The Man in your Heart vs. the Man in your Head

My boyfriend does not have bulging muscles. He does not have luscious, flowing hair. He is not a prince, or a viking, or a vampire.

Yet, those are some of the qualities romance novel heroes have that make my heart flutter.

What, then, am I doing with my boyfriend?

Or, better yet: why do I still find pleasure in reading romance novels if I have my own, real-life leading man?

~

I enjoy romance novels for more than just their sexy male protagonists.

I like the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes over me as I watch the hero and heroine fall in love. After all, that’s kind-of the whole point of a romance novel. No hero or heroine is ever the same as the last, though. I truly enjoy getting to know each individual’s histories, motivations, and quirks. Over the course of the story they begin to feel like real people to me. Suddenly, it’s as if I’m watching two of my good friends fall in love rather than two strangers. How could I possibly lust after my friend’s guy, especially when he is such a perfect match for her? The happiness that comes from their being together makes for my happiness.

Believe it or not, I also enjoy reading romance novels for their plots. Sure, the primary goal of a romance novel is to convey the budding relationship between a hero and heroine; however, that relationship must be embedded within a particular series of events, otherwise there won’t be a story. And a work of fiction simply couldn’t exist without a story. Battle Sylph, by L. J. McDonald, is a great example of a romance novel that has a substantial plot. It is equal parts romance and fantasy, complete with an epic final battle. I was so engrossed in the action that I didn’t even consider Heyou a love-interest for my imagination. Besides, Solie literally shapes him into her ideal man; how could I compete with that?

~

All right, I’ll admit it: a lot of the time, I do enjoy reading romance novels because of their sexy male protagonists. (Sorry, Alex!) No matter how initially flawed or unique, every romance hero is fundamentally perfect. They say all the right things. They know exactly what to do in the bedroom. They openly share their feelings. They are self-assured, masculine, and vulnerable all at once. Plus, they tend to be ridiculously good-looking. Also, they make grand, unforgettable gestures.

But, you see, I don’t wish for any particular hero to turn his affections toward me. Instead, I wish for what romance heroes collectively represent: predictability. No matter how impossible the coming together of a hero and heroine may seem – no matter how awkward they are around each other or how little they have in common – I can rest assured knowing they will, without fail, come together by the end. The same cannot be said of real-life men and women. As the old adage goes, sometimes you have to kiss a lot of toads to find Prince Charming. Even then, no one is guaranteed his or her happily ever after. Bottom line: to expect romance hero-grandeur from my real-life boyfriend and predictability from our relationship would be completely impractical and unfair.

Ultimately, romance heroes – and the certainty they offer – are just a fun, harmless, idealistic fantasy. They say all the right things…because their lines are scripted for them. They know exactly what to do in the bedroom…because they come programmed knowing. They openly share their feelings…because, if they don’t, they won’t earn their happily ever afters.  They are confident, masculine, and vulnerable…because their authors made them so. And they tend to be ridiculously good-looking…because, let’s face it, hardly anyone wants to fantasize about someone ordinary when she could about someone extraordinary. They make grand, unforgettable gestures…because they have nothing to lose when they make them.

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If you have found and secured yourself a man who looks and acts like he just stepped off the pages of a good romance novel – particularly on your first try – then I salute you.

For everyone else (I assume that’s most of you) please don’t misunderstand me. Just because chances aren’t good your man will look and act like the quintessential romance hero, it doesn’t mean he can’t be that figure in your eyes.

When I interviewed The Devil’s Temptress author Laura Navarre for my last blog entry, she said, “the inspiration for all my heroes comes from my real-life alpha male—my brilliant and gorgeous and fantastically creative fiancé Steven.  He’s a screenwriter and English professor and was my first writing mentor.  He’ll always be my knight in shining armor, and a little bit of him shows up in all my heroes.”

To answer the original question: I am with my boyfriend because he’s smart, passionate, and incredibly sweet. He’s tall and has bright green eyes that make me melt. Plus, he knows that I read romance novels and doesn’t seem to mind it in the slightest.

~

I’d love to hear from you. What’s your favorite aspect of a romance novel? Has your guy ever done something for you that could have come straight out of a romance novel? Tell us in a comment (or on Facebook or Twitter) and you could win a free copy of The Battle Sylph!

— Jennifer

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3 Responses to The Man in your Heart vs. the Man in your Head

  1. Amanda says:

    This is such a fantastic blog entry!

  2. Bree says:

    I don’t read many romance novels, but I often find myself cheering on my favorite “ships” when I read series books from other genres. Like you, I like a little plot mixed in with my romance.

    However, I prefer it when the main characters don’t get along. At least not at first. I find their animosity towards each other to be more realistic than two strangers who jump into each other’s arms at first sight. That way, the process of discovering who they are can bring them closer together in a healthier relationship that I believe would last longer.

    As for me personally, no, I can’t say any of my boyfriends have ever done anything romance novel worthy. I appreciate them for who they are, though, and recognize that it wouldn’t be fair to expect any grand gestures from them, heart melting though they are to read about. Besides, a little unpredictability is a good thing. I’ve been known to break up with a guy for being too boring.

  3. J.R. says:

    I fell in lust with his magnetic passion ever thriving to fill mine own. Love came secretly—a snare arriving gently on tiny wings of need as we each in turn bared our hidden weaknesses.

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