Prior to marrying my husband, I published four romance novels. Since marrying my husband–thirteen years ago–I have published figure skating murder mysteries, non-fiction, and women’s fiction. But, no more romances.
My husband’s theory is that, since meeting him, no fantasy hero conjured from my imagination could live up to the comparison. (My husband has a very high–though, self-aware–opinion of himself. While we were touring potential kindergartens for our daughter, he said of one principal we met, “I like her! She’s even more arrogant than me!”)
He’s right. But, not in the way he thinks.
He’s right that, since meeting him, I’ve had a much harder time coming up with fictional, romantic heroes.
Because, since meeting him, my opinion of what makes a romantic hero has completely changed.
My regency romances featured rogue bad boys, quick with a quip, laden with tragic pasts and ultimately reformed by the love of a good woman.
I don’t have time to be reforming anyone these days. I’ve already got three kids. I don’t need another one. I don’t want a man that I have to raise; I want one that’s already pretty awesome the way he is. And rogues… they don’t seem like the type to make it home for dinner on time, or get the bills paid, or take the kids to their grandparents’ house for a few hours so Mommy can get a break and maybe engage in the wild, indulgent pastime of washing her hair. (Though, for the record, my husband is, like any good Regency chap worth his cravat, very clever. He makes me laugh like no one else. That aspect of a Regency leading man, we’ll keep.)
My first contemporary romance, Annie’s Wild Ride, sported a military hero, an Air Force pilot of the strong and silent variety.
As indicated above, I’m not big on the silence. I like to be entertained. And shooting enemy planes out of the sky is pretty neat in theory. But, you know what else is neat? Men who clean up kid vomit. (I have a very enthusiastic gag reflex.)
And who will spend the night sleeping on a blanket on the floor at the bedside of a coughing child because they’re afraid he’ll start choking and we won’t hear it. Who do the laundry and scour the circulars for bargains and then stop off at the grocery store on the way home from work to pick up the best sale items before they’re all gone.
Men who, despite not being Jewish, attend Tot Shabbat on Saturdays and help light candles on Friday nights and fast on Yom Kippur for moral support. And who, despite not speaking a word of Russian, still dutifully visit the in-laws and eat foods they don’t recognize (except for borscht; he draws the line at borscht) and laugh in solidarity even when they don’t understand the joke. Especially when they don’t understand the joke.
I have never read about a romantic hero like my husband in any romance novel. To be honest, I think that if I tried to pitch one like him, nobody would believe me. (“But, what’s his motivation to do all this for you?” “I dunno? He loves me?” “Sorry. We can’t sell that.”)
So I can’t write about him specifically, and–he’s right–anyone I endeavor to create does come up short.
I guess I’ll stick to mysteries for now. Where the point is to demonstrate why someone deserved to be hated, not why they deserved to be loved. And to women’s fiction. Where inter-familial suffering and conflict is the name of the game.
And I’ll save my romance for my personal life.
With my personal romantic hero.