Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Unconventional heroes

by Trish Milburn

Early on when I started writing romance and learning about the romance publishing field, one of the "rules" I often heard was that heroes couldn't be in fields like sports, acting or music. I didn't understand why. After all, I'd had crushes on guys in all those fields and more that don't regularly show up in romance novels.

Now I know the publishing companies have done studies and say that certain heroes sell more books, but like settings for historicals, I still think there's room for other types of heroes. Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for sexy cowboys, cops and carpenters. I've read lots of romance novels with those types of heroes that were fabulous.

But why can't our heroines fall for the lead singer in a rock band? Oh, say, one who looked like Ville Valo in HIM. :)

What about an actor who would fall for the normal gal instead of the Hollywood beauties? I know there's at least one other Bandita whose heart goes thumpety-thump at the mere mention of Eric Bana. No one can see the following scene in Troy without falling in lust. After all, love usually starts with a physical attraction.















Then there's the athlete hero who can devote himself to a woman like he does his sport. Perhaps he even looks a bit like tennis star Rafael Nadal. Hey, I doubt many women would kick him out of bed for eating crackers.

What types of heroes do you not see in romance novels but wish you did?

51 comments:

jo robertson said...

I do so love me some unconventional kinds of heroes. I've always liked the professor-type of hero -- small wonder since I married my own professor-hero.

I wonder if people in general think of rock stars and athletes as being too self-absorbed to be able to give emotionally to a woman. I'm not saying that's true, but that kind of dedication to a sport or music takes a certain focus and self-absorption.

jo robertson said...

Oh, my, did I actually capture the Golden Rooster?

He's gonna love the weather in California. It was 90 degrees yesterday, but settling down into a nice balmy kind of weather now before the hot summer sets in.

I think I'll let him watch me plant my tomatoes tomorrow and then I'll ply him with some Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey. There's a plan!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Jo, congrats on the chook! It's a while since you've hosted him, I think.

Trish, great post. I agree with you about unconventional heroes. Perhaps because in real life, I tend towards fancying slightly less conventional men, I don't find a hero's profession necessarily a turn-off if he's done well. As Jo says, I LOVE a nerd hero. A clever man does it for me all the time. I like an artist as a hero - come on, someone who will really LOOK at you? What's wrong with that? In real life as in books, I like people who confound the stereotype.

Jane said...

Ooh, a sexy professor sounds nice. I'm all for the brainy but brawny archaeologist type. Someone who can read hieroglyphics and wield a sword or a gun.

Donna MacMeans said...

Well...my hero in The Education of Mrs. Brimley was an artist, and Susan Elizabeth Philips has written fabulous football and golf pros as heros. I think it's all in how it's done. If the hero is sexy enough that he can not be resisted, he'll melt the editor's heart along with the reader's.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

OMG, Trish!
Helen for Troy's face may have launched a thousand ships, but that piccie of Eric's chest filled a thousand buckets with drool!!!!!!

Donna, I LOVED your artist hero, and not just coz he plied me with brandy in the dark recesses of the lair! LOL! My own DH is an artist after all. Love the professorial types too, and I'd actually LOVE to see a musician hero.

As for sports heroes, my Sourcebooks sister Marie Force has her debut novel coming out in Sept. and the hero is a professional football player. Can't WAIT to read it. The title is Line of Scrimmage and it is a reunion story.

AC

Christine Wells said...

Trish, great post! Congrats on the JR, JoMama! Maybe you can teach him some literary appreciation skills while he's there.

As for heroes, I'm open to anyone, as long as he's written well. That was SEP's secret with the Chicago Stars, DOnna's secret with Mrs. B's sexy hero, and so on. I wonder if the sports/music etc problem is due to women being a bit fed up with their men's obsessions with sport etc in real life? I noticed that not many of the Chicago Stars heroes were actually training and playing ball at the time the story is set. No matter how much she likes the sport and admires her man's achievements, no woman wants to be second best to a football.

Christine Wells said...

Trish, great post! Congrats on the JR, JoMama! Maybe you can teach him some literary appreciation skills while he's there.

As for heroes, I'm open to anyone, as long as he's written well. That was SEP's secret with the Chicago Stars, DOnna's secret with Mrs. B's sexy hero, and so on. I wonder if the sports/music etc problem is due to women being a bit fed up with their men's obsessions with sport etc in real life? I noticed that not many of the Chicago Stars heroes were actually training and playing ball at the time the story is set. No matter how much she likes the sport and admires her man's achievements, no woman wants to be second best to a football.

Tawny said...

Yum Yum... Eric Bana's chest is definitely hot!!! AC, pass a bucket this way.

I've read a few professor heroes that I loved. One of my favorite romances from years ago was a football hero. And I'm so in lust with Johnny Depp that I make up all KINDS of romances with him and me on a regular basis *g*

But I think Jo nailed it (along with the GR) that there is a certain perception of absorption that actors/sports figures have that make them difficult to present heroically. The time, energy, branding, publicity games, etc that are usually part and parcel of those roles would make lasting love harder to believe, IMO. Then there are those delish, hot rock stars that I love so much... but with them its probably their groupies that make it hard to believe they'd be good romance heroes LOL

Suzanne Welsh said...

OOOOOOOOO unconventional heroes? Love the topic, Trish!

How about the bald hero? Here's some of my favorites:

1. Telley Savalas..."Who loves ya baby?"
2. Patrick Stewart....oh mama!
3. Wesley Snipes...be still my heart.
4. Michael Chicklis...of the Badge
5. Sean Connery anyone?
6. Bruce Willis these days...hubba hubba
7. Vin Diesel....(My favorite)
8. Thomas Gibson...Criminal Minds hunk!!

yes, please give me a man with loads of testosterone and a smooth head!!

Kelly Krysten said...

I agree 100% with Anna! Nerds and Artists are the hottest.
I'd also love to see a Rocker hero,though.

Caren Crane said...

Trish, this is an interesting phenom to me as well. I have fallen for artists and architects and engineers - all sorts of unconventional heroes. I agree with Christine that it's all in the crafting of the story and the shaping of the character.

Too true that no woman wants to take a backseat to a career! I also think it's demeaning to men in other occupations to think they would not be equally obsessed with being a mechanic or plumber or firefighter. Believe me, LOTS of men in LOTS of fields are work-obsessed! It has little to do with how many years they went to college or how "artsy" their occupation.

I happen to find a certain electrical engineer dead sexy (that would be my dh). He looked up from his scientific calculator long enough to notice me, so I'm fairly certain other EEs could do the same. *g*

I think rockers are hard, though. All that hanging out in clubs all night and sleeping all day. He would have to fall for a labor & delivery nurse, right Suz?

Buffie said...

Great post Trish!! I am all for the unconventional hero. And I am always rooting for the underdog too.

I love the beta guys too -- especially if they wear glasses. I mean, who doesn't love a man who whips off his glasses to pull you into a passionate embrace.

What about a chef? If he can cook in the kitchen, I'm sure he can mix up a few things in the bedroom, right?!

Buffie said...

BTW -- Tawny, I hated I missed your blog yesterday on Prom. I just love Prom time! I went to 3 proms in high school . . . all with my dh. What fun we had!

brownone said...

Ohh! I agree with Buffie! I've been so in lust with Gordon Ramsey since the first season of Hell's Kitchen. I know, how sick...but in my defense, I LOVE a man with an accent. Oh, and Tyler Florence, he's a hottie too!
But the sports hero is also appealing. My husband LOVES soccer and the last time the World Cup was on I started watching with him. He was curious as to why I was all of a sudden so interested....but lordy those men were HOT!! (I think it was the Italian team I was going for since they had the most hotties; however, David Beckham doesn't hurt England!)

Gillian Layne said...

I'll add another vote to the professor category. And I love farmer/rancher heroes, the kind that can't just up and leave to accommodate the heroine, so that everyone involved has to make impossible choices that always work out to a fabulous HEA.

And I love Elves, and superheros, and spies. Throw James Bond in a romance. That poor man is due a HEA.

Buffie said...

Brownone -- I so agree with you. Gordon may not be the hottest guy out there, but I bet he is something else in bed! You know he'd talk dirty to you! And what about The Naked Chef? Isn't his name Jamie Oliver? He's a hottie too!

And I am soooo agreeing with you on the soccer players . . . can you say score baby!

Deb Marlowe said...

Fun topic, Trish!

I love an unconventional hero! I lust after Patrick Stewart's bald head *almost* as much as I admire that picture of Eric Bana! Holy moly!

I've written an Indiana Jones type adventurer and a scholar hero. My current hero is a merchant captain. My next is an artist--I think I've hit all the categories! Ack! I'd better start dreaming up a Duke!

terrio said...

Great topic, Trish. And Buffie I'm happy to report the hero of my WIP is a Chef! LOL! Keep that love going so they become all the trend, would you?

As for the musicians, I sort of have a history with them (ex is lead singer of a band) so I can see where that would make for a less believable hero. But the professor sounds good to me. Vicki Lewis Thompson sure has the nerd thing working for her.

I listened to a Crusie audiobook lately and loved that the hero was just a regular old mechanic and the heroine a HS art teacher. It was nice to read about normal people who weren't super rich, famous, or powerful.

I love the Chicago Stars series but don't y'all have hockey players hanging out in the Lair? I'd love to read those! Oh and GO PENS! LOL!

Buffie said...

Oh that's great Terrio!!! If you need someone to read it for you, just hollar!

terrio said...

Thank you, Buffie. You're always such a giver. LOL!

Buffie said...

Giver, yep that's me ;-)

Kirsten said...

Mornin' gang,

I think there's definitely room for unconventional heros, but I've got a question for you all -- they've still got to be hot, right? Would you go for a hero who LOOKED ordinary? I don't care what his profession is.

Part of the reason I'm asking is that I find that I'm most attracted to REALLY SMART and POWERFUL guys, regardless of what they look like. I mean, looks are a bonus, but it's the brains and power that are attractive. (And tall. They've got to be tall. ;-) )

I love the idea of having a hero who is brilliant, powerful, magnetic, but not gorgeous. What do you think? Does it fly? (Think Wulfric.)

BTW, I think the problem with having a rock star as a hero is a perception of "immorality" (for lack of a better word) that follows the industry. Drugs, sex, etc. No one wants their hero to have track marks, KWIM? Now I'm not saying everyone in the industry does, but that's a common perception. So you'd have to fight that perception first, and all the stereotypes that go with it, before you can get your audience to empathize with your hero.

Great post, Trish!

terrio said...

Kirsten - I think a hero can be less than hottie material but in the end we are always going to see him through the heroine's eyes. And he's going to be a hottie to her. IOW, if done right, he's always going to be sigh-worthy in the end.

That said, he can't be short. LOL! He doesn't have to be 6'7" but he has to be taller than the heroine.

Kirsten said...

terrio, great point! and yes, I'm sorry but short men don't do it for me! :-)

Alice Audrey said...

I've read a few books with rock star heroes. It is kind of hard to make them look good.

Kelly Krysten said...

Terri and Kirsten, what if the hero is a short guy like 5'5, but the heroine is either shorter or the same height. Would that work for you?

MsHellion said...

I'd like to see more Indiana Jones Professors...a little geeky, but saving the world at the same time. (Or like Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day...)

terrio said...

Kelly - wouldn't work for me. In fiction or real life. Been there done that. LOL!

Hellion - you and your lanky guys.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Lord 'a mercy! Where's my fan? That pic of Eric B's pecs and Nadal's biceps...my oh my. :>

I love heroes in professions other than "the usual" that you see all the time. I kinda get tired of the Agents, Lawyers, Corp. Execs, carpenters, etc. Not that I on't love me a good agent or two, but I love football even more. :> Or hockey hunks (Anna!) or Romans. Grins.

As someone else said, you see them through the heroine's eyes, so it's how it's written more than anythign, I guess.

Great post, Trish, and congrats on the chook, Jo!

MsHellion said...

Terri, just because I like guys with necks and you don't, doesn't mean you need to be a hater. *LOL*

Trish Milburn said...

Sorry I'm late in responding. I had to drive the rest of the way into Pittsburgh for the RT conference today, and now the Internet doesn't work in my room so I'm in the lobby hurrying to do e-mail and blog posts before my battery goes kaplooey.

Jo, you make some good points about the self-absorption, but that is why I think they would be a good hero in a book. I can picture the heroine having that kind of view of them, but he surprises her! And congrats on getting the rooster (whoa, the Alice in Chains song is in my head now).

Trish Milburn said...

It's interesting that the nerd hero is coming up. I like them too, am a fan of the beta or gamma heroes. That's not saying I don't like alphas because I do, but I've read some excellent non-alphas too. Those in Pamela Morsi's historicals come to mind. Has anyone read Simple Jess? Talk about your unconventional hero. But it was fabulous.

Trish Milburn said...

Jane, Indiana Jones perhaps? I can totally remember just loving Indy when I was young. I try not to think about the fact that he's old enough to be my dad.

Cindy, I thought you'd appreciate the picture of Eric/Hector. Pardon me while I go slurp. :)

Suz, I hadn't thought about the bald hero. I do like Vin Diesel.

Buffie, yes on the hot guy with glasses. I love a sexy smart guy, and glasses say smart to me. I know that's not always the case, but I equate it to lots of reading. :)

Brownone, I'll agree with you on David Beckham.

Trish Milburn said...

Gillian, I love superheroes (Tom Welling in Smallville, Hugh Jackman in the X-Men). And Lord of the Rings introduced me to my pretend boyfriend Orlando Bloom. For a long time, it was weird to see him with dark hair, but now I prefer it in its Pirates incarnation. Thought of Orli when I drove through Elizabethtown yesterday. Is it warm in this lobby, or is it just me?

Trish Milburn said...

Okay, as for the rockers, I'm going to mention Jon Bon Jovi, who has be devotedly married to his high school sweetheart for years. That's the kind of rocker I see as a hero, or one who might be wild but who changes his ways when he meets the heroine.

Kirsten, I think a hero has to be at least someone physically attractive. It's part of the fantasy of a romance novel. He doesn't have to be drop-dead gorgeous, but he can't have fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every limb on the way down either. :)

Trish Milburn said...

Oh, Hellion likes lanky guys? Me too. Thus, some of the rockers like Ville, and Jared Padalecki on Supernatural.

Okay, signing off for awhile so I can go charge the laptop battery. Later, chickies! Keep the hero discussion going. I want to see more when I check back in later.

terrio said...

Hellion - thick necks equal thick....uh, nevermind. ;) You don't know what you're missing.

Love the ugly tree comment. That is ever so true. And I'm surprised you didn't pick Federer rather than Nadal. I think Roger looks much more like Orly. So cute.

Beth said...

Great post, Trish! I love so many types of heroes - athletes, professors, artists...you name it, I like them *g*

Another type of unconvential hero I like is the funny hero. You know, the guy who's cute and just keeps you in stitches? Which is why I have a crush on Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs. His dry humor cracks me up!

Oh, or how about a guy who can cook? I love Tyler Florence on Food Network :-) What a doll!

MsHellion said...

Terri, are you basing your research the same way Tiff bases her research about short guys have short...? *tsk, tsk* I thought you were more scholarly than that.

I prefer Orlando in his Pirate incarnation than his elf one...but he was fine as either, both...anyway I can get him in my bed, eating crackers..

Elyssa Papa said...

Right now, I'm writing a story involving a photojournalist who is, imo, very sexy. Kind of like Indiana Jones meets Cary Grant.

But sexy is the one key word.

I like heroes who have so-called normal jobs. I'd definitely like to read about a professor or a reporter... as long as the hero brings hot to the table, I'm not picky about what he does.

I do want a rocker romance though... and I want a guy who's hard around the edges but really soft in the inside.

doglady said...

Congrats on the GR, Jo! Wish I was in California with him. We have had a cold snap here in the South. I have no problems with a hero who is an "ordinary" guy. Guys who have crashed from a great height and are now working their way back up are good too. Yes, I am just shallow enough to think they have to be hot, but then hot is very often in the eye of the beholder. I like a hero who has been underestimated for all the wrong reasons. Someone who comes to help the heroine out when she least expects it. I always love to discover that someone is something more than anyone ever thought.

Helen said...

Congrats on the GR Jo

I love heros with all sorts of professions as long as the story is written well and gets me in I don't mind what they do as long as they know how to love.

Have Fun
Helen

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, everyone going to RT, have a FANTABULOUS time! Wish I could be there. And make sure you say hello to the Banditas who will be there too. There's a few of us going!

flchen1 said...

Fun post, Trish! I think a big thing about making an unconventional hero appealing is seeing him in his element--confidence and competence, no matter the arena, is sexy!

And I'm definitely envious of everyone attending RT--have a terrific time!

Trish Milburn said...

Beth, I like Mike Rowe too, though I first saw him in his role as announcer on Deadliest Catch, which incidentally starts a new season tonight. Love that show.

Elyssa, your hero sounds verra nice. :)

Okay, I've been scanning the lobby but haven't seen any Banditas yet.

Marie Force said...

Trish,
I was just getting ready to comment on your post when I saw Cindy's shout out for Line of Scrimmage--thank you Auntie! I was going to reply that thank GOD I didn't know that sports heroes were taboo before I wrote Line of Scrimmage. My NFL quarterback, Ryan Sanderson, was probably the most fun guy I've ever written and his story got me sold! Let's hear it for the sports hero! Have a great time at RT!
Marie

Marie Force said...

Trish,
I was just getting ready to comment on your post when I saw Cindy's shout out for Line of Scrimmage--thank you Auntie! I was going to reply that thank GOD I didn't know that sports heroes were taboo before I wrote Line of Scrimmage. My NFL quarterback, Ryan Sanderson, was probably the most fun guy I've ever written and his story got me sold! Let's hear it for the sports hero! Have a great time at RT!
Marie

Trish Milburn said...

Marie, congrats on selling your sports hero! I've always loved sports, though sadly I'm not very good at them (except bowling). I played basketball for a couple of years, but I was never as good as I wanted to be.

Christine Wells said...

Hey, sorry about that double post. And I said JR, not GR. Maybe our rooster has spent too much time with Suz and now has a Texan accent? Sorry, I'm all over the place this week.

Caren Crane said...

Ms Hellion, I would post a comment debunking the short guys have short...pants theory, but I simply can't have that story floating in cyberspace! Suffice to say, if we're, say, drinking in a bar somewhere like...oh...San Francisco, and someone asks me about my short guy story, I will TOTALLY tell it. It's a good one, I promise!