Monday, May 23, 2011

Monogamous Heroes: Prove it

Prove what? We all know romance heroes are monogamous. They have to be. It comes with the job description. Right?

Well, recent news of Arnold Schwartzenegger's infidelity brought back memories of Hugh Grant, Ryan Phillipe, Tiger Woods and Jesse James' wandering wands (to name just a few). Depressing. And look at their wives! We're talking attractive, accomplished women...better looking than the guys, if you ask me. Now, I don't want to open a can of worms here. I don't want to get into the evolutionary psychology of men and how 'spreading their seed' is genetically ingrained in them. Give me a break. Are we forgetting the key word 'evolved' here? Are men really going to reach back to their neanderthal ancestors to grasp for excuses? I can argue right back that expenditure of energy plays a vital role in survival (evolutionarily and ecologically speaking)...and we don't spend energy in the same way these days. It's called technology. Oh, and there's that higher education thing too, but I digress. I'll get off my soapbox.

What I really want to talk about is how a writer can prove that their hero won't ever cheat on their heroine. Okay. Prove is a strong word, and it may be hard to wipe out all doubt, but how do we leave a reader believing that the hero won't sway years after they close the book? Specifically, what actions or words on the hero's part show that he's one of an elite group of one-woman men? Simply saying that he declared his undying love, or he proposed marriage, or he saved her life isn't enough. What are the little actions throughout the story that make the hero trustworthy? Is it that he is a loner, so he's unlikely to go 'looking' in the future? Is it that he visits his parents a lot and is very family oriented? Or maybe it's the way he's loyal to his dog. Does that translate to his woman? Perhaps it's in the dialogue that takes place when the heroine is off the page. It could be that one sentence in the book where he declines a female advance, or confides something to a guy friend. Or does profession have anything to do with it? We've all heard about how men with high power or fame seem to think they are entitled to more than one bed. Seriously here. It could be something as little as his evening routine or how he was raised.

What do you think? I'd love to open the floor up here. Can you think of specific examples (action or dialogue) in romances where you just knew that hero would be faithful long after the babies are born, the wife gains weight, money gets tight, and the teenagers bring on even more stress? BTW, this is why I love a series where I can get a glimpse of previous H/H and see how they're still strong.


  1. I can't think of anything I've read right now, but I know that these things must be in all or most HEA books. It's something I never consciously thought about. In my present WIP, the hero is doing something for his father, and he refuses to betray his loyalty. He also is approached by another woman and declines her offer. So maybe I did something right :)

  2. Like Carol I can't think of anything either. But I like what you say about proving through actions. Turning down another woman, loving his dog, a shared confidence with a friend.

    I think it's the subtle nuances through out the story that make the hero believable that he won't cheat.

    In my last book, the hero lost his wife, and doesn't want another one. Until he meets, of course, the heroine, and even that relationship confuses him. It's not until she almost dies that he realizes just how much he loves her and wants to be with her, however, he HAS accepted advances from another woman and has royally screwed himself over. Ah, what fun!

    (BTW he does redeem himself in a major outpouring of love and gratitude for the heroine in front of 300 people so it's all good.)

  3. I just read a Lisa Kleypas book: Smooth Talking Stranger. The hero was a complete playboy. The heroine is pretty but not like the women he had dated and could still date.
    Yet, I was COMPLETELY convinced that this woman was THE woman for him. It showed in his actions, in his speech, and how he treated her. There is a part in the book where they had made love (not the first time) and the heroine was really finally falling in love with him and she asks him, "Did you ever think it could be this way? This good?" And he answers, "Yes. With you. Only with you." *sigh*
    I highly recommend this book (and the Travis series)

  4. Hey Carol, sounds right to me! I think showing they're loyal by nature is a biggie. If someone picks and chooses when he/she wants to be loyal, then that's self-serving. But if they're a person of their word to everyone (friends, parents, pets...) that says it's a part of their being that influences all their actions and thoughts.

    Hey Anne! You bring up a great point and that is that both the indiscretions and actions that prove faithfulness will be different depending on the genres. In your historicals, normal behaviors and societal standards wouldn't be what they are today. Even logistics like geography and transportation could play a role. More food for thought!

  5. Hi Jennifer! I'll have to get my hands on that book. One of the neat things about a 'tame or ground the playboy' type story is that the heroine has to incite a fundamental, internal change in the hero. Once that change occurs, he can't go back. His happiness becomes intwined with his loyalty to her. And you're probably is a combo of actions, thoughts and dialogue that conveys that.

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  7. LOL, I meant to say 'intertwined' or 'entwined' but it seems that I'm word blending ;)

  8. What a great question!

    I can't think of anything in a recent romance that gave me that unequivocal feeling of loyalty, but I remember watching a couple walking ahead of me and I was taken with the way his hand slipped over hers protectively, his head leaning down so he could share some little secret.

    It was very sweet.

  9. Hey Maria, you have a point. Gestures that show the hero is protective or that he cherishes the heroine lean us toward believing he'll be faithful because a person wouldn't knowingly hurt what/who he's protecting. It would be contradictory. Love the hand gesture and whispering. Thanks!

  10. What a thought-provoking post, Rula! I think you're exactly right--as writers we have to show the hero's faithfulness through the small things, since they as a collective have more impact than one grand gesture. I recently finished Jeannie Lin's "Butterfly Swords" and I knew the hero would remain faithful to the heroine because her father would slice him up into tiny bits otherwise. Okay, probably not what you meant. :-) Fantastic book, by the way. I also just read Jenny Crusie's "Maybe This Time" and it was the hero's so thoroughly knowing the heroine that told me they'd get it right this time. Without being asked he knew when she needed to be alone, or when she needed intervention, or when she needed just a hug. I was so impressed. And jealous. :-)

  11. Hey Kathy! Whew! I've been trying to post a comment all day, but Blogger was being bloggity again.

    LOL about the father in 'Butterfly Swords'. That book is in my TBR pile and I can't wait. I love what you said about 'Maybe This Time'. They say that people have affairs because their missing an emotional connection in their marriage. They go in search of someone who seems to understand them or who acts supportive. I think those little acts you mentioned that show a strong emotional connection and understanding between the H/H leads us to believe he has what he needs...and thus there's no temptation to wander. Even if there were, he could resist it because there's a strong foundation (we hope ;)). Thanks, Kathy! You got me thinking (and rambling)!