book 50 pages and if it has not grabbed me by then, I stop reading. And especially so if one of the characters is not likable.


I no longer go more than a few chapters if the heroine is a brat. I just don't have the patience anymore. I'm seeing GWTW mentioned here by a few as a heroine who was abominable. Yes, she was, but I also read the book when I was younger and maybe more forgiving. Beside that, she did grow in the end and I hoped she got the happy ending she wanted, though I didn't read the sequel. As I've gotten older though, I've looked for more maturity in the heroine and less childishness. Maybe that's why a heroine who has persevered through a horrible background makes a greater impression and more interesting read for me.

Christina Courtenay

LOL Tricia - I know what you mean! It's not at all as satisfying just punching a button, is it! Wouldn't it be great if the e-readers came with sound effects? Definitely something the manufacturers should think about!

Annette N

"So, because I am so smart, I will go into an abandoned warehouse/dark alley/ down by the docks, alone. I will not tell anyone where or when I am going, because I am simply dumber than a box of rocks."

That is what I do not understand in some mysteries I have read. If the woman is smart enough to be the heroine, she should be smart enough to be cautious and let others know where she is going. Going off on her own makes her seem a wee bit stupid. (And I hate using the word stupid about anyone.)

And what about the female who never tells anyone her ideas or solutions or feelings about relationships or whatever? Why can't she simply discuss things with people. That is better than building resentment within and letting it simmer. Or ignoring someone who is important in her life.

I also am not fond of heroines who are simply ugly to other people. I base my reading upon whether or not I want to spend time with the lead characters. I do not want to spend time with someone who is snarky and nasty to people. Not in real life and not in a book.

I reckon now that I am older than dirt, I can start not finishing books. I mean, I only have so much time left.

This is a wonderful post. You have said so many things I have thought. THANK YOU, MA'AM.

Hope everyone is taking care and staying well.

Christina Courtenay

Thank you - so glad you enjoyed it! Poor old Scarlett really got on everyone's nerves, didn't she! But then she was incredibly selfish which is such a horrible trait. Good idea to give a book a chance and if it's not enjoyable, move on.

Sue McCormick

I, too, dislike the "spoiled" character. If I am given insight as to causes, it's ok. And yes a character can develop and turn around and that is also ok.

Like you, I avoide bad-mouthing a book. An author has a difficult job. I have no right to badmouth such work because I have disagreement.

I don't think I have gone through the entire series the way you did.

Christina Courtenay

Yes, I too was very young when I read GWTW and I so wanted Scarlett to have her happy ending, but seeing everyone else's comments, perhaps she just did too little too late after all. Heroines who come from a horrible background can be forgiven a lot - it's when they are just awful for no reason that I get cross. Thank you for your comments!


Oh yes! It's so disappointing when you've been reading a series about a group of friends or brothers, and waiting for the book about one particular man. Then when it comes the heroine is so annoying, and you know he deserves better!

Christina Courtenay

Yes, exactly Annette! Why on earth would a rational, intelligent woman go off on her own to some horrible place without telling anyone? It just doesn't make sense. But I guess if they didn't, there wouldn't be as much drama! Thank you - glad you enjoyed the post!

Christina Courtenay

Thank you, Sue - I agree it's fine for a character to be annoying at first, as long as there is some reason for it that we can empathise with, but they have to grow and learn not to be!

Christina Courtenay

Oh, yes, that is very frustrating! You want your favourite heroes to have the very best heroine possible, don't you!

Sweetapple, Lyn

I couldn't stand both people in Wuthering Heights. But I finished it since it was a classic and I am a hopeless romantic thinking there would be a lovely HEA. As for a woman needing to be rescued. Patricia Wrede is an incredible series for children (but it is good to read if you are an adult) where the princess refuses to be rescued from her dragon because she has a library and lets her make cherries jubilee.

Suzanne Brownrigg

I love Laura Kinsale to pieces and am perpetually bummed that she wrote only a few books. However, there have been a couple of heroines that I wanted to shake: Maddie in "Flowers From the Storm" and Leigh in "The Prince of Midnight". Both stubborn and refusing to give the hero a break despite the devotion they have shown.


Thanks for your thoughtful post, Christina. Pre-child when I had time aplenty, I read books to completion; however, since then I've abandoned books with impunity. Also, as I've gotten older, I've read more excellent books, so I think I've become less forgiving of those that are ho-hum.

Pamela DG

Depending on the book and genre, I have a guideline of if the Hero/Heroine doesn't make a life changing choice by 30-50 pages, sometimes 100 pages, the book goes into the resell bag. (Don't worry Wenches, your all safe.) The immature H/H trope is difficult to work with. The character has to grow, make hard decisions, and honestly become the other's partner in all ways.

As much as I hate the Immature H/H. The trope I loathe is the Hero/Heroine with a secret. Inevitably the secret is held too long, the other is devastated to the point an HEA is hard to achieve and feels contrived...and I wind up screaming at the characters. Talk about a wall-banger!


I LOVED the Enchanted Forest series. The princess did not need a prince to rescue her. She was just fine on her own and she was smart enough to see that dragons were not necessarily bad- the princes never seemed to see that. I shared that series many times with grade schoolers and, on the whole, the boys enjoyed it just as much as the girls. Strong, smart protagonists.yay.

Christina Courtenay

That sounds like a great series, Lyn - thanks for recommending! And as for Wuthering Heights, yes I too am a hopeless romantic and I guess I thought it was going to be like Jane Eyre but sadly not.

Christina Courtenay

Thanks, Suzanne - I haven't read those but that sounds very frustrating! If a hero is really devoted, he deserves a heroine who appreciates him and doesn't do everything she can to make his life difficult!

Christina Courtenay

So glad you enjoyed it, Kareni, thank you! Maybe it's also the fact that there are a lot more books available now, almost too many! And there just isn't time to wast on stories we don't like. I'm definitely getting more impatient with age!

Christina Courtenay

Thank you, Pamela - hadn't thought of that, but yes, that is very annoying! It all has to work plot-wise and if the secret is kept for too long, it can be difficult to recover from that as you say.

Nancy Mamyer

I get angry in the "Flowers from the Storm" because Maddie is so stubborn and because she is being fed lies.She really doesn't have the choice people say she has.

Pat Dupuy

Why do they still write books around heroines too stupid to live? I was gifted an ebook, a contemporary mystery, which was the latest in the series. Despite recognizing all the warnings and dangers, darned if the heroine didn't proceed down the TSTL path. I didn't review the book as it was a gift from the author and I didn't want to be negative about her story. I don't know if H's actions were an anomaly but I didn't want to read any more to find out.

Nancy Mamyer

Like others, I dislike the Too Stupid To Live TSTL heroine who thinks being assertive and stubborn puts her on equal status with the domineering male. It was a reaction to the earlier books in which the male was always domneering. It wasn't even uncommon to have the man force sex on the female and then she is so in love she is pliable in his hands. One author has rewritten several of her earlier books to eliminate that relationship. I dislike heroines who are stubbornly insistent on her equality, her abilities, and her independence.She needn't be a submissive nonenity but realistic about her strengths and weaknesses. Of course, the man who is perfect in every field is unrealistic and a bit of a pain as well. There is natural conflict between a female who values independence and a man who is accustomed to dominance and who feels protective of the female. Protectiveness can seem like domineerence. The relationships I like best are when both the man and the female adjust and change to become a unit with as much equality as possible in the time and situation.

Vicki L

Tricia....you sound like my sister (a librarian no less) who has been known to throw books across the room or directly in the trash if she really hates them.

Maybe you need to have a battered book next to you so you can throw it against the wall instead of your E-reader. Grin.

Vicki L

Hear! Hear!! YES! DNF's, throw against the wall, TSTL people. Ugly acting people. So on and so forth. All those will cause me to say, nope and toss it in the book sale bag. Over the last 5 to 10 years I've gotten really good at saying, nope, done. My sister's hate when I put books in the family Book swap unread...they like me "censoring" the books for readability and good H/h's.

Every now and then I've started a book, then set it aside and it ended back on my shelf waiting to be read. I'll start it again and what do you know...at the exact same point I say why am I wasting my time.

Second the comments of Annette N, Kareni, & Karin as well as Christina. I'm like Donna H...no more than 50 pages. Generally it is around page 40 that I go, nope, done. Occasionally I've read to page 100 or 125 when I finally give up in exasperation. I will at that point go to the end to read the last 30 or 40 pages to see how it turned out. Usually the ending was just as lame as the beginning of the book.

Lest we forget them, whiny whiny woe is me heroines are the pits as well. Also hero's. I can't stand when the entire book is the H/h mentally going I don't deserve because.... it gets old fast. Or constantly whining mentally about what a sorry childhood they had. Okay once or twice to set the mood, background but the 6th, 7th etc times. Get over it! Lucas in Once Dishonored had some woe is me but he got over it and got down to the business of living and growing.

The Wenches have set a high bar for good writing! All of their books get read, finished and passed on to my sister's to read.

Christina Courtenay

What a brilliant idea Vicki - I love it! Grin

Christina Courtenay

It's such a shame when that happens, isn't it! Thank you for your comment, Pat!

Christina Courtenay

Very true - moderation in all things is definitely best! I remember those early stories and don't think I would like them much now. I haven't reread any of them but that's really interesting that an author would go back and change them!

Christina Courtenay

Thank you, Vicki, I'm so glad you like the Wench books! You are right though - I forgot about the whiny heroines. As you say, a little bit of scene-setting so we feel sorry for them is fine, but not endless whingeing. I love that your sisters trust you to vet books for them, how wonderful!


I rather like books where the hero has to redeem/convert an annoying heroine or vice versa, at least for a romance with an HEA. Lisa Kleypas is quite good at this eg the Craven's gambling books. I often wonder how much of an author's personality is implanted into the characters, or whether real people known to the author form the basis of character portraits.

Jane Lovering

I hate the books where the heroine starts out smart, sharp and with agency but then gets (or acts) dumbed down to make the hero look manly and in charge. So she has to simper and do stupid things so that he can rescue her and lecture her on how stupid she's been, when the woman she was at the beginning of the book would have told him to get on his bike!

Christina Courtenay

Yes, that sounds reasonable as long as the heroine actually listens and matures during the course of the story. And it's an interesting question, isn't it, how much of the author's personality shines through!

Christina Courtenay

Absolutely - that is not very satisfying at all!


I don't want heroines who are Mary Sue perfect. I find heroines who have flaws much more interesting. I don't demand that they cure all their imperfections and become perfect glowing saints by the end of the book, any more than I demand that of heroes. I want the characters to be human, and humans have flaws; we all do.

I have tossed aside many regencies (and a few authors) because their characters were Disneyized.

Teresa Broderick

I applaud you Christine for finishing the series. If I come across one of these stupid, idiotic, stubborn for no reason heroines, that's it, I'm done. Once upon a time I would never not finish a book. Now a days, time is too short and my TBR is probably the size of the Eiffel Tower so I don't waste time on a book that's not holding my attention or a heroine I just want to slap!
I can't pick out one book, at present, that has been like that for me. There have been quite a few and lately too many.
Reading the blog post and the comments from others here, I'm glad I'm not alone in this.

Christina Courtenay

That's a fair point, Janice - I think it's good if the characters are flawed, just not to the point where they simply don't listen to reason from anyone. Whatever their flaws, we still have to like them otherwise we won't care what happens to them.

Christina Courtenay

You're definitely not alone, Teresa! And I wouldn't usually finish a book like that either, except I was so enamored of the hero - he was wonderful! I'm with you on the towering TBR pile - life is too short to waste on books we don't like!


I must be different then. There are central characters I have disliked a lot but I still wanted to know what happened to them. I don't for instance sympathize with Scarlett O'Hara much but I still wanted to know how she ended up. Same for Serena Carlow :)

I don't need to regard the heroine as a placeholder for me. Sometimes when I identify with the heroine, it can add to the enjoyment, but I don't require it to be interested enough to finish the book, if I think it's well written.

Patricia Franzino

In Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series there is a character who is so annoying, Faile.

No one can talk sense into her. She creates more problems with every decision.


Late to the topic - I am not fond of heroines who are mean, stubborn, or do things which put people in harms way. I blame a lot of that on authors who are just getting their feet wet. I do find it very upsetting when authors who have been around for a while create characters I find myself rolling my eyes over. I do post reviews, but I try not to blame the author. Because characters come alive on the page (even the irritating ones) I direct my negative comments to the character, never the author.

Christina Courtenay

That sounds very fair, Kay! Thank you for your comment and I totally agree about heroines who do things that might hurt others.

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