The Warrior Woman in Contemporary Romance Fiction

Federation University Australia
Publication year

Here's the abstract:

The warrior woman is a recurring figure in myth and history. She could be seen as an ambiguous character as she challenges patriarchal assumptions about gender roles with her capability for masculine aggression while being recognisably female and “feminine”. In the new millennium, she has reappeared as the action heroine in films, televisions, comics and video games and she has also infiltrated romance fiction, a genre often considered one of the most conservative genres in terms of gender roles and equality.

The Silhouette Bombshell line was created by the multinational publisher Harlequin to capitalise on the popularity of “action heroines” in popular culture. The romance genre, perhaps the most derided of all scorned literature, is often accused, particularly by feminist critics, of reinforcing the patriarchal structure of society. This thesis examines how this character type in romance fiction can provide a means to question and even subvert traditional or patriarchal gender expectations. It will undertake the close examination of the first six books of the Athena Force series, which were published in 2004-2005 as part of the Silhouette Bombshell line. Both the warrior woman and the romance genre are defined and historically reviewed, together with an outline of the workings of the contemporary romance industry with regard to category, genre and publishing guidelines. There follows a detailed analysis of the warrior woman character as she appears in the Athena Force series with regard to agency, violence, sisterhood, professional career, performance of femininity and romantic relationships. This study of the warrior woman in romance fiction challenges many critical and social preconceptions about the romance genre in general, and its treatment of gender roles in particular.