Have you noticed that romantic hero traits usually don’t differ across the genres? There is a certain type of man we all fall in love with. Sure, we usually write them as tall, gorgeous and charismatic, but we like them to have substance when they open their mouths.
If we delve deeper across genres, those qualities morph into other differences. Some books call for the hero to be extremely wealthy and domineering (Harlequin Modern), or they have special powers like shape-shifting (Urban Fantasy), or they are over the top aggressive alpha males (Paranormal), or the beta male who quietly gets on and saves the heroine without too much fuss (HMB Super Romance), or, as in historicals, they are an extremely arrogant peer of the realm.
In the Regency period, the period I write in, heroes tend to be very alpha. Not always, but it’s hard to have a believable peer of the realm who is not alpha. The world lay at their feet. It was hard not to get a god like complex, or at least become extremely confident.
The Regency heroes are usually devilishly handsome rakes, who start their journey by seeing women as ‘disposal pleasures rather than meaningful pursuits’ as said by the heroine, Vesper Lynd, in James Bond’s, Casino Royale.
Since hero traits in romance are very similar, how do we make our readers fall in love with our hero in particular?
In a romance novel, the crux is to have a believable and sustainable emotional/internal conflict. If you nail this, you can make your reader fall in love with your hero (and heroine).
For example, in INVITATION TO RUIN, Anthony James Craven, Earl of Wickham, did something in his past he can’t forgive himself for. He believes that unless he remains cold and indifferent, if he gives reign to his emotions, he could become like his brutal father.
Anthony’s journey is all about facing his past and learning to forgive himself. At the beginning of the book he is a hard, cynical man, brutalized by his upbringing. As the story unfolds you come to see his compassionate and softer side. You understand and empathize with the terrible choices he had to make, and see that it’s a miracle, given his harsh childhood, that he survived with a heart that longs for love, and deserves love.
However, this is where the heroine (Miss Melissa Goodly) rides to the fore. Who else could make Anthony change and grow? Anthony is forced to deal with his emotional/internal conflict/fears because the heroine is making him face them. Yet, he will fight her every step of the way because he’s afraid of failing, of being hurt again, or hurting others.
It’s the combination of internal conflict/fears and the relationship between the hero and heroine that drives their growth and their journey towards their happy ever after.
There are many types of heroes, yet, for me, it’s the journey the hero takes because of, and with the heroine, that makes us completely love him.
What is your favorite trait in a hero and why? What romantic hero best demonstrates that trait?
One, commenter will win a copy of INVITATION TO RUIN. Winner drawn on Saturday, 1st October, 2011.
Hi – since the NZ is doing well in the Rugby World Cup I’m being generous this month. All 5 commentors will receive a copy of INVITATION TO RUIN. So Na, Pam, Yadira, Mary and Lizzi email me on romance at bronwenevans dot com with your snail mail address.
PS. If you want to know who the topless, tattooed man, is top right, he’s Sonny Bill Williams, a New Zealand All Black, one of the team who are trying to win (whoops – who will win) the 2011 Rugby World Cup, currently being played here in NZ. He could so be a shape-shifter I think!