However illusory the ideal may be, it is the one that, more than any other, drives the psyche of the Romantic poet forward. Wordsworth's Ideal Man
Welcome back, friends, to Week 19 of the MFRW Author 52-Week Blog Challenge.
This week, we're asked to describe The Ideal Romance Hero.
I write AND read romance, but that doesn't mean I feel confident or sure about my response, and I needed to give this one some serious thought prior to setting fingers to keyboard.
Alpha or Otherwise, Dark or Fair, Young or Old, Rich or Not, a Hero in any Romance novel needs to be a few things, and for me that mainly consists of MY idea of the Perfect Man.
But, not entirely.
Alpha's can be thrilling in a novel but downright boorish in real life.
I've always tended toward dark-haired men but have been known to freak out when spotting someone with blond hair, so...
Sad though this might sound (and be in reality), I'd rather my man made good money than none at all. And, if you are as avid a fan of Romance novels as I am, you'll quickly realize that a majority of our Heroes live just this side of Billionaire, so there isn't much question as to his needing $$$ to qualify, is there?
These types of novels are a means of escape, sure, but to those of you who've never read one, rethink your attitude about their being fluff, filler, and pure sex.
They are (for the most part) complex characters with real-life scenarios being played out for a minimum of 18 chapters who go through some pretty intense situations prior to arriving at the anticipated HEA.
The best Romance novels (Contemporary or Historical) tend to delve ever so slightly into a realistic situation (work, environment, emotion, or historical incident) with two people caught in the middle.
You can't create a Doctor if you aren't familiar with the profession any more than you can create a SEAL without understanding the Navy's position and all that the elite team entails.
We don't randomly devise two people, put them in a bedroom, and press Play on a Video camera, then write down everything the couple did in bed.
The H and the h need personalities, careers, a dream, a goal, or at least a mission prior to their meeting for the first time.
Those everyday situations need to be enticing to the reader, which isn't always easy to do but it happens, and the great ones can make it almost riveting to read a laundromat scene!
Even if the story centers around the h, it is still the H who anchors the whole thing.
Most often, it is his mannerisms: the words he chooses, his level of maturity in a crisis, and even the way he slides his bangs to one side without his realizing it, that work to bring the whole thing together and make a better story.
And the H is a big part of why it is a Romance novel, because if the H comes across in just the right way, then anything minor that occurs: a flub, gaff, type-o, whatever, it won't matter half as much to the fussy reader if she's fully engaged in the characters.
WARNING: You are about to step inside the mind of someone who doesn't think, act, or believe a lot of the things you probably do, so fair warning. It is not my intention of upset anyone, and this isn't meant to be mean spirited, but I worry that someone might think otherwise. This is just me being honest about MY ideal H in a Romance novel and nothing more.
Let the Hop Begin
Being mature (old) means being less inclined to beat around the bush, so let's just get the awkward out of the way first, shall we?
He has to be Hot
But, for me, this doesn't necessarily mean muscular, divine facial features, and a head of hair to die for.
There is a growing trend toward Geek or Nerd heroes who fantasy quest and save a galaxy which leads to winning the gal.
Also, more contemporary authors are aiming at college women who prefer brains to brawn.
Nothing wrong with that IF the hero also looks the part (of a hero in a Romance novel).
I think most people would agree that 'looks' depend almost entirely on 'personality', and without one, the other is irrelevant.
So, if the H has a lazy eye but secretly feeds stray cats, then he's definitely a Hero.
Not ashamed or afraid to admit that part of my reading/writing enjoyment stems from the fact that I'm riding along with a hot guy in pursuit of the woman of his dreams.
But, He can't be Perfect, either
And, by imperfect, I'm talking about as natural a subject for a Romance novel Hero as it can get without things becoming TOO realistic, thus taking all of the fun out of the story.
Flaws are fine but it depends.
A Hero can let loose with a tirade once or twice, but he isn't a hero if he constantly loses his temper at every, little incident that occurs.
A Hero can be caught with his pants down (figuratively) once or twice, but if he works to right whatever wrong he's involved in, then that makes him a Hero.
And, yes, not afraid to say that a Hero can be somewhat of a pig: discreetly ogling females, inwardly admiring her assets, and even daylight fantasizing about a sexual encounter, because this is actually realistic for BOTH sexes and not just men.
The huge difference between a pig and a man is His ability to not act on whatever urge has struck them, so a true Hero would never dream of voicing his thoughts or grasping at them as if he has every right to.
Sadly, today's H is so politically, ethically, and morally attune that he reads more like a cardboard cutout than a living, breathing male.
He's asexual until she gives him the green light, and then he's suddenly an animal, and always with the convenience of his having found the perfect woman who goes along with his every twisted whim between the sheets.
Then, like magic, he's back to being entirely PC again.
He let's her go pee, he tells her to open up and express herself, and unless his boss at the FBI phones, he's not going anywhere until she gives the all-clear.
I honestly feel that the H in most novels has become so emasculated that he's just not interesting or fun to read OR care about.
PC Pirates, Social Activist Bouncers, and Feminist-Minded men in general have zero appeal and I tend to pass when I find them in any of the novels on my Kindle.
And no matter how hard an author tries, she'll never convince me that biker boys and tattoo-laden bad boys (or SEALS to round out the stereotypical type-cast modern day Romance hero) who constantly cusses, displays even the slightest hint of manipulator, drinks too much and calls it partying, likes frat-boy humor, and has zero manners is somehow attractive.
Drug and/or alcohol addictions, incarceration, biker gang member, tattoo billboard, F-Bomb and various other foul language usage, and scumbag are not my idea of Hero, much less Romantic.
His Devotion Must Ring True
This probably isn't too big a deal with any lover of Romance novels... reader or writer... at any age, because I think a lot of us read to escape normalcy the same way we read to figure out how the other half actually lives.
And, yes, all the while realizing that we are, indeed, reading fantasy/fiction/romance novels.
I've met more women whose love lives started off with a hot pursuit, overly amorous beau that ended in matrimony and then... just... died.
I've also met just as many women who said "He isn't the man I thought I married." and "He did this 180 shortly after we said I Do."
I think it's important for a Romance author to keep some reality aspects in mind when writing these types of novels.
The H can be a lot of things prior to his having met the h, but after the spark ignites (and the reader is made aware) then the H needs to not only step up his game but follow through, remain consistent, and concentrate on the h throughout the story, not just when he's got her in bed or on a date.
And, speaking of dates...
He Needs to be a Gentleman
Which might sound a bit like a rehash of the second point above, but for this purpose, no.
I've noticed a marked DECREASE in the amount of actual dating that occurs in most Contemporary and Regency romance novels.
He sees her, she sees him, one or both are instantly attracted, and in a Regency, gossip or a dastardly foe keep them apart for a time, or else its Family, and in-between they hide behind a velvet curtain at a ball or he whisks her away in his carriage for some alone time.
In a Contemporary, he sees her, she sees him, a LOT of thinking, hemming, hawing, wondering goes on for a few chapters, minor incidentals take up a lot of their time (boring, daily life stuff), and then they are in bed two days later and talking l.o.v.e. two weeks later.
But... nowhere did I read about them going to a movie, the theater, a concert, dinner, or even a lousy walk in the park!
The Getting To Know You part of the supposedly budding romance.
Dates do not include his buddies, her gal pals, and a corner booth at the local pub or McDonald's, bumping into her at the grocery store, or on a bike path, or while walking his dog.
Dates do not count if the H is with someone else when he runs into the h and her friends, or she's with her mother at the Garden Center and he's there to place an order for his Landscaping Business.
And, the H will initiate these real dates, have a majority of the night already planned, and based entirely on everything he's already gleaned from his first few encounters or by having asked her closest comrades.
He'll be dressed appropriately: sans baseball cap, holed jeans, and a Band t-shirt.
And, while on these dates, it is His responsibility to get to know her better by asking the right questions and then actually listening to whatever it is she has to say.
The Lost Art of the Dating is in need of a comeback.
A Gentleman on a Date has manners, is patient, and tends to follow her lead at the start of a relationship.
Nothing says sexy gentleman who cares about you than his opening doors, buying her a little gift like cookies or a flower, holding hands, assuring her safety, eye contact, no cell phone usage, and doing as much listening as he does talking.
He's learning to let go of self and concentrate on someone else for a change, which is always a good thing and probably a main reason why some relationships work while others fail.
Now, a more alpha H might need to get in step with the program before figuring it all out, but if he's a true gentleman, he'll forget himself in order to win the h's heart (and realize its what he wants, too).
Finally, His having personal issues or job issues is okay, but it isn't okay for those issues to dominate his whole life and turn Him into a brooding, cynical mess.
He Needs to Man UP
We're probably leaning more toward the Regency genre of Romance Hero with regard to this particular attitude, but not all the time.
I've read a few Contemporary Romance novels with a brooding, cynical, or angst-y Hero in them and remaining honest, I don't care for it if he reads like a mamma's boy or a cry baby.
Sure, everyone under the sun has been affected by something at some point in their life, not going to argue or insist it doesn't belong in fiction because it actually works to add a bit of flavor to the story.
However, if the Hero comes across as a dark soul in need of a great big hug... yeah, no.
Not feeling it.
And, hey, I think some of the BEST romance heroes are those who did suffer something horrific at some point and are scarred by it, yet they somehow manage to grow into adulthood relatively unscathed (save the infrequent nightmare or semi-debilitating flashback that likely sends him to the bar for blessed relief) is pretty danged cool.
He's scarred and maybe suffering, but he isn't externalizing it to the point of his coming off as a whining man-child who refuses to grow up and get over himself.
Brooding lairds, Somber Dukes, and Cynical Cowboys are not the issue.
The issue is the way in which the author chooses to have him handle the situation, and if he is a man he will read as a man, thus increasing the reader's attraction to him and wanting to see him arrive at his HEA.
If he's going to flip out at the slightest provocation, continue to deny himself anything on account of what occurred to him 10+ years ago, or become addicted to some substance until SHE comes along to SAVE HIM, then no... he's not a true Hero in my book.
HEROES are men who deserve a break, worked hard to gain their just reward, and despite it all know how to behave in a manner that is not only mature but attractive and sexy.
They are not self-serving, whiny, child-like, or effeminate to the point of being a gal pal instead of a bed buddy.
They have their flaws and make mistakes but own up to them, work to adjust their thinking, and remain goal oriented even after the fact.
Stubborn is okay, but hard-headed is not, and hot-headed is okay, but trigger-happy volatile is not.
A Hero in a Romance Novel needs to be the glue that holds the story together start to finish, so He needs to come out of the gate running and not lose steam until The End.
He doesn't need to be god-like in looks or bod but does need some redeeming quality to his personality in order to make him both readable and like-able.
His worthiness depends on his actions, and his decisions depend on his commitment to the heroine and the story.
He can't be a push-over or a 'guy' and needs to act as manly as he is gentlemanly.
And, he can be imperfect even in a really awful way as long as he redeems himself in order to become deserving of the inevitable HEA.
Thanks so much for dropping in and reading my post!
I truly enjoyed this week's question because it does more than just make us think about a hot guy with a great bod doing all sorts of manly things to warrant seeing him naked at some point beyond Chapter 10.
Please scroll down to the Linky Tool and click on the next Hop participant to read their version of The Ideal Hero in a Romance Novel.