Friday, March 06, 2009

A few good men

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?


Joyce said...

Great post, Jennie!

I'm glad you mentioned Julia Spencer Fleming. I keep telling everyone that her last book was THE BEST BOOK I EVER READ. Whoever hasn't read her books should go buy them today. The hero in her books--Russ--proves that a hero doesn't have to be a stud muffin. Russ is just a regular guy and even wears glasses.

In the book I'm writing now, the love interest is the new guy in town who is renovating an old hotel in town. He has a lot of secrets (I just haven't figured them all out yet) and I imagine him looking a little like Simon Baker.

Joyce said...

As for your question "what makes a perfect love interest?" For me, that's one of those "I don't know, but I'll know it when I see it" kind of things.

Jennie Bentley said...

Julia Spencer-Fleming ROCKS! I must admit I was pretty seriously pissed off after All Mortal Flesh, but I Shall Not Want more than made up for it. It's an awesome love story!

My word verification is 'bacturga'. Hmmm...

Joyce said...

I was more shocked than pissed off.

laura said...

Hmmm. I like my heroes to be flawed but sweet. Romantic yet strong. I like the ones who know a good woman when they see one and move heaven and earth to let the woman know they're special. Even if it takes 3/4 of the book for them to wake up and get it right.

Fun, Jennie!

Gina said...

I've never gotten into romance, which seems to require that the male love interest start out as an arrogant obnoxious jerk, and I can't think of any fictional heroes from books who really appeal to me that much. [Well, OK, there is Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series.] I'm more visually oriented. For sheer gut level sex appeal, I have to pick Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans -- what better than a great-looking nearly naked long-haired guy running through the forest? And, of course, there's that favorite actor of mine, Alan Rickman. [Note the overlap.]
My magic word today is "ratorazo" - a character Dustin Hoffmin might play, perchance?

Jamie's Foggy Musings said...

Hey Jennie,

I tend toward the off center hero, Benecio Del Toro, Terrance Howard, and the newest guy whose name I can't recall. But swooning isn't my thing. I'd much rather have an affair (sorry Scot, this is fictional) with Myron Bolitar, or Harry Bosch. Yeah, the kind that will break your heart. lol

Jennie Bentley said...

Thanks for stopping by, Laura. I've already met Mitch, but who's the fictional hero in your new sewing circle mysteries? Or - since it's a circle - do they all get their own? Does the series follow one person, or do they each get their say?

The word is "rounerph"

Jennie Bentley said...

Snape is awesome. Greasy hair and all. And of course there's Rickman... How is that short story coming, btw?

"hingfmar" rather sounds like something out of Harry Potter, doesn't it?

Speaking of Harry, how do you feel about Harry Potter as a romantic hero? Ginny obviously liked him.

Jennie Bentley said...

Hey, Jamie! Thanks for stopping in.

Benicio del Toro, huh? I must confess that Antonio Banderas holds a certain appeal for me, even if he's only five feet tall. But yes, I'd rather have the fictional guy than the actor, too. I had an idea for a story based on that once... maybe I'll revisit it.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for your Harlequin submission!

Joyce said...

Another Harry Bosch fan! I love that character. If someone ever made a movie from those books, I think Tom Berenger would be the perfect Bosch.

Gina said...

Jennie -
Harry is way too young for me, but if I had my druthers with that student bunch, I think I'd opt for Neville.
Uh, which short story? I've got a million of 'em.

Jennie Bentley said...

I was thinking of the short story in which the fan kidnaps the actor, because she has fallen in love with his on-screen characters and feels she knows him. You know, the one that grew out of your illicit crush on Rickman. ;-)

Gina said...

Oh, that short story.
I wrote it as a one act play - 5 scenes, 3 characters.
Now if I could only figure out a way to get AR to perform it with me . . .
[Unfortunately, in real life I identify with my protagonist (Jane) who admits to her best friend (Chloe) that she would only stand a chance with a guy like that if she were the last woman left on earth and all the sheep were dead]
My magic word is "fluxin" as in, "Have you done any fluxin' lately?" Maybe something like flossing, but more vigorous.

Jamie's Foggy Musings said...

Joyce, I think Tom Beringer would make the perfect Harry Bosch. I never thought about it before. Oh, add Tom to the list of off center heros.
Right now I'm getting ready to read about a hunky hero named Derek. Sound familiar Jennie?

Anonymous said...

I've always wanted to know and live near Archy McNally. What a guy? Someone to toodle around south Florida with, go out to dinner, and even engage in a 'little fooling around' IF I wanted to.
I loved Archy.