Wednesday, 28 August 2013

On Heroes and Hose: What makes a hero ooze sex appeal?

A romance writer’s number one job is to create a lasting romance between two characters that will resonate with readers. Since romances can vary from ‘sweet’ to ‘gonna need a new headboard’, it’s important very early on to determine the heat level for your story.

But, whether the ultimate consummation of the romance ends in a kiss on the cheek or three day romp leaving a broken bed, four empty champagne bottles, and a decapitated rubber chicken, the characters first and foremost must have chemistry.

Let’s put the heroine aside for a moment. There you are dear. You just go sit and read a good book while we talk about your lover.

What does it mean to say your hero and heroine need chemistry? Should we return to high school science class for the answer? Not quite. But the physical characteristics of the hero are the building blocks to, and play a huge part in, how the heroine will respond to him. Those details, when given the right amount of attention, are GOLD.

Is he tall? Blocky? Lean? Are his eyes brown? Green (mmm)? Blue? Is his voice deep? Accented? How does he smell? Leather? Sandalwood? What about his hair? Is it short or long enough to grasp so she can tug him toward her?

All of these pieces make up the physical shell which we hope our heroine will respond to in a very base manner. We’re all animals on a certain level and respond to sight and scent in a way our logical mind doesn’t usually reach. It’s all about the senses here.

So now we have our shell, what goes inside? Is he funny? Arrogant (mmmm)? Sensitive? Strong? Intelligent? Adding personality characteristics provide another opportunity to make him even more appealing.
But wait.

He can’t be perfect from the start or the romance would have nowhere to go. I’ll tackle romantic conflict in another post, but today we’re just going to focus on those elements which make him irresistible to her on some level whenever they’re within sensing distance on one another.

I love, love, love stories in which the hero and heroine sense one another before their eyes and ears detect. Like anything, this can be overdone, but when the right dash is added to the mix, the whole bowl of attraction becomes much more delicious.

Ok, let’s dress him. Oh come on! We have to dress him before we can undress him.

Romance novel settings will largely determine our hero’s clothing, however, sometimes we writers are faced with interesting challenges. My story is set in Scotland and so the first thing that comes to mind is our hero bare-chested, wielding a claymore, and wearing a kilt. Oh yeah, we’re all thinking, bring it!

Nope. Sorries.

No kilts during my timeframe and I was a little dismayed to discover the nobles of the day wore doublets and HOSE. Yeah, can you imagine someone coming at ya wearing tights? Anyway, I won’t go into how I’ve gotten James to OWN the hose. You’ll have to let me know how I've done on that front when my book is released in October. But my impression of them has improved. ;-) Oh yeah.

So now we know what he looks like, smells like, if he’s funny or a bit of an arse, and how he dresses. Our heroine can come back now and check him out. What does she think? Well, she just dragged him out of the room and…yep I just heard the bedroom door lock. Click. I'd better get out of here before I hear other sounds I’d rather not.

So tell me. What do you like in a hero?

Kate Robbins is the pen name of Debbie Robbins who lives in St. John's, NL with her man-beast and two man-cubs. She writes historical Scottish romance.

You can find her here:


  1. I think what I love about a hero is that he's human - not too perfect, has something to learn, something to give. I am actually not a fan of the bad boy! I'm big on a good beta character - far too few of them in romance novels.

  2. My favourite hero is a good man with a broken past. His emotional growth is stimulated by positive and/or negative interactions with the heroine, and he must acknowledge and fight his demons before he can claim her.