This book combines biography, literature, and cultural and feminist theory to examine the radical critiques of patriarchy performed by Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf in
Jane Eyre, Villette, The Mill on the Floss, The Voyage Out, and
Orlando. The book's focus is how these novels revise the romance plot, abandoning this ancient and very political story line and creating in its place a much larger imaginary field in which female heroines as well as their readers can consider and experiment with other possibilities. Strikingly different from the swooning beauties of traditional romance, Jane Eyre, Lucy Snowe, Maggie Tulliver, Rachel Vinrace, and Orlando share a love of language and desire for intellectual expression that takes precedence over marriage and motherhood.