Tuesday, 19 November 2013

When Good Heroes Go Bad

Some people were upset that Superman kills
the bad guy in his latest incarnation
"Man of Steel" staring Henry Cavill
Today has been the sort of day that I wonder if I'm really meant to be a romance writer.

Which is funny because I was notified that I was one of six people chosen to pitch to eHarlequin (Contemporary) so I should be feeling on top of the world. Especially coming after making the top 50 in the SYTYCW2013 competition. The quality was exceptionally high this year so even making it to the top 50 out of over 700 entries is pretty special.

"So how can this be?" you ask. It comes because I was reading one of the top ten entries and absolutely loving it. Beautifully written and a wonderful emotive story. And then the hero, after being sort of jealous about the possibility that the heroine had been with other men, casually drops the information that he'd been with other women during the two years of the separation.

Apparently his ego took such a beating when the heroine said she didn't love him, it was necessary to go and have meaningless sex with nameless women. After all men have needs and he also needed to forget this woman he loved passionately.

In the interests of realism, this is now quite acceptable behaviour for a hero. One, going out and sleeping with women while separated but still married to the heroine (who he supposedly loved). Two, using nameless women to relieve his sexual frustration (and try to forget the heroine).

So in Romancelandia we accept that heroes will have sex with someone other than the heroine even when still married to her. We also accept that it is perfectly acceptable for a hero to have meaningless sex with nameless women. I can only hope the nameless women enjoyed the one night stands and didn't develop an emotional attachment to the hero. Probably they did simply enjoy the sex because in this new world, women don't develop feelings for their one night stand unless they are in a romance novel with that trope. Confused? I certainly am. There has to be some kind of feminist logic in there somewhere.

It's not that I object to stories being written with those happenings. I know many, probably most people, don't have my skewed view on what is desirable behaviour for a romance hero.

But now and then I get the feeling that somehow, by stating out loud that I would prefer it if a hero had not behaved in such a way, I am seen as betraying the sisterhood. A sort of "love me love my dog" equation. Surely if I feel so emotional about a characters behaviour (I cried real tears) it means I really care about them and so it becomes a complement to the writer. But it always seems to be taken as a criticism.

So what has all this to do with me doubting my place in the Romancelandia world?  

The least thing I can imagine happening to an unfaithful hero
Every one trying their hand at writing has doubts of course. My doubts mostly consist of whether anything I write will be commercially publishable in the modern world. If the trend in romances is any indication, we are living in a world where sexual fidelity does not have the significance it did in past decades.

When I look at all this, I wonder if this "realism" that is permeating even the last bastion of "Pleasant" reads, the Harlequin, Mills & Boon, will forever close it's doors to someone like myself who cannot bear to have my hero betray his married vows even under the direst of marital breakdowns. Because no-one in the real world would believe a hero can keep his pants zipped for any length of time.


  1. I wouldn't have my hero act in such a manner. If he really did love the heroine, he wouldn't sleep around. Period. I don't think I have any of my heroes cheating in any of the stories I've written and had published. To me the hero must act heroic. If the author doesn't give me a good reason why then I lose respect and will be less likely to buy another book by that author.

    Hugs, Tambra

  2. Thanks for the comment Tambra. I agree about the respect thing. I just want my heroes to be heroic and not ruled by their libido.