If the bestseller lists are any indication, readers are hungry for female characters who are authentic, edgy–sometimes even unhinged. Here are my top 10 picks for great novels with Unhappy Heroines (arranged by publishing date because I couldn’t choose favorites!).
A troubled journalist returns to her hometown to report on a series of brutal murders. But Camille is no Lois Lane. She has a drinking problem, she’s promiscuous and she’s been institutionalized for “cutting” herself. We soon learn that her family story is just as dark as the murders she’s been sent to cover.
A woman in an unhappy marriage desperately tries to find her kidnapped daughter. Brilliant POVs and time-shifting intertwine for the terrifying kidnapping (and I mean terrifying!), clever investigation and a shock ending. It’s a nail-biting thriller with an unlikely love story tucked in its pages.
Three different POV’s of women are played out, making this thriller an unhappy heroine hattrick. Not just a page-turner, but a modern classic about the pain of depression, addiction, and divorce.
We meet Anne at a dinner party, drunk and miserable, watching her husband flirt with another woman. Before the end of the night, her infant daughter is kidnapped and Anne blames herself. The guilt, shame, and inability to protect her own child plague her through the tense investigation, killer twists and an ending that satisfies and surprises in equal measure!
A. J. Finn
A woman suffering from agoraphobia is trapped in her own home. Unhappy and alone, her life is a mix of medications, voyeurism, and wine–until she witnesses a murder through her window. A sensitive portrayal of mental illness, it’s also a tense thriller with one of the most shocking reveals I’ve read in years.
A fresh legal thriller about a young lawyer in an unhappy marriage who’s having an affair with a violent man. When she represents a wife charged with killing her abusive husband, it hints at what happens if a woman is pushed too far. Features my favorite alcoholic lawyer since Sydney Carton in Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities!
When her husband dies, a woman is forced to return to her family’s estate and live with a controlling mother she despises. She hopes to find out how her beloved nanny disappeared years earlier–a mystery that ratchets up when a skeleton is found on the property. The story unfolds in a dazzling balance of style and suspense, as we get to know Jo’s mother too–a chilly woman with very dark secrets.
Natalie isn’t just a broke student looking for some extra cash by becoming a “sugar baby” for wealthy men. She drinks too much, she’s obsessive and she gets accused of a murder she can’t remember committing. A tense, fast-paced tale about a dark new dating world, we also see into the mind of the sugar daddy who stops at nothing to get rid of our unhinged heroine.
Samantha M. Bailey
There are two unhappy heroines in this blockbuster debut: a childless widow and a woman suffering from postpartum depression. When one hands the other her baby, then jumps in front of a subway train, their storylines collide at a breakneck pace. Great characters, heartbreaking challenges, and non-stop thrills.
The retro cover of this novel belies the tension within its pages. Two women generations apart are brought together when one discovers an old cookbook and some private letters after moving into her suburban home. Clever, perceptive and chilling, this page-turner makes us wonder how much women’s lives have really changed since the 1950s.
S. L. McInnis has a degree in broadcasting and has worked in public radio and television. Framed is her suspense debut.
How much can you trust your closest friend?