Jennifer Lohmann isn’t afraid to make risky decisions, something that reflects on her unique, interesting heroines. These women feel real because they go get what they want, make difficult choices and sometimes, they get angry and want to be left alone.
The Contrasting Strengths of Mary Balogh’s Lauren and Freya by Jennifer Lohmann
Slightly Scandalous, we learn she doesn’t slap a man across the face; she punches him in the nose. When confronted by her fears, Freyja leaps to tackle them. Having often wished I could be a woman like Freyja and only recently come to accept that being quiet didn’t mean I wasn’t strong,* I prefer to read Lauren’s story. But talking about Freyja and Lauren together—what they have in common instead of what about them is different—demonstrates the range of great heroines available to romance readers and that being a great heroine isn’t limited to being either a hoyden or perfectly proper. Talking about Lauren and Freyja means were are talking how complexity makes a heroine great.
If Lauren is reserved while Freyja is brash, what they have in common is more important than their differences. Both are loyal to their friends and family. They understand that loving someone doesn’t mean you don’t see their flaws, but that a person’s flaws are part of the reason they are lovable. They both feel that they have a role in making the world around them a better place. Lauren sees rifts in families and tries to heal them. She comforts, listens, and never judges. Freyja uses her forceful personality to push and argue, but she also knows when her help wouldn’t be wanted and can step back, even if it is hard for her. Both women would be wonderful to have as a friend. Lauren would be there to pat your back when you cried while Freyja would wait until you didn’t even know you were ready to hear it, then tell you to be strong and fight. Both are open to having their minds’ changed. I admire Freyja’s ability to step up and defend the vulnerable around her. I admire how Lauren forgives, without minimizing her own hurts.
Both heroines have their faults. Freyja acts before thinking, which hurts both her and the people around her. Lauren constantly battles her own desires with her fear of being judged and rejected. Freyja allows her fears to make her reckless, so she won’t look weak. Lauren’s fears turn her self-control into self-denial. Freyja’s passions mean she is often rude and her privileged background means she doesn’t always walk the line between sticking up for herself and walking all over others. Lauren’s self-control means she is often haughty and her belief that being perfect is the only way she’ll be loved means she’s often too willing to correct other people (this is more evident in her role in One Night for Love).
Without these faults the journeys of these heroines would be less compelling. Their stories would be less interesting and their ultimate HEAs less satisfying. Nothing about Freyja and Lauren being great heroines is about how they look, nor does their expertise at any one thing matter. Their experiences in life have made them both vulnerable and strong and it is what they make out of those experiences that keeps their stories alive long after the book is closed.
Have you read the books? Do you find Freyja or Lauren to be more compelling?
*Romance Novels for Feminists has a lovely post on why Lauren is a feminist heroine. See it here.
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