My Favorite Fairy Tale Heroine

by Julia James, author of Securing the Greek’s Legacy

It was top romance author Jane Porter who first told me that many of our favorite kinds of romance heroine are ‘fairy-tale heroines’ –  from Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty to Beauty and the Beast  and Little Red Riding Hood – and I’ve realized it’s totally true in my own romance stories!

I think out of all them, my favorite has to be The Ugly Duckling heroine ignored and unnoticed by men, until the magic moment of her transformation into the Beautiful Swan! That’s what happens to my heroine, Lyn, in my latest romance Securing the Greek’s Legacy.

Why do I love Ugly Duckling heroines so much? Well, probably because I’m an Ugly Duckling myself! Like many teenagers, I spent those years with braces on my teeth, thick glasses on my nose, wearing dowdy school uniform, with my hair tied back.  So, leaving school and discovering, to my delight, that with straight teeth, contact lenses, fashionable clothes and styled hair I could actually become, if not a swan (!) then at least into a perfectly passable egret, was wonderful! Finally, I had joined the female race! Instead of being invisible to men, they actually turned and looked at me. The thrill was fantastic! Blissful and unforgettable magic!

That’s the feeling I love to give my duckling heroines. The moment of the ‘reveal’ when they’ve had their make-over – hair, nails, complexion, make-up, flattering clothes, the works! –  and they look in the mirror and see the beauty that was there all along – and best of all when the hero finally sees it too! And is promptly smitten!

Now, does that make a hero seem shallow?

Well, look at it this way. If our heroines gaze besottedly at our hunky heroes, shouldn’t we give our heroes something equally gazable at in return?

But what exonerates the hero, I believe, is that he insists on the heroine’s makeover not for his sake, but for hers – to make her feel good about herself!  It is that essential kindness that shows that caring – far, far more than ‘mere desire’ – will become love.

That’s what I so enjoy showing in my Ugly Duckling stories. Like The Italian’s Token Wife, where sad, single-mother Magda agrees to a travesty of a marriage to a man who’s chosen her specifically to be unattractive – until he repents and whisks her off to be ‘improved’…only to be utterly bowled over by the results!  And in Royally Bedded, Regally Wedded,  ‘Frizzy Lizzy’  is unflinching about her plainness that must surely make it impossible for her to marry a glamorous, babe-magnet playboy prince – a plainness he insists on banishing with a wave of his make-over wand so she can never call their union ‘grotesque’ again.  Or in The Italian’s Rags-to-Riches Wife, where hero Allesandro determines that ‘Lumpy Laura’ should feel herself eligible to take her place amongst the beautiful people, and live the Dolce Vita of Roman high society.

So, yes, I wholeheartedly admit I love writing Ugly Duckling stories – and I love those fabulous ‘reveals’ that we see on the screen, too.

I love the moment in reality TV programs when the ‘dowdy housewife’ is revealed as svelte and elegant, when the overweight ‘fattie’ is trimmed down to curvaceous goddess, when the ‘track-suited frump’ is glitzed up to go clubbing the night away!

And  those magical ‘reveals’ have been in movies, too, ever since movies began! Remember Miss Congeniality, when Sandra Bullock sashays out of that air-craft hanger looking a billion dollars? When Covent Garden flower-girl Eliza Doolittle in My Fair lady appears at the head of the marble staircase, gowned in white silk and draped in diamonds to go to the Embassy ball? When house-bound, bullied, put-upon spinster aunt Bette Davis, with her hideous thick eyebrows and ghastly bun and shapeless dress, shows up on the cruise liner with a jeweled cloak, lush lips and huge, beautiful eyes, in Now Voyager?

I love them all!

And if you love them too, let me know! And let me know of any more fabulous ‘reveals’ you love in books, films or TV.


About Securing the Greek’s Legacy:

securingthegreekslegacyThe only solution to both their problems?

Lyn Brandon put her life on hold to protect and keep her beloved orphaned nephew. So when rich, powerful and gorgeous Anatole Telonides arrives demanding the child’s return to his Greek family, the blood freezes in Lyn’s veins…even as her pulse starts racing.

Anatole has spent his life building his family’s empire. Now to secure its legacy he must get the beautiful Lyn to agree to his command. It should be easy, but Lyn is clearly more than the shrinking violet she seems. Her steely resistance entices him to make the ultimate sacrifice…marriage!

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Comments ( 4 )
  1. Melanie Milburne
    February 23, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Hi Julia,
    I LOVE Ugly Duckling stories! Thanks for a fabulous read.

  2. Hana
    February 24, 2014 at 9:06 am

    First off, thanks for the entertaining post, Julia!

    Actually, I’m so-so with Ugly Duckling stories. Like you said, I love the reveal (anyone watch ‘What Not to Wear’?) BUT I find that if the change’s so ridiculously . I recently re-watched ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and I thought Anne Hathaway’s character changed for the wrong reasons. (Of course then she realized what really mattered.)

    I do, however, love me a good rags-to-riches Cinderella heroine (or hero!) I just finished ‘Kholodov’s Last Mistress’ by the fabulously awesome Kate Hewitt and I was in alpha-Cinderella-heaven. I just love when a hero and/or heroine pull themselves up from nothing and fashion the world around them. xD

    My runner-up fairytale stories would be:
    2) Beauty and the Beast (can anyone recommend a scarred heroine to me?)
    3) Ugly Duckling/Plain Jane (or Joe, why not?)

  3. Hana
    February 24, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Lol. Sorry. I kinda cut off with my thought process:

    *BUT I find that if the change’s so ridiculously over-the-top. And like you said, not because the heroine genuinely wants to, then it can get ugly.

  4. Julia James
    February 27, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Thank you for your comments 🙂

    Yes, I agree, sometimes one feels that it would take a large amount of plastic surgery to create the transformation from UD to Swan! (I think it would in my case ha ha!) But I think, too, that within the remit of a romance story, where, let’s be honest now, wishful-thinking plays a pretty significant role (I mean, just how many of us females do actually get to waltz off into an HEA sunset with males like romance heroes?!), the transformation can be read with a pinch of salt….

    One UD transformation I’d love to write, and maybe I will one day, would be to do a ‘fat to slim’ reveal, where the podgy heroine joins the gym, cuts out the cakes, etc etc, and emerges svelte and sleek and with fab muscle tone!

    It’s an interesting thought, though, that a newly created Swan might actually have her head turned by all the attention and become ‘ugly inside’….and start believing that the only important thing in life is her new looks. Andy’s character in The Devil Wears Prada did come perilously close, didn’t she, to turning into a new Miranda…..

    As for Cinderella heroines – oh yes, I love them too! Yet more wish fulfillment ha ha!!

    Beauty and the Beast is a trickier one I think. A ‘beastly’ hero who gives the heroine a hard time can find it hard to walk the line – a key distinction, I feel, is whether the hero is ‘inherently beastly’ – ie, just not a very nice guy (ruthless, womanising, spoilt by his wealth etc etc), who undergoes a true character transformation (even a redemption, sometimes)when he falls in love, or whether the ‘beastly’ hero is a good guy who believes the heroine is only beautiful on the outside, but rotten on the inside. In those stories it’s usually a case of a real eye-opener for him, when he (finally!) realises the heroine is not a gold-digger, marriage breaker etc etc, the way he’s treated her all through the story, and to make amends has to do some Serious Grovelling to her for all his vile assumptions!! (I love a good grovel from a falsly-accusing hero!)

    Finally, I just wanted to say, that if anyone wants to read about a scarred heroine, I did one in my second book, The Greek’s Virgin Bride. I’d love to do another scarred heroine one sometime – maybe even one that’s a reverse Ugly Duckling – where the hero falls for a beautiful heroine, who then loses her looks – will she keep his love though?????? (Of course she will – he’s a True Hero!)

    Cheers! Julia