Many, many women writers will tell you that one of their favorite heroines is a Jane Austen heroine. Many of them, maybe most of them, will tell you that Elizabeth Bennett is their favorite heroine. And who can resist her? Or Mr. Darcy?
I like Elizabeth Bennett and I like Mr. Darcy, I very much like Pride and Prejudice. I like all of Jane Austen's heroines - but I do have my favorite. Anne Elliot from Persuasion is my all-time favorite heroine. She's older, she knows what it's like to make mistakes, she understands that life isn't perfect. She, like many women, made decisions when she was younger that have changed her life. She gives up what she wants and needs because her family (mostly her surrogate mother, Lady Russell) ask it of her. She sacrifices for her sister, for her father, for Lady Russell and puts herself second to all of them.
All of these things make her real to me but it goes even farther than that. Anne Elliot sounds like a martyr but she isn't. She knows - at the beginning of Persuasion - what it is she wants. And she wants Captain Frederick Wentworth, the man she gave up at Lady Russell's urging 8 years before the book begins. She wants the man he was, but as she grows to know the man he is, she realizes that he's even better than he used to be, and he realizes the same thing about her.
This is what makes Persuasion a great love story. Two people, separated by circumstances, go away and become better people and then ... come back together and realize that they still love each. How can you get a better love story than that?
Jane Austen is my hero.