The perfect hero in historical romance. Is there one? What fantasy do readers want?
In reality, as much as we are filled with fanciful and romantic thoughts, there probably isn’t a perfect man. Of course, it depends on how you define perfection. Like the variety of readers and their various tastes over heroines, there is no absence of criticism over the perfect male. Once again, I’ve strolled through the reviews of some bestselling authors to find out what women are thinking.
There are the usual complaints of women who dislike emotionally damaged men, along with arrogant aristocrats and walking cardboard characters (boy that term gets used a lot). I think readers who look for the perfect hero want a type of man they can fall in love with during the story. Women are looking for romance and ways to live vicariously through storytelling, sometimes to soothe our lack of it in real life. If you love historical romance, then no doubt you want a swoon-worthy, good-looking chap in breaches, boots, with a ruffled shirt, and white cravat.
So what is the perfect hero? If we look at the typical male stereotypes in works of centuries past, we can categorize them in a variety of ways.
The Darcy Type – Prideful and arrogant but humbled in the presence of one woman. His good sense and social class tell him to walk away. Instead, he bemoans his tortured and bewitched existence as if he’s helpless to resist. “In vain have I struggled, it will not do. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
The Knightly Type – A soulful, kindhearted, and wise man who is your friend. He supports you, chides you when needed, admires you silently, and gradually falls in love. He cares deeply about your well-being and sacrifices his own happiness to ensure your own. When his outward motives reveal a deeper love, he declares the obvious. “Marry me, my wonderful darling friend.”
The Captain Wentworth Type – He suffers in silence over love lost but clings to the hope that he may regain what he desires. As he quietly watches from the sidelines the love of his life, he waits for the opportune time to once again confess his love. “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I have loved none but you.” Who can deny such a plea?
The Mr. Rochester Type – The tortured soul, who is moody and cynical about life. He has a dark secret, that binds him to another, while in the meantime he lures the innocent and young Jane into marrying him. Even though the Rochester type of hero should contain a warning label, women are drawn to his brooding character. His words of love are filled with desperation. “My very soul demands you. It will be satisfied, or it will take deadly vengeance on its frame.” It’s not until the ultimate tragedy plays out that happy ever after arrives.
The Mr. Thornton Type – A successful man of determination in his business and family life. A bit too close to his mother, annoyed by his sister, but nonetheless respected by his peers. He is drawn to a woman of strong character, like himself, and they clash repeatedly like a stormy sea. “He shrank from hearing Margaret’s very name mentioned. He, while he blamed her — while he was jealous of her — while he renounced her — he loved her sorely, in spite of himself.”
The men above are just a small sampling, and I bet you can think of more.
The Edward Ferrars Type
The Willoughby Type
The Colonel Brandon Type
The Mr. Bingley Type
It’s an endless list of possible men who can make you swoon.
I don’t know that there is necessarily a perfect hero by any means because I believe women are drawn to types and situations when they think of falling in love between the pages of a book. Whether they be an arrogant male, steadfast friend, silent sufferer, tortured soul, or irritating sod, they possess alluring and attractive qualities. Every woman has their type. Of course, that makes it difficult for authors to consistently write the perfect hero!
Do you have a particular type of man that you like to read about in historical romance? Frankly, I like the silent suffering male who cannot live without me, like Captain Wentworth.
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