Readers don’t fall in love with books–they fall in love with heroes. That’s wisdom I heard early in my romance writing career. The implication was, writing a great heroine was secondary to writing a man who readers wanted to date. This was hard for me to hear as someone whose romance veers toward women’s fiction–someone who has DNF’d many romances (and never because of the hero).
On some level, I got it. Who wouldn’t want to date a billionaire? Someone so insanely in love, they would move heaven and earth to keep their partner safe? The deep desire to be with someone who delivers what you need isn’t even gendered. It’s not about (literal) heroes or (literal) heroines–it’s about how the most swoonworthy character makes the reader feel.
For all of the dozen books I’ve written, I’ve remembered that advice: write unforgettable heroes. I’ve deconstructed what’s most delicious and thrilling about falling in love. I’ve taken note of which heroes my readers won’t stop talking about, and the books they read over and over. Here are five qualities I love to give to the perfect mate.
- A hero who has her back. It’s rough out here in these streets, and I never make life easy for my heroines. Family drama. Financial problems. Misogynist bosses. Dangerous exes. The pressures of celebrity and fame. A great hero never takes his eyes off of his woman’s enemies or the forces working against her. He does what needs to be done.
- A hero who earns her love. A great hero is humble enough to know how lucky he would be to have the love of his woman. He treasures her and knows her worth. He strives to be a better man so that he himself can deserve her. He’s patient enough to wait for her to outrun her demons and strong enough to make changes within himself.
- A hero who doesn’t take away her choices. A great hero sees himself as a partner, not a boss. He understands that his role is to encourage and support. He trusts his heroine to know her own mind. He knows when to drive versus when to get in the passenger seat and he only oversteps when he has no choice.
- A hero who spoils her to bits. It can be as simple as running her a bath, giving her a foot massage, or picking her flowers from the garden, or as elaborate as a trip to Paris or diamond jewels. A good hero wants to see his woman happy, and shining, and relaxed. Generic gestures don’t count. A great partner’s gifts are thoughtful. They show that he sees her and that he cares, that he’s paid attention to what she loves and knows what will delight her.
- A hero who gives good loving. I would be remiss not to mention this. And yes, we’ve all met our share of romance heroes who are impressively endowed. But the great ones are so much more than lucky genetics and superhuman skill. Great lovers are patient listeners who take the time to learn what their woman likes and set out to deliver. It’s not the size of the ship, ladies…
So how do you sniff out a great book boyfriend as you’re picking out your next book? Read between the lines of reader reviews. Go beyond whether someone said a book was “hot” or “cute” or that they loved the premise . Read closely for trigger words that will serve as clues that you’re in for a true, epic romance with all the woo.