"Miss Vesper Holly has the digestive talents of a goat and the mind of a chess master. She is familiar with half a dozen languages and can swear fluently in all of them. She understands the use of a slide rule but prefers doing calculations in her head. She does not hesistate to risk life and limb—mine as well as her own. No doubt she has other qualities yet undiscovered. I hope not."
—The very first lines of The Illyrian Adventure
by Lloyd Alexander
The Lady of War
crossed with the Gentleman Adventurer
. She doesn't just find excitement — she specifically seeks it out. She thinks nothing of beating up pirates
off the coast of the Trucial States
or outwitting remnant tribes of Mayincatec humanitarians
She is a high-class lady
(though usually not a member of royalty
), self sufficient, but not willing to get tied down in marriage (though she may find love in her travels, she will always choose adventure
over love — not even defrosting
will help). Sometimes, her Big Fancy House
will contain mementos of past adventures. At home she may be a Proper Lady
but her activities would frighten her more domestic counterparts.
Most often, she will have no powers of her own (though she may have some small degree of physical prowess
), but will surround herself with a band of friends
that will help her on her travails. Will almost certainly live to become a Cool Old Lady
Usually filled to the brim with British Stuffiness
and almost always wears Gorgeous Period Dress
(while still fitting for the high seas and hot sun). Often found in The Edwardian Era
Compare and contrast Lady of War
. Often wears a ladylike Adventurer Outfit
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- Sally Lockhart in the Philip Pullman novels involving her.
- Vesper Holly in Lloyd Alexander's Adventure books, starting with The Illyrian Adventure.
- Marguerite St Just, Lady Blakeney, from The Scarlet Pimpernel.
- Amelia Peabody
- Lady Sharrow of Against a Dark Background is a dark take on this.
- Kate De Vris from the Airborn trilogy fits this reasonably well, although she's probably quite a bit younger than most of the other examples.
- Older Than Print: The Damsels Errant found in knightly romances (the lovely mysterious young ladies who guide and advise the knight on his adventures) are an early form of this trope.
- Irene Adler
- Olive Nolan in Tranquilium. She is well-acquainted with many interesting people including Chri Williams, is very good with handguns and has had run-ins with pirates even before the beginning of the novel.
- Jane in Edward Eager's Half Magic and Magic by the Lake, when she grows up.
- Alexia in The Parasol Protectorate.
- Lady Sylvia in Sorcery & Cecelia has the most amazing widowhood in all Regency England, involving international travel, politics, and spying.
- Europe from the Monster Blood Tattoo series combines this trope, Lady of War, and Lady of Black Magic to create a refined, dignified monster hunter with cool clothes and an electric presence.
- Evadne Stephens from The Extraordinaires.
Live Action TV
- Several of the Seven Sisters in the Dungeons & Dragons setting Forgotten Realms. Blessed by the goddess of magic to be her chosen servants, they are all powerful mages and almost immortal. Laeral, Dove, and Storm are all well known to have spend a lot of time digging through ancient ruins, but they also have very great reputations and are filthy rich.
- Nalia De'Arnise in Baldur's Gate II is actually a noble, but has decided to actually do something instead of just sitting around at her families castle. Though she's not exactly very good at that before she joins the players group.
- Leliana in Dragon Age: Origins first appears to be a kind of nun and later a pious thief who found refuge in a monastary. However, she really is a professional spy and assassin who worked for the high society of her home country. She occasionally complains that even though traveling on the road and fighting the undead horde is fun, she really misses the fine clothes and art of her country and the company of other more sophisticated people.
- Estellise in Tales of Vesperia—even though Flynn constantly tells her she should get back to the castle.
- Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider games.
- Lady Jane and Lady Jayne from the TimeSplitters series. They might be the same woman- it's hard to tell with the difference in graphics between games.
- Gertrude Sanford Legendre◊ (1902-2000) was an American socialite who served as a spy during World War II. She was also a noted explorer, big-game hunter, environmentalist, and owner of Medway plantation in South Carolina. She spent 1923 to 1929 travelling the world as a big-game hunter in South Africa, Canada, and Alaska. Shortly after exploring Abyssinia for the American Museum of Natural History as part of the Sanford-Legendre Abyssinia Expedition, Gertrude Sanford married the expedition's co-leader Sidney J. Legendre on 17 September 1929. During WWII, Legendre worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), essentially as a spy. She was the first American woman captured on the western front in France by the Germans. Legendre was held as a prisoner of war for six months and then escaped into Switzerland. She lived to be 97 and wrote two autobiographies, one in 1948 and another in 1987. She once said, "I don't contemplate life. I live it."
- Karen Blixen. The Real Life one.
- Among her many pursuits Clare Boothe Luce who was an Intrepid Reporter during World War II.
- Jessica Mitford, who is stated by J. K. Rowling to be one of her greatest inspirations.
- Legendary British traveler and authoress Isabella Bird. A condensed list of the places she visited and wrote about: Australia, Hawaii, Colorado, Japan, Manchuria, Indochina, India, Tibet, Persia, Kurdistan, Turkey, and Morocco. Small wonder she was the first woman inducted into the Royal Geographical Society.
- Lady Jane Didby, aristocratic beauty and adventurer, she ditched her husband the Earl of Ellenborough to elope with her lover, the Austrian statesman Felix zu Schwarzenberg. Felix abandoned her in Paris, but Jane soon found a lover of means — King Ludwig I of Bavaria. She wed another nobleman, Baron Karl von Venningen, and had a son with him, only to fall madly in love with Spyridon Theotokis. Her husband challenged Spyridon to a duel; although Karl wounded her lover, he agreed to release Jane from her marriage and astonishingly enough continued to be her friend. Her marriage to Spyridon survived her affair with King Otto I of Greece, but after their only son died tragically, he and Jane divorced. She took up with an Albanian brigand named Hristodoulos Hadzipetros, fighting alongside his men and living in caves, only to walk out on him after catching him with another woman. At forty-six, Jane Digby traveled to Damascus and enchanted Sheik Abdul Medjuel el Mezrab, twenty years her junior. She refused to marry him unless he sent his other wives back to their fathers, which he did. They were happily married for the rest of her life. Jane Digby died at 74, after a lifetime of passion and adventure.
- Gertrude Bell (1868 – 1926), was a Real Life Adventure Archaeologist who served as a spy and diplomat in the Middle East during World War I, was a mentor to the famous Lawrence of Arabia, and played a major role in reshaping the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire following the war. She founded the Iraqi Archaeological Museum (which was sadly extensively looted during the 2003 invasion) and is still remembered with fondness among the people of the region, no small accomplishment for both a foreigner and a woman.
- Lady Florance Baker, wife of explorer Samuel Baker. When Baker first met her she was a white slave destined for the harem of an Ottoman noble. Baker fell in love with her, and first tried to purchase her freedom. When that failed he bribed the guards and ran away with her. Then they fell in love and married and she followed him on his expeditions into the most unknown and dangerous parts of Africa. This story is so melodramatic few writers today would use but it really did happen.
- Nellie Bly, one of the first investigative reporters in the world and almost certainly the first female investigative reporter. Her adventures included a race to travel around the world in fewer than 80 days; she sent telegrams to her publisher from every country she visited as a means of tracking her progress. She also once faked insanity in order to be admitted to an asylum and write about conditions on the inside, which prompted severe changes to the inhumane system for treating the mentally ill.