When you finish a reallllly great romance novel that lingers in your mind long after you turn the last page, what exactly are you thinking about … the heroine, the hero, or the plot?
Okay, if you said the heroine or the plot … you might want to click on the little X at the top of the page and move on, because I’m not sure this blog is for you.
But … if you said the hero … ding, ding, ding, ding ding!! You’ve come to the right place because today we continue with PART 3 of my series entitled From Sweet to Swoon: Ramping Up the Sigh Factor in our Heroes! So if you missed PART 1 and PART 2, you can catch up with the links provided, then arrow back to today’s PART 3.
So … how do I like to ramp up the swoon factor in a hero to take him from ho-hum to hot?
Well, the ways are ENDLESS, but here are a few of my favorites that I employ over and over again and since we’ve already covered the six most common types of heroes in Christian romance in PART 1 as well as Points 1-4 below in PART 2, let’s move on to the highlighted Points 5-9 today, and we’ll finish up Points l0-16 in my next blog.
1. Make the Hero Decidedly Male through Speech, Body Language, and Mindset.
2. Make the Heroine Affect Him Like No Other Woman.
3. Make His Attraction/Love for the Heroine Reform Him.
4. Make Him Be Able to Walk Away From Temptation.
5. Make Him Sacrificial.
6. Show His Love for Kids, Family, and Animals.
7. Make Him Dominant.
8. Give Him an Endearing Quirk.
9. Show Him Aware of the Heroine’s Interest.
10. Make Him Aloof and Unavailable.
11. Show His Humility.
12. Show His Mental Desire for the Heroine.
13. Show His Spirituality.
14. Give Him a Noble Cause.
15. Give Him a Wounded Heart.
16. Give Him a Sense of Humor.
5.) Make him sacrificial: Okay, almost nothing is more appealing in a hero than a man willing to sacrifice his own happiness for the sake of someone else. Not only does it reflect strength of character in making a selfless decision, but it reveals a core of strength and discipline that is so very attractive in a hero.
One of the reasons that Luke McGee from my novel A Hope Undaunted is one of my top two favorite heroes I’ve ever written is because he does just that—he sacrifices his own happiness in order to rescue his best friend, Betty, from an illegitimate pregnancy. That is noble in itself, but when Luke stays the course with Betty even after he discovers that the heroine he's loved since he was a boy is FINALLY ready to love him back, it becomes even more powerful, not only deepening the respect and love of the heroine, but the reader as well.
The scene in his office replayed, and the tragic turn of events twisted his gut once again.
“I . . . I think I’m in love with you, Luke . . .”
He slumped at his desk, hand to his eyes, never believing those words could have caused him such pain. She wanted him to stay, but he had promised to go. Two women who stirred the love in his heart . . . but only one who stirred his passion.
He closed his eyes, and thoughts of Betty were immediate, producing an ache so deep, more tears welled beneath his lids. Like him, she had lived in the gutter all of her life. Not just in the streets of New York, but in the littered ruts of destiny as well, where life denied her any chance at happiness. A father killed in the war and a destitute mother, a stepfather who thrived on abuse, and a lover who took it a step further. The result was a baby destined to be born a bastard, and a friend who had vowed it would never happen.
Betty and he were blood, not in the literal sense of heritage, but in the true sense of all they had shared . . . as friends . . . as family . . . as lovers. Grief pierced anew, and the emotion shifted in his throat. Brady and the O’Connors had taught him well. Luke had little or no experience with family, but one thing he knew to the core of his being—family didn’t desert family . . . not in their time of need.
6.) Show his LOVE FOR kids, family, friends and animals: Seriously, in romance … is there anything sweeter than a big, hulking hero in love with a child? Anything more powerful than a friend who’ll lay down his life for a friend? Anything more satisfying than a man who cherishes God and family above all else? Well, not many things, that’s for sure because when you see how a hero treats his family, friends, or animals, you see clear into his heart, telling you if he’s a man—or a hero—worthy of your respect and love.
The following scene from Dare to Love Again shows the impact that a little six-year-old orphan has on one of my most hulking, grouchiest heroes—Nick Barone—and I can’t tell you how many letters or reviews I’ve received where the readers loved Nick more for the tenderness he showed Lottie.
“Are you going to spank Mr. Nick with a stick, Miss Penny?” the little dickens asked, making him smile.
Miss Penny’s lips squirmed while Mrs. Lemp chuckled. The steel in her eyes melted into affection. “I’m considering it, Lottie, if Mr. Nick doesn’t behave.”
Hopping up on Nick’s lap, Lottie hugged him with a husky, little grunt before she braced his face with two tiny palms, depositing a sweet peck to his lips that dissolved any frustration he had. “Don’t be bad, Mr. Nick,” she whispered with a gloss of moisture in her eyes that nearly wrung tears from his own, “I don’t want Miss Penny to hurt you.”
He released a silent sigh and tucked a curl over her shoulder, the risk of disappointing her a far greater deterrent than any piece of wood. “I’ll be good, Lottie,” he said quietly, “I promise.”
Okay, in our next example, I’m sorry, but I can’t help it—when I see a hero with a fierce loyalty and affection for his best friend, I melt just a little bit more because that demonstrates loyalty loud and clear. And let’s face it—every woman out there is looking for loyalty from a man … especially in a hero! Which is why friendship scenes like the one below between my heroes Collin McGuire and John Brady in A Passion Denied greatly enhance my love for both men.
“Yeah, well you need a little something other than vodka to sustain that thick head of yours.”
That woke him up. His head shot up, and the red in his eyes singed like fire. “Go to the devil, Collin. As if I didn’t pull your head out of the latrine more times than I can count.”
Collin eased back into his chair, all humor depleted. “That’s right, John, you did. Which makes this all the more upsetting. What’s going on?”
Brady closed his eyes and ran a shaky hand over his face. “I can’t tell you.”
“Why? From the very beginning, you’ve known everything about me—my past, my present, what I think, what I feel. The best of friends, closer than brothers. Don’t you think I deserve the same?”
Brady lowered his head. “You do, but I can’t tell you.”
Collin’s jaw tightened. “Why?”
“Because I’m not ready.”
Collin slammed his fist on the table. “Not ready for what? To be a friend?”
Brady’s head lunged up, his eyes swimming with pain. “No, Collin, not ready to lose one.”
Collin blinked. He swallowed the emotion lumped in his throat and nodded. “If I leave, will you promise to talk to Father Mac?”
Brady nodded slowly, his eyes dull.
Collin stood. He glanced at Father Mac. “Can you try to get him to eat? I want him healthy at work tomorrow.” Collin gave Brady’s shoulder a quick squeeze. “I’m tired of carrying him.” He started for the door.
“I’ll have half of day’s work done before you even shadow the door.”
Collin turned, hand poised on the knob. His throat tightened. “I want you to know, John, whatever you did, no matter how bad you think it may be, I will stand by you. I’m proud to call you my friend, because I know who you are—a man of integrity, honor and passion for God. And nothing—nothing—you can say will ever change that for me. I love you like a brother, John, and always will.
The door clicked softly behind him.
And finally, when I see a hero who is fiercely protective and loyal to his own family, it goes a long way in redeeming a rogue like Logan McClare in the clip below from Dare to Love Again, not only winning more of the heroine’s heart, but hopefully the reader’s as well.
He cocked a brow. “So we take precautions. We hire a full-time handyman/guard to assist Mr. Bigley year-round, not just for a few months. Then we put our foot down with Allison as well, restricting her working at the school past five or taking the cable car on her own.”
Cait’s lips wobbled into a faint smile. “We?” she whispered, not wanting to burden Logan further but painfully aware he was becoming more and more a part of her life every day—her decisions, her problems, her responsibilities.
And my heart?
He paused to study her, the potency of love she saw in his eyes making her want to weep all over again. “Yes, ‘we,’” he whispered, skimming several fingers along the line of her jaw. “We’re a team, Cait, you and I. We may not be a ‘couple’ in the true sense of the word, but we are two people in love with the same family, nonetheless. Which means your family is my family, and I will support and protect you—and it—until I take my last breath.”
7.) Make him dominant: Yes, women are notorious for trying to change a man or push him around, but the truth is that most women are drawn to a man they can’t push around. A man who is his own man, in control and won’t allow a woman to take the upper hand. From early cavemen and Viking warriors, to the more genteel gentlemen of the South like Rhett Butler or the likes of rough-and-tumble cowboys like John Wayne, it’s Taming of the Shrew all over again because women want heroes who are strong. And when that strength and control is spiritual as well as physical, even better!
Here’s a scene from A Hope Undaunted that demonstrates the iron-will dominance of hero Luke McGee, something that is desperately needed with a strong-willed heroine like Katie O’Connor.
“Wait!” She ran to grasp his arm in a death hold, fingers clenched as tight as her stomach. “Don’t do this, please—don’t just walk away. I care about you, Luke, and I need your friendship. And you need mine.”
His gaze fixed on her hand where Jack’s diamond glittered in the lamplight, then slowly rose to her face, his blue eyes almost black. “No, Katie,” he whispered with a thread of pain in his voice, “I need your love.”
Her heart crashed to a stop. She removed her hand and lowered her eyes, her gaze fused to the fringed tongue of his brown leather shoe. “I . . . care about you, Luke, I do.” Her voice trailed off, fragile and reedy with regret. “But please . . . why can’t we just be friends?”
Taut fingers gripped her chin and jerked it up, the dominance of his hold matched by the anger in his eyes. “Because it will be lovers or nothing, Katie Rose. The choice is yours.”
Of course, when it comes to dominance in a hero, I would be remiss if I didn’t include Rhett Butler in this famous kissing scene from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind where Rhett dominates Scarlett with a proposal few woman could refuse. Following is a mix of the book and the movie:
"You've been married to a boy and an old man. Why not try a husband of the right age, with a way with women?"
"You're a fool, Rhett Butler, when you know I shall always love another man."
"Stop it. You hear me, Scarlett, stop it! No more of that talk."
(He jerks her to him and kisses her)
“Don't, I shall faint," she whispered, trying to turn her head weakly from him.
"I want you to faint. This is what you were meant for. None of the fools you've ever known have kissed you like this, have they? Your Charles or your Frank or your stupid Ashley."
“I said your stupid Ashley. Gentleman all—what do they know about women? What did they know about you? I know you.”
His mouth was on hers again and she surrendered without a struggle, too weak even to turn her head …
8.) Give him an endearing quirk (especially if he’s an alpha-male):
Let’s face it—endearing quirks make us smile. And when they belong to a hero? Sigh ... they can soften the crustiest of men, making our hearts smile, too, with added affection.
In book 2 of the “Heart of San Francisco” series, Dare to Love Again, my alpha-male hero Nick Barone is a fearless and armed rough-and-tumble Italian police detective who, like Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS, is not afraid of anybody or anything. You know the type—rock jaw, perennial shadow of beard and gruff manner? Well, Nick is railroaded into escorting the heroine home everyday on a cable car. The quirk I gave him? He’s afraid of cable cars, of course, as depicted below, a flaw that provides levity, I hope, as well as humanize our grouchy hero and endear him to the reader. And just to be ornery, I tossed in an addiction to animal crackers that not only help settle his stomach, but give him animal-cracker breath throughout the book.
Her head wheeled to face him, eyebrows tented in shock. “What? This is your first time on a cable car? Then how on earth did you know you’d be sick? Do you get sick on boats?”
“No.” It was a croak as he smothered what could have been a belch.
She squinted. “Then I don’t understand. If you don’t get seasick, then why—” Her eyes went wide. “Wait—you’re afraid, aren’t you?”
Well, that certainly helped his color. Blood gorged his cheeks. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he snarled, singeing her with a glare.
Her lips took a twist. Oh, good—familiar territory! “Sweet mother of mercy, you are, aren’t you?” She clamped a hand to her mouth to smother a laugh, the idea of this mammoth, gun-toting grouch afraid of anything delighting her more than it should. She forced a serious demeanor, noting from his ruddy color that their sparring had apparently taken his mind off the ride. “For heaven’s sake, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, Nick,” she said sweetly. She tilted her head, attempting to contain the chuckles that bubbled up in her chest. “Unless, of course,” she whispered in a voice hoarse with restraint, “you’re afraid of mice too . . .” Her laughter broke free in a glorious swell of giggles.
The gray-green eyes narrowed over the handkerchief he held to his mouth. “Don’t tempt me, Miss McClare—I had kippers for lunch.”
9.) Make him aware of heroine’s interest: Call me crazy, but to me, there’s just something attractive about a man who’s confident in the fact that the heroine is attracted to him. Call it a hint of cockiness if you will, but I think it gives the hero the upper hand, which plays right in to the “dominance” mode that is so appealing to me. In these two clips from A Hope Undaunted, we see the hero’s awareness of the heroine’s attraction, first in THOUGHTS where he’s remembering her ready response to his forced kiss in a prior scene, then in ACTION when he reminds her of it in the second clip:
His jaw hardened. But dirt beneath her feet or no, that hadn’t stopped her body from responding to his, not that she would ever admit it. She may not be attracted to him as a person, but as a man, the passion in her kiss told him all he needed to know.
The memory suddenly surged through him like the sticky June heat outside his window, stifling his air. A silent curse hissed from his lips as he hurled his suit jacket across the room. Either way, she had made a fool of him.
Then later on in the story, when the hero and heroine are on speaking terms, he reminds her with one look and one word that he knows she’s attracted to him:
Luke lifted the mammoth burger to his lips, pausing to give Katie a weighted gaze. “And unlike you, Katydid, some women actually enjoy doing what I ask.”
“Ask maybe, but force? Do they enjoy that?”
He bit into his sandwich and chewed slowly, a smile surfacing at the edges of his mouth. “Sometimes,” he said, heating her with a look while he took a slow swig of his drink.
Katie’s cheeks flamed hot, and she itched to slap that smug smile off his handsome face.
Okay, that’s it today, so leave a comment for a chance to win your choice of a signed copy of any of my books, including my upcoming release in October, Surprised by Love.
HUGS AND GOOD LUCK!
Award-winning author of “The Daughters of Boston” and “Winds of Change” series, Julie Lessman was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards. She has also garnered 17 RWA and other awards and made Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction. Her book A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers' Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. You can contact Julie and read excerpts from her books at www.julielessman.com.