Dukes, SEALs, Earls, Billionaires…

It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas Stepback

Victorian earl, historical romance style!

I read somewhere that the reason historical romance is becoming less and less historically accurate is because so many authors are learning the ‘world’ from other romances, not from source materials. That the Regency era of one author’s HR is just a borrowed version of another author’s, which was inspired by another author’s.

I’ve been noticing the same thing with lead male characters – across all subgenres.

The man with his hair unfashionably long (though in one book I read it was unfashionably short).

Whose face is perfect, except for that bump in his nose. It looks like it has been broken it a time or two (ooh, dark, mysterious and edgy!).

Who is deeply tanned even though he’s a duke/lawyer/businessman.

Because it turns out he likes nothing more than to work the fields/teach beginner surfing lessons/play sport with war veterans in his spare time.

He has black hair and blue eyes.

Because he’s the hero, he’s always enormously and often anachronistically tall, standing head and shoulders over men in contemporary books, and standing close to a foot higher than the average man of the times in historical romances.

Of course he’s double the size of the villain (who is balding, stinks and has bad teeth).

Of course, if our hero is from a time or place where the fashions are a little dorky, he dresses in something we find sexy today. No lace or wigs for our historical aristocrats. No floral shirts for our 1970s paranormal heroes.

The broken nose cliché is the one currently driving me crazy (the unfashionable hair a close second). A while ago I got caught up in a Twitter discussion about annoying things in books, and I mentioned the nose thing – I’d just read half a dozen books in a row that used that particular cliché.

I didn’t know that was a thing! one author joined in the conversation to say. Incidentally, I’d just read her latest book and her hero had that very characteristic.

Oh no! I just used it in my new book. I haven’t seen it in a book before! another author said. I highly doubt that.

Just as authors pick up their little anachronisms from other authors and those mistakes become historical romance staples, I think a lot of people are learning how their characters are ‘supposed’ to look and act by osmosis. They’re learning and then perpetuating clichés without even realising it.

I think you could just as easily create a slightly rough hero without making him a floppy-haired giant with a broken nose. I think the book would be better for not having those things mentioned.


8 thoughts on “Dukes, SEALs, Earls, Billionaires…

  1. What a great post! And you are so right! Every main alpha male seems to have these characteristics! I was just thinking about a post I’m writing about the proliferation of Dukes in historical romance novels. There are so many Duke stories when there wasn’t that many to go around in reality. But I guess that’s something about this genre – it’s a fantasy!

    1. The funny thing is that so many favourite historical romance heroes aren’t dukes. Mr Darcy, for example. Marcus in It Happened One Autumn.
      Personally, I wouldn’t want to marry a duke. The idea of being presented at court multiple times makes me want to run! But having just come off a binge on Sylvia Day’s billionaire Crossfire series, I do get the attraction.

      1. I got lucky and only started it a couple of weeks ago. so I got through all four at once without the long waits.

        But when she was here in Canberra the other week there was no hint of a release date. 😦

  2. Pingback: Dukes! | kiltsandswords's Blog

  3. Pingback: The Week: 23rd – 29th March | Sonya's Stuff

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