I’ve been thinking lately about what is the difference between a romance, which I write, and Women’s Fiction. One is that far more attention is given to the hero in my genre. I’m a romantic at heart and as a teenager and young woman I would often lie in bed at night, plotting out stories starring me and my current actor crush. Some of these were quite complex and would last over several nights- oh yes, the list was long… Starsky, the Bionic Man – even Boy George! This was before I knew I’d be an author. Of course now those dark hours are spent plotting my next novel. And the driving force behind my story is often centred on the hero.
So what does a hero need to make my heart flutter and pulse rate? In my new release, Breakfast under a Cornish Sun, there are two heroes to whet your appetite and I’ll use them to demonstrate my five top favourite traits. And I’m not talking about physical appearance as women are very varied in what turns them on. Take Lucas in my new book – he is the perfect Poldark lookalike, with his raven curls and swarthy complexion and is an instant joy to Kate Golightly, who headed to Cornwall in search of this fictional hero. Whereas Tremain, on the other hand, is stockier with super short fair hair.
No, personality transcends looks every time when it comes to longstanding sexiness. And Lucas with his dangerous dark looks and couldn’t-give-a-damn attitude demonstrates the first trait I find irresistible. It’s not very PC to say, but I love a streak of arrogance, because this shows confidence. There is nothing more sexy than a man who is self-assured and unprepared to change just to please others.
Secondly, however, I need a degree of vulnerability that explains this cocksure behaviour, otherwise that utter confidence tips into becomes unattractive. Take Tremain, the other gorgeous man Kate Golightly meets when she visits Cornwall. He is surly. Unsociable. A man of few words. Appears rude sometimes. Yet when he does speak his statements seem loaded with emotion and hint at a tragic past only a special woman could get him to share. This vulnerability makes the hero a challenge – can the protagonist persuade him to open up? Because opening up makes a hero seem even braver.
Thirdly, oh yes, I need heaps of passion and both Lucas and Tremain have fire in their eyes. Because passion hints at a sense of recklessness which, in good measure, means the difference between an average and breathless kiss. Passion means danger. Pleasure. Spontaneity. All the ingredients for a memorable encounter that will get readers turning the page.
Fourthly and equally important to passion is compassion. I need a hero who cares for other living things than himself. And in Breakfast under a Cornish Sun this is one quality that will help Kate decide if her future is with either of these two Cornish hotties. I won’t give too much else away, other than to say her chosen one takes a while to work out.
Finally – urgh, this is hard. Which trait to select?! There are so many other qualities I seek in my perfect fictional man. Tenderness. Strength. Humour. Sincerity… in fact I think that answers my question. Complexity. Complexity is everything when creating the perfect hero. Us women and readers like a challenge, right? So we want a hero who is going to take a whole book to work out. And both brooding Lucas and troubled Tremain have deep-seated reasons for their demeanour and behaviour. This makes them realistic and relatable and – I hope – hotter than ever.