Something has been bugging me lately. I can find stories of action, adventure, academia, lost treasures, lost loves, etc. which is awesome, but I’ve noticed, the lost loves are always girls, and the heroes are almost always boys! As I have not yet been elected Supreme Ruler of the Universe (an egregious oversight, I’m sure), I can’t force more female heroes into the genre any more than I can make the the kidnapped beauties men with flowing chest-hair and pants that cling provocatively to their legs as they lean into the inexplicable wind that always follows kidnapped beauties. So I’ll have to content myself with this list of female adventurers and detectives, at least for now.
Murder Most Unladylike (Wells and Wong #1) by Robin Stevens
If we’re going to make any changes in the detective/adventurer field, it’s important we start early, so our first daring duo is the inquisitive young ladies of Murder Most Unladylike. Like any good detectiving pair, these two must compete against time and a nefarious killer to figure out the twists and turns of a complicated case before the police get there and ruin all the fun. A model pair for any young ladies setting out to become the next non-gender-specific Sherlock Holmes.
Though it does make one wonder–what does a ladylike murder look like?
Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t, really.)
But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there’s more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.
Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster.
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
For the less scrupulous adventurer-in-training, we have The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, a group of young women who take an entirely different approach to the matter of boarding-school murder. Less concerned with the identity of the killer, these scandalous ladies scheme and connive to keep their new paradise of a teacher & parent-free boarding school. (Not that I can say I’d blame them…)
There’s a murderer on the loose—but that doesn’t stop the girls of St. Etheldreda’s from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.
The students of St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a smart, hilarious Victorian romp, full of outrageous plot twists, mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings.
Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2) by Gail Carriger
We’ll finish off the school-section of the Feature with finishing school (har de har har) with the dangerous young ladies of Curtsies & Conspiracies. If nothing else, I think this novel has found out how to stop students whining that “School is so boooring!” and “We’ll never need to know this!!” I for one would never miss a day of class if it meant turning me into the classy and debonair spy/assassin who could make James Bond look sloppy (though it might not be so hard to compete with someone so…easily distracted).
Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?
Sophronia’s first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy–won’t Mumsy be surprised? Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.
Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers’ quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship’s boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot–one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.
Her Ladyship’s Curse (Disenchanted & Co. Book 1, Part #1) by Lynn Viehl
Everyone needs some kind of career to occupy his or her time after finishing school and even the detective/adventuring woman has to choose a specialty. One way to go is to follow this heroine’s footsteps and investigate fake paranormal activity such as Her Ladyship’s Curse, learning all the tricks of that particular trade and revealing charlatans (hopefully with a grandiose unveiling). And since I have yet to see a story of a supernatural-debunker who isn’t confronted with real magic/ghosts eventually, this job comes with the added perk of seeing magic in action!
In a steampunk version of America that lost the Revolutionary War, Charmian (Kit) Kittredge makes her living investigating magic crimes and exposing the frauds behind them. While Kit tries to avoid the nobs of high society, as the proprietor of Disenchanted & Co. she follows mysterieswherever they lead.
Lady Diana Walsh calls on Kit to investigate and dispel the curse she believes responsible for carving hateful words into her own flesh as she sleeps. While Kit doesn’t believe in magic herself, she can’t refuse to help a woman subjected nightly to such vicious assaults. As Kit investigates the Walsh family, she becomes convinced that the attacks on Diana are part of a larger, more ominous plot—one that may involve the lady’s obnoxious husband.
Sleuthing in the city of Rumsen is difficult enough, but as she learns the truth behind her ladyship’s curse, Kit also uncovers a massive conspiracy that promises to ruin her life—and turn Rumsen into a supernatural battleground from which no one will escape alive.
Bewitched, Bothered & BeVampyred by Mary Jo Putney, Gail Northman, Vicki Lewis Thompson, MaryJanice Davidson, Lynn Warren, Shelly Laurenston, Terese Ramin, Susan Grant, Linda Wisdom, Michelle Rowen, Alesia Holliday, Judi McCoy, Jennifer St. Giles, Fiona MacLeod, Rachel Carrington, Gena Showalter, P.C. Cast, Sophia Nash, Kathryn Caskie, Elizabeth Holcombe, and Patricia Rice
Another obnoxious trend I’ve mentioned before is that of limiting adventure stories to young, single women who spend half their time solving mysteries and the other half falling in love. Life does go on beyond falling in love, and I would even make the radical contention that mysteries can be solved without taking time out to swoon. Fortunately the (many) authors of Bewitched, Bothered & BeVampyred agree with me and have given us a supply of stories, mystery, adventure, and otherwise starring all manner of grown-up and married women causing and solving mysteries.
Welcome to Brokenoggin Falls, where the housewives are not only desperate, they’re Witches! (And one of them might be a Harpy)
The spells cast by moonlight frequently go awry. And there are times when toads and Chihuahuas seem abundant as black flies in the summer, the dragons are a little touchy, the Forest Trolls are in danger of extinction from teeny-boppers, the Gryphons need help conceiving and the scientist are crunchy and good with ketchup…