Saturday, January 29, 2011

Where Are All The Men?

How you define a hero in a Christian romance? What makes him irresistible? I don’t know if you’ve ever checked out the Christian Community boards on Amazon, but a particular discussion thread recently caught my eye. One reader complained there weren’t enough strong men in the Christian romances she was reading. We’re talking leadership potential here. Men who are decisive and loving and, if married, the head of their households yet treat their wives as equals.

I started pondering that point and did a quick run-through of recent books I’d read. Don’t get me wrong – there are some wonderful heroes out there, but more often than not, they fall short (and I’m not talking stature). From my perspective, it seems the majority of males in Christian books tend to fall into one of the following categories (with varying degrees of a relationship with the Lord):

*Widower still grieving the loss of his saintly wife, idealized all the more for having died young (and beautiful, but that goes without saying) – with or without a child or two (having one ups the vulnerability factor)
*Afraid to commit because he’s been burned by love, is still pining for a lost love or hasn’t met “the one”
*Too focused on his career
*Scarred physically and/or emotionally
*Insecure, not confident in either himself or the strength of his love

Let’s be honest and face facts here. Deep down, do we really want a hero in a Christian romance who smells his socks before he throws them on the floor, belches, slaps other guys on the backside and grunts like a cave man, can only cook mac and cheese and microwave hot dogs, leaves the lid up on the… Okay, I think you get my point. Oh, no. We want them to be (you can define your own order here): strong in his faith and personal relationship with the Lord, handsome, intelligent, witty, charming, brave and honorable, confident, sensitive, kind, chivalrous, heroic, romantic as anything, tall, and strong in every way imaginable. Awesome kisser. Let’s not forget compassionate to children, seniors and animals. Treats his parents like the queen and king they are and his brothers and sisters with the utmost respect. Admired by his co-workers or employees. It goes without saying he’s self-supporting and the doer of good (and often selfless and sometimes anonymous) deeds. And looks equally spectacular in a Stetson, jeans and a T-shirt, a wetsuit, a tuxedo or a hot tub. Ah, James Bond anyone? And last, but definitely not least, he absolutely must look at his heroine as if she’s by far the most beautiful, desirable creature he’s ever met and who ever walked the face of the earth.

I ask you, is it too much to ask for the charm of Cary Grant or Colin Firth, the wry humor of Harrison Ford (as Indiana Jones) or George Clooney, the smooth, deep voice of Gregory Peck or Sean Connery, the effortless sex appeal of Robert Redford or Pierce Brosnan, the intelligence of (you fill in the blank – it’s up for grabs), the simply too-cool-for-words macho heroics of Clint Eastwood (or Harrison as the President of the United States when he snarls, “Get off my plane!”), the romanticism of Jeff Bridges (have you heard this man talk about his wife, the great love of his life? It’s positively sigh-inducing, and he thankfully had the great role models of his own parents), and the faith of (again, you fill in the blank with your own example). Okay, I’m showing my age here, but I’m not sure today’s Young Hollywood offers the same leading men of days gone by. Sigh.

There’s an old Carpenters song with lyrics that go like this, I know I ask perfection of a quite imperfect world, and fool enough to think that’s what I’ll find. My mother often told me that should be my own theme song. I mistakenly believed those lyrics were from, ironically enough, Goodbye to Love. They’re not, but interestingly enough, they’re from I Need to Be in Love. But show me a guy who embodies all those above-named qualities (or even some of them), and you’ve got perfection. Well, I’m here to say that perfection is highly overrated. It’s downright boring – not to mention totally unrealistic – especially in fiction. Perfection is only embodied in one man in human form, and you know Who that is.

My strong male hero in Awakening, Sam Lewis, can get grumpy sometimes. But you know what? I love Sam grumpy. It makes him real and vulnerable. And yes, loveable. The hero in the second book in my series is hot-headed, stubborn, prideful and a little arrogant. But, like Sam, he’s got a big heart, he’s faithful, he loves his wife with a deep-seated love and passion, and that makes him hero-worthy. And he also needs Sam to mentor him. I had as much fun writing the conversations and interaction between these two men as much as anything (I adore writing the male POV, for some reason).

Overall, I believe the Christian fiction reader on Amazon had a point. Let’s write our heroes real, but make them unique and special in their own right. What do you say? Tell me what you look for in a Christian romantic hero. What makes your heart rate speed up, makes you smile, and most importantly, keeps you turning those pages? I’d love for you to tell me about the hero in your current manuscript, and what qualities make him a hero.

And guys, if you’re done rolling your eyes, maybe you could share what qualities you look for in the female counterpart. The forum is open. Blessings and happy writing!


  1. My idea of the "perfect" hero is Mr. Darcy from "Pride and Prejudice." "Perfect" because his many flaws make him human. He is a real person, not a cardboard one, and a good hero has to be believable.

    So I vote for imperfection in the perfect hero.

  2. Your post calls to mind the hard-nosed, my way is the only way father in October Sky (even though this is not a romance) It'd have been easy to see only this about him, but he also intervened when a man was punching his stepchild, didn't coddle the boy, but reminded him his dead father had been a hero and a good friend. He also repeatedly put his life on the line to save others. This rounded the character and made him strong even though it was hard to agree with his uncompromising plans for his own son.