Women have always been subjected to rules about their appearance, behavior, relationships and more. You’ve probably heard them all: Women should be seen and not heard. A woman’s place is in the home. Be nice. Don't be too assertive. Don’t accept a date for Friday after Wednesday. Don’t sleep with someone on the first date. Don't text someone first. But don’t doesn’t make for very interesting stories and it definitely doesn't help women get ahead. Not in real life. Not in romance novels. Luckily, there are plenty of rebellious romance novel heroines who break all the rules and still get what they want.
Ever since these silly rules were made, rebellious women have been breaking them. There are many real life examples of badass women in history we can follow and even more examples of fictional heroines in romance novels who show that a girl can break the rules, find love and live happily ever after.
This year, forget about focusing on fitting in; instead find inspiration from heroines who push the boundaries and resolve to follow in their footsteps. Need some suggestions? Check out these seven rule breaking heroines from authors Sarah MacLean, Eloisa James, Sally Thorne, and more.
1 Lily from 'More Than Rivals' by Mary Whitney
When Lily Robles meets Jack Bengston at a coffee shop they click immediately—until she realizes he’s one of her opponents in the democratic primary race for a seat in congress. She’s a Mexican-American woman and a county supervisor. He’s the wealthy, white professional politician from a privileged family—who comes to realize the systemic advantages he has, thanks to his relationship with Lily. As the campaign heats up, so does their romance. And their happily ever after shows a woman’s place is in the house…of representatives.
2 Josie from 'Pleasure for Pleasure' by Eloisa James
Once Josie Essex earned the nickname “The Scottish Sausage” for her unfashionably full figure, she knew finding a decent match would be impossible. Rather than keep trying and failing to shrink herself into some idea of a Perfect Woman, she ditches her corset and, thanks to a deliciously rakish earl, learns just what pleasure her body can bring her… just the way it is.
3 Phoebe from 'It Had To Be You' by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
When “bimbo” Phoebe Somerville learns she’s inherited a professional football team from her late father, she’s not sure what to do with it. Head coach Dan Calebow isn’t optimistic that she'll figure it out either. But it turns out she’s not the dumb blonde everyone thinks she is. Phoebe is determined to show everyone — especially Dan — that she can be a smashing success. Spoiler alert: she finds pleasure and keeps her business. Win. Win.
4 Rose from 'Talk Sweetly To Me' by Courtney Milan
Rose Sweetly is shy, black and a shopkeeper’s daughter; and as such, she has few opportunities to apply her talent for math to the study of the stars. But she receives encouragement from an unlikely source: her new neighbor, Stephen Shaughnessy, an infamous advice columnist and a total rake. He champions her studies and encourages Rose to let her brilliance shine, which is the most romantic thing of all.
5 Caroline from 'Mixing Temptation' by Sara Jane Stone
No one can say Caroline Andrews isn’t tough: she’s not only served in the Marines, she’s also a survivor of sexual assault. Hero Josh Summers has survived a life threatening accident and now just wants to settle down with the woman he’s fallen for, even if he has to wait until she’s ready to take their relationship to the next level. This is a beautiful story about finding the strength to overcome fears and past traumas and live a life full of love — which can sometimes be the toughest thing to do.
6 Lucy from 'The Hating Game' by Sally Thorne
Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman are coworkers who 1) hate each other and 2) are vying for the same promotion at work. A fierce competition ensues involving office politics, dueling presentations, team building exercises and…kissing. It turns out they might not hate each other after all, but that doesn't mean Lucy is backing down from the chance to earn her dream job.
7 Lady Georgian from 'Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover' by Sarah MacLean
There are so many rules broken in this novel: Lady Georgiana has sex outside of marriage, bears a child out of wedlock and then goes work and proceeds to build a business empire. While these things are no longer as scandalous as they were in the Regency era, it’s undoubtably still difficult for a woman to raise a child and get ahead at work — especially without a support network. But this is an inspiring story showing that it’s not impossible for a woman defy society's expectations for her life and find happiness on her own terms.
Maya Rodale is an award winning author of smart and sassy romance novels. She lives in New York City with her darling dog and a rogue of her own. Her latest novel, Lady Claire is All That, is available wherever books are sold.