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Does the hero always need to win?

 
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Allyson



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 567

PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2008 9:08 pm    Post subject: Does the hero always need to win? Reply with quote

Just something I've been pondering. I definitely notice that in romance novels, whoever the current hero of a book is, he generally has to win any contest (strength, intelligence, wit, whatever) he's involved in. He always has the last word in debates, and generally is never bested by another unless the other is cheating in some way (occasional exception to this is the heroine but that's usually played for laughs).

I don't really need my hero to be great at everything, or even to be the best in his field, for me to find him heroic, but I wonder if I'm the exception here? I know a lot of readers like larger than life heroes, and I *sometimes* do but there's a line...once he starts being amazing at everything, it loses any effect it once had when you *know* the hero is going to win every single contest.

Would it be totally emasculating for a hero to lose a fight, even if it was against someone who'd have every reason to be better than him? I can see how it might seem that way...though I have definitely seen books where current hero beats up a future hero, who then wins any fights he's in once it's his *own* book (I'm thinking of Marcus and Sebastian from Lisa Kleypas' Wallflowers series).

Sort of related, does every sexual encounter between h/h need to be mindblowing? I wonder if this 'hero has to be the best' thing is related to why it seems that lately, sex has to be amazing *right away* for the leads. I noted in a thread down further that I really like books where the first time, or first couple of times, aren't that great, but it ends up getting great later on.
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
Posts: 1551

PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know what you mean, and I always find it amusing when an author who favors this type of hero features more than one in the same book and seems desperately trying to make them each one of them taller, broader and tougher than the other one, somehow. Laughing

I've noticed that I really enjoy older Harlequin Presents because the heroes in them seem to be allowed to have weaknesses and be vulnerable in a way that current heroes rarely are.

I also enjoy some realism in the sexual area. Madeline Hunter comes to mind. In The Rules of Seduction, the heroine not only doesn't enjoy the first time but later on actually DOESN'T HAVE AN ORGASM during one encounter because she's distressed about something. Imagine that!
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 5:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

+IHS+

How about the hero in Jo Beverley's Something Wicked? He is bested several times by the heroine's brothers and can only slink away to lick his wounds. I think the eldest brother does apologise to him in the end, but that's not much of a victory.

Another example from Beverley is the hero in A Shattered Rose, who is slighter of build than your average Romance hero and is beaten by his best friend in wrestling or swimming contests. When he was courting the heroine, his rival for her hand usually trounced him in the manly sports--and then the same rival managed to sleep with his wife after the marriage, too. He pretty much gets a sound beating throughout the novel. Sad

Allyson wrote:
Would it be totally emasculating for a hero to lose a fight, even if it was against someone who'd have every reason to be better than him? I can see how it might seem that way...though I have definitely seen books where current hero beats up a future hero, who then wins any fights he's in once it's his *own* book (I'm thinking of Marcus and Sebastian from Lisa Kleypas' Wallflowers series).


Well, if he were fighting for the heroine's honour or out of jealousy or with a similar "romantic" motivation, then the fantasy requires that he win. Else the heroine's reputation would be besmirched forever or he not come across as sufficiently passionate about her. Razz
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 4708

PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 6:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmmm well to be honest I'd rather read about the hero kicking @ss than getting his kicked.

I'm all for more realism in the sexual encounters though. :)

Linda
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 11:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it's true that most heroes in romance genre writing have an extra shot of testosterone running through them. Some, more than others, but I think that is mostly expected by the readers. I guess I find males more realistic in general fiction. They are not always heroic or perfectly perfect. Still, I like to read the imperfect hero from time to time. Cheryl St. John writes them well. Also, Christina Dodd's, Knight To Remember features a washed-up older knight. In his first scene, he has just lost a fight and is sitting in a tavern too drunk to stand. That is how theh heroine finds him. As for love scenes, Mary Balogh doesn't write love scenes featuring heroines loving sex her first time. Most of the time I remember many just doing it because the hero wants to do it. I picture many of her heroines just lying under hero waiting for it to be over.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 11:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Damn! I thought sure all the lady readers thought all we males were just as extraordinary as those fellas in romance novels. What a let down!
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Sandlynn



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 1822
Location: Washington, D.C.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, obviously the hero always wins in the end if there's to be a happily ever after. But, I know I've read a few books where the hero suffered from limitations or seemed less than heroic in the course of the book. There have even been books where the heroine seems like the stronger party.

Just off the top of my head, some of Laura Kinsale's books comes to mind. "Prince of Midnight" for instance. Taylor Chase's "Heart of Deception." Megan Chance's "The Portrait." In some of these books, the hero suffers either mental, psychological, or physical problems that cause them to shirk from being Sir Lancelot. Or the heroine is very domineering.

And, of course, there are many books that fall more into the women's fiction or chick lit category that have less than gallant "heroes."

****

This topic is reminding me of the movie, "Ever After," where the heroine both rescues the hero at one point, and at another, rescues herself.
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Kass



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You have to give Kleypas credit, though, for having to have Sebastian learn how to fight first. He's willing but not very able to start with.
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Allyson



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 567

PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 1:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very true, Kass! I did like that--very often when pampered noblemen who are debauched as Sebastian are get described, they're described in ways I find fairly unbelievable, but I think with Sebastian, the character development got to be shown because he didn't start off that way.

Yeah, I can understand why the hero will win in the end--that's cool. My issue is more with the sort of thing willaful mentioned--each hero the author writes is 'the strongest, the toughest, the best' rather than having individual strengths and weaknesses.

I'm not even really saying, more heroes should lose fights, but more than when the heroes always are presented in this larger than life way in every aspect, it's hard for me to have a strong reaction, or to see him as notably different from any other hero. Whereas if a hero isn't, say, especially tall, or maybe he's not all that witty, that will stand out for me. And if the hero fails sometimes, it makes his successes that much more poignant to me.

My suspension of disbelief takes a hit when every single hero is the best looking, the strongest, the most masculine, and you know that any time he goes up against another character in any way, he'll win.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Allyson wrote:
Yeah, I can understand why the hero will win in the end--that's cool. My issue is more with the sort of thing willaful mentioned--each hero the author writes is 'the strongest, the toughest, the best' rather than having individual strengths and weaknesses.


I think we have the opposite case in Stephanie Laurens' Cynster novels. Devil, the hero of the first in the series, is clearly "the strongest, the toughest, the best" of the Bar Cynster--and I think that the other heroes live in his shadow even in their own books.

On the other hand, I think Jo Beverley writes excellent heroes with individual strengths and weaknesses. Check out her Georgians, in which the heroes (and one heroine) are all siblings. There's no sense of the latest one in the series attempting to top the ones who came before.
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