I’ve written about my frustration with historical romance heroines in the past, and I think I have another huge post coming.
However, right now, something that has been bugging me is the way historical romance heroes are portrayed.
Look, I could speak forever about how ridiculous it is to have every single duke in England a liberal, feminist, egalitarian sort. If you want that sort of man, you might want to look at a different social class of historical guy!
However, I want to get a bit superficial here. Meaning, I’d like to say how ridiculous the physical descriptions of historical romance heroes are.
It starts with the covers. Oh-so Hollywood cover models with their Captain America jawlines, their waxed chests, their spray tans, their six-packs and their twenty-first century hairstyles. There’s next to nothing remotely British or remotely early nineteenth century about them.
By the way, here are a couple of real nineteenth century dukes. I don’t want my romance heroes QUITE like that, but surely there’s a happy medium!:
In fact, here’s a happy medium. David Rintoul in the 1980 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice:
I was so excited about finding a paperback copy of Gaelen Foley’s The Duke with a proper, historical cover I nearly bought multiple copies (and I still might)!
After laughing at the covers of most historical romances, you open the book. And the same things turn up again and again. The “deeply-tanned” duke who loves to work topless in the fields alongside the peasants. The earl whose hair is either “unfashionably short” or “unfashionably long” (it’s always one of the two). The huge muscles and gigantic height that are so anachronistic for the time (and would NOT have been considered attractive by the aristocracy). Men who are too manly to be interested in appearances, even though appearances were close enough to everything.
I like my romance heroes attractive, but the descriptions are distracting to me when they go that far.
I just… WHY? Why historical romance when what you’re clearly looking for is a Navy SEAL billionaire BDSM expert from today? (There are so many of those around they’re almost impossible to escape!)
You know where it worked for me? In Secrets of a Summer Night. The hero might be rich now, but he is the son of a butcher. He is different physically because he comes from a background where it’s believable he would be.
I’d rather there be no mention made of a hero’s tan (for example) or lack thereof, instead of being told something that wasn’t considered attractive at the time is something all the characters are attracted to!
I want an attractive romance hero. But I don’t want him to be totally out of place in the time he lives in.