Like Maureen, I read the first scene of Can't Buy Me Love pretty much in it's first draft and my first reaction, besides seething jealousy, was awe. In ridiculously few words, Molly had created a heroine I instantly loved.
I loved her at the beginning and loved her more at the end, and always, always found Tara Jean fascinating and compulsively readable.
And then the reviews came out. That most were incredibly positive came as no surprise, but where I was dumbfounded came the reviews that called Tara Jean unlikeable and difficult. Because I truly did not understand.
She's not perfect, certainly not at the beginning, but writers learn quickly that our characters have to grow and change and become better people over the course of the book, and if she's perfect to start with, then there's nowhere for her to go.
And she had to create sparks with the hero and a passive, nice girl is not going to create sparks with a hockey legend.
Some of my favourite romance heroines start their stories as challenging. Ain't She Sweet's Sugar Beth was a genuine highschool bitch who made life miserable for those around her, and I adored her story.
Jenny Jones in Maggie Osborne's book starts the story in jail for killing a man, in self defense, and she's rough and hard, even with the little girl who recently lost her mother, but over the course of the book, she changes and becomes one of my favourite romance heroines ever.
I prefer heroines with hard edges, smart, even a little opportunistic. They're more interesting than the heroine who is great at her job, kind to old people, a great friend, even when those friends are walking all over her, and in general a doormat to everyone around her.
I'd like to see more heroines like Tara Jean in romance and I'm glad to say a lot more people loved Tara Jean than hated her.