I know there’s a big push toward alpha heroes, but in real life? I’m not sure I could live with some fictional alphas I’ve read. In fact, there are a few books where I’ve remarked to a reading buddy that if I did meet them in person, I’d have them arrested or at least get a restraining order against them. So when I’m writing my own heroes, I tend to write the types of guys I’d be comfortable dating my girlfriends.
Of course, being the only woman in a houseful of guys including two sons who are reaching the same age as many of my fictional heroes, I try not to make them too realistic. Can we really find a hero discussing how he split a marshmallow in half, licked each side and then stuck the individual pieces to his eyebrows sexy? Seriously. That’s an actual conversation I overheard my eldest having with my youngest this weekend. I have no idea what my eldest’s point was with the marshmallow eyebrows, but he is 28 years old and in a long term relationship, so he’s doing something right. I tried to picture a scene where I could write a hero doing that and still being heroic. Nope. Can’t picture it, though I’m sure there are some authors who definitely could–Jill Shalvis maybe, or Shannon Stacey? I won’t even touch the whole argument over whether the seat is up or down, or the almost daily belch-the-alphabet contests. (SO not heroic, even though if you live with any guy you’ll probably deal with both issues–but the point of reading romances is to get away from that type of eye-rolling issue, isn’t it?)
Certain career choices tend to attract one type of hero over another—it takes a confident man to run into a burning building, and a stalwart man to get up at the crack of oh dark thirty to tend to their cattle no matter whether it’s warm enough to melt a crayon or cold enough to turn a bull into a steer. So when I was writing Ben Grady of Slow Ride Home, I tried to remember that he would never see himself as a hero. He was just a regular guy, responsible for his family, three thousand head of cattle and a couple dozen workers depending on their pay check from Bull’s Hollow. And a hundred and fifty year family legacy. Talking about what he had to do didn’t get the chores done. So at the end of this scene below? You know that he’s going to get up in the morning and do the same things as he did today, because that what he has to do to provide for his family and be responsible. Whether he wants to or not. And that’s heroic, whether it’s a fireman, soldier, or the truck driver down the street.
His body aching from hauling feed bags out of his truck in the morning, helping a crew herd the two dozen cattle that had escaped from a pasture in the afternoon and the mental stress of seeing Allie again, especially with her revelation of a video, Ben had never been so happy to turn off his truck in front of his house. Unlike his grandparents’ angular monstrosity, this place was a home. He loved its screened porches ringing the house, filled with memories of his father sitting in one of the worn rocking chairs brought to Texas by Bull Grady himself, a glass of sweet tea in his father’s hand to keep the sweltering summer heat at bay, the squeak of the chair as it rocked. The pain of losing his father wrenched fresh to remember he’d never again hear his father talking about breeding schedules or telling a joke.
The drought-burned grass crunched beneath his feet as he walked across the front lawn, where the whole family would get together for their Fourth of July barbeques or on Thanksgiving, where they’d play tag football. The home where he would lie in bed, listening to the first birds singing their songs to greet the day, the spring breeze wafting through the open windows. Where his kids could be close enough to their momma or pop to climb into bed with them if they’d had a nightmare. The way he’d done when he was little.
He walked down the central hall, past the stairway, not bothering with turning on any of the lights. He’d grown up in this house, didn’t need lights to find his way in the dark. Once he reached the kitchen, he changed his path and headed to the fridge, its bright light flooding the room as he grabbed a water bottle from its depths. He needed to eat, but frankly he was too damned tired to cook. He twisted the top off the bottle and drained half its contents before heading out to the back porch to flick on the switch for the hot tub.
His clothes in a heap on the deck, he eased himself into the water. A sigh escaped him as he rested his head and closed his eyes. Muscles he’d pushed too hard from all the numerous things he’d lifted and carried and shoved every day, be it cattle or hay or fence lines, whimpered as the jets caressed them. The weight of being responsible for the ranch, for its employees, the three thousand cattle and fifty plus horses, its seventy-one thousand other issues that arose every day had never felt heavier than it had this week.