In Defense of a Crusader Heroine

When writing Elisabeth Courtland (of The Virgin and the Viscount), I tried to be mindful of not casting her as a so-called “crusader” heroine. For whatever reason, the industry has been known to frown upon crusaders. In fact, old tip sheets from publishers used to said, “No crusader heroines.”

But I felt Elisabeth had two choices when she survived the murder of her parents and her days in the brothel, she could either remain mute and emotionally scarred forever, or she could find her voice and fight back. Elisabeth found her voice and fought. But I tried to focus on the personal part of her work, which was rehabilitating rescued prostitutes, planning brothel raids with her band of teenaged renegades, and running her foundation.

I tried to make her confident and bold but also gentle and funny; a pragmatic realist who was also joyful and liked to have a good time. I was inspired partly by the character of Charlotte Dalrymple in a film called Hysteria starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, although the physical image in my mind’s eye was of dark-red hair, olive skin, and freckles.


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