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Vampires Ruin Everything, even Helen Harper’s Strong Women

by Calee Jordan

Confession: I am a vampirist. Is there a word for vampire discrimination? A hater of vampires? Well, maybe not hate; I don’t hate vampires, but I’m biased against them.

Vampires are violent drug addicts craving blood and suffering personality shifts when deprived of their blood.  So characters be wary when a hungry vampires lash out because they are dangerous as well as arrogant.  Vampires make characters (yeah, and me) feel inadequate. In their arrogance, vampires think they are better than everyone else because they’re stronger, faster, older, and richer. When they turn, they somehow become hotter, taller, and sexier than everyone else. And when they’re around, people experience bloody deaths, destruction, and darkness.

Whenever a vampire appears within a book, I expect nothing but blood and darkness.

So, vampire discrimination–I have that, and my bias against vampires is strong.

My vampire disdain may be part of my disliking the Bo Blackman series by Helen Harper. Harper writes fantasy/sci-fi about paranormal creatures in England and Scotland.

I happened upon Harper’s Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series on Hoopla. Witch Ivy Wilde, Lazy Girl’s main character, immediately hooked me. She was funny, smart, talented and underestimated; yet the Hallowed Order of Magical Enlightenment expelled her for cheating and assault. Ivy was awesome. So I binged two more of Harper’s paranormal series—Highland Magic series and the aforementioned Bo Blackman series.

In Highland Magic’s Integrity Adair, runaway Sidhe-turned-thief, appealed to me. Like Ivy Wilde, Integrity Adair had everything that a reformed romance reader would love. Both women were smart, opinionated, and active—despite Ivy Wilde’s desire to slump on the couch and let someone else do the work. Even better, Helen Harper’s women avoid all the strong heroine clichés:

  • Neither woman is cowed or saved by a strong man. Sometimes, the women save the day, but other days, someone else has a better plan, so collaboration is needed.
  • Their successes and failures are due to their intelligence as much as their luck and smarter villains. Just as in real life.
  • When they make mistakes, they avoid the blame game that some heroines display. Instead, each woman owns up to her flaws—usually internally, but eventually externally.
  • They are multifaceted and have lives and interests beyond the story line. They balance the problem at hand with other issues. Again, like real life.
  • Plus, they don’t wander around in the stock wardrobe of t-shirt, leather pants (or jeans), and ass kicking boots. Nope, they wear whatever is available and appropriate for the moment, so they avoid the stereotypical girl power persona.
  • And man, are they funny. I laughed uproariously and highlighted several one liners from both women as both women adeptly defuse situations and convey personality within a humorous sentence or two.

Still Harper’s strong women aren’t perfect Mary Janes. Integrity likes to torture her friends and enemies with horrible jokes and puns, and Ivy often reverts to her laziness and slob-like behavior when frustrated.

And they all suffer infernal lip biting. Why? <shaking frustrated fists to the ceiling>. When nervous, thinking, planning, attracted, whatever—they bite their lower lip. Must they? Chew a nail, suck the lower lip, tap a finger, pick at something, and save the lip biting for the bedroom.

And yes, they suffer that internal romantic monologue—“He’s so hot.”  “Does he like me?”  “Why can’t I resist him?” etc.

Save me from stereotypical girly indecisiveness and sexual attraction especially when everything else isn’t stereotypical. 

Okay, I’m off point.

Lastly, I read the Bo Blackman series.

Bo Blackman is a novice detective turned vampire, entangled in a demon murder investigation that incriminates her. As she evades the police and investigates the murder, London’s five vampire familes become involved, and the bad situation becomes bloody (as I predicted). Meanwhile, the series’ hot, powerful vampire and independent woman struggle through an unresolved “when will they” romance (My Shocking Transition to Fantasy and Sci-Fi) {kind of a spoiler} as the vampire families implode.

Harper’s strong women are great, but despite my previous love and binge of Harper’s works, Bo Blackman was harder for me to enjoy. I couldn’t like this story, and I want to point to my vampire disdain. However, I’m not a blind discriminator. My dislike is much deeper than that.

In fact, I should like Bo. She has several excellent heroine qualities—intelligence, independence, luck, action, etc.—that I appreciate. She commands respect from humans, witches, demons, and vampires alike. With each book, she becomes stronger and more capable.

However, Bo falls into the strong woman stereotypes:

  • As she becomes stronger, she becomes less feminine and less collaborative. Being alone and working independently is acceptable, but Bo constantly pushes her relationships and emotions aside to accomplish her tasks. In several situations where she needs it, Bo pushes away reasonable help, particularly male help. She acts like a petulant teen rebelling against strong males in her life rather than a rational person weighing her needs and wants.
  • She becomes more violent as her humor withers, resolving many of her issues through violence rather than communication or planning.
  • She dresses like a slob; since she is strong and action oriented, she limits herself to ass-kicking boots, a leather jacket, and comfortable clothes. Unlike other Harper women, she lacks fashion diversity as her character becomes more predictable.

And the vampires may be to blame for these flaws (yep, my vampire rant had purpose) since they are stereotypical vampire traits:

  • Male and female vampires alike often appear unemotional or disinterested. As they become stronger, they respond less emotionally.
  • They revert to violent rather than emotional reactions to situations.
  • Other than the sardonic quip, vampires rarely show emotion.
  • Vampires establish a uniform style; admittedly, their fashion is often elitist, but these creatures become mired in their styles and rarely deviate from them.

So vampires aren’t good strong heroines. They strip away feminine characteristics until distinctions between male and female faint.

Vampires ruin good plots.

A bit about the columnist:

Calee Jordan is a writing professor. Despite spending her days in academic and technical writing, Calee enjoys nights of fiction--among passionate couples, paranormal creatures, and other worlds. Visit author page

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