I grew up devouring Nancy Drew books–devouring them to the point where the spunky titian-haired heroine had to be rationed out to me by my mother (this in order to maintain something resembling a budget in our household). Strong female leads are a big selling point for me. I mean, what self-professed feminist wouldn’t be drawn to a strong female character? It’s more than that, of course: when you find a character you can watch grow emotionally and evolve as a person throughout a series, they become part of your life and start to feel like one of your best friends. I’ve shared just as many giddy first relationships, devastating breakups, monumental life accomplishments, and horrific losses with my fictional girl posse as I have my real-life, flesh-and-blood girlfriends (yes, I have real friends, honest, now hush). Since I’m a generous person and all, let me introduce you to a few of my besties:
Oxford educated Russell first met the “retired” detective Sherlock Holmes in 1915 when she was 15 years old, wandering the Sussex downs, her nose stuck in a book. She, quite literally, stumbled across Holmes, who mistook her for a boy (granted, she was dressed in one of her late father’s suits) and launched a cutting remark in her direction that resulted in a match of wits so impressive she found herself being invited back to his cottage and being served tea by none other than Mrs. Hudson. Russell and Holmes’ relationship evolves from protege to apprentice to partner throughout the course of the first book. I adore Russell for her brains and her amazing self confidence. Her loyalty to Holmes is so intense she actually takes a bullet for him. When I say this is my favorite series and my favorite character ever, I mean it.
Aimée is sooo French (and everyone needs a fabulous fashionista as a best book bud, right?). Plus, she is beyond resilient and whip-smart. Her father was a police officer killed in the line of duty, and her mother abandoned her long ago, which has given her the means to handle trauma and the confidence to rely on her own wits to see her through. Having inherited and re-imagined her grandfather’s private detective agency as a cyber detection and security firm, Aimée quickly finds out that her desire to stay safely behind her computer screen is not what the fates have intended for her life. Of course, all of her cases are unravelled while she looks perfectly Parisian-chic.
Alexia is soulless. At least that’s the somewhat derogatory term the supernatural community of Victorian England has bestowed upon her, due to her natural ability to negate their powers. Werewolves and vampires become mortal in her presence and ghosts can’t stomach her. Alexia’s fantasy-punk world was more than enough to draw me into this series, but I stayed for her ability to be so feminine and ladylike while still refusing to be subjugated for being female. Anyone that can hold her own while facing down an alpha werewolf or a vampire queen and become best friends with a cross-dressing French inventor is my kind of gal. Plus, she has the most tricked-out parasol ever (and steadfastly refuses to succumb to her friend Ivy’s incredibly questionable taste in hats).
Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar
Adelia’s a doctor, which wouldn’t be nearly as impressive were it not for the fact she was trained in Salerno, Italy in the 12th century. When Henry II of England calls upon his cousin to send him the best “master of the art of death” Salerno has to offer in order to help unravel some horrific murders being perpetrated in Cambridge, the best pathologist turns out to be a woman. Henry II is in a quandary about how to use her skills while preventing her from being accused of witchcraft in a highly superstitious England. The (sometimes hilarious) method Adelia chooses is to pretend her eunuch manservant/bodyguard is the physician and that she must translate for him. She also gets her very own knight in…well, rather dull armor in the end. Watching Adelia forge her way as an independent woman, single mother, and groundbreaking physician as the series progresses is truly inspiring to me.
Katherine “Kit” Craig
Fair Warning: hanging out with Kit for an extended period of time will have you craving a rockabilly wardrobe and killer red lipstick. She’s a modern day reporter with a love for all things retro and has filled her life with good friends, gumption, and a some spot on repros in Las Vegas. Her easy and perfect life quickly gets shaken up when her friend is violently murdered during an undercover investigation…and the killer’s sights are set on Kit. Intervening on her behalf is real-life guardian angel (and I do mean angel in the most literal sense of the word) Griffin Shaw, who may have just been whacked by the mob in 1960s Vegas. Kit is pure fun. Her unwavering commitment to her rockabilly lifestyle makes her seem like a true retro reporter. I can’t help but picture Lois Lane while I’m reading her and Grif’s adventures.
What about you? Who are your fictional besties?