Okay, I admit it. I never got a Fabio cover. But then, I don’t write about swashbuckling pirates or English lords or Scottish warriors from the seventeenth century. My heroes are ranchers and teachers and deputy sheriffs and attorneys, soldiers and singers and the occasional businessman. They are contemporary men living in our times, coping with modern problems in a modern age. And they aren’t perfect by a long shot. Some of them are wounded on the outside, others are wounded on the inside, and some of them have character flaws big enough to choke a goat. They have women problems and money problems and job problems. In short, they’re just like the men that we see every day of our lives. And yet, my fellas are heroes, every one of them, and my readers tend to fall in love with them right along with my heroines.
So what makes my heroes different? What makes them so lovable? To be completely honest, sometimes I’m not sure. Some of it perhaps is that the first man in my life, my father, embodied everything good and decent in a man. He was kind and loving and so very good to my mother and my sister and I. The fact that he was also cute and funny and that my mom’s friends all had a crush on him didn’t hurt. So when a young man very much like my father came along, cute and funny and who treated me the way my dad treated my mom, I snapped him up real fast! And between them, my father and my husband in one way or another have become every one of my heroes.
So how do these two terrific men translate to a hero between the pages of a book (or in the light of an e-reader)? Sure, looks matter. A hero doesn’t necessarily have to be tall, dark and movie star handsome, but he should definitely be physically appealing. I don’t have a set formula for body type-Jack Briscoe of ‘Solomon’s Choice’ is just shy of six feet and built like a
lineman, Jimmy Adamcik of ‘Daughter of Valor’ is tall and rangy, and Russ Riley of ‘The Soap Maker’ is ‘not too tall’ and cute as a button. My heroes can be handsome or not, but whatever they look like they need to appeal to the heroine and to the reader. And whatever my hero’s face looks like, handsome or not-so-handsome or whatever, he needs to have a beautiful smile.
Which brings me to what really makes my heroes lovable-who they are on the inside. What kind of man is this hero of mine? Is he perfect? Certainly not! He may be at complete loggerheads with the heroine and, at least from her point of view, totally unkind and unreasonable. In ‘Solomon’s Choice’ our hero Jack Briscoe begins the story completely crossways with Caroline Stern, insisting that he should retain custody of her kidnapped son and threatening to fight her tooth and nail for the child. Nor does it mean that our hero is without moral flaws. ‘Daughter of Valor’s Jimmy Adamcik is willing to compromise his values for campaign contributions and Russ Riley of ‘The Soap Maker’ has the morals of a tom cat. And he does not have to always have it completely together. Beto Flores, the hero of my short story ‘After the Heartbreak’, has not claimed Cathy as his own because of misplaced guilt, and Rory Keller of ‘A Gift of Trust’ has serious trust issues. They make mistakes in their relationships. (Boy, do they!) And all of my heroes at some point or other in the story experience some degree of insecurity. Otherwise they wouldn’t be human.
But what about their virtues? Are they good and decent men? I certainly hope so! In spite of their shortcomings, my heroes deep-down are good people. They are capable of kindness and thoughtfulness and treat my heroines well. Jack gives up his free evenings to help Caroline with their son and Jimmy brings Holly food from the café. Beto angsts over whether or not he could have prevented an attack on Cathy. We also see them treating the others in their lives-their children, their friends, and their colleagues-well also, and it is that underlying
goodness that makes them so easy for my heroines (and the rest of us) to love. My men are generous lovers and are able to walk the fine line between being protective and smothering. And they absolutely have a sense of humor! No stoic heroes in my books! They have to be able to see the humor in the world around them and they must have the ability to laugh at themselves. And if they can make me, my heroine and my readers laugh along with them, so much the better.
So what makes my heroes so lovable? In a nutshell, I think it’s because I write about the kind of man I could fall in love with, and in fact the kind of man I did fall in love with, and the kind of man my heroines and my readers can fall in love with right along with me.
Author of twenty romance novels, Emily Mims combined her writing career with a career in public education until leaving the classroom to write full time. The mother of two sons and grandmother of three, she and her husband Charles live in central Texas but frequently visit grandchildren in eastern Tennessee and Hawaii. She plays the piano, organ, dulcimer, and ukulele and belongs to two performing bands. She says, “I love to write romances because I believe in them. Romance happened to me and it can happen to any woman-if she’ll just let it.”