Misha, great answers! I, too, have been disappointed at the characterization of female characters in (some? much?) contemporary romance. Like you, I have found this less problematic in other subgenres. I do sometimes feel like authors get carried away in the other direction in reaction (where female characters are highly violent and aggressive or are just men with breasts). There is a huge range of what strength looks like.
Oh, love the idea of best friend’s little brother!