Before we go on to discussion of my favorite heroine, here's an example of a heroine where I wasn't terribly impressed with the story's sexual tension, although to be fair I'd have to say it was likely quite true to life for some women. Kat Richardson's Greywalker series is about Harper Blaine — a woman who, after having been clinically revived from death, can both see into and move through the dimension of the supernatural which ordinarily lies invisibly adjacent to our world.

In the first book, Harper falls strongly for a nice man, and they end up in bed together. Due to the exigencies of the story, he's barely there in the second book, and during the beginning of the third book he and she have an unpleasant falling out. Somewhat startlingly to me, soon thereafter Harper nearly leaps into bed with another man she likes! Admittedly, the two of them have barely escaped a gruesome death at the hands (at the tentacles? at the something or others) of a monster which chased them for some time through the darkness. It is supposedly the relief of having escaped that nasty fate that causes them both to fling their sexually inflamed selves upon each other.

I have been told I am old-fashioned, although I myself consider it to be more a simple issue of common-sense emotional self-protection: I feel your lover should be your friend first, and only next your lover. This means should the two of you be incompatible for some reason, you'll hopefully discover this before you've gotten intimate and/or become cathected, or emotionally invested in each other. Breaking up after cathexis, and losing a friend to boot, is always more painful than two friends deciding they shouldn't become lovers. After all, in an urban fantasy world, your lover might be a powerful supernatural entity — do you really want someone like that furious with you for the rest of your (possibly short) life?

Literarily speaking, it is that process of getting to know each other, of deciding to love one another, which is where sexual tension and romance come from. It therefore makes excellent sense to me that an author would want their heroine to take their time and get to know their potential lovers, in order to prolong the enjoyable state of being interested in each other, but not yet publicly connected. To put it another way, it is the pleasure of the hunt, not the kill, that makes these stories fun to read. However, considering how shabbily Harper treats her first beau, and how swiftly he is forgotten in the arms of her second, I was not terribly impressed with her as a heroine, nor did I particularly feel there was much in the way of interesting romance or sexual tension there whatsoever.

On the other hand, I suppose I should not have been surprised at this behavior on the part of the heroine. The author writes a fabulous fight scene — very visceral; quite excellent at drawing in all the senses — but the protagonist herself was not terribly sympathetic to me. This might be due to the background world she lives in, of course: every time she uses her abilities to navigate in the Grey, or to talk to some of the supernatural entities, she's in pain and/or repulsed by what she's experiencing. I can quite understand how that would detrimentally affect one's ability to be thoughtful or romantic.

Alternatively, it could simply be the poor protagonist is just going to suffer at the hands of her author — for example, it seemed to me Harper was stuck repeatedly being regarded with suspicion by acquaintances, and nervous wariness by her friends. Add to that her having to repeatedly be the bearer of truly nasty news to her friends (even though they needed to hear it) and I can see how that would remarkably strain both one's friendships, and one's self confidence. Either way, I've read the first three books, and one short story… and I think I've had enough of that poor heroine.

Finally there's Mercy. She too has only four books out to date, although she has interesting differences to Cassie's story. Unlike Cassie, Mercy has decided on who she wishes for her beloved — with what I considered a fantastic inner monologue where she assesses the two individuals she's most interested in, checking to see which of them she truly loves, as well as which will give her as much freedom to be herself as she needs and wishes. A heroine who, in a thoroughly modern fashion, thoughtfully and logically works out her romantic choices — who'da thunk it? :)

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