Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Guest Post: Alison May's Top 5 Smart Girl Romantic Heroines

Today I have something a little different for you, an entertaining guest post from Choc Lit author Alison May talking about her top 5 Smart Girl Romantic Heroines... 

I set out writing this post as a post in praise of geek heroes. It was going to be all about the charms of a clever boy, over a muscle-bound hunk. I was going to mention Richard from Pointless, Doctor Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap, Hugh Laurie, Tony Stark, Professor Brian Cox and Doctor Who. All of which would have a) demonstrated that I struggle with the difference between real men and fictional characters, and b) been very lovely indeed.

But then, part way through typing up those very lovely thoughts, I became distracted. That’s not surprising. I become distracted a lot. One minute I’m walking into the supermarket all calm and happy and totally aware of what I’m there for. The next I’m standing in the car park with an unexpected aubergine. I don’t even like aubergine.

Anyway, the thing that distracted me this time was the notion that rather than focussing on geek heroes, I maybe ought to be bigging up the geek girls amongst us too. I grew up, like lots of other kids, watching Scooby Doo, and I remember knowing very definitely that I was a Velma rather than a Daphne. I was never going to be the beautiful girl who got the hunky guy, but if I read lots, I might grow up to be the smart girl, and own a lot of polo necks. And polo necks are nearly as cool as hunky guys. So I did read a lot, and reading a lot was good. Except. Except that the heroines I was reading about sometimes seemed to be more Daphne than Velma. Now there’s nothing wrong with a bit of Daphne. We’re not all the same and that’s good, but today I thought I’d big up some of my favourite literary Velmas – the heroines who are just as likely to have their nose in a book as between the hero’s thighs.

Here’s my top 5 Smart Girl Romantic Heroines…

5. Anna Alessi from Here’s Looking at You by Mhairi McFarlane
Anna is a history professor and world renowned expert on the Byzantine Empress Theodora. She’s also a woman who’s survived bullying but still lives with the scars to her self-confidence. She’s a heroine that many of us Velmas can identify with. You would think that being a bit bookish and academic would be a good thing at school, wouldn’t you? Anna reminds us that that’s not always the case, but that we can survive and come out the other side stronger and braver.

4. Beth from Doctor January by Rhoda Baxter
Beth is a scientist. An actual phd student scientist, who does actual science in an actual lab, with actual bacteria, actual mutant bacteria in fact. Now don’t get me wrong – I have no objection to a heroine who works in PR or fashion or publishing. They’re all well and good, and I can devour a glossy magazine with the best of them, but you’ve got to love a heroine with a unique passion for their unique work. See also: Amy Farrah-Fowler from The Big Bang Theory (which is a TV programme rather than a book, but I’m going to allow it.)

3. Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Oh yes – the classics have a lot to offer us nerdy girls too. Jane Eyre is noted in the novel as being a plain girl. Oh dear. Woe is her. But plain isn’t everything and she’s also smart, and brave, and principled and generally brilliant. And, of course, she gets her guy in the end, with only a tiny bit of fire and mad wife in the attic business to stand in her way. See also: Lizzie Bennett from Pride and Prejudice

2. Fil from Girl From Mars by Julie Cohen
Fil is a comic book artist, and a supreme example of a geek girl heroine. She’s talented, passionate about her work, and passionate about drawing a fabulous female comic book heroine. See – geek girl greatness begets more geek girl greatness. She knows her comic books and her sci-fi and she proves that geekdom is absolutely not a male preserve.

1. Matilda from Matilda by Roald Dahl
OK – so Matilda isn’t a romantic heroine, but she’s definitely a heroine, and I love her so she’s my number 1. Whether you read the book, see the movie, or go to the musical (personally, I’d recommend all three) I defy anyone not to fall in love with this little girl. She’s clever, so so so clever, in a world where clever isn’t valued at all, and she uses her love of books keeps her sane in the face of extreme idiocy from the adults around, and then she uses her bookishness and her brain to beat them all. Matilda we salute you. See also: Hermione Granger from Harry Potter

So those are my top literary geek girls. Who are yours?

About Alison

Alison May is a writer and blogger from Worcester. Her debut novel, Sweet Nothing – featuring her very own ‘geek hero’, Ben Messina - was published in 2013 by Choc Lit Lite, as was her first Christmas novella, Holly’s Christmas Kiss. Her short stories have featured in anthologies published by Harlequin and Black Pear Press.

You can find out more about Alison at or by following her on twitter @MsAlisonMay

About Sweet Nothing

Would you risk everything for love?

Independent, straight-talking Trix Allen wouldn’t. She’s been in love once before and ended up with nothing. Now safely single, Trix is as far away from the saccharine-sweet world of hearts and flowers as it’s possible to be.

Ben Messina is the man who broke Trix’s heart. Now he’s successful, the only thing rational Ben and free-spirited Trix see eye-to-eye on is the fact that falling in love isn’t part of the plan. But when Ben’s brother sets out to win the heart of Trix’s best friend, romance is very much in the air. Will Trix gamble everything on love and risk ending up with zero once again?

Sweet Nothing buy link:


  1. Great post Alison. I love a smart heroine. I'm sure Amy Farrah-Fowler and I would be BFFs. The Girl From Mars is one of my fav books - Fil was fab. Love Hermoine G. too. Off now to buy the two books on your list that I haven't read yet.

  2. Do Janet - they're all well worth reading, I promise x

  3. Yay! Thanks for the mention Alison. I too am off to buy the two books I haven't read (I know! I haven't read Girl From Mars! Given that I've had that 'there's a GIRL in the comic book shop?' experience, that's a terrible offense.

    My geek heroines - Amelia Peabody Emerson from Elizabeth Peters' books. She's an archaeologist who is clever, relatively plain and has big boobs. Oh, and money. She has money. Nobody's perfect.

    Amy Farrer Fowler - I adore her! RIght down to the fact that she is sexually attracted to a man because of his brain.

    Jo March from Little Women

    Sallah Telgar from the Anne McCaffery books.

    Now I too am off to Amazon to get those other two books you mentioned.

  4. Great post, Alison. I'm a Big Bang Theory fan, and the fact Mayim Bialik, who plays Amy, is a real-life neuroscientist for me makes the show and her character even more humorous. I'm also a huge Julie Cohen fan as you know, so I'm disappearing now to check out Fil ... (apologies if this comment appears twice - trouble signing in.)

  5. Speaking as someone who’s married to a physical chemist, and whose elder daughter’s just embarked on sciences and maths for A levels, I’m all for geeky heroes and heroines! Love your examples of the latter. And as for Ben Messina… he's great :-)

  6. Glad to see people are feeling the geek love! I love that Mayin Bialik really does have a phd in neuro-science too - I remember her from Blossom back in the day.

    And glad to be providing some reading recomendations too x

  7. Great topic, Mel. A strong heroine makes all the difference. I didn't know about Amy but that is very cool

  8. That was fun, Alison. I did like Rhoda's mention of Jo March. She's definitely one of my favourite heroines!

  9. Great list! I love all of them too. And you've just reminded me that I have a terrifyingly clever geek girl on a backburner WIP (if I had a penny for every one of those...)