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Monday, June 16, 2008

My Hero Can Kick Your Hero's Butt

A friend of mine steered me toward Jeannie Ruesch's adorable site featuring lots of cute t-shirts and accessories designed especially for romance writers. The above button is one of my favorite slogans, and it, combined with brainstorming/fantasizing about the hero in my next book, got me thinking.

How tough is too tough when it comes to a romantic hero? We love our alpha males, for sure. More now than ever before, it seems, with the proliferation of paranormals featuring uncontrollably voracious and violent creatures of the night. But if you write modern contemporaries, as I do, where does the line fall? Harlequin still makes a mint on it's Harlequin Presents line, which is full of charmingly Old World tycoons and aristocrats, filthy rich and as high handed as any hero Kathleen Woodiwiss ever dreamed up. Single title romances, though, on the whole have tamed the Alpha Hero. Even Suzanne Brockmann's Navy SEALs are full of sensitivity and political correctness, even while kicking ass all over the globe. (Actually, I'd argue that the juxtaposition of tough-as-nails soldier with vulnerable, emotional core is what makes Brockmann's series so freaking compelling and addicting, but that's another story. Yes, I'm a total fangirl. Get over it.)

I'm not saying my vision for my new hero is trash-talking arrogant bastard, but I was considering giving him a very shady past. As in an actual conviction and prison sentence. Of course he had reasons, and of course he cleaned up his act, but (also of course) that kind of thing leaves its mark. Now that I think about it, maybe it's not a question of alpha/beta at all. Maybe it's about the level of gritty reality readers are willing to accept in their escapism. What do y'all think? Would it turn you off completely to discover that the hero you were reading about had done time?


I'm fairly certain that Barbara Samuel wrote at least one SSE (as Ruth Wind) with a hero who had done time. I love *everything* she writes. (As I'm sure I will feel about YOU.) So write it!

I have to confess, my favorite LaVyrle Spencer novel, MORNING GLORY, featured an ex-con hero. However, it broke many many rules, being set in the Depression, with the heroine older than the hero, etc. Plus, it was LaVyrle, so she could do what she wanted. I'm not quite there yet!

A VERY timely question, particularly considering this Op-Ed from Sunday. Susan Faludi sees the coming showdown between Obama and McCain as a referendum on modern vs. old-fashioned definitions of masculinity. Personally, I'll take Barry (big ears and all - I can sympathize, after all) any day.

Also, to answer your actual question:

I don't think it would turn me off, so long as it was done right. I.e., it would depend on the crime, and how we find out about it. Could also add an interesting element of internal conflict (or even conflict with her friends) for your heroine...not many successful ladies out there looking to end up with ex-cons.

I think you could do it. Might not be the easiest hero you've ever written, but it might be one of the most rewarding when it's all said and done.

of course, I say the badder the better. I love an almost unredeemable guy. Sigh.

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