Driving to the supermarket the other day, the song “I Need a Hero,” from the movie Shrek played on the radio. As I sang along—hoping no one could hear me—it got me thinking about what actually makes a hero?
Those of us who write romance can spout off hero qualities at the drop of a hat. (Boy would my editor slap my hand for that cliché.) We’ll tell you he is handsome, tall, muscular, honorable, a great lover, kind, gentle, strong . . . You get the picture.
These are the kinds of heroes we dream about. The hero who will arrive on his white horse, sweep us (literally and figuratively) off our feet as we ride into the sunset to our happily ever after.
But what about real life heroes? And I’m not even talking about the men you see on the news who rescue children from burning buildings, or save a woman from attack. Sure, they definitely fall into the category of heroes, but I’m thinking of a more subtle, will never make the front page of a newspaper hero. The ones we encounter in our everyday life. Maybe the one you face over the breakfast table each morning.
A friend of my family is a highly trained neo-natal physician. She also has two children. She and her husband didn’t want the stress of daycare and two professional parents. Her husband left his job to be a stay at home dad, so his wife could do the work she loved. Is he a hero? I’ll bet to his wife he is.
I often think of the man who gets up in the middle of the night to comfort a crying baby because his wife is exhausted. Or the man who hauls the children from activity to activity after a long day’s work so his wife can go to school at night to finish her degree.
Years ago my husband and I, like most young couples, were stretched for money. We worked different shifts, so he was home while I worked. I called him one day to moan about the fact that all my co-workers were going out to lunch, and I didn’t have the money to join them. He suggested I come home for lunch, which I did.
He greeted me at the front door with his best suit and tie on, a white linen napkin folded smartly over his arm. He escorted me to our kitchen table that he had covered with a sheet, and set with our best dishes. (All right, our only dishes). Two votive candles burned brightly and straggly flowers that he got from who knows where—I never asked–sat in an empty pickle jar in the center of the table. He bowed like a waiter in the finest restaurant and proceeded to serve me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We split the last Coke in the refrigerator.
Since then we’ve had numerous meals in fine restaurants, but that one always sticks in my mind. Hero? Yes, that day he certainly was.
Heroes drive buses, teach school, sell insurance, work on computers, paint houses, crunch numbers, and give worried families bad news on a loved one’s condition.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the heroes of our romance novels. And I love creating a new one each time I start another book. Drake, in THE DUKE’S QUANDARY is a hero. But not because he’s rich, handsome, muscular, and a great lover. Although he is all those things. He’s a hero for another reason.
And I guess you’ll have to read the book to figure out why at the end Penelope considers him her hero.
Do you have a hero in your life? What makes them heroic? One commenter will win an e-copy of THE ELUSIVE WIFE
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