A recent tweet from my friend, Andrew Shaffer, got me thinking about this question. You see, if you pay attention to romance novels--pretty much at all--there's been an upswing in the number of "billionaires" in titles, series titles and books in general. He made the point that there are not that many billionaires in the world, and then questioned how many of them were young and horny. I'd also like to question how many of them are single.
Now, if you replace the B with an M, maybe we could talk. Actors, musicians, tech geniuses... I'm sure there are a decent number of sexy, young, available men who have crossed the seven figures mark. But it seems millionaires aren't good enough for fiction anymore for that very reason--they've become "common."
In fairness, this is not the fault of the authors. Not really. Publishers want a certain type of hero because they know that type sells.
I've seen this with some of my own work. I submitted a proposal recently and was given a "maybe, but X as the romantic hero? I'm not sure that's going to work..." Long and short of it? X is not uber-rich. Nor is he the standard for heroes everywhere. He's not a big, muscly guy. He's not grr...argggh...let-me-show-you-my-pecs. Nor is he the most brilliant.
What he is is this: attractive, fit, good at his job, funny, great with his hands, quick-witted, willing to fight for the people he loves, and a perfect match for the heroine. In short, he's a "normal" guy. When I got the "maybe" from my editor, my blood ran cold. I don't want to move this story somewhere else!
But at the same time, I don't want to compromise the story for this... absurd set of hero requirements. I don't mind writing to those requirements sometimes, but not when dealing with an established series. Story comes first.
But that's the thing. There is this set of guidelines heroes are supposed to fit and rich is a big one. If they aren't rich, they should be in a position of power. (Military is often used as an example, which I find funny because military men don't make much money at all.) The fact of the matter is, this is the grown-up version of Prince Charming. He's handsome, rich, can dance, ride a horse, blah blah blah.
I think my problem is that my favorite fairy tales don't feature those kind of heroes. Tangled? Flynn Ryder is a thief for crying out loud! Shrek? Hello... ogre. Those are my romantic heroes. The ones who step up to the plate even if everything they know says they should walk or run the other way.
I'm not saying there's no room in the world for the hooking up with the billionaire stories. Hell, I'm not even saying I won't write one (or even a bunch of them). What I am saying is that, as readers, we need to put our money where our mouths are and show that we're open to other kinds of heroes too. We're willing to walk with the single mom as she falls for her son's high school football coach. Or the woman whose boss is a douche, but hey, that guy who delivers lunch everyday is really something special. Let them be successful, sure, but let's stop measuring success by the size of their muscles and bank accounts. There's more to our real life men than that. Can't there be more to our fictional ones too?
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to catch up on one of my favorite TV shows. There's a certain pirate captain I hope manages to find a happily-ever-after... as soon as he gets over himself.
Also, I'm participating in a couple blog hops over the next two weeks. Big prizes! Be sure to come back :)
***NOTE: I meant to add a caveat that category romance is kind of its own animal and that certain character tropes are an expected part of those books. This rant was meant more specifically toward non-category romance (and fiction in general).***