Readers Love Conflict
Have you ever read a novel and found it disappointing? Thought not much was happening? Or worse yet, felt the ending and “happily ever after” to be a letdown?
Chances are, the conflict was weak or insignificant.
We want to see characters earn their happily-ever-after by surmounting all odds and working for it. We want proof they deserve to win.
Some of the best books I’ve read still stick out in my mind because of the challenges the main characters faced, battled, stumbled beneath setbacks, and eventually triumphed over.
Educated Heroines Bring Conflict
Victorian attitudes, being what they were, separated the sexes. Women should be nurturers, mothers, wives, and homemakers. Men should be protectors, breadwinners, and if either partner in marriage were to engage in business or education, it would be he.
Many single women hoping to find a spouse between 1865 and 1869 attended college. Ambitious women enrolled in schools across the eastern portion of the states were seeking to become doctors, lawyers, and journalists. Unfortunately for these ladies, men viewed female college graduates as poor homemakers, and the few eligible bachelors around kept their distance from educated ladies.
She is a well-educated, attractive woman and yet, in America she is considered unmarriageable because of the unintended intimidation her knowledge brings forth.
Western (or at least American) Historical Romance With Educated Heroines
It’s easy to understand why men back in the day would feel threatened by a woman braving uncharted territory, essentially commanding the knowledge and expertise of a man. When all the current generation of men had known was women like their mothers and sisters, it could be a mite frightening–and challenging–to find himself entangled with, attracted to (or heaven forbid, married to!) a woman who defied social boundaries.
People were amazed when they learned that a young girl had so far forgotten her womanhood as to want to study dentistry.
It’s not uncommon for the hero in a western historical romance to want a wife for all the traditional reasons. Men sought mail order brides because they were lonely, pined for comforts of home, needed a help-meet, an additional pair of hands to accomplish the work of survival, children to eventually help work the farm, and monogamous (and therefore hopefully clean) sex. Many professed to wanting love.
Men were taught by society and community to expect the marriageable young lady to complete him and his attributes in a complementary fashion.
In the first place, observation proves that selections made in nature by the beasts of the field and fowls of the air, of couples which pair, the male is always the strongest, generally the largest, the most brave and always the leader. The female follows, trusting to her companion, leaving him to fight the heavy battles, apparently confident in his bravery, strength, and wisdom.
If nature teaches anything, it is to what observation and experience in civilized life has also proved correct, that of husband and wife, rightly mated, the husband should represent the positive–the physical forces, the intellectual and the strongly loving; while the wife will represent the negative–the sympathetic, the spiritual, and the affectionate.
The links, below, represent a small segment of fiction titles that fit this category.
I’ve read one or two, but far from all. Please, selective readers, browse reviews and read the blurbs (book descriptions) and carefully examine before purchasing.
I love the inherent conflict for professional women so much, I wrote my own trilogy (two of these titles are currently in collections with other highly rated authors):
Victorian Lady Lawyers–on Sweet Americana Sweethearts BOOK REVIEW: Fair Play by Deanne Gist (heroine is a physician) Victorian Attitudes: The Weaker Sex & Education FIRSTS in Female Education, 19th Century American West Education in the Old West Old Fashioned Notions about Marriageable Women
What western historical romances have YOU read with a strong central conflict caused by the heroine’s education?
Copyright © 2015 Kristin Holt, LC