Back in the day, typical romance fiction heroes had flaws such as arrogance, being temperamental, or carrying emotional scars left over from childhood that made them unable to commit to a relationship. By the end of the book, though, these flaws were overcome, or at least, well understood by the hero and heroine. You never read about a hero with a physical deformity or an un-redeeming flaw. These heroes were all Greek-God gorgeous, every last one of them. No-one else needed to apply.
Yet, as I turn the pages of my favorite romances today, I am discovering more atypical heroes – not in the sense of men with deeper internal flaws, but in their imperfect physical appearance. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.
We have romance heroes who are blind, whose arms and faces bear visible scars, who have lost limbs or who use wheelchairs or canes. Who reflect the real life heroes we, our friends and families, love wholeheartedly, every day. Even television has begun to break the perfect hero mold by introducing J. R. Martinez (the triumphant winner of the Dancing with the Stars reality competition and former actor on All My Children) who lights up the screen with his talent and his savoir faire.
My preference for an imperfect romance hero must have started with the comic strip, Brenda Starr, Reporter. I fantasized about her exotic boyfriend/husband) Basil St. John. He was brooding, tall and dashing – a typical romance hero – but with one significant difference. He wore an eye patch. This Brazilian eye candy was blind in one eye. And nobody cared.
Then there’s Jean Marais, seen above, legendary star of films including the breathtaking black and white French version of Beauty and the Beast by director Jean Cocteau. A beefcake 1940’s star, Marais’ incredibly chiseled male jaw and sensual appeal personified a typical romantic hero – but I much preferred the scenes where he was fully transformed into the character of la bête (the beast). La bête was able to speak of love, death, and desire solely through his eyes, surrounded by an exquisite visage of horror. Be still my heart! I was disappointed when Beauty transformed the beast and they rose into the sky to inhabit his perfect kingdom. B-o-r-i-n-g.
One of my favorite romance stories featuring a not-so-perfect hero is Teresa Medeiros’ Yours Until Dawn. From the moment that scarred and blind hero Gabriel Fairchild stumbles (literally) into view of the heroine Samantha Wickersham – he steals your breath away.
Another favorite pick is Lynsay Sands’ regency, Love is Blind. Although both the hero and heroine have imperfections, Lady Clarissa Crambray learns to love Adrian Montfort, Earl of Mowbray, despite his disfiguring physical appearance.
Why do I adore a bad boy who isn’t physically perfect? I think Samantha’s reaction to Gabriel says it best. “His ruined beauty was somehow more compelling than perfection could ever be.”
What about you? Can a romance hero be less than physically perfect, but still enthrall you as a reader?
Jenna Victoria is an aspiring novelist whose articles have appeared in magazines and newspapers. She is currently writing an inspirational romantic suspense series, and serves as President of Faith, Hope and Love, the inspirational romance chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is also a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and Long Island Romance Writers.