Swashbuckling Heroines

This post was written by Paige.

plumeria flower

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Are you ready to get your Swash and Buckle on? I hope so! I have been thinking about what it is about Miss Gwendolyn Meadows that I love so much. She is complex and we will surely be talking about all of her layers throughout the month. Today, though, I want to talk about one of my favorite things, which is swashbucklers. Does anyone else just like the word “swashbuckle”? It conjures up adventure and dashing historical rogues with hearts of gold. I think of pirate ships and musketeers and the Scarlet Pimpernel. Thanks to the Pink series, I also think of a certain group of Napoleonic era spies, inspired by The Purple Gentian and led by The Pink Carnation. Is anyone else with me?

One of the things that I think has captured our hearts about this series is that the girls get to dash into adventure too. Strike that. We don’t need the “get to.” The females have their share of intrigue and adventure, sometimes despite the best efforts of the gentlemen to keep them safely tucked away. Some of our heroines so far have been more outwardly adventurous than others, but I would say they have all had a bit of “swash” in their core. Leading the pack with sheer outrageous antics, we have the incomparable Miss Gwen.

What separates Miss Gwen from the rest is how she relishes participating in the actual fighting. She does more than pass along messages or dress up in disguises in order to take part in espionage. Miss Gwen carries a weapon with her at all times, her trusty sword parasol. In Plumeria, she fights side by side with Colonel Reid. She refuses to escape when they are ambushed by ruffians because she doesn’t want him to “have all the fun.” We have had scenes where she is frustrated with Jane’s lack of action. In her view, the whole Pink Carnation network is a result of her daring and Jane’s cunning.  Throughout this entire book so far we have had references to how much Miss Gwen thrives on danger and adventure.  Make no mistake, though: Miss Gwen knows exactly what she is doing. She does not rush willy-nilly into dangerous situations. She is no rash young Miss who finds herself in need of rescue because she has been impulsive. She sees and hears many things in her persona of fierce old maid chaperone and uses them to her advantage.

Even better than a solo swashbuckler is a swashbuckling duo. In steps Colonel Reid. We’ve talked previously about how perfectly compatible Miss Gwen and Colonel Reid are and how witty their banter is. It should be no surprise that they are just as well-matched when fighting off assailants. Indeed, Miss Gwen suggests to Colonel Reid that his brawn and her sword would be the best way to handle their attackers. This scene has one of my favorite Pink quotes, “As one, they whirled to face their assailants.” I can’t tell you how glorious that makes me feel and how much I want to raise my fist and shout, “Huzzah!” When I think it can’t possibly get better, Miss Gwen lunges forward and cries, “To me!” Slay me. I am curious to know how everyone else felt while reading this part of the book. Did you find yourself as jubilant as I did?

All of this has me thinking about what other books feature dashing swashbuckling females. One of my favorite features of Lauren’s website is her “If You Like” posts. I have found some of my favorite books and authors there. I have also found that readers who enjoy the Pink books tend to have great suggestions and are well-read. Do you have any books that you can suggest? I have a short list of some that I have read recently that I enjoyed and come readily to mind.

The Rebel Pirate by Donna Thorland was my introduction to the Renegades of the American Revolution series. I adored this book and it definitely features a swashy female! In fact, the whole series has been fantastic. Not all of the heroines are technically swashbucklers, but they are all fabulous. A bonus for me is that they take place during the historical period of the American Revolution, which is an era I find fascinating.

In Bed With a Spy by Alyssa Alexander has a couple that fight together á la Miss Gwen and Colonel Reid. The hero of the book is a spy and he first sees the heroine when she is charging into battle after having taken up her slain husband’s place. This one has lots of intrigue and there is no way that the heroine is ever going to sit by and let the men have all the “fun.”

My Lady Pirate by Danelle Harmon is about a “girl” who is the captain of her own pirate ship with an all-female crew. She is Maeve Merrick, the notorious Pirate Queen of the Caribbean. Woe be to the hero, a British Naval officer, who becomes her captive. Until they become a swashbuckling duo! That naval officer has some pirate tendencies of his own…

Have you read anything lately that features either a swashbuckling female or a swashbuckling couple? I would love some more suggestions.

Have a fabulous day! On Friday we will have a recap of chapters 6-12. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your week!

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22 thoughts on “Swashbuckling Heroines

  1. Reading your post filled me with enthusiasm and thoughts of derring-do, Paige. Yes, I love the Miss Gwen scene you described and am so glad she has her own book. The opening with her perched on the balcony listening to Talleyrand’s conversation also showed her penchant for action!!

    Last summer I reread Daphne Du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek and certainly recommend it as a swashbuckling adventure. Set in the restoration period, a London leading lady of society is bored with it all and retreats to her husband’s home in Cornwall. There she finds a French pirate has been using the closed up house as his resting place in between adventurous runs along Frenchman’s Creek. Of course she must join the adventure. It is a quick read with excitement and adventure, plus a look at “what’s the meaning of life.”

    I have the Donna Thorland book and look forward to reading it. Here’s to more swashbuckling adventures!

    • Betty, I am going to look for Frenchman’s Creek. Thanks for the recommendation! I hope you enjoy The Rebel Pirate! Thanks for sharing the swashbuckling enthusiasm! I like to read a variety of books, but I do love those swashbuckling adventures!

  2. Paige, thank you for this! I cannot tell you how much I love this post. I grew up on the classic swashbucklers– “The Sea Hawk”, “Zorro”, “Scaramouche”, “Captain Blood”, “The Scarlet Pimpernel”– and while I adored them, it always frustrated me that so many of the females involved were so weak. Marguerite in the “Pimpernel” does do her share, but I recall being deeply disappointed in the heroines of “The Sea Hawk” and “Zorro”, who primarily simper (or, occasionally, get stroppy in a foot-stamping sort of way) and serve as both impetus and reward for the hero. (My apologies if I’m maligning these heroines– I’m going off remembered impressions.)

    That’s not to say that I think every woman (or man) should wield a sword. I’d be terrible at it. (Viz my failed fencing classes in middle school.) Also at swinging through windows. (Viz my failure at every gymnastics class ever.) There are different kinds of power, and they also serve who pass coded notes, who scheme and plot and whisper in the right ears. But it does make a nice corrective to see the woman wielding the rapier for a change!

    Vis a vis other woman swashbucklers, I definitely recommend a pair of old Carole Nelson Douglas novels: “Fair Wind,Fiery Star” (seventeenth century pirates) and “Lady Rogue” (a late eighteenth century revenge plot).

    And, of course, who can forget Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody? (Starting with “Crocodile on the Sandbank”.)

    • Lauren, thank you for your reply! You have made me so happy! I am ashamed to admit that I have had “Crocodile on the Sandbank” for some time but have yet to read it. I specifically ordered it because I had read one of your recommendations. I am going to rectify that and read it soon! I am also going to look into the pair of Carole Nelson Douglas novels.

      I would hurt myself, I am sure, if I ever tried fencing.It looks like it requires some grace and athletic skills I lack. I have to say, fencing lessons sound very cool, though! I did once actually walk right into a sliding glass door, so swinging through windows is probably not something I could realistically maneuver. I sure love to live vicariously through high adventures, though!

      One thing I was a bit concerned about when I was writing this swashbuckling post was that I would inadvertently sound as if I were minimizing any of the other Pink heroines, because that was not my intent.

  3. I love the Jacky Faber series! I haven’t read them all, but the ones I have read are fabulous!

    I think one of the things that I love most about Miss Gwen is that she is not afraid of jumping into the action, but she thinks before she does so. I love Amy and Hen, but they have a tendency to not think the plan to it’s conclusion before they jump in. Not so with Miss Gwen, and I love her competence.

    • Dara, it is a fine tightrope to walk between being bravely bold and being reckless, isn’t it? I love Amy and Hen, too! 🙂 I am super behind the swing of things by not having been aware of the Jacky Faber series before now!

      • I read the first 3 or 4 of the series when I was in the YA target audience but lost track after that. I’m going to have to go catch up on them now.

  4. When I describe the pink books to friends who haven’t read them, my quote is always that they have a little swash and a lot of buckle”

    In my role as a middle school librarian, I ran across a new YA book by one of my favorite adult authors. The House of The Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey. If you want a strong female in the fairytale sense, her 500 kingdoms series has the princesses rescuing the princes more often than not…and a great fantasy series with strong female leads is her Heralds of Valdemar series.

    New series I have loved, also in the YA vein is Marissa Meyers’s Lunar Chronicles…think Cinderella meets Hunger Games…

    Since most of my reading is ya for work, pink is my adult pleasure

    • I should probably read a bit more YA, and you sound like an expert! I love the sound of Cinderella meets Hunger Games! And I am all about fairy tales! These are some great suggestions, thanks!

  5. I also like female swashbucklers, with Nancy Blackett, captain of the Amazon and Terror of the seas, from Arthur Ransome’s 1930s Swallows and Amazon series as a particular favorite. Accompanied by her quieter sister Peggy, Nancy sails her way through most of the series, though Winter Holiday has a very funny role reversal in which Nancy is quarantined with mumps and Peggy takes on captaining the Swallows and Amazons’ current adventure, complete to Nancy’s favorite phrases, which include “Jibbooms and bobstays” and “Barbecued billygoats.”

    Like the Swallows and Amazons, I also spent much of my childhood afloat in a small sailboat and usually wore a red cap when sailing in honor of Nancy and Peggy’s red caps. And next weekend, I’ll be home in Maine and will be able to launch my boat (who usually lives in my parent’s garage these days) for a few days, which I am very much looking forward to doing!

    • Abby, have a great time when you go home to Maine! The Swallows and Amazon series sounds wonderful, and I love how you were a swashbuckling child! 🙂

  6. Try Julie Anne Long ‘s Pennyroyal Green series…the first one has the heroine do rescue work for hire…pulling off a fabulously intricate and showy rescue of the hero from a Newgate hanging. Such fun…

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