The age debate going on downaways on this page has made me ponder. And that’s pretty much the pattern here -Candy fires off with opinion, but as I am a hormonal mess of emotions, I sit and ponder – ruminate, even! But I may make an opinionated pronouncement. Be wary!
In terms of age and difference, I know it’s the norm for historicals, particularly Regencies, to have a good amount of age difference between the hero and the heroine. Usually the hero is older, in his 30’s, and has sown his wild oats, served as a lordly rake in said oats, and experienced the world, gone on the Grand Tour, etc. The heroine is usually much younger, and is often a recent deb who has just had her first, or second, or maybe fourth season. I am well aware that this is the standard – and I was surprised to re-read a Julia Quinn recently wherein the hero was 29. That’s my age! What?! He’s supposed to be much older than that!
But I do know that when I’m reading, unless there’s some significant disparity in experience that reminds me constantly of the differences in age, I tend to equate the heroine and the hero in age in my mind, and don’t see her at a disadvantage, age-wise, to the hero. Eventually, as their relationship reaches some level of equilibrium, so do their ages in my mind. They partner in my imagination in every sense.
There have not been many books in which my perception of the relationship between the hero and the heroine was affected by my opinion of their age difference. As I said, if the hero is still young enough to be part of the social scene, a 10 to 15 year age difference is not so big a deal. But I can’t remember ever reading an historical romance where the hero was ages older than the heroine, to the point where I was squicked out.
Likewise, I don’t remember a historical with an older heroine, though I have read a few contemporaries where the heroine was older – in one case, she had been the hero’s baby sitter. There was a measurable squick factor when they went from talking about old times to hopping into the sack. In my mental organizational tree, they could all be housed under the heading of “Stella’s Groove Is Back Romances,” or, if you’re feeling the squick in a major way, “LeTourneau Romances.”
Candy mentioned that older hero and heroines give her the jibblies along the same lines of “old people doing it” that give many of us the jibblies. My husband’s grandmother used to speak openly about her amorous life at the dinner table and I was ready to hide under the table and wish for death during those moments. But I have read a few romances, historical and contemporary, where older, often parental secondary characters find romance to parallel the hero and the heroine. I suppose if the main couple gettin’ busy is young and nubile, the older farts gettin’ their groove on in the background is ok – after all, you can ignore the secondary characters if you want to. And certainly they aren’t the most prominent elements of the story.
Off the top of my head, the only romance-esque book I’ve read recently about older people as romantic leads was the first book or two of the Mitford series, about a small town priest in North Carolina. I read the first two when I found them in the lending library of a resort we stayed at in Mexico. Not bad, and not solely romance, but there was a romantic element for the main character, who was older, and a new woman in town, also older. However, since the Mitford series certainly doesn’t feature sex scenes, there was no older-people-mattress-boogie factor.
For some of you, though, is age difference sexy? Is there something fiesty in the differences of age between a hero or heroine that gets your motor cranking? I have to admit some level of recent fascination with the idea of Guardian/Ward historical romances, and am thinking of trying a few out – though much like Candy, I bet this request will turn around and feast on my petard in short order. Any suggestions of good books with that element employed?