My youngest, who is seven, was ambivalent about her Halloween costume this year. She waffled between being a cheerleader or a princess. I wasn’t crazy about either choice, mostly because they seemed a little boring to me. And, to be totally honest, I was disappointed in the cliché of princess or cheerleader. Freckles plays tackle football. She lays out boys her age every week. She has older brothers and she imitates them, even tries to best them at the things they do. She’s fierce.
But she is also a girly-girl, and if my little warrior wanted to be a princess for Halloween, so be it. I’m determined to raise strong daughters who know their own mind and their own worth, which means allowing them to make their own choices.
Then I came across Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, a book of 100 stories about empowered women from Queen Elizabeth I to Serena Williams. One of the stories was about Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen of Ireland, who lived in the sixteenth century. Grace inherited her father’s lordship, despite having brothers, and led a life fighting against British rule of her land. She led raids on ships, pillaging and plundering with the best of them, using the treasures to help fund the cause for Ireland. When Freckles saw this, she changed her mind. “I’m going to be the Pirate Queen!”
“What makes her special?” I asked, my feminist heart soaring.
“She was smarter than her brothers,” she said. “That’s why she became the leader in her family.” Ah, something that resonates with the baby of our family!
We had fun putting together her costume and talking about Grace, as well as the many other strong women in the book. She is already talking about being Jane Goodall next year. But should she change her mind and decide she wants to be Sleeping Beauty, instead, I will happily support her. Because I do feel you can believe in fairy tales and dream about princesses, and still be a strong empowered woman. I am a romance writer, after all. Fairy tales and happily-ever-afters are my bread-and-butter.
One of my goals when writing romance is to create heroines who aren’t helpless, who aren’t “saved” by the hero. These heroines experience the same heartbreak, the same doubts, have the same flaws that we all have at one time or another, but persevere nonetheless. The hero may aid in her self-discovery, but it’s she who finds her own strength and resilience.
In my latest release, Love Me Like You Do, the heroine had a crappy childhood and it’s soured her on love. She hasn’t dismissed the idea of committed love entirely, but when she has it, it will be on her own terms. The hero, throughout most of the novel, tries to show her how she’s wrong, that marriage and children are something they can have together. He’s stunned and disbelieving when she informs him that she doesn’t want children. Surely, it’s only because of her own dysfunctional upbringing, and once she sees that he is different, she’ll embrace the traditional commitment he craves. He’s not a bad guy, or even a jerk. He’s just like many people today who are confused when they meet a woman who doesn’t want a husband or children. That’s the role women have been pigeon-holed into for centuries.
Thankfully, it’s starting to change, as slow-going as it may seem at times. Women are turning traditional roles upside down. Our voices are louder than ever and we’re standing up for ourselves, as well as for our mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends, in numbers that scare some men. Those who should be scared. We aren’t going to be pushed around.
Haley, my heroine, does go through a change in heart as far as trust and love go. But she holds fast to her principles. She knows what she wants and she’s secure in it. How in the world can these two ever reconcile their own wants and needs? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out. *wink* But I do promise it’s a happy ending.
My kids’ school held Fall Fest recently, which gave us a trial run for Halloween costumes. Freckles donned her pirate dress and flaming red wig, and grabbed her plastic sword. Most people didn’t know who she was, and thought she was a female Jack Sparrow. She corrected them. “I’m Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen. She fought for Ireland and she was smarter than her brothers.”
My hope is that we start to see more Grace O’Malleys, Jane Goodalls, Serena Williamses, or Katherine Johnsons at Halloween, along with Rapunzels and Elsas. Whatever and whoever they want to be. Because giving girls more choices empowers them. And empowered girls turn into empowered women who change the world.
What was your favorite Halloween costume as a kid? (Or as an adult?)
Love Me Like You Do
Though florist Haley doesn’t do love and marriage, sexy and sweet handyman Will tempts her into reconsidering. But Will is hiding something and if he doesn’t come clean to Haley, it might mean losing her forever. And when secrets and lies from the past threaten their fragile future together, each must decide if it’s worth risking their hearts to find a happy ending they both can live with.
About the Author
Cate Tayler is a beach baby, born and raised on the Connecticut coastline. She met the love of her life while serving in the US Air Force, and after extensive overseas travel, they are now raising their four children in the wild suburbs of Maryland.
When she’s not living her own happily ever after, she’s creating them in her small-town romances. Because the world always needs more happy endings!
You can connect with her at her website: http://www.catetayler.com.