“I promise to save you from the world… but I can’t promise to save you from myself.”
That’s not some fancy quote from some similarly fancy book by an ostentatious author with a respectable standing in the world of publishing. Nope. I just happened to be thinking about the next story I would write and that quote sounded like just the kind of thing my male romantic lead would say to our heroine.
Doesn’t sound particularly romantic, does it? An anti venom that will protect you from all poisons but eventually turn on you, perhaps. And yet… this seems to be the exact kind of romantic hero who turns female readers on these days. Oh, I know, the female readership of romantic stories has never really taken a cottoning to the perfect gentleman. They (or we) always seem to gravitate towards the Duke who’s a rake; the robber who then steals the heroine’s heart; the sexy tycoon hellbent on revenge for some wrong the heroine’s family did him; the mysterious kidnapper who makes Stockholm’s syndrome suddenly seem extremely appealing… Always tall, dark and handsome, mind you. Always.
Now, however? It seems that the slightly wicked tall, dark and handsome rake is no longer enough. Women want to read about more dangerous men. They want that titillating darkness; the mystery; the damage… And so, a crop of authors who excel at writing about the extremely sexy, extremely rich and extremely damaged hero who will do anything for his woman but also hurt her … possibly causing more harm than the troubles from which he saved her could have, has arisen from thin air like Kampala’s rains. He’s always sexually experienced, and a little on the kinky side of things (it’s not just Fifty shades I’m talking about. I’ve stumbled across tens of books with a similar storyline). Vanilla sex has lost its appeal to readers. I mean, how much of the kiss, the suck, the thrust, rise and collapse can a reader take, right? Now, women want the ropes and the cuffs and the paddles.
Of course, no romance story (I don’t know why they still masquerade as that. It’s clearly literary pornography with a few romantic phrases to make it sound a little classier. ) is fully successful unless it’s able to make the reader place herself in the heroine’s shoes. And so, today’s “romance” authors have created a “strong” heroine who is able to melt the Ice King’s heart (Adventure Time, anyone?) and tame his wild heart. She usually has issues of her own, is either an innocent or a tigress in bed and always fits perfectly with the hero. The authors often try, and fail, to portray a lead female who is strong and independent. Instead, she comes off as dependent, clingy, whiny, weak and incapable of surviving a life sans the poisonous hero.
Do I like it? This sudden uprising of damaged men who need fixing? Nah. I don’t think so. I like the gentlemanly type better. There are enough assholes in reality; I pick up a book to escape them. So yeah. The next story I write shall feature a perfect gentleman as the lead. There will be no obscene riches, no childhood rape, no murder attempts. Just plain old romance with a little smut.
PS: The heroine is often made to view herself as inadequate and not attractive enough, only for the hero to come through and make her see herself for “the perfection she really is”. Little wonder that the hero and heroine always end up together. A fucked up match made in sadomasochist heaven.
Guest writer from firstname.lastname@example.org