August is romance appreciation month, and, this week, we’re all about those irresistible romance heroes. While romance is often linked with, and, for non-readers, or those new to the genre, confused for women’s fiction, heroes are an essential part of the whole romance experience. Sometimes, so essential that one love story features two of them. Sometimes, more. How do we love the men of romance? Let’s count the ways.
Let’s start with the F word. F for Fabio, of course, as in Fabio Lanzoni, former model, turned actor, author, spokesman, and entrepreneur, the first name that springs to mind for many who haven’t even read their first romance novel yet. The big, often shirtless guy on the covers of all romance novels, right? Well, no. Fabio hasn’t modeled since the 1990s, and there have been countless trends in cover art since, from headless, shirtless dudes, to no dudes, to two dudes, to, well, pretty much anything (and with the rise of indie publishing, all bets are off.) Let’s just say the gentleman made a name for himself, and opened the door for a lot of talented gentlemen, who portray the heroes within the pages of the books. Fabio may be only one man, albeit with many lines of work, but counting all the cover models who came after him, would take quite some time. Not that many romance readers would object to that, so maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Regardless of who or what is on the cover of the book, as with the heroes themselves, it’s what’s inside that counts, and romance heroes bring quite a lot to the table. The eternal debate over alpha versus beta heroes, and what about the gamma, who combines the best (or worst) of both, rages strong, with no end in sights. Some romance readers definitely have a favorite from these types, whereas others assert that they’re all good, and it really does depend more on the individual than the type.
Speaking of which, a lot of us do have a favorite type, which is a lot like having a favorite flavor of ice cream. Maybe we like mint chocolate chip the very very bestest, but it’s nice to try a succulent strawberry once in a while, or walk on the wild side with a minibatch of pina colada, and there’s nothing quite like a really good vanilla when one wants to experience the sweet treat in its purest form.
Some readers find their favorite type and stick with it from the get-go. Years ago, on a romance forum, on reader wrote about being unable to read a book where the hero did not have long, black hair and blue eyes. Not preferred this combination; could not read, and would put the book down. While there’s nothing wrong with personal preferences, and, one can imagine, there may well have been one heck of an amazing blue eyed hero with long, black hair, in this reader’s past, it’s also true that there are a plethora of heroes of all shapes and sizes. Brunet heroes, blond heroes, ginger heroes, heroes with hair of unnatural hues (well, maybe natural for their species, in some paranormals) and heroes with no hair at all, are only the tip of the iceberg, because we’re not here to merely look at these gents. We’re here to fall in love with them, and fall in love, we do, over and over again, and with good reason.
The heroes in romance novels are smart. Not only book smart, but sometimes that. From schoolteachers to college professors, doctors, lawyers, and other highly educated professionals, to street smart bad boys with hearts of gold, to men of the land, whose only diplomas come from the school of hard knocks, there’s one kind of intelligence a romance hero must always possess: they know how to find the best in those they love. When a romance hero loves, he loves with all his heart, no matter how dark or hardened or broken he might have been at the beginning of the story. By the end of it, he has become a changed man. He’s learned to face his figurative (and again, in some paranormals or edgy inspirationals, literal) demons, done things he thought he could never do, and accepted that he is worthy of the love of his favorite person on the planet (or other planets, in some SF romance.)
Romance heroes, alpha, beta, or any other designation, love big, and they love hard. We’re not only talking the scenes of physical intimacy (though they are no slouches in that department, either) but the way they show their love. While of course it’s going to be different for every individual hero, romance heroes are especially good at the grand romantic gesture, even if it’s on a more subtle scale. Whereas an alpha hero might storm the castle (that is not a euphemism) to free his ladylove (who is probably working on freeing her own self, because romance heroines kick butt, but that’s for next week) or declare himself, a beta hero might leave a remote car starter in his beloved’s tote, so they’ll always get into a toasty warm car on a cold winter’s morning. Romance heroes, even those who start out as the blockheadiest of blockheads, tend to be the observant sort, and, whatever means they choose to show their love, it’s going to be exactly the thing to let their beloved know he sees them, and loves them, exactly the way they are. Can’t get more romantic than that.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. What’s your favorite thing about romance heroes? Does one fictional gent stand out head and shoulders above the rest? Do you have a favorite type of hero? Is there a type of hero you would never read? Pull up a chair in the comment section and tell us all about it. If they’re all the same to you, we want to hear about that, too. There’s room for everybody at this table.