I’ve heard the allegations before, and I’m sure you have too. They (“They”) say that romance heroes (and heroines, for that matter) aren’t realistic portrayals. That they are such idealized fantasies that they can’t be taken seriously.
I know my personal preference: while I want a hero to be ultimately heroic – even if it’s reluctantly so — the more flawed and complex he is, the better for me as a reader. Perfect and one-dimensional men just aren’t very interesting.
What about the physical aspects of a hero? I had a number of inspirations for Archer, my hero in NIGHT FALLS DARKLY. One was Eric Bana. Hubba hubba! He’s just a personal favorite actor of mine. I’d also found a piece of fantasy artwork on the artists’ website Deviant Art. If you’re interested you can view it here. So confession … yes, I guess as far as appearance goes, my hero, at least in my mind, was terribly idealized. Maybe I should have written: “The role of Archer, Lord Black, will be played by Eric Bana” on the inside of the book.
That wouldn’t work because … what’s attractive to my reader? What’s “hot” to thousands of different readers? I’ve recently joined a group blog with four other authors who write dark paranormal romance, and we’re in the planning stages. Our web designer is working with us on the design of the blog and we wanted a “hot” guy at the top. It’s become clear we’ve all got different ideas of what “hot” is and isn’t. One or two of us might agree on one particular model’s photograph, but the others didn’t agree at all.
Romance authors provide their readers with a basic physical “outline” of a hero, one that fits the story and the character. It’s up to the reader to fill in the more specific details in their mind. For instance, maybe I saw Eric Bana when I wrote the book, but you saw Orlando Bloom when you read it. Or perhaps you envisioned the delivery guy from Fed Ex that comes to your office every day. That’s what’s so great about romance novels – you get to decide and customize.
Whatever the case, in “real life” my heroes aren’t idealized. They don’t look like Eric Bana or Brad Pitt or Nathan Kamp (the model on the cover of NIGHT FALLS DARKLY). They don’t earn huge salaries and drive fancy cars (or carriages). My writing pal, Cindy Miles, and I went to NYC last week. We saw a couple of attractive male television personalities while we were in Times Square. Cool! But did those guys stop us in our tracks? No. But these guys did:
Talk about whipping out the cameras and snapping some shots. The NYPD and FDNY are as good as rock stars to us. Were they all tall, dark and handsome, with piercing blue eyes? I don’t remember any that looked like that. They looked like regular guys wearing uniforms. They are regular everyday heroes, like so many boyfriends, husbands, fathers, brothers and sons we know in our real lives. They are flawed and complex, but heroes nonetheless.
Despite the fact that the heroes in my books may be costumed in “handsome” and “tall” and boast a great set of abs, because those types of descriptions seem to translate well onto a romantic fantasy adventure page — at their core they have all the authentic qualities of a real life “everyday” hero. That’s what makes them come alive.
So … a fantasy hero or a regular every day hero? Do you have a favorite? I don’t. I think women are entitled to both, and at the same time.