The Greatest Books Have Chicks in Charge!
The Goddess Athena was the ‘biggest and baddest’ chick of all time. She appears in literature, on top of the Acropolis; she has been cast in brass, copper, plaster, paint, stone – even, supposedly, in pure gold. She was the warrior who took care of business, even smacked her Dad, Zeus, around more than once. She was the epitome of a warrior mixed with a femme fatale mixed with (just about anything she wanted to be mixed with, because she could kick anyone’s behind the second they made her just a wee bit grumpy).
Athena is what I refer to as a “chick in charge.” And, whether anyone really likes this or not, there have been chicks in charge in literature for a good long time. In fact, a great many of the bestselling and most beloved books are based on the proverbial chick who is intelligent, sexy, fun, charming, and usually – highly sarcastic. She not only holds her own against the guy, but she always wins. And the guys fall so head over heels in love with the character, they become the besotted ones that now fall into the category of “simpering males.” Are there still heroes? You betcha. But James Bond is really the only one who is still written as “the guy” in charge (and I have a feeling if he spent one night with Miss Moneypenny it would be all over for him, too). So who are the best and strongest women in literature? From romance to historical to ‘crazy chicks’ – here are the top when it comes to the most-talked-about and bestselling ‘chicks’ in fiction.
The real women of history. With these two ‘chicks’ you could forget the realms of all those Kings who thought they were so grand! Margaret of Anjou was the wife of the seriously mentally ill Henry VI. She not only had to put up with a whole heck of a lot of crazy, but she was so strong and courageous that she emerged as the de facto leader during the Wars of the Roses. This was a woman who amassed armies and went for it with all her heart. Now, yes, she did finally lose to the Yorkists, BUT she definitely gave it the old college try. Joan of Arc was another who could certainly fight (Talk about the original Xena the Warrior Princess).
Catherine of Aragon has been found in many books. The Queen Regent, Governor of the Realm and Captain General of the King’s Forces when old Henry VIII was fighting a war in France. She not only was the strong one of the bunch, BUT she also actually threw on her armor, rode north with her troops, WHILE being well-along in her pregnancy. If you’re ever going to war, this is the ‘chick’ who you want by your side!
Ah…romance. Now, yes, there are many who look at “Romeo and Juliet” as the most amazing love story ever told. Of course, what everyone never seems to remember is the fact that the book was called “The TRAGEDY of Romeo and Juliet.” (Not exactly the brightest bulbs in the shack). Now, of course, there is ‘Bella and Edward,’ but the really strong female lead in YA literature seems to be a girl with a dragon tattoo. But before the ‘tattooed one,’ there were chicks in charge who were the ‘first-half’ of beloved power couples, with the best chicks coming from the mind of the unforgettable Jane Austen.
Mr. Darcy is still one of the ‘hottest’ men of all time. In fact, most women sit around and wish for the pompous little snot to come into their lives. Of course, he got his comeuppance from the mouth of Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. She had no problem making sure that Mr. Darcy knew that no matter how regal he thought himself to be, she was much more witty, well-read, sensible and amazingly intelligent. She was the most confident heroine by any means back in the day who has stood the test of time, most ardently.
Austen wasn’t done; she made sure that most all of her women were on the top rung of the ladder as far as brains were concerned. Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility not only took on the weight of her family, but she was able to keep an integrity about her that was simply unheard of in past, or modern-day literature. She was very intelligent and made the ‘men folk’ of her time period know that she was most definitely the chick in charge.
In 1936 Scarlett O’Hara came into everyone’s lives. Yes, Rhett and Scarlett were a power couple – but when you look back, she was the strong one. She was the one who would not break no matter what. Her land mattered, her goals mattered, and she was enough of a femme fatale to make sure that when she batted her eyelashes she got what she wanted. She was never going to be subservient in any way, shape or form.
The world of suspense/thriller/and adventure fiction is a big one, with a ton of female leads who outweigh their ‘men’ in almost every book. But J.D. Robb (A.K.A. Nora Roberts) has been providing her readers with Eve Dallas for a good long time in her “In Death” series. Eve and Roarke make a fabulous pair, but everyone knows that Eve is the chick in charge. She solves crimes and brings in killers left and right. Eve’s whiskey-colored eyes and tawny hair – not to mention her brutal sarcasm that has fans laughing profusely – has been a staple of the crime/suspense world for a long time…and, hopefully, for a long time to come.
Another character who is new to the market, but who readers are already raving about is Leah Tallent, in the debut novel, “13” by Amy Lignor. Leah is the other half of the power couple, Tallent & Lowery, and her claim to fame is being a literal card catalogue of knowledge. As the Head Librarian of the NYPL, her only wish is to be with Patience and Fortitude and be left alone. But when Gareth Lowery crosses her path, this incredibly smart (extremely sarcastic) female puts together puzzles of monumental proportions! Let’s just say that this chick in charge would’ve figured out “The DaVinci Code” in about an hour.
Patricia Cornwell has written many crime/suspense novels starring her amazing character Kay Scarpetta, who is actually based on a real live Chief Medical Examiner. Using the absolute best forensic technology available, Kay always solves the crime. Living a truly incredible life, while always surrounded by death, Scarpetta is so intelligent and witty that her best pairing for marriage would be with Ducky on NCIS.
Sue Grafton has been writing the character of Kinsey Millhone for a while now, and fans already know that this is a woman who is beyond intellectual and gets what she wants. A woman who was once a pot-smoking moron in high school, Kinsey went on to become a P.I. who solves disappearances, murders, and crime while dodging hitmen.
J. A. Jance’s Joana Brady is a woman in the crime and suspense category who lost her husband at the beginning of her little adventures. She goes on to become Sheriff of her town in Arizona, and while most people are not used to having a woman in a position of power, Joana Brady proves that the ‘old-boys network’ is a real pain in the butt.
V.I. Warshawski, is a private investigator from Chicago and, let’s face it, the ‘boys club’ can’t even begin to deal with this witty, sarcastic and gritty woman who will always be the one to solve the crime!
The best killer? Horror has had their share of female ‘nut-jobs,’ but there was none better than Annie Wilkes, the villain from 1987’s amazing horror story – delivered by the horror master of all he surveys, Stephen King – titled, “Misery.” The book made people think twice about women, and even let writers out there know that once you create an amazing character in literature, you better never hurt them or take them out of the series because there IS an obsessive fan who will make sure to cause you excruciating pain.
The YA market had its own intelligence chick in charge that J.K. Rowling was proud to present in a series of books, that are not only a household name, but also did so well that they have their own theme park. No matter how heroic Harry Potter was, he wouldn’t have gotten through Book I without the skill, courage, and major intelligence that Hermione Granger brought to the scene. (Everyone knows Ron Weasley lucked out!)
Now…a vampire with style? A true vampire who was a femme fatale before old “Twilight” was even a twinkle in Meyer’s eye? (Before she eve had eyes?) Not to mention, even before “Dracula” was a twinkle in Bram Stoker’s eye? Her name was Carmilla. She was the ultimate vampire. Carmilla was a supernaturally beautiful woman who wanted your blood; not your phone number, or to live happily ever after with you – just your blood. A gothic novella written by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla was first seen in 1872. This was one of the most controversial pieces of literature of all time, where issues of sex and violence first hit the literary market. Without “Carmilla,” there would BE no vampires because Bram Stoker said that hers was the story that made Dracula appear. And, without Dracula, chances are the famous “Cullens” would not exist.
Were there others? Oh, yes…many. But these are the tried and true – with one new – that became the most talked about and beloved chicks in charge of all time. Let’s face it, without heroines, who needs a hero?