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Carol Rose | Romance Heroes We Love

June 4, 2014

It helps if they’re hot, let’s just be honest. Even the flawed heroes—the ones with physical or emotional scars—they need to be hot. If a guy doesn’t get your motor running, you’re less willing to take the journey of reading about his mating. These days, the romance genre has broadened bunches. Readers can enjoy heroes from long past, from far into the future and from today. In paranormal romances, heroes often have special powers (although some would say that romance heroes have always known their heroines’ hearts more than any real guy).

We love heroes who love their heroine. No matter if the woman is less than gorgeous—or just feels less than gorgeous—the hero needs to see her inner beauty. Let’s be honest, we all feel squishy with a guy who sees a woman’s inner beauty. Heroes are more real to us, and more loveable, if they aren’t terribly hung up on supermodels. Even supermodels get pimples and worry about their thighs being too big. We want a hero who is above all that. I sometimes watch the romances on The Hallmark Channel and I’ve noticed again and again that the heroes and heroines—while not ugly—often look like regular people.

Romance heroes also often have hurdles to overcome. Something about watching characters dealing successfully with challenges helps us feel more hopeful. We face challenges all the time, we care more about characters who also must rely on inner strength, even if it’s just required to keep the character from decking someone who deserves it.

If we connect to the hero and the challenge he’s facing, we’ll forgive him a lot. In Rachel Gibson’s classic See Jane Score, the hero is initially unimpressed with the heroine’s sex appeal. He’s a star athlete and he’s used to supermodels. We forgive him, though, because he eventually finds his snarky small-breasted heroine to be super-hot and perfect for him. She helps him confront and deal with some pretty irritating behavior. The Twightlight hero, Edward, is super powerful. He could have any chick, but he’s drawn to Bella, a not plastic pretty girl who doesn’t run with the popular kids. Heroes can even have done some really bad things. In my Mr. Personality, the hero, Max has committed adultery with his own brother’s wife. Big betrayal. But we forgive him partially because he can’t forgive himself. He feels terrible about that one moment and even though he has great success otherwise, he pretty much thinks he’s scum.

The best, most gripping heroes, the ones we can’t forget, are real people. Even if they live in strange and different worlds, face scary things and have skills we don’t often see, they feel—they struggle—like us. They’re gripping, attractive men we want to know. That’s what makes a hero.

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