The Writers Vineyard mentioned a term I had not heard before. The “Mary Sue” heroine" is a female protagonist who is overly-perfect and lacking any flaws. The 'too stupid to live' girl.
My heroines don't quite fit that profile, but my novels are set in a more formal time and I cannot portray them as foul-mouthed, stroppy madams who defy every convention, consorts with whom they wish, and insults everyone as the mood takes them. Women who behaved so in the 1880's, unless they were very rich widows, would have been social pariahs, gossiped about, ostracised and possibly locked away from the world by their fathers or husbands.
In my last novel, I gave my Victorian Miss a conventional, if sheltered upbringing, a pliable nature and the belief everyone's life is like a fairy tale. More Jane Bennett than Scarlet O'Hara. As the story progresses, she begins to make sense of the world around her and how it works, learns that life is not a straight road, nor an easy one for some and no one is perfect. She grows a backbone and consciously decides to stand up for herself, rejects her cad of a future husband, tells the man she loves he is wrong to marry anyone but her - and thus alters the course of her life.
However, according to my reviewer, her character growth is apparently irrelevant, and the tirade on 'spineless heroines' stands as a major flaw of the novel.
How do we get it right?