Sunday, 25 November 2012 13:56

What Makes a Romance Hero?

Written by Jennifer Porter
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Several weeks ago, I read Madeline Sheehan’s “Undeniable” (see review), a book which features a very unlikeable, un-heroic and criminal hero named Deuce. It isn’t a pleasant or fun story. It contains cheating, violence (so much violence, but the hero is violent toward the heroine), unlikeable characters and so much more. But it is a romance, in that it features two main protagonists who fall in love and get a happily ever after (although readers may or may not buy into it, but this can be true of any romance).


Several days later, Jane at Dear Author posted her review of this book. As is often the case, this review garnered lots of comments. I followed the thread with acute interest, especially when some of the commenters objected to the fact that “Undeniable” was considered a romance at all. One commenter in particular, pamela, asked “Why do books we read have to contain only main characters with noble motives and actions?” (comment #30). I was struck by this and even got into a great conversation on Twitter about this very question.



People pointed out that the use of the term hero to describe the male lead in a romance implies that he be heroic. Others added that they believed that heroes needed to be redeemed. Most people that I was discussing this with agreed that they wanted to find the hero admirable. This seems to be the major reason why lots of people don’t consider “Undeniable” a romance. These opinions definitely made me think. I absolutely appreciated everyone’s comments, but still felt uncomfortable with the idea that a book should be ineligible to be labeled a romance because its male lead is objectionable.


I almost hate to admit that I never associated the idea of the romance hero with the word heroic – ever. I’ve always assumed that the male character needs to be worthy of the heroine’s love. Period. That is it. The only person who has to see the hero as heroic is the person he falls in love with. Bad people can fall in love, and good people can certainly enjoy reading books about bad people falling in love. I can’t say that I enjoyed “Undeniable,” but neither did I hate it. I did buy into the primary romance and rooted for Eva and Deuce to be together. While others had wished that Eva would dump Deuce’s ass, I didn’t believe that Eva deserved better. These two characters seemed to fit each other perfectly – in a perfectly messed up way.


To me, Deuce redeemed himself enough to be worth of Eva. He agreed to try and give up other women. He realized that she could neither be contained at his home as was traditional for the motorcycle club old ladies nor be considered a club whore. Eva got the assurances that Deuce would allow her to be what she needed to be. While I might not believe that Deuce would keep this promises long term, I believed he meant them at the end of “Undeniable.”


So does a romance have to have likeable characters in order to be labeled a romance? I would argue no, especially since likeability isn’t tangible. It is a subjective quality. What one person enjoys, another one has the right to not like and to avoid. I’ve read plenty of romances where I disliked the main protagonists. I think that darker romances which feature unpleasant subjects with dubious consent, violence, rape, etc. are here to stay. This trend has already taken hold in erotic circles. I think we will be seeing lots of more of these "unheroic" romance heroes.

Last modified on Sunday, 25 November 2012 14:06
Jennifer Porter

Jennifer Porter

Romance Novel News

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