My planner speaks Dutch now. Days of the week? All in Dutch. Months? Yep, those will be in Dutch for the remainder of the year, as well. There are a few reasons for this. One is that I’m picking up some of the language anyway, from a friend who is, herself, Dutch. Another is that I’ve had a storyline bopping around in my head for a couple of decades now, with a Dutch hero. If it hasn’t gone away by now, it’s not going to, so my best bet is to steer into that particular skid (at the appropriate time; right now, Her Last First Kiss is my historical baby.) Another reason is that translating names of the days and months from Dutch, into English, is one more thinky thing for my brain to do every day. Call it mental exercise. The more I make my brain work, the better it works. The other reason, though? That one tracks with romance appreciation month. It’s the heroes.
Couple things first. This is not the deskscape I took to go along with today’s blog post. That one had a finished page, with a grayscale-plus-one-color color scheme, all numbers neatly stenciled, etc, everything in place. I composed the shot, tried out a new photo editor, because I’m still finding the ideal tool for that, and checked my Google Photos app on my phone. Yep, picture is there. Great. Check Google Photos on my desktop, and nope. Already done some juggling with my schedule today, so time to get creative. Nab a shot I took to share with a group on Facebook, edit that puppy, and on we go. So, that’s where this comes from, and, even though it’s not what I had planned, it’s good enough.
So, back to those romance heroes. I’m not talking about the oh-isn’t-he-handsome angle on this one, though yes, some of these fictional gents are rather easy on the eyes. Romance heroes, like romance heroines, come in many different flavors, shapes, sizes, hues, fitness levels, etc. For me, the main pull of the romance genre is the heroines – strong women who don’t let life knock them down, or, if it does, they don’t stay down for long- if there weren’t heroes in these books, then I’d be talking about the power of women’s fiction rather than romance. There is also female/female romance, with which I am not as familiar, so I will leave that to those better versed.
Today, it’s all about the boys. Men, really. Apart from YA romances, of which there are some wonderful examples, the heroes in romance are men. They can be younger men or older men, richer men or poorer men, fit as a professional athlete, or live with a physical challenge (or both) or anywhere along the spectrum on any of the above and more, but it’s not the physicality of the gents that matters in romance fiction. It’s the heart. Romance heroes do not complete the heroine. Let’s get that out of the way. At least in my books, they don’t. They complement the heroines. Compliment them, yes, because, at least by the end of the book, they have learned how to communicate with the women they love (and hopefully the rest of the people around them, no matter how taciturn they may appear on the first page) and are able to articulate what they admire about their ladyloves, (or the other gent, in m/m romance) but complement them, as in they fit well together. Together, they become greater than the sum of their parts.
Often, the hero is the one who sees a part of the heroine others have overlooked, and, once he’s seen it, he can’t unsee it, no matter how hard he tries. The handsome hero who looks at a supposedly “plain” heroine and doesn’t see the mouse everybody else claims the heroine is, but rather can’t believe nobody else is bowled over by the way she lights the whole world when she smiles, for example, is a popular example of that. Maybe it’s the way the heroine is whip-smart and could teach him a thing or two about math or ancient history, when her family is sure all she has to recommend her is a pretty face or ample bosom. Maybe it’s something else, but that moment when, for whatever reason, the heroine gets stuck under the hero’s skin is one of my favorites, both to read and to write. He might think he has life all figured out, or have no idea what he’s doing, but once she’s entered his world, nothing is ever going to be the same, and he is more adrift than he’s ever been in his life, because this woman has shaken his foundation.
As with heroines, the heroes have their own arcs. Hero wants something at the beginning of the book, that he either gets, or accepts that he will never get, at the end, and it’s that journey that fascinates me. For both of them, really, both individually and together, but I have an advantage when it comes to the heroines. I am a woman, so I know what it’s like to be a woman, have a woman’s body and woman’s emotions. While I do have a Hero Consultant in Real Life Romance Hero, he’s only been on this earth the same amount of time as I have, so when I want to dive deeper into how an eighteenth century hero might react to certain situations, I have some research to do.
That’s where the heroes who have gone before come into play. I’ve been reading romance, mostly historical, since I was eleven years old. If we count fairy tales with romantic elements, then for a lot longer than that. Suffice it to say I’ve read a lot of heroes in that time, and each one of them has left his mark on the heroes I write. I like to picture a bunch of them gathered around a table in some old timey tavern, lit by lantern light, trading war stories about the horrible things their authors, myself included, have made them do, and admitting that the reward, the love and support of their heroines, made it all worth the trip. I also imagine them welcoming new heroes, offering advice to the young upstarts. Remembering when they, too, were first drafts, and how much things have changed since then.
Um, Anna, the Dutch thing? Yeah, got away from that a little, but it was a romance novel, Bold, Breathless Love, by Valerie Sherwood, that made me fall in love with all things Dutch. Ruprecht Van Ryker, you are forever my book boyfriend. Some guys make that kind of impression.