Elizabeth Bennet, also known as the beginning of a legend.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
~ Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen ~
Elizabeth is the second oldest, and almost the most sensible daughter of the five Bennets, who due to all being women, entail, which only allowed men, in the Bennets’ case, the splendidly pompous Mr Collins, to inherit. That combined with parents given to an imprudent youth means the girls have no money to fall back on and are going to be forced to marry in order to survive (while there is no true example of the consequences of the other option in this novel, one must only look as far as Miss Bates in Emma to see them)
When Mr Bingley, a rich and naive bachelor comes to their town, he promptly falls in love with the oldest Bennet, Jane, however he is initially talked out of his love by his best friend Mr Darcy and sister Caroline.
At the same ball, the handsome, seemingly aloof and therefore even richer Darcy rejects Elizabeth as not handsome enough to tempt him, though further reading shows that his arrogance is actually a cover for shyness, as is his refusal to enter into gossip, which means he is undefended against the much more charming Mr Wickham, who lies about him and eventually steals Elizabeth’s sister, though they eventually marry.
Elizabeth is feisty, refusing a marriage to Mr Collins and slowly changing her opinions on Darcy and Wickham, when she discovers that Darcy paid of Wickham to spare her family, (who are already making idiots of themselves) and to convince Elizabeth of his love as well as convincing Bingley he still loves Jane. Eventually they marry, with Elizabeth learning and changing a lot of her judgements when she realises not everything is as it seems (and the massive house and wealth helped.)
Elizabeth is strong, independent, clever and brave, the backbone of an essentially weak willed and blinkered family, who has to let go of a lot of what she thinks she knows in order to achieve happiness and between her and Jane keep her family’s heads above water, while doing something incredibly brave for the time. She fights against scandal, gender expectations, and class boundaries, all while maintaining wit, fire and her own personality. While many people see a great romance, or Colin Firth in a wet white shirt (which never happens in the book) but I see Austin’s first great heroine.
In contrast, I chose the character Eddie Chase from Andy McDermott’s Eddie/Nina books.
Yorkshireman and ex-SAS, Eddie is not the average ‘hero’ in an adventure or action story, he’s not tall with chiselled good looks, instead he’s short, balding, has a gap-toothed smile and if he uses the phrase “buggeration and fuckery” you know something bad and mad is about to happen. A fan of Indiana Jones and ‘Where Eagles Dare’, he also has the habit of throwing out bad puns when killing a bad guy.
Eddie meets American archaeologist, Nina Wilde in the first book ‘Hunt for Atlantis’ and acts as her bodyguard, he helps keep her alive and safe throughout the book and despite a rough start the two grow fond of each other and eventually end up a couple… which leads to a further nine books (at current count) telling about their further exploits.
He’s not everyone’s cup of tea due to his constant use of profanity and other choice phrases but for me he’s likeable, down-to-earth and his humour and non-action hero norm are refreshing.