by Jennie Bentley.
Last week sometime, I got suckered into responding to a discussion on Facebook about fictional—fictitious?—romantic heroes, and I thought it might make for an interesting blog topic.
The question that started the discussion was really simple—What makes for a good romantic hero these days? Does the tall, dark, and handsome George Clooney-type still work, or have the Brad Pitts taken over?—but the issue, of course, is a lot more complicated than that.
I don’t write romance novels, per se. I tried once, and discovered that while I could do it, I didn’t want to. That’s not to say I have anything against romance. Everything I write has romance in it, and I always enjoy reading books more when there’s a relationship developing along with the mystery. I’m sure the same holds for many of us. We may write thrillers or mysteries, or science fiction or fantasy, but relationships are a part of life, and chances are our protagonists have them too. Some of the most memorable love stories out there are found in books other than romance novels. Julia Spencer-Fleming comes to mind. So does Dorothy L. Sayers. And Deborah Crombie. So the question of what makes for a good romantic counterpart is something that should be of interest to all of us.
First off, I have to confess that I don’t particularly swoon over either Clooney or Pitt. Or Hugh Jackman or McDreamy or McSteamy or whoever the latest Hollywood heartthrob is. I prefer my crushes fictional, thank you very much. And I’ve certainly had plenty of those up through the years, from Rhett Butler and Sir Percy Blakeney to Janet Evanovich’s Ranger and Elizabeth Peters’s John Tregarth. And for that matter J.D. Robb’s Roarke and Stephenie Meyer’s Edward Cullen. And that last one is in spite of avoiding crushes on the undead as a general rule. I don’t really like vamps.
Lots of variety there, physically speaking. They’re not all traditionally handsome, either. But then, the question isn’t really about the physical, is it? Any type of man (or woman) can be sexy and attractive. Doesn’t matter whether the hero has smoldering dark eyes or dreamy blue ones; whether his hair is the color of sunlight or a curtain of black silk. Or for that matter as red as the setting sun. (Jamie Fraser, anyone?) Whether he’s tall or short, stocky or lean, muscular or a bit of a weenie. Fashions change, and so do people’s perception of beauty. All that matters is that the protagonist finds the love interest attractive, and if he/she is the love interest, then we have to assume that it’s so, don’t we?
For the record, I’m a sucker for the hero with a secret, past or present, that he has to keep hidden. I particularly like the scenario where he plays the part of an ineffectual fop but turns out to be the big hero in the end. (Yes, that’s why Sir Percy’s on the list.) He doesn’t have to be on the side of the angels, either; I’ll take a not-quite-rehabilitated but dashing thief over a plodding policeman pretty much any day. Not that a policeman can’t make a fine hero in his own right. And he doesn’t have to be an alpha he-man type, either; brain over brawn is just fine with me. The one thing I insist on, is that he be charming. I’m a sucker for charm in real life, and it sure helps if a fictional character has it, as well.
So what about you? What do you think makes a perfect love interest? Do you have any fictional crushes you want to share? Who’s the love interest in your WIP, and why did you make him/her that way?