When I started writing, I did so with the idea of making my heroines as strong as the male characters I'd read in books. There was nothing I loathed more than to have a weak heroine who relied on the hero to save the day or get her out of a tricky situation, or even worse, one who fluttered her hands and shrieked with fear while waiting for someone to save her. Second on the grit-my-teeth-and-grimace-list was no heroine in a good story.
So, when I come across a good book with a kick-ass heroine, where the hero doesn't overpower her as a character (yes, he could be an alpha but not in an overbearing/unbearable way), I usually end up loving the book and the author immediately goes onto my To-But-Without-Hesitation list.
Tracey O'Hara, fellow Aussie author, is now top on that list. I've just finished reading her debut urban fantasy book, Night's Cold Kiss, and really enjoyed it.
Antoinette, the heroine, hates vampires after witnessing the murder of her mother as a child. She's a scarred, vengeful character who transforms (figuratively and literally - no spoilers other than that :-) ) by the end of the story.
I was engrossed by this character and her story. Her strengths and weaknesses were attractive as well as grind-your-teeth frustrating; a balanced, convincing portrayal that made her a very believable character.
What makes Antoinette kick-ass, besides those qualities already mentioned? She's an elite Venator, a highly trained vampire slayer (and no comparison to Buffy should be made here). O'Hara's world is a whole lot darker and believable than Whedon's ever was. The action scenes I absolutely loved - fast paced, easy to read, gripping and realistic.
Not a screaming heroine in sight. Antoinette is a female who knows what she wants and takes it (no Conan or he-man dressed in a skirt in this story) and she knows how to use weapons. O'Hara's knowledge/research is integrated into these scenes and full kudos to her for making this seem effortless.
Tie this in with a strong plot that finishes with a satisfying conclusion, a hot romance, several arcing sub-plots left unresolved that foreshadow more books in this series, and you have a great story.
If you haven't yet read O'Hara's book, and like kick-ass heroines, then get a copy and read it.