Women's Business

Holding out for a hero? Or a heroine?

The Abbey at Royaumont

The above photo is Royaumont Abbey- temporary home to the Scottish Women’s Hospitals during the first world war.

I’m hoping that Amy Andrews will forgive me for using part of the fab title of one of her wonderful books for the title of my blog.

I know we all love a hero- but what about our fictional heroines? Do we want them to be like us? Or do we want to recognise that our heroines can be as brave, if not braver, than our heros. My current release The Wife He never Forgot, was inspired after I watched a documentary set in Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. It showed footage of a nurse, I forget whether she was NHS or full time military, in the back of a Chinook as it flew in, under fire, to rescue an injured soldier. I couldn’t get over her bravery. I would have been terrified. My book therefore is as much of a tribute to the women who work close or at the front lines, taking an equal share of the risks, and yet not flinching. I honestly take my hat off to you.

Perhaps it is partly this fascination with female heroines that led me to write my first historical When the Dawn Breaks published by Sphere and written under the name Emma Fraser. When I read about the women who, as soon the first world war started, upped sticks and left for France and Serbia to work in female only units close to the front lines. As I describe in my book, they had to flee from the enemy over mountainous terrain in the middle of winter. Some stayed behind with their patients and were arrested. All of them had to endure at some time during their time with the SWH terrible hardship and difficult conditions while caring for young men with the most appalling injuries.

And perhaps it is the same fascination with female heroines (particularly medical ones) that led me to my second historical We Shall Remember also published by Sphere and under the name Emma Fraser.(To be published sometime next year) In this book I have a Polish medical student who while her country is occupied risks her life in many ways to save the lives of others. While also a work of fiction much of my heroine’s story is based on real life events, including a brilliant, but little known, idea two Polish doctors devised that saved thousands of lives.

Enough about my heroines. What about yours? Do you like the female characters in the books you read to be exeptional (or as I would say in my heroines’ cases ordinary women thrust into extra-ordinary circumstances) or women like ourselves- jogging along with our brief but bright moments of heroism?

I’d love to know what you think.

Anne x


16 thoughts on “Holding out for a hero? Or a heroine?”

  1. I totally forgive you Anne – particularly if it inspires any readers to go check out my book 🙂
    I like strong heroines but I also like it when they recognise that two people together can be stronger. Ella the heroine in Holding Out For A Hero is weighed down with the weight of things she’s trying to juggle/solve/carry and I think she fits into the “jogging along with brief but bright moments of heroism”. I think she could be any of us and I like being able to relate to a character.

    1. Hi Amy
      I was having a debate with my daughter about heroines when we were in Poland recently about whether we could ever know in advance when we are caught up in an extraordinary situation how we’d behave. I’d like to think that all the heroines I write about are courageous when it matters. (Sometimes living everyday life can take a whole lot of courage)

  2. Anne, I like my heroines to be strong, capable women who can look after themselves. I definitely don’t do wimps and cannot stand vapid, fluttery heroines! Not my sort of thing at all. Your new book sounds just perfect and I can’t wait to read it. I’m off to amazon to order a copy this very minute.

    1. Morning Jennifer

      I agree about vapid heroines. But to be fair we can’t all be brave all the time. It’s when we find courage that matters. As in my response to Amy I’m thinking about a woman bringing up a family on her own particularly if one is ill- now that’s a heroine for you too!

      Thanks for buying my book. The paperback comes out on the 7th of November and the ebook price should drop then. Let me know what you think of it once you’ve had a chance to read it.

  3. Hi Anne! I love different kinds of heroines, I think it depends on the book and the characters. Sometimes I enjoy a really take-charge heroine and other times I like heroines who’ve been wounded and scarred and who have to find themselves again. It’s how the hero and heroine interact that I find interesting, as well as watching them grow and change over the course of a book.

    I’m sooo looking forward to your new books! Can’t wait for November 7th!

    1. Hi Tina

      I also think it’s important for the hero and heroine to grow. In my last historical- the one who is with my editor- the heroine is spurred on to risk her life because of what she didn’t do when she was frightened. Heroism in people is something that has always intrigued me. Not least because I’m not sure what I would do if I were faced with my heroines dilemmas. And although my last three books, including The Wife He Never Forgot (in our Men of Honour duo- but I don’t need to tell you that!) has the heroines in a war situation it is facing up to the difficulties in their personal lives, their everyday lives, that makes them heroines most of all. Indeed in all my books the heroine has to decide how to live the rest of their lives, to learn how to take risks, not just with their lives but with their hearts. It doesn’t mean that they don’t crack along the way!

      For anyone wanting to learn more about my writing journey as Emma or Anne Fraser, check out my facebook pages and feel free to ask me anything!

      https://www.facebook.com/AnneFraserAuthor for Anne Fraser and https://www.facebook.com/emmafraserauthor for Emma Fraser.

      Oh and you might want to check out good reads for reviews of the hardback of When the Dawn Breaks- so far they’ve been brilliant.

  4. Your books sound amazing, Anne/Emma. I’m sure the woman in the chinook was scared, but focused on her job. I bow my head to such bravery. In historical fiction, I love to read about courageous women stepping up to challenge, while in contemporary romance, I prefer to relate to the heroine as a person like me – jogging through life dealing with emotional barriers on her way to true love. However, I love heroic acts by characters.
    Your books sound fabulous.

  5. Thanks for your comments, Lynne. I think most of the time we want to read about people like us- heroic in our own small ways- but I also love to read about inspiring women- not least because I don’t think they have always got the recognition they deserved. I can’t believe I didn’t know about the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for example until I started researching women doctors in the early twentieth century. I can’t help but wonder why our children don’t have women like the ones I’ve written about as their role models instead of celebrities who have done nothing except marry someone famous!

    Anne x

  6. Anne/Emma, I so want to read your books- they sound amazing. There are some truly inspiring real life heroines out there- I was just reading about a Polish lady who took a job in the 2nd World War as a plumber so she could smuggle children out in her large bag… true courage and bravery. I don’t know how I would act faced with a situation like that… we all like to think we would be equally as brave, but would we? I like to read about strong heroines, women who know who they are and what they want – but who are flawed and learning to love.

    1. I love the story about the Polish lady. Irene Sendler is another Polish woman -who is credited with rescuing over two thousand children from the Warsaw Ghetto. I think that’s the bit that intrigues and fascinates me- what we would do in a similar situation. Would we step forward or would we hide ourselves in the crowd? The thing is I don’t think we can ever be sure what we’d do.
      And yes, even the bravest hero/ heroine is flawed- they are still human after all- and that’s what makes them even more interesting.

  7. Hi Anne, I too like to read about woman who are courageous heroines, both in everyday circumstances and exceptional ones. I take my hat off to the real-life women whose bravery is born of compassion, and who go into perilous situations to help others.

    Roll on November 7th! Can’t wait to read your new books.

    1. Hi Annie

      Then the doctors and nurses who work behind or near the front lines- whatever war- and people like Irene Sendler mentioned above, will be right up your street.

      Twelve days to the paper publication of When the Dawn Breaks! The price of the ebook should fall then too.

  8. Anne, I think the women (and men) who put their lives on the line to save lives in areas of strife are just amazing. I recently saw a documentary about a Canadian doctor who ran a hospital in Afganistan. He and the staff that worked with him were so dedicated to the work they were doing.

    Congratulations on your exciting venture into historical medicals! As Annie said, roll on November 7th!

    Hey, I love that abbey! What a great building!

  9. I think the men and women of MSF and other voluntary agencies who go into conflict zones are amazing. Another heroine of mine is Kate Adie the reporter. Her autobiography The Kindness of Strangers is a great read.

    The Abbey is really atmospheric. I visited it with my youngest daughter when I was doing my research and could easily imagine the women living and working there. The conditions they worked in were very basic- particularly at first. I bet there were a few tense moments! As I said I would love to stay there for a few days.

    Thanks for your congrats too. I hope readers find the history as enjoyable as the story.

  10. Anne,
    I love the Abbey. I hope I can see it for myself one day. I think women living an simple everyday life and find themselves thrust into extra-ordinary situation is always interesting. I like to see them go above and beynod what they think they are capable of.

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