After a stunning evening at Covent Garden this week, watching The Royal Ballet’s production of Sleeping Beauty, I came back to the smoggy London reality with rather a large, un-balletic thump. For a few hours, I was swept away into a world of enchanted forests, fairy godmothers and magic spells – and of course, the delightfully dashing Prince Florimund. It was, in a word, tight-tastic. But when the curtain fell, it did get me thinking about the relevance of Charles Perrault’s classic fairytale within our own books…
Whilst Princess Aurora, played by the brilliant Marianela Nuñez, was utterly compelling to watch, there is the unavoidable fact that for a large part of the story (one hundred years, no less), she is asleep. Aurora’s only hope of rescue? A handsome hero and true love’s kiss. The princess really is the definition of a damsel in distress, remaining entirely unconscious and thus entirely dependent on the hero for her happy ending. It’s a beautiful story, but I couldn’t help but feel a little frustrated that she didn’t have a little more to do.
Tempting as it may seem to allow the hero to do all the work, in the modern age of the empowered female our Mills & Boon heroines certainly play their part in the protagonists’ romantic journey. We’re looking for that fairytale feel of falling in love, for the heroine to find that perfect other who she can rely on – but crucially, our heroines are also able to rely on themselves. A Mills & Boon heroine is the ‘mistress’ of her own destiny. No matter what may have happened in the past, she is able to decide her future. And perhaps this makes it so incredibly powerful, when our couples finally reach their happy-ever-after.
Of course, we’re looking for that alpha-male who makes any heroine feel safe in his arms, but we’re also searching for flirty, feisty heroines who give as good as they get! We love the power-play as the hero and heroine react to their sizzling chemistry, the tantalising tension as they attempt to resist the irresistible. These are 21st century damsels in distress…and whilst the heroes may help to open their hearts, unlock their pasts and break down those barriers, the final steps of personal conquest are ones the heroine must make alone.
In Flirting with the Forbidden by Joss Wood (Modern Tempted, April 2014), sexy and successful jewellery designer and diamond heiress Morgan Moreau falls for her oh-so hunky bodyguard, Noah Fraser. Our modern day damsel resists his protection at first, she has her own private battles to overcome – but it’s only a matter of time before flirting with the forbidden becomes far too tempting!
Then, in Her Soldier Protector by Soraya Lane (Cherish, April 2014) celebrity singer Candace Evans struggles against her attraction to SAS hero Logan Murdoch. Candace has learnt never to trust any man again, she’s suffered too much in her life to open herself up to more. But as Logan inspires Candace to take control of her own life, keeping her distance becomes increasingly difficult – especially when every fibre of her being pulls her towards him!
As in both these stories, the classic chivalric tale of the hero coming to the rescue will forever hold its resonance in any woman’s heart, and will always have its place in our books. But as you dream of being carried off into the sunset – possibly by a prince on horseback – I can only suggest that falling in love is best done whilst fully conscious, and with eyes wide open.
My grandmother always went to bed with a full face of make-up, hoping that if she met the man of her dreams, she would at least be prepared. Princess Aurora was lucky enough to find her Prince whilst in a slumber…but this just might explain why it’s a fairytale.
So, there’s only one question left to ask…would the man of your dreams sweep you off on horseback, or would you make sure to have an elegant steed of your own?