When I first started writing romance novels, I didn’t know much about my story, but I knew my hero would be a professional rugby player.
Several people pointed out that most of my audience would know jack-all about the sport, but that didn’t matter. He was a rugby player – not just because it’s my favorite sport, or because it’s played by fit (I mean fit) guys who occasionally (not often enough) get their shorts ripped off during games, but because it seems to me to be a sport that draws clever, big-hearted men.
Need proof? Let me introduce you to Ben Cohen.
Anyone want to volunteer to be a human barbell?
When Ben retired a couple of years ago, he was one of England’s all-time greatest players, a World-Cup winner who’d scored a crapton of points. Yet he retired to focus on something incredible. He started his own foundation to fight bullying and homophobia.
Ben is straight – in fact, he’s married – but he’s a gay icon and was horrified by the many stories he heard from gay fans about the abuse they’d suffered simply for being attracted to someone of the same sex. He now works tirelessly to raise money for charities doing real-world work to fight bullying.
Ben lost his own father when he was in his early 20s. His dad was murdered when he tried to protect an employee who was being attacked in his nightclub. Ben has said in many interviews that his dad is his hero, and he named his foundation the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation because he wants to encourage people to do as his dad did and to stand up to bullying.
Right now, Ben’s learning how to dance in the BBC series Strictly Come Dancing (the British version of Dancing with the Stars) in order to raise awareness of his foundation and to introduce his work to people who may not be rugby fans. He’s using it as an opportunity to start conversations about how wrong bullying is – no matter where it’s found or whom it happens to.
Think he can’t get any more heroic? He’s also clinically deaf, yet he’s learning how to dance on national TV in front of very tough professional judges. Talk about sending a strong message never to let anything hold you back.
As both a charity communications specialist and a romance novelist, I spend a lot of time thinking, talking and writing about people who show heroic qualities – people who are faced with unthinkable tragedy yet turn their own loss into action so that no one else has to face what they have. I don’t work for the StandUp Foundation (thought I’d love to volunteer, if they needed me), but I’m really impressed and inspired by their work, so I hope you’ll take a moment to check them out on Facebook, Twitter and on their website.
Want to win a piece of this real-life hero? On my website, I’m giving away Ben’s 2014 calendar, which benefits his foundation. Leave a comment on my blog to enter – but hurry! I’m announcing the winner on Thursday!
Here’s a sneak peek behind the scenes of the calendar photo shoot. Enjoy!
What athletes do you think are real-life heroes?
Book one of the London Legends
Rugby player Spencer Bailey is determined to win a spot on England’s World Cup team. But with a month break before the selectors start watching him, he’s eager to have fun with a woman who knows the score: the relationship will end when rugby season begins. The lovely American Caitlyn Sweeney seems perfect for the role of temporary lover, since her visa will run out soon anyway.
Caitlyn works for an international disaster relief organization and can handle the world’s worst crises, but she flinches from her own. Her past has left her with a fear of intimacy so deep that she has trouble getting close to anyone—until she meets sexy Spencer. His hot body and easygoing nature are too much for even her to resist.
Neither Caitlyn nor Spencer expects to fall hard for each other. But with their relationship deadline approaching, the old rules of the game seem less important than before…until past secrets surface, challenging everything they thought they knew about each other.
“This is one of the best contemporary romance novels I’ve ever read.”
– The Season for Romance
“I want Spencer. I want to marry this man. Not only is he patient and a sweetie, he’s sexy as hell. Spencer should be cloned and mass produced for export. Britain would have a trade surplus that would be the envy of the world.”
– Dear Author