Sunday, December 8, 2013

Can You Relate To “Perfect Life” Heroes and Heroines?

By: Leah Braemel

I recently watched a conversation on Twitter between several authors who were firm in their belief that readers don’t want reality in their romances. They want that hero (these days he tends to be a billionaire who doesn’t actually have to work at keeping those billions) who will sweep the heroine away from all her troubles, solve all her problems. Who doesn’t want that? 

Um. Me? 

Okay, I love the idea of someone coming in and solving all my problems. Sort of. But I’ve read a lot of books where by the end I mutter “yeah, I give them two years tops.” Because I know that putting on that ring or moving in together doesn’t make all the problems magically disappear. It’s often just the beginning. 

I married my college sweetheart at eighteen. He was twenty one. Thirty-five years later, we’re still married. I’ll admit the first couple years of our marriage were not smooth sailing. For the first few months, I was resentful about how I’d given up my job with the Canadian government, my apartment in a beautiful college/tourist town of Peterborough which I loved to living in a teeny tiny apartment in Toronto, while my husband kept his name, kept his apartment, kept his dream job with IBM, and given up…nothing. When my son moved in with his girlfriend a couple years back, I told him that the first two years of living together were our hardest—you’re having to adjust to the other person’s habits, to figure out how to keep your own identity while allowing the other person to keep theirs. It’s a tough job sometimes. 

Then came the kids and the balance shifted again, and we began another period of figuring our relationship out as we adjusted to being not only Leah and Gizmo Guy but Mom and Dad. Then Gizmo Guy’s job changed and he started having to travel, leaving me to play single parent for weeks on end while he jetted around North America staying in hotel rooms, eating out at restaurants while I ate Kraft macaroni and cheese. He was sightseeing in places like New York City and Boston and Banff (places I’d never been at the time) while I was wiping snotty noses and changing diapers, or as they got older driving them to basketball practice and music lessons before putting them to bed before I could deal with my own job’s “homework” of marking papers and doing lesson plans. 

Then there are the in-law issues. Luckily we’ve always been in consensus about putting each other first over family—thank heavens because there were some issues nearly twenty years ago that could have literally torn us apart.

But we hung in there. We’ve found a balance between us, always known and trusted the other would support us no matter what happened. And now the tables are turning. Now I’m the one locking myself in my office to try to meet deadlines. I’m the one leaving him at home (for the most part) while I travel to conferences — though he doesn’t have the snotty noses and stinky diapers to change, he does have to “stoop and scoop” for our Shih Tzu Seamus. ;) 

You know it’s true love, lasting love if you can stay together despite all those problems. If being together makes solving the problems easier because you can share the despair and the worry. 

Which is why I find it so hard to relate to many of these “perfect life” heroes and heroines. 

So when I’m writing a story like my latest, Slow Ride Home, I write heroes I’d want my girlfriends to date. Heroes who I can envision sticking around and supporting that heroine thirty five years later. Heroes who aren’t afraid of sticking their head under the sink and repairing a leaking drain. Or changing out a toilet that’s given up a ghost. Which I definitely can envision after writing one of my favorite lines when Ben Grady, the hero from my latest book Slow Ride Home says about preg testing cows, “Nothing says sexy liking sticking your hand in a plastic bag up the ass end of a cow.” 

Yeah, not sexy. Realistic, and it may turn off some readers who don’t want reality intruding on their fantasy. But I can’t write any other way. I definitely can see Ben dealing with a plugged toilet when his and Allie’s son flushes his favorite Batmobile down the toilet when he’s three. I can see him taking the kids out riding, or to the fair on those days Allie’s stuck in the office doing her “lawyerly stuff” as Ben calls it. The same way Allie will support him. I can see them making it through those tough times, supporting each other, when the in-laws cause problems, or their kid is facing surgery and they’re terrified. That they won’t forget to make time for quiet moments together, or find ways to make the other laugh. Hmm, I’ve always heard advice saying “write what you know.” I guess that’s what I’ve been doing. Because that’s how my husband and I have managed to last this long. 

The only woman in a houseful of men (even the cat and dog are male), Leah Braemel loves hiding away from all the dust bunnies while she writes sexy heroes and heroines finding true love. To read more about Slow Ride Home or any of Leah’s other books, you can visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Losing his father was hard enough, but now Ben Grady must face the fact that he and his brother may not be sole owners of their beloved ranch. To protect his family’s legacy, he’s forced to rely on the legal prowess of the woman who stars in his erotic fantasies: Allie O’Keefe. Ben’s never forgotten the illicit encounter they shared fifteen years ago—or forgiven himself for letting her go.

Allie thought she’d moved beyond the scandal that cost her Ben in the past. But working so closely with the seductive rancher arouses the wild child within the cautious woman she’s become. Though she tries to keep business and pleasure separate, Allie soon gives in to temptation, and discovers Ben’s sensual skills surpass even her X-rated memories…

Allie has every intention of leaving Bull’s Hollow forever after her investigation is complete. But there are a few complications. Not the least of which is that while saving the ranch, Allie’s lost her heart.

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  1. Every once in a while you want the fantasy, the story that will let you escape for a bit. But those aren't the ones that stay with you. The characters don't tug at your heart or make you laugh or cry or even read them again.

    The only billionaire that does that for me is Roarke and no one can say he and Eve Dallas have certainly lived lives that were pretty awful before that money. I'm excluding them from the fantasy (though he really is the ideal fantasy):).

    I'm looking forward even more to reading your book!!

  2. I absolutely agree with you. Personally, I do prefer real rather than fantasy when it comes to my reading, because I find myself enjoying the story more when I can relate or feel like the situation could happen in real life. I think that comes from the fact that those stories are more emotional and I can always feel it in the book. This is what I've always come to enjoy about your books, Leah. You have always been able to capture real emotion in your writing making the story more believable to me. I especially loved your novella I Need You For Christmas, because it was about two people trying to overcome what was keeping them apart. That one was very steamy story, but yet it was also heartwarming as well when they are both willing to sacrifice something important to them to be together. :) I say stick with writing what you know, and keep up the great work Leah!

  3. I need a book to seem realistic to me. That way, I can relate with a character. It pulls me into the book even more -- how others deal with the hardships and celebrations of life, etc. I usually find something in a character that would be a piece of me or a piece of someone I know. It may not be a good piece, but if I can imagine it, I'm right there in the story, following how they solve the issues or how they figure each other out. And as Jonetta says above, the characters that are realistic stick with you. I see them as family or friends. And it's why I so often want to reread a book -- to visit those characters and be reminded of what makes them who they are and why I love them.

    Love hearing about your success in marriage. I grew up with a not so great view of marriage and unfortunately it resulted in divorce for my parents when I was 17. I grew up (and still see) the rocky relationships of those in my family. But it's the friends, who have become an extended family, that have shown me that marriage can be good and can succeed. But realistically -- not every day is going to be picture perfect. Underneath it all, I know this, but it helps me as I look for my own relationship to know that this is normal and can bring you closer rather than driving one another away. It takes two for a relationship to work and grow -- just have to choose together that you do want to make it grow and not fall apart.

  4. I should have mentioned in my post that I think you can still have fantasy while keeping that realism. Maybe it's more in how the author shows that a character has changed so they're not insistent on always getting their way and is more willing to listen to their partner, or compromise where they wouldn't have before. JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood books let me escape into a world that doesn't exist, and yet even after her characters have had said their I Love Yous, she shows how her characters are continuing to work on their relationships, that they still occasionally have adjustments to make. That's what I need. By the end of the book, even in a fantasy realm, I need to know that couple will last long term. I'm a Happy-ever-after gal, not a Happy-For-Now lover.

  5. I like a lot of realism in my stories. No perfect lives, thank you. I write athlete heroes, but I try to keep them real people. One of my heroes has lived a near monk-like existence in his major league career. My billionaire owner has to deal with sexism among her fellow owners and even the media. I'm working on a supermodel who has to deal with a career ending injury, her soon-to-be ex husband's involvement in the steroid scandal that the man next door who comes to her rescue may not be able to put behind him.

    I do have one element of fantasy in my books. The heroes all do the dishes.

  6. LOL Kristina -- my son did the dishes both yesterday and today, so it's not a total fantasy. If their momma raised them right. ;)


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