8 Badass Babes in Romance Novels

A treat to read…

The Writer Gal Letter

badasswomen Image Credit: Rob Bricken

Romance novels, and, in particular, the heroines who’ve driven these stories, have had a peculiar evolution as times have changed.

From the simpering 70s secretary who has the hots for her Alpha male boss, to the more adventurous journalist or ad exec of the 90s to the current breed of business women dominating romances, literally and sexually – romance writers have always had a strong sense of what is politically correct, or, often times, incorrect and been a part of the larger social conversation in a sense. We wrote Erotica and Same-Sex love stories, way before it became culturally ‘cool’ to be sexually adventurous and/or gay.

Even Historical Romances from popular authors didn’t have wilting violets as female leads. These women were kickass. They wore flounces and bustles with as much pride as they did their sneaky feminism. Who can forget that iconic scene in…

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My writing process– Blog Tour

My writing process – Blog Tour

Hello Everyone! I’ve been sweetly manoeuvred by my writer friend Aarti V Raman to write this post on my writing process. I said manoeuvred because I still have a hard time believing that I’m a true blue M&B author and consequently in a position to offer nuggets of wisdom about an author’s writing process!

Perhaps ‘nuggets of wisdom’ is an overstatement! Because my writing process I admit with a shamefaced expression on my face, is sporadic, erratic and inconsistent! When I sit down to write I discover hitherto unknown personal traits.

I realise that cleanliness and orderliness – of my husband’s wardrobe, my daughter’s room, my book-lined study – are exceedingly urgent! The kitchen beckons invitingly and I suddenly develop the urge to try out new recipes. I log on to Facebook and remain online on Whatsapp as if they are about to go out of fashion! In short I drag my feet to the most I can!

Why then do I write? It is only when this question goes off like a halogen bulb in my procrastinating mind that I sit down at my laptop and start typing words which initially have to be coerced and cajoled. Things speed up when the editor emails with a politely stated deadline. But it requires a couple of more emails about looming deadlines to get my act together. And then I’m on my way. Glued to my desk, I write, imagine, edit, imagine, tidy up, imagine until voila! I’m done and the finished draft stares at me from my laptop.

Currently, I’m at the write, imagine stage of my third book. I have been told by my editor to make my book less dark and murky (here I would like to offer a deep sigh because my ideal heroes are tortured, arrogantly brooding souls) So, I’m working on his traits, fleshing out his motivations and pummelling him into shape.

I hope my post on writing process helps anyone who wants to write not for the non existent nuggets of wisdom but because for all my procrastinating urges, I want to admit with an imaginary Tarzan like thump of the chest, that writing is the lynchpin of my life which gives meaning and adds colour to an otherwise mundane existence. So, three cheers for everyone and anyone who has been bitten by the writing bug! Power to the writers! Published and aspiring writers of the world UNITE!    

P.S. – Aarti V Raman, I hope I have satisfactorily answered the four questions of ‘My writing process—Blog Tour”! Please excuse the rambling disorderly style and blame it on my dormant, inexperienced blogger instincts!   

Do readers make better writers?

Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer, Betty Neels, Madeleine Ker, Margaret Pargeter, Daphne Clair, Rebecca Stratton, Sally Wentworth, Jessica Steele, Penny Jordan, Margaret Way, Jayne Anne Krentz, Sara Craven, Carol Mortimer, Michelle Reid, Lynne Graham, Sarah Morgan, Julia James, India Grey, Olivia Gates.

Every romance addict would recognize and bow down before these names in a trice. All these names, my dear readers, belong to highly acclaimed writers, those fabulous writers whose books peopled my imagination, fuelled my Dreams and ignited my feelings. The topic of today’s blog is ‘Do readers make better writers?’

I would like to share a few of my reader traits. I was and am a romance junkie. All my pocket money and extra money that I could lay my hands on was spent on books and especially romance novels! My long suffering mother had thrown up her hands in despair and laid down just one condition – that for each Mills and Boon that I bought, I would buy a classic as well. So, while the classics would be read grudgingly, the Mills and Boon would be devoured and gorged upon.

Reading introduced me to an entire gamut of characters, to the possibilities of plot and storyline, to the beauty of words and nuances of language. At the mundane level, reading improved my grammar, amplified my vocabulary and augmented my knowledge.

I learnt foreign words – Ma Cherie, querida, bellisimo, giada mia, mon amour, mio amore, Tesoro, caro, delizioso, amado, mon ange, je t’aime, ti amo.     

I learnt some important statistics — French heroes are a study in sophistication, Italian heroes flirt outrageously, Greek and Arabic heroes have deep reaching family roots and the newly arrived Russian heroes have larger than life figures.

I gained knowledge of the world – Paris is the love destination; numerous Greek islands are privately owned by tycoons and jetsetters and St. Tropez, Ibiza, Cote’ d Azur are ‘the’ places for romantic wooing.     

            I met myriad heroines. Barbara Cartland’s ethereally beautiful heroines; Betty Neels no-nonsense nurse heroines; Jessica Steele’s slightly distracted heroines; Penny Jordan’s wronged heroines; Lynne Graham’s good but woefully misunderstood heroines; Margaret Way’s slight but spirited heroines and Julia James and Sarah Morgan’s feisty but in dire straits heroines.  

And in hindsight, I would like to think that I because I was a voracious reader I was able to write better than I otherwise would have written.

I knew the plots that appealed to me, the kind of characters that touched me, the pace of story that I wanted and the language I wanted to use.

I had liked Margaret Way’s beautiful descriptions of the Australian outback; Penny Jordan’s cruel but delicious heroes; Lynne Graham’s steamy descriptions; Sarah Morgan’s sizzling encounters and Julia James’ story twists.

When I sat down to write, the disparate threads of what I liked and what I didn’t like in a book came together. And when I stood with the manuscript in hand, I remembered Henry Adams who said,


So it was with all the books I had read. ‘His Captive Indian Princess’ is also a tribute to the countless Mills and Boon that I have gobbled and wolfed down. Reading definitely made me a better writer I proudly admit.

How to build fictional characters

“It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.”
William Faulkner

What happened with William Faulkner is exactly what happened with me.

Hello fellow romance aficionados! I’m Tanu Jain and I’m here to share my thoughts on building of fictional characters.

Gauri and Vikram, the protagonists of “His Captive Indian Princess” crashed into me at the ruins of a fort and as soon as we got up and dusted ourselves they began to bicker and squabble. They quarreled and I looked on bemused at the sparks flying around and the chemistry blazing between them. The story was in a nascent stage but the characters weren’t bothered. They continued their verbal sparring both determined to outdo the other.

This has always been how my fictional journey begins. The characters come first and then the story follows. But though Vikram and Gauri, had materialized with a bang, they required some further painstaking craftsmanship. 

Gauri, my heroine seemed to jump off the pages, as my editor told me, and was eminently vivacious and likeable. But Vikram was coming across as a pompous, cruel boor. So, the pitch was to make him likeable and attractive.
I had to figure him out in detail, flesh out his character and bring to fore his roundedness.

I realized that a character like any human being is composed of individual qualities, quirky traits and skeins of motivation.
I racked my memory for characters I had empathized with over the years, characters that had stayed long when the book or movie had gone.  I pondered over their individual qualities that had caught my interest and imagination. And then the motivation aspect came in. What motivated the character? And once I had painstakingly discovered the impulses that drove him and the demons that rode him I could empathize and bring him out correctly.

One tip in crafting characters which has been passed on to me and I would like to share with you is to first of all, draw a male figure and a female figure. These are the main characters. Then, proceed to fill them with physical description, emotional traits, intellectual qualities and background details. As the story progresses add the state of mind of the character. This helps in fleshing out the character and creating a well rounded personality.

Vikram and Gauri, my first romantic hero and heroine are a tribute to the alpha males and feisty, spirited women that I met in the pages of countless Mills and Boon. But though fashioned out of the same rib, they are their own persons. It was a heady feeling to perceive myself as a creator but I realized that the shoe was on the other foot.  Vikram and Gauri had shaken off my shackles and developed and matured, carving out their distinct identities. And even after the book finished, they remained with me as two people, I was proud to have met and known. 

I’d like to conclude with Ernest Heminway’s insightful quote,

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”


Easy reading is damn hard writing — post for Harlequin India.

‘Easy reading is damn hard writing’ said Nathaniel Hawthorn.

I realised the truth of this when I sat down to write my first romance novel. It would be as easy as a lark, I thought. After all, Mills and Boon have been light and easy reads and my record of reading an M&B in one go, stood at forty five minutes flat!

Moreover, the books follow a set format; the hero is TDH, rich, suave and successful; the heroine is heartbreakingly beautiful, feisty and vivacious yet shy and innocent. The story is a romantic fantasy with glitzy, glamorous settings. The hero and heroine meet amidst strong emotional conflict and sky-rocketing sexual tension. Just throw in some love scenes, resolve the conflict and viola! I’ll have a manuscript ready!

How naïve I was! 

Countless mounds of paper and several bitten nails later I fell at the feet of the deity of romance, La Cupida — propitiated myself, offered a lock of my sparse hair and even spilled a teeny weenie tear vowing my eternal devotion. The goddess took pity on my plight, sent her arrows soaring that pierced through the cloudy skies of my imagination and light filtered through.

I came up with a manuscript that was graciously accepted and I was on cloud nine! Years of perseverance had paid off I thought with glee! Little did I know that more hard work was to follow!

My editor’s congratulatory email also contained a list of revisions that would ‘tighten up the story and develop my voice as writer!’ As I got down to work I realised that story telling is not just imagination and creativity but also a craft which requires learning and training.

The characters have to be well thought out, etched to the minutest detail; the plot has to be believable, fast paced and slick; the story has to follow a set format and yet be new and refreshing; the underlying ideas have to be positive, affirmative and upbeat. 

And here the important role played by the editor comes in. A book germinates in the author’s thoughts but the editor’s insights and feedback go a long way in shaping it and contouring it to perfection. Thank you Megan and Laura!

Two books later I’m ready to take up arms against all those critics who regard M&Bs as a piece of fluff and call them “mush” and “slush.” M&Bs like any other book of fiction or non-fiction require painstaking effort, eye-wrecking labour and toiling while the world sleeps. There are other hardships as well. The kids will get ‘late submission’ for school projects, phone chit chats will have to be ditched, late evening drives will have to be abandoned, the family will frequently have to endure ‘Maggi dinners’ and some of those Page three parties will have to be given a miss!

But the finished product is worth it! And when one holds the little blue book, embossed with one’s name, in one’s hand the feeling that lights up the insides is indescribable. So, all you fellow romance readers and aspiring writers, pick up a pen and write the book you always wanted to read!