But I did just that because the essence of heat in a hero has little to do with actual looks. I mean, even with a detailed description, there are only so many square-jawed, well-muscled, six-foot-plus guys on the planet with piercing eyes.
Puuuuhhhhhlease. Watch any of the morning news shows with live shots of Manhattan in the backdrop windows and count how many guys meet that description. Uh, huh. EXACTLY MY POINT. So we fantasize a little. A little taller. A little leaner. A little broader. And great eyes and teeth are a must, despite Shrek’s popularity. But what is the essence of a hot hero? What draws us in, makes us dreamy-eyed?
Silas shut that yapping mouth right up with his lips. He swung the door shut and broke off the kiss just enough to speak. “Did I mention that I want more childen with you than you’ve given to the other husbands?” He made sure to kiss her so deeply she couldn’t respond to that. (The Husband Tree, Barbour Publishing, Mary Connealy, author)
Silas. Strong. Decisive. A touch embittered. Cautious. Courageous. Careful. Dedicated. Humorous. If you asked me to describe Silas, I have no response. I don’t have a clue how Mary described him physically. What jumped off the page was his devoted virility, his take-charge attitude, the perfect way he complemented Belle’s tough and sassy image.
LaVyrle Spencer created a wonderful beta hero (Small Town Girl) in Kenny Kronek, the easy-going, helpful nerd-of-a-neighbor who wins the heart of Tess McPhail, the hottest “Reba-type” country singer in the land, home to help her sick mother, and she did it by making his gentle class act behavior outrageously desirable to a woman who is always surrounded by false love and idolatry in the entertainment business. His uniqueness balanced Tess because it was so different from what she experienced in her daily life. A man of honor, of simple devotion, a church-goer who stayed true to his faith, his time, his home, and then her.
And what about our tortured heroes? Matt Damon as Jason Bourne… Oh Mylanta, the mix of choir-boy Irish good looks, gentle eyes, a killer’s aim, and tricked into being something he’s not, a created killing commodity, pushed into vigilantism by the powers that be. A sympathetic assassin. Now that’s a trick!
He gave her a half-lidded look that made her mouth go dry, then leaned in and nestled his lips along her throat. The blood pumped in her veins. She felt the shadow of his late-day beard, and the realization of what was happening prompted a chuckle of joy from her throat. She shivered. ” I love you, Mitch Dennehy, so much that even prayer couldn’t get you out of my heart. Sweet saints above, I can’t wait to marry you!” her gaze narrowed. “You are asking, aren’t you?”
He grinned. “Oh, I’m asking all right. And you won’t have to wait. I don’t intend to.” (A Passion Denied, Revell Publishing, Julie Lessman, author)
So far Mitch Dennehy is my favorite Lessman hero. I like his maturity, his stance, his devotion, his hard-won respect. In Mitch Julie Lessman has created an every-woman’s hero, but one particularly well-suited to Charity O’Connor, who is not one of my favorite heroines. Shoot, I kept shouting at Mitch to dump her and find someone more worthy, but being a man in love with a hot babe, he didn’t listen. And knowing Charity like we do, he’s probably come out on the good end of the trade. After all, it takes more than good fried chicken to keep a man smiling year in, year out.
In Sweet Home Alabama we have two heroes. Two great guys. We have the before and after hero, because in the midst of the timeline we’re examining, the heroine has undergone a transformation. Great plot twist that allows deeper conflict, both external and internal. And while my boys were not big fans of Reese Witherspoon’s character during the first half of the movie, we women understood her urge to move beyond who she was to who she could be, and then losing a bit of herself in the making.
So: what a quandary…
Or Patrick Dempsey????
Stop wracking your brains, there is no wrong answer to that question. I mean, come on…. Talk about a win/win. ;)
Developing the hero to match and complement your heroine becomes the crux of the matter. His salt to her pepper. His calm to her heat.
Mr. Darcy examples every possible reason to not love a hero, yet we do. Why? Despite his arrogance, he stands by his convictions. He is true to family and friends. To a fault, we discover, but we appreciate the scarceness of such a trait. He’s kind to his help. He takes care of his home and understands familial pride. And he’s willing to own his mistakes and try hard to rectify them, coaxing Elizabeth’s feelings to meet his. And she does, just before he decides to pack it in, give it up. He fights the good fight and humbles himself to win the girl. Once again it matters not what he looks like, but the attitude he bears. Although Colin Firth is no slouch in the looks department. I think we'd all join hands and agree on that, but it isn't the looks that draw us in, that captivate, it's the manner or the reformation, the journey he must travel to get the girl.
“You’re no kind of man I’ve run into before.”
Ben's right arm snaked out and around her waist and he pulled her up against him. She had a sense of him, the shape of him and his smells, and then he kissed her. His mouth was warm, soft, and then hard. A short, jarring kiss. He let her go and she heard herself gasp.
“I’ve been wanting to do that for a while.”
Hannah adjusted her headscarf. “You said you had no interest in me.” Trying for dignified, and sounding instead like a girl in a snit.
He glanced at her, surprised. “I never said that.”
“You did. On the stairs.”
"I said I knew you had no interest in me. I’m hoping maybe you’ve changed your mind.”
“And if I haven’t?”
Cool appraisal, calculating, knowing. Hannah looked away. When she looked back again, he was smiling.
(Queen of Swords, Bantam Books, Sara Donati, author)
Donati's historical heroes go beyond the ken of mere mortal men. She's not afraid to give them quiet wisdom (Nathaniel Bonner, Jean-Benoit Savard "Ben")an inner core of strength that lines a rough-looking exterior, yet the hearts of the men beat true in all things, making them trustworthy husbands in difficult times. They kill as needed and love completely.
We all love Gibbs from NCIS, and Mark Harmon's current character is a far cry from his St. Elsewhere character from way back. Then he was a playboy doctor. Now he's a tortured soul, a man who's loved and loved well but can't move beyond the guilt at what he's lost. We all want to FIX HIM... Help him. Be THE WOMAN that sets his heart stirring again. The hope. The promise. Will God ever send him someone to fulfil that longing, that destiny? And will Gibbs forgive himself in time to see things clearly?
“I’m your landlord, remember?” Sparks of ivory lightened his gray eyes, crinkled in amusement.
“You won’t let me forget.”
She laughed and poked him in the chest. “That means when the heat’s off or the electric blows a circuit breaker, I call you.”
Her heart chugged to a stop, watching him, hearing those words, feeling their depth, their meaning. He studied her, his expression warm, caring, a hint of humor softening the craggy planes of a chiseled face.
She moved a half-step forward without meaning to. “I will.”
The kiss was unexpected and totally wonderful, the gentle press of Brooks’ mouth on hers, the solidity of him, his breadth, his warmth, the sheer strength of him swirling around her, engulfing her in what-if’s.
Sweet. So sweet.
When he paused the kiss she stayed right there, not moving, eyes closed, smiling just a little, knowing she couldn’t and shouldn’t do this, but old enough and experienced enough to know she thoroughly enjoyed that kiss.
And the kisser.
And when he kissed her again, she liked that one just as much. (Made to Order Family, Steeple Hill Books, Ruth Logan Herne, author)
Heating up a hero has little to do with girding his loins and everything to do with evoking the reader's invested emotion. If the reader roots for your hero and heroine, they're more likely to be pre-ordering on Amazon when your next book is announced. And while I agree with the idea of writing for an audience of ONE, simple business says you've got to engage the buying public as well to help ensure the next contract. Publishers are in business to make money. Our job is to help them achieve that end with characters that paint a picture of happily ever after in readers' heads long after they've set down the book.
Grab some coffee... Some ham,egg and cheese croissants... Fresh cheese kuchen to the left, as well! Dig in and let's chat about how to make your heroes stronger. More alluring. Feel free to post a segment and we can talk about it 'on air'!
This post first appeared in Seekerville on April 8, 2010.
Love Inspired author Ruth Logan Herne lives a life of mild-to-moderate insanity in upstate New York. She's raised children, romped with dogs, medicated pigs and milked cows while holding a wide variety of name-tag and hairnet jobs. She loves God, chocolate and coffee, thinks Keurigs are marvelous machines and all grandchildren should look like her. Or be named for her. The third "4-Star " release of her Men of Allegany County series is available in stores and online now. Romantic Times called Mended Hearts "an utterly compelling read." Ruthy, of course, agrees. ;)
You can visit Ruthy at her website http://ruthloganherne.com where you'll find her books and delicious Ruthy-recipes, or stop by her blog http://www.ruthysplace.com where she shamelessly exploits puppies and small children to sell books. And feel free to swing by and meet the cute guys of her current series at www.menofalleganycounty.com
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