“So why can’t your heroes be more like me?” Spoken like a too-full-of-himself, macho dude, right?
Could have been, but in this case, the question in one form or another has been posed to me a lot recently, by men who are close friends. They’ve either read my work, or talked about it enough amongst themselves to feel able to offer an opinion. Of course any time the subject of my books comes up, there first must be a great deal of good-natured teasing, but to the best of my knowledge, none of them had ever read a romance book before. They have honest questions and insights that I find very helpful.
Wait, I don’t want to paint an unrealistic picture of my buddies. These are guys talking sex; it’s not like they go all Socrates or anything! They inquired as to why the heroines can have physical flaws and insecurities and the heroes have to be all wash-board abby, male yummy goodness (my words, definitely not theirs!). Amid the jocularity of them pointing out each other’s flaws and bragging about their individual assets, I quickly realized this was a real issue with them and I think a very valid one.
I understand the rules of the genre, but their comments really got me thinking. I purposely create heroines who have certain body issues and insecurities because I can relate to that character. I don’t want to read or write about a woman who is the epitome of our gender; she makes me feel inadequate! If we’re going to entice men to read our genre, maybe we need to lighten up a bit on the studly perfection.
There’s this guy, Rick. He’s probably in his late fifties but I’m a terrible judge of age. His hair is more grey than brown and a touch too long to be considered fashionable, but I like to think it’s the perfect length to hold onto. His eyes aren’t ‘the deepest cobalt blue’, or ‘the color of the sands sweeping across the desert’ but they light up with emotion when he laughs. (The little crinkly lines at the corners are so cute!) He’s only an inch or so taller than me, but I don’t ever wear heals so who cares? Rick’s definitely not ripped, muscular guy, he’s just…regular! He has ‘curves’. The words ‘chiseled’, ‘god-like’ and ‘massive’ don’t spring to mind when he walks into the room, but to me, he still looks damn fine in a t-shirt and jeans. And his hands – long fingers, roughened by years of hard work, you have no idea how I’ve fantasized about what he could do to me with those!
His back aches after a long day. He has bills to pay, a house to take care of, grown children, an ex, emotional baggage, and a genuine love of lounging around on the weekend doing nothing. He talks about retirement – hey, it’s allowed, nobody’s getting any younger, you know? I’m pretty sure he’s never gone on a covert government mission, headed a multi-trillion dollar corporation, lived in a castle, or shifted into another species, but there is something about him that pushes all of my buttons.
He is my next hero, a wink and nod to my male friends. Will a publisher accept him? Only time will tell.