Defining the qualities of a hero has been plaguing me lately. In my first two books they were strong, successful business types who controlled their worlds, but had vulnerabilities.
Jake in A Kiss of Cabernet was driven by a need to get his affairs in order because he thought he was dying. Chris in A Touch of Chardonnay was in search of “home,” a concept he hadn’t experienced before. But there was never any doubt that these men were heroes.
In my current work-in-progress Zack, my hero, is a flawed cop, definitely not in control of anything including his own life. He’s constrained by rules, he’s uneasy with the media, and he hates the public scrutiny that goes with his job. He’s giving serious thought to moving into a different career. But what does he choose?
The heroine drops hints in “remember when” conversations. “Remember when you saved that fawn? I always thought you’d be a vet.” The veterinarians I know are heroic, but is this a strong enough profession for a hero in a romance novel or will it seem too wimpy?
I have three other completed novels, all historicals. In two, the heroes are strong, macho types. In the first one, the spy risks his career to save the girl; in the second one, the hero pretends to be a fop to solve a mystery. The third one, a Regency, also had a hero problem. He’s titled, wealthy, mixes in society, but he needed a purpose. I gave him one. It was a time when the anti-slavery movement was making rumbles in England. He becomes a strong advocate.
So back to my initial dilemma. What makes a hero? I’m not looking for Batman or Superman or Spiderman. My hero doesn’t have to save the world. Maybe being strong for the heroine is enough; or standing up for guys coming back into society after serving their country in a war zone. Did I mention Zack was one of those guys?
My personal hero is quiet, methodical, sometimes contrary, but always fair. His strength is in his dedication to whatever project he’s doing at the time. He’s totally in control when at the helm of a boat or behind survey gear. These qualities may not be the stuff of romance novel heroes, but they are quite necessary in real life.
And that, my friends, may be my dilemma. Fiction takes us away from real life…it allows us to fantasize, to be other people, to be loved by superheroes. But if we’re going to relate to a book, we need a bit of realism, too.
The solution is somewhere in between. I’ll keep searching until I find it.