Absolutely! Especially in contemporary romance, more often than not, the heroine has a successful, fulfilling career. Meaning that she doesn't need a man to support her financially. Support her in other ways, sure. But money is less a factor in her decision that he is Mr. Right.
Avalon Books has always insisted that their heroines be independent and have successful careers. Avalon even offers a line of Career Romances to highlight stories in which a heroine's career is a major plot element. If you take a look at the women portrayed in the line, you'll find a puppeteer, a bank loan officer, a policewoman, a ballerina, a librarian, a veterinarian, a kaleidoscope designer, a Navy lieutenant, an auto mechanic, an artist, and many more. There are no limits on what career a contemporary woman might pursue.
For a writer, then, choosing a career for the heroine is a big deal. The career places her in a setting, establishes people around her, says something about her personality, and can be a source of her goals, joys and frustrations. For a reader, a heroine's career offers a role model and perhaps insight into an unfamiliar job or industry. I just finished reading a romantic suspense in which the heroine was starting a dry cleaning business. Dry cleaning (as a business) has never been on my radar as a career choice, but there it was for a heroine I admired and her career choice was, in fact, integral to the plot (as all good character elements are!). I learned a lot about the business and was grateful for the author who stretched my imagination.
In Avalon's Career Romances, the heroine's career is not only her job, but also the main source of conflict between the hero and heroine. In my first Avalon book, A Private Proposal, the heroine is a librarian writing a proposal to establish an information center in a government department, and she falls for the hero, the company president. Not only is she a good friend of the president of a competing consulting firm, but the hero is also convinced that she has been sharing company secrets with that friend. I heard at a writing workshop that to bump up the tension in a romance, put the hero's job and the heroine's job in direct opposition--a restaurant owner and a city health inspector, a policeman and an Internal Affairs investigator, a pilot and the plane's mechanic. You get the idea.
Zelda asked us yesterday how we research our novels, and for careers, we all have our favorite sources and may use different ones for different careers. The librarian in A Private Proposal was built from my own experience as a contractor in the information business. I've headed to the library to scan the Government's Occupational Outlook Handbook and the career section for a job's background and language. If you look at the acknowledgments page of any writer's book, you'll often see a thank you to a professional, someone that the writer called, followed, listened to and watched to learn about a job or business. I find it handy to consider professionals in my own family.
As a reader, what are some of the most interesting careers you've come across in a romance? Writers, any tips for research or stories about how you gathered your information?
Well, a girl does have to make a living, and I'm off to do just that!
Have a great day!