If you drew up a list of what makes a heroine truly badass, could you define it strictly in bullet points?
Or would it be some kind of sloppy nonsense? Would you say “oh it’s just some kind of je ne sais quois?
Authors who write characters like that tend to work hard to balance strengths and flaws in their heroes. Believe it or not. Undoubtedly there are authors who have no trouble simply creating a character that’s going to be amazing without even thinking twice, while others labor over the traits that will make their character likable, real, admirable, and yet tough and strong all at the same time.
In a world of Instagram influencers and what appears to be absolute perfection at first glance, one thing that always gets to me is how it’s the imperfect that creates interesting people. Perfection is daunting and unapproachable. There’s nothing there to grab hold of and fall in love with. It’s cold, unsympathetic, and unfriendly.
The struggles in life create wrinkles and scars—they show how a person overcame something in the past and likely developed strength from an obstacle. A face with crow’s feet, a slightly crooked nose from a fight as a kid, a tiny blemish from a skateboarding accident on a person’s chin—all those things create a story in a face, in the eyes.
Like that freaking awesome song by Survivor, “I Can’t Hold Back.” And I can’t. I’m smitten, immediately, by stories in other people.
Anyway, look, I know it’s a stretch. But great songs deserve to be dropped anywhere they can be.
So, in my spare time, ha, I put together a list from trustworthy authors who’ve created tough female protagonists. These ladies kick some kind of ass, while also keeping that certain something which makes them approachable and gorgeous in that specific way we love as readers. There’s nothing like getting to know a character from the inside out that’s so unique to reading.
There’s enough here that if you’ve checked out some of these books, try one of the others! I pulled the blurbs from each book’s Amazon description. Click the cover to go to the Amazon store!
They thought they could destroy House Sinister for good, but they weren’t expecting Evangeline…
Evangeline was living a great life in the Badlands as a Guard at House Sinister, but her world is shattered when three rival Houses attack. She’s forced to watch as her mentor and father figure is slaughtered.
His dying command: The House must survive at all costs.
She escapes to the upperworld, landing her in the middle of Los Angeles, where she possesses the body of a wealthy philanthropist.
Too bad she catches the eye of the Black Ops Paranormal Police Department. In exchange for keeping her identity a secret, she agrees to work for the undercover organization.
There are killers hunting for her, and the PPD is putting her life on the line daily, but rage is on her side. All she has to do is survive one year and then she can bring honor back to House Sinister. Besides, it’ll give her the chance to kill a handful of the vicious bastards, and that’s a perk she’ll gladly embrace.
When that year is up, though, Evangeline will return to the Badlands with her two best friends: Pain and Death.
Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way our of her league—but she wouldn’t want it any other way…
Don’t kidnap a weretiger unless you’re ready to have your ass kicked…
Bethany Black is a rookie cop in the New York Paranormal Police Department (PPD). She’s fast as hell, tougher than nails, and she’s got no problem with blowing up stuff.
She also turns into a ferocious tiger when she gets sufficiently pissed off.
New York City is where the supernatural mob snagged its foothold back in the day. Goblins had poured in from the Netherworld and taught locals how to properly manage the criminal climate. They sold protection, rattled cages, and raked their fingers across the back of honest society.
It took years and tons of Paranormal Police Department officers to gain back control.
But now the city is on the brink of falling apart.
The PPD lost half its uniformed cops during an all-out war with a nasty mage, and the latest mob boss is looking to capitalize.
Translation: Blood, blood, and a bit more blood.
Too bad the mafia decided to kidnap Bethany’s best friend. He’s only one of two remaining weretigers in existence. She’s the other.
Remember what happens when Bethany gets pissed off?
Yeah, well, she’s seriously pissed off…
If there’s one thing I hate more than anything, it’s the undead.
So, just my luck that I’ve got a ghost living rent-free inside my head…
When I was just a kid, my parents were sacrificed by a necromancer. I survived. Barely.
But, the ordeal left me hating two things – necromancers and the undead they bring into the world.
Fast forward years later and I’ve been possessed by a ghost! But, Treth of Concord isn’t just any ordinary ghost. He’s proud, chivalrous and a knight from another world.
Now, with his counsel and some cheap swords I bought on the internet, I hunt the undead of Hope City. For honour, for vengeance, and maybe just a hefty bounty.
My name is Kat Drummond, and I’m a Part-Time Monster Hunter.
I’m Val Thorvald, and I’m an assassin.
When magical bad guys hurt people, I take care of them. Permanently.
This doesn’t make me popular with the rest of the magical community—as you can tell from the numerous break-ins and assassination attempts I’ve endured over the years. But thanks to my half-elven blood, a powerful sword named Chopper, and a telepathic tiger with an attitude, I’ve always been able to handle my problems with aplomb. Maybe some cursing and swearing, too, but definitely aplomb.
That changes when my boss is afflicted with a mysterious disease, a government agent starts investigating me, and a godforsaken dragon shows up in the middle of my latest job.
I’ve taken down vampires, zombies, and ogres, but dragons are way, way more powerful. And it doesn’t look like this one is going to like me.
Worse than that, he wants to use his magic to compel me to do his bidding, as if I’m some weak-minded minion.
That’s not going to happen. I’d die before being some dragon’s slave.
But if I can’t figure out a way to avoid him, save my boss, and get rid of the government spook, I’m screwed. Or dead. Or screwed and dead. And that’s never comfortable.
When my magic manifested at puberty, my parents sold me to the Illuminati. The Order of the Illuminati trained me as an assassin, spy, and thief. But when they sent me to steal a magical artifact that reveals Truth in all things, I discovered that I was working for the Dark and not the Light. The Illuminati trained me well, and paid the ultimate price for their deception.
Thousands of miles away, I landed a job in a quirky little bar. But the scattered remnants of the Order still strive for world domination, and no one leaves the Illuminati alive.
Mercy Thompson is a shapeshifter, and while she was raised by werewolves, she can never be one of them, especially after the pack ran her off for having a forbidden love affair. So she’s turned her talent for fixing cars into a business and now runs a one-woman mechanic shop in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State.
But Mercy’s two worlds are colliding. A half-starved teenage boy arrives at her shop looking for work, only to reveal that he’s a newly changed werewolf—on the run and desperately trying to control his animal instincts. Mercy asks her neighbor Adam Hauptman, the Alpha of the local werewolf pack, for assistance.
But Mercy’s act of kindness has unexpected consequences that leave her no choice but to seek help from those she once considered family—the werewolves who abandoned her…
Cold-blooded kidnappers. Long-lost magic. When things get serious, she goes full Sherlock.
Ashira Cohen takes pride in being the only female private investigator in Vancouver. With her skills, her missing persons case should be a piece of cake.
She wasn’t counting on getting bashed in the skull, revealing a hidden tattoo and supernatural powers she shouldn’t possess.
Or the bitter icing on top: a spree of abductions and terrifying ghostly creatures on a deadly bender.
And don’t even get her started on the golems.
Reluctantly partnered with her long-time nemesis Levi, the infuriating leader of the magic community, Ash resolves to keep her focus on the clue trail and off their sexual tension because WTF is up with that?
But with a mastermind organization pulling strings from the shadows and Levi’s arrogance driving her to pick out his body bag, can Ash rescue the captives and uncover the truth or will the next blood spilled be her own?
How tacky, that I put my own book in here! Who does that?!
It’s because I really felt that space opera needed representation in this list…
Cue the blurb.
She just got out of prison…but that doesn’t mean she’s free.
The City of Jade Spires might look utopian, but it’s certainly no paradise. Just ask Holly Drake, a schoolteacher in prison for killing her husband.
Serving an unfair sentence sucks, but at least she’s safe. That is, until someone exonerates her and she walks free. She has no idea who’d do this for her, until they reveal their hand: they have a job for Holly.
Recognizing her old life is over, she has no other choice. If only she knew how to steal a priceless jewel about to be moved off-planet. But as the screws tighten on her need for cash she remembers just who to ask.
With only days to assemble her crew, she races to stay ahead. The question is: how far across the 6 Moons system will they have to go, and how deep will they have to dig into the underbelly of their world to succeed?
More importantly, can they even pull this off before time runs out?
I just looked through these titles again and they’re almost all urban fantasy. Welp. What are you going to do? The ladies rule in UF.
But, just to twist things up a bit, next week I’ll highlight the genre-bending male leads in urban fantasy! It’ll be epic!