Returning the Hero to Secrecy

Back in the day, many romances were very much focused on the heroine,and the hero was a somewhat nebulous, possibly menacing figure whose motivations weren't known, and whose actions were often only excused by the fact that the back cover copy proclaimed him the hero. Actions frequently included ravishing, bodice ripping, and generally being a rapetastic assclown.

Then, things began to change. We readers were treated to more and more of the hero's point of view: what he was thinking. Scenes, whole chapters, even wherein the hero's motivations, thoughts and emotions (and changing emotions) toward the heroine were known to the reader because we'd hang out in his head for awhile.

This put the reader in a unique space: she knew the heroine, and she knew the hero, and she knew enough of both to (a) even more readily — one hopes — forgive any asshattery on the part of either character and (b) understand why and how and possibly when the two would finally get together. Readers were the witness in the middle, privy to both characters' points of view.

This has become almost standard, particularly in some sub-genres. More often than not, in many of the romances I've read lately, the heroine and the hero's point of view share nearly equal time. We see things from his perspective, from hers – sometimes from additional characters, too.

 

In a March 2012 podcast about the romance canon, I posited that Nora Roberts was among the first to represent the hero's viewpoint consistently in romance, and that her influence is felt in the books which portray the perspective of sympathetic heroes. I think that's become a standard, the hero's point of view in the narrative.

Picture a line from left to right. Like this:

(heroine) <——-O——-> (hero)

On the right is the hero, and on the left is the heroine. The location of the 0 is the amount of knowledge the reader has about either character, their motivations, their point of view, their emotions, and their purpose. If the reader is right in the middle – and I think we've been there for awhile now – the reader learns about the heroine AND the hero in equal measure. We learn about what her problems are, what drives him, why they're attracted to each other, how each person perceives a scene or conversation, and we learn, most of all, what the conflicts are internally and externally for each person. We the readers are nearly equally balanced in the amount of information we have about each character.

We know why the hero is the way he is, where he comes from, what shame he has, and why he is conflicted by his attraction to the heroine. We know the heroine, why she is the way she is, what she wants and what she thinks of the hero. We know a lot about both, and as readers we've been between the hero and heroine for awhile. The location of the reader's knowledge shifted from old skool, where the heroine knew little, to the current model, which is to share the perspective of both characters.

Now picture that line with the reader's knowledge (the 0) farther toward the heroine:

(heroine) <–0——.———> (hero)

If the 0 is near the heroine, the amount of information the reader has shifts in her favor. We know more about the heroine and her thoughts, and see the hero through a filter heavily influenced by what we know about her, not him. This is especially true for first person narratives, but can happen with third person as well. We see the hero through scenes from her perspective, told with her filters, judgments and motivations in place, and it's up to the reader to either take the heroine's word for it (“Oh, he hates me and is always grumpy”) or read the hero's character on our own while putting aside or including the heroine's prejudices (“Wait, he's kept that ribbon from her hair in his pocket for a month?”).

As I also look at recent successful books – Twilight, published fanfics like 50 Shades of Grey, and other books, for example – one thing I've noticed is that the hero is more secret from the reader. We don't get scenes from his perspective (unless they're leaked and the author gets pissed off). We don't see the heroine from his viewpoint, we don't listen to his thoughts or gain insight to his character from watching him interact with other people. We only see the hero in limited pieces, through the eyes of the heroine and through her own experiences with him, and if there are scenes with the hero, they might conceal and hint more than they reveal.

But while I was reading A Hidden Fire, I started thinking about how much I knew about heroes in the books I've read recently. In A Hidden Fire, the hero has his own scenes. Things happen that are apart from and unknown by heroine. But in the beginning of the novel, these scenes caused more questions than answers, and by the time the answers were given to the heroine, I had many of the same questions she did. Why does he drive in some scenes but in others can't touch the car with his hands? Why do some people remember him clearly and others don't recall him being near them? The tiny portions of information about the hero contrasted with the deeper self-reflection of the heroine made me question whether a shift in dominant point of view and in the reader's knowledge during the course of the narrative is occurring.

I think one of the reasons books with the hidden or scarcely revealed hero are so popular is that the mystery about the hero keeps readers engaged.  It's uncertain, sometimes scary, and possibly perilous. We are as clueless and curious about him as the heroine, and even if the book isn't told from the first person, we must rely on the heroine's conclusions and our own conclusions about the hero –  because he isn't volunteering any information about himself.

I think this trend in narrative structure is a return to some elements of the older style of romance, which we've called “old skool.” The recurring elements I've seen more recently include:

- focus on the heroine, one that is young, innocent, new, or in some way a novice.

In A Hidden Fire, Beatrice is human, and knows nothing at all about Giovanni's world or his existence within hers. The same is true of Bella and Anna from Twilight and 50 Shades respectively, though the unknown mystery varies between vampirism or a predilection for very mild kink. She is the reader's surrogate, introducing them both into the world of the hero, one she knows very little if anything about. This is a common motif, obviously, but when paired with the other elements below it creates a different narrative.

- a limited amount of information about the hero, drawing either from limited scenes, only interactions with the heroine, or both.

For example: Christian Grey spoke to the heroine, spoke through his email messages (because he had a LOT of time for email, go figure) but didn't speak to the reader directly. Edward, Christian's cousin of sorts, also avoided communicating directly with the reader, and all we learned of him was through Bella's perspective. And of course both books were told via first person narrative from the heroine's point of view, thus limiting the hero's ability to speak for himself.

- aspects of the hero's behavior – something dangerous, menacing, or not quite heroic – that cause the reader and the heroine to question whether he's a hero

The heroes in these books are sometimes menacing or mysterious, and inspire some fear or caution. At the same time they fascinate the heroine, who still serves as the reader surrogate. The unknown is dangerous, and it's dangerous for her to be so fascinated and drawn to someone who is so largely unknown.

There are also sometimes behaviors that cause some alarm – stalking, for instance, or, if you don't want to call it that, being present when least expected, appearing in her periphery in increasing amounts, or hints of violence or barely-restrained temper. He might become increasingly possessive of her while she's not sure if she's interested in him, for example.

- keeping the heroine and thus the reader in the dark about his true motivations as long as possible

The hero might not answer her questions directly, or (and this drives me nuts) treat her as if he knows best for her, including keeping her in a state of confusion or ignorance about threats to her safety or matters that pertain to her.

- showing hints at the hero's deeper feelings in dangerous moments.

Since we're not included in the hero's ruminations, we see uneven actions and moments of tension and drama and are left, with the heroine, to conclude what they mean. This could be a surprising, sometimes violent punishing kiss (ow), unwilling and unexpected admissions as to how she matters, or angry responses when he's not in control of himself that might reveal more than he wants to disclose.

His loss of control is compelling for the heroine (and, I presume, the reader). She is irritating him, throwing him off his routine and causing him emotional discomfort, and his response to that discomfort can be scary and enticing. His actions when he's not quite in control of himself can possibly be interpreted as caring, but there's no certainty to the heroine/reader's conclusions.

But the increasing knowledge that she has some power over him, or power to affect him, can also be alluring. (Unfortunately, this imbalance or shift of power can also lead to another of my least favorite tropes, “I act this way because of YOU. YOU are responsible for my actions, not me.” No, dude. Just no.)

- reluctant inclusion of the heroine in the hero's world, one she does not understand and one he doesn't necessarily want her to be within.

Whether it's vampirism, BDSM, or a secret habit of collecting low fat Twinkies, he will not be enthusiastic about including or introducing the heroine to his secret world, and his reluctance yields more uncertainty for the heroine and the reader.

The compulsion and repulsion of “what is he hiding/ do I even want to know?” evolves into a source of tension that lasts so long as the hero keeps his secrets. That lack of knowledge creates tension and a mystery to be solved. It takes a particularly skilled writer to pull off the bit-by-bit revelation of the hero's full spectrum of feelings about the heroine, and to cause the reader to believe in both his mental stability and his ability to sustain a healthy – or mostly healthy – relationship. Combining fear, possible menace, ignorance, and attraction, creates a push/pull for the heroine and the reader. That mysterious and possibly nefarious aspect to the hero keeps the heroine and the reader guessing – and is part of what makes the narrative so compelling for some.

I'm looking at a limited selection of books, obviously, trying to identify why these books seemed similar to one another. The obscured hero, and the inscrutable motivations and thoughts of that hero, seemed to be one thing they all had most in common. I don't think the inscrutable hero is the only factor that contributes to the popularity of these books – there can be any number of sources of tension, such as the power imbalance between hero and heroine, large amounts of sexual tension and/or sexual content, a plot that keeps challenging them both, and many other features that contribute to reader fascination. It's not just a case of throwing a obfuscation cloak over the hero and selling umptyzillion copies of a book. It's certainly not just the partially obscured hero that make a book so alluring to readers. But sometimes characters, obscured or not, have to overcome bad editing or uneven writing to grab reader attention.

The degree to which reader reviews for these books indicate a compelling fascination with hero and the story makes me wonder if this is a signal of a new trend or change in characterization: more about the heroine, and less about the hero. Moving the point of information from equally placed between both characters to firmly on the heroine's side, leaving the reader with less information about the hero, may be part of what makes these books so compelling – and why similar books succeed. The more precarious the possibility of the happy ending, the more enticed we are to see how it will happen. Moreover, the climax includes full disclosure of the hero, not just gratification or dissolution of sexual and emotional tension. Too often for me, once I know as the reader that the hero feels the same way about the heroine that she does about him, there isn't much of a mystery for me any more, and I didn't feel the need to continue.

If the hero is being revealed bit by bit, moments that may not be significant to the heroine become more significant to the reader as the reader realizes the depths of the hero's attraction/motivation/pain/whatever. We see signs of his attraction or regard sometimes before the heroine does, but we don't know with certainty that we've identified the hero's motivations because we aren't made aware of his point of view nor his thoughts. 

When the reader is kept in the uncertain and lately unfamiliar position of knowing much more about the heroine than the hero, that mystery, mystique and uncertainty becomes thrilling. Simply put, we haven't been confronted to obscure heroes in awhile, and many of us seem to like the dangerous mystery.

This secret hero seems to appear in paranormal romances mostly. I'm struggling to think of a contemporary romance with a menacing hero that wasn't also a suspense novel – and the secrecy of the hero also fits into my earlier theory as to why paranormal romance fans are much more interactive and active than, say, contemporary fans (short version: there's almost always a secret, a focus on a quest, and enticement to demonstrate loyalty).

Have you noticed an increase in the number of books you've read with a distant, obfuscated or secretive hero? Have you seen fewer books with point-of-view ruminations of the hero, or have you not noticed a difference?

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Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Rosa E. says:

    It’s more than a little humbling to read this and realize my latest manuscript hits all of these points. So much for originality, eh?

    When dealing with urban fantasy or paranormals, though, said points are important because of the entirely new aspect of the world. The Old Skool heroes were, for the most part, existing in our world—maybe a wallpaper historical version of it, but they tended to be human, and had human concerns. When you’re dealing with a vampire, or balancing out the issue of an entire hidden world existing alongside ours, it becomes necessary to shroud a paranormal hero’s viewpoint in order to maintain suspense and (hopefully) keep the reader interested in the evolving mystery. I agree that I haven’t seen any contemporaries or historicals with obscure heroes lately; it seems to be mainly a UF phenomenon.

  2. 2
    LauraN says:

    I can’t think of any contemporaries that I’ve read recently that followed this pattern.  On the other hand, I think you’re right about how paranormal romances tend to borrow some of those old skool traits (though, often, without the more disgusting things like controlling, rapey “heroes”).  I’m thinking in particular about Monings’s Fever series.  I adore Barrons and I was on the edge of my seat at the end of each book to figure out what on earth his deal was.  Was he the Unseelie King?  Did he want the book for good or evil purposes?  Etc. 

    But this similarity made me really think about my reading preferences because I simply cannot stand most old skool romances.  The heroes give me The Rage, and not in a fun way.  I get a lot of enjoyment from reading the book rants of others, but when I’m reading one of those old skool books, I’m not laughing.  I just get pissed off, so I don’t read them.  After all, why would I want to do something that I know is going to put me in a bad mood?

    So why do I love Barrons (and others like him)?  I think it’s because though he can be a controlling son of a bitch and sometimes I wanted to be able to shake him until some truth rattled out of him, he changed in how he related to Mac.  At first he sees her as little more than a piece of fluff, but as she grows and matures, you can see his respect for her growing as well.  I can excuse his tendency to be too controlling at first because she’s in a new world that she has no understanding of—if he let her just do whatever, she’d likely get herself killed.  But once she has figured out how to safely navigate that world, he doesn’t try nearly as hard to make her decisions for her.  Eventually, they’re partners, and that’s what I want to see.

    And now for the Twilight dig!  Edward’s tendency to be a controlling son of a bitch never stopped annoying me.

  3. 3
    JLaine says:

    Once I looked back on what I’ve been reading recently, I’d say yes to both of the questions. More of the first person are around, and the obscure hero theme is more abound. The series that first popped into my head were both urban fantasy- the DarkFever series by Karen Marie Moning and Night Hunter series by Jeaniene Frost. Both first person heroines, though Jericho Barrons clearly wins in the “obscure hero” category between the two. Frost, however, does a pretty good job of letting us see Bones’ psyche and emotions.

  4. 4
    Jamarleo says:

    The way you describe the focus on the heroine and less on the inscrutable (and sometimes only nominal) hero reminds me of any number of mysteries written in the past couple of decades that have romance elements.

    The heroine’s main objective is still to find the killer, of course, and wrap up in a HEA until the next time she stumbles upon a corpse during the town’s may day celebration.  But glance through any given recnt mystery in the shelves and you’ll almost always find some handsome new neighbor, the organic farmer handyman with a dark past, and the omnipresent hot-cop-who-needs-her-to-stay-the-hell-away-because-he-cares-dammit waiting in the secondary plot wings.

    Sometimes it works, and then there are other times that you envision some poor cozy mystery writer trying to shoe-horn some sex into her cupcake bakery mysteries (series 3) on the advice of her agent.  I think the more sucessful books work because there is always the distinct possibility that the love interest is, in fact, the murderer.

  5. 5
    Faye says:

    I’ve just started glomming Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily mysteries (which have a healthy dose of romance), and there is definitely an obscure hero whose intentions the heroine, and the reader, question. I think it works better for me in these books than in a standard romance- because the book is primarily a mystery, there is the possibility that the assumed hero is in fact not heroic at all. Cue the dramatic tension!

  6. 6
    Ruthie Knox says:

    This is a *fascinating* post. I think it’s very hard to pull off in straight-up contemporary, but you do see it in first-person POV stories. This is, in fact, one reason I adore Cara McKenna erotica in the first person—because the hero remains a bit of a mysterious quantity, just as he does in real life.

  7. 7
    skapusniak says:

    That…that’s…not quite how I remember ye olde Woodiwissian hero, however rape-y he often was. My flaky recollection seems to feel he got a bunch of screen-time as a character in himself, often doing (likely rated M for Manly!) stuff with other characters, and even upon occasion evolving his feelings about the heroine *while she wasn’t there, but we were*, to contrast him with the unhinged depravity of the Villain that would steadily grow over the course the book, and to write him as being, just…y’know *more*. I’m not saying you’re wrong now, I’m just thinking…oh, darn, I’m going to have embark on big round of re-reading of the classics aren’t I? :)

  8. 8
    Lynne Silver says:

    Kristen Ashley’s books trend toward the mysterious hero. The books are first person from the heroine POV and the hero swoops in with the rescuing. In many ways her heros share traits with Christain & Edward.

    And….all the series are deemed Cracktastic. Coincidence? Perhaps not. I think you’re onto something, Sarah.

  9. 9
    Angela Hocking says:

    Very interesting, indeed. My “first love” will always be D’Arcy and Rochester, who were at least a mystery to their women, but lately, I’ve been diggin’ knowing the hero’s private thoughts up front. Michelle Leighton’s Down to You was particularly enjoyable for me. Side note: thank you for your fine use of the terms “asshattery” and “assclown”.

  10. 10
    Sarahnicolelemon says:

    I’d love to say something smart and thoughtful to this excellent post, but really my only thought is that readers may like…prefer?….this sometimes because this is the way of reality. I felt all those things about twilight. Creepy. Stalker. Weirdo. Please god never let my teenage daughter be this girl. But I devoured it because it made me remember what it felt like to be 17 and falling in love with my older, stronger, wiser, and with the propensity for danger, future husband. It’s the universal experience of feeling all those things about a person, and being conflicted, and not knowing and ooh the dramz!
    I prefer my romance this way. I prefer to write this way. I just love the angst involved in being in only one persons head in the relationship. I want to go on that ride with the heroine.

  11. 11
    SB Sarah says:

    I think we both do! My memory is different—but I could easily be wrong about Woodiwissian Heroes. Also; Woodiwissian is my new favorite word.

  12. 12
    Sarah Span says:

    I totally agree with the mysterious hero creating tension. It is the only thing that got me to the second book in the Fifty Trilogy but those books still drive me nuts because you are still stuck with Anna’s POV the entire bloody time. For all her insecurities and weird family history (why is it we never talk about Mom’s third husband? And why couldn’t Anna live with Mom and number 3?) Anna never thinks about herself and her hang ups, like why she made it through college a virgin with less sexual knowledge than some Mary Knoll nuns.

    When mysterious hero is well done, I think that means the heroine has been portrayed well. (And you don’t mind spending an entire book waffling with her about the hero’s intentions.) If you use Darcy and Rochester, think of Elizabeth and Jane. Thoughtful woman who can analyze not just male behavior but their own…women who can realize mistakes, learn from them and find a declarative sentence about what they want from life.

     

  13. 13
    Ruthie Knox says:

    I just read my first (possibly only) Woodiwiss, and it had hero POV. Hero was very accessible. But it could be an anomaly.

  14. 14
    Angela Hocking says:

    Promise I won’t linger on FSoG’s lead characters, but Christian (asshat firmly in place on that one) was clearly the more fascinating of the two (oh hell, let’s be honest, he was the only thing fascinating about that book asshat or not) and I venture to say that there has to be a matched set of hero and heroine for the story to be truly compelling. Granted, the inequities of the main couple’s breeding, brains and bedroom skills are what keep you reading, their coming together (so to speak, or literally, your choice) at the end is what keeps you re-reading.

  15. 15
    PamG says:

    To be honest, I’ve actively avoided both Twilight & 50, because I loathe wimpy heroines and pushy males.  Nor have I encountered other examples of this possible trend towards more shadowy heroes, probably because any review or recommendation that described this dynamic would tend to put me off anyway.

    If there is a growing trend emphasizing the heroine’s POV and obscure, irascible gatekeeper heroes, I suspect that it is driven by the subgenres that are currently popular.  For example, so much urban fantasy/paranormal romance features xenophilia and major power imbalances that it might easily encourage such a trend.  In the days of my youth, the gothic romance ruled, and most tales were told in the heroine’s voice & had mysterious powerful heroes.  The two factors that turned me off were the rapey-ness that accompanied increasing sexual frankness and heroes who always knew better than the heroine.  Those characteristics still turn me off regardless of the POV or the genre. 

    However, I have to admit that I find myself getting a little bored by the dual POV technique in so many romances.  Some authors have beaten it to death and I really get irritated when the sex is described first by one then by the other in gender specific detail.  I don’t know whether it’s worse when the two narratives describe the same stuff in the same language (I’m so wet/she’s so wet) or when they depend on those hoary old stereotypes (he’s so possessive & protective/ she’s so open and giving). 

    To tell the truth, I really love an unreliable narrator.  I enjoy decoding character and motivation based on a highly individual and perhaps manipulative narration.  What would be really interesting, though?  A romance told entirely from the hero’s point of view.  Are there any?

    Cultural influences might also drive a reversion to old skool relationships.  If there is indeed a trend toward blood-sucking, sugar-daddy-knows-best heroes, perhaps it is not unconnected to that yearning for a golden age when women knew their place.  You know, that yearning that keeps surfacing in the emergence of disempowering legislation, anti-woman public policy, and clever concepts like rape via ultrasound and the contraceptive properties of “real” rape.

  16. 16
    hapax says:

    @Pam G: “To tell the truth, I really love an unreliable narrator. I enjoy decoding character and motivation based on a highly individual and perhaps manipulative narration.”

    +2 to this one!  It’s a thrill to share in the process of discovery, and fall in love along with the heroine.

    One advantage of not getting the hero’s POV is you aren’t stuck with constant head-hopping—even La Nora is sometimes guilty, and in the hands of a less skilled writer, it drives me bonkers.

    Besides, I grew up on those Old Skool Harlequin mysterious heros—I fully believe that my admiration for the male neck and jaw area comes from all the “he looked away and clenched his teeth” and “one strong muscle bunched in his throat” and such that were so often our Only Clue (but not the innocent heroine’s!) that the hero suffered under an Unbearable but Repressed Manly Passion.

  17. 17
    Carmen says:

    I’m skeptical of people drawing too many conclusions from the 50 Shades popularity, so I question whether the old skool is making a comeback.  That’s not to say editors/writers are jumping on the ol’ bandwagon (we’re going to be treated to copycats for a long, gutwrenching, time).

    There are great examples of where heroine first person POV can work well (Unholy Ghost series by Stacia Kane; Fever series) and where it doesn’t (Bared to You, Richelle Mead’s Succubus series).  But I think some writers take advantage of the instant tension of heroine POV as a writer’s shortcut.  Then they find themselves in a bind because if they don’t create a compelling, complex heroine, the POV can feel claustrophobic.  And if the hero is too rapetastic and broody, and the reader identifies with the heroine, then the HEA can feel unsatisfying (the “oh honey, you can do better” ending).

    Because so many writers write single POV poorly, I prefer heroine/hero mix POVs as a general rule. I think the hero has to be more complex to carry his own side of the story.  Interestingly, I think Ilona Andrews writes first person heroine POV well – and I’ve wondered if it’s because they are a husband/wife writing team they avoid the old skool cliches?

    Great post and discussion. :)

  18. 18
    Amy Raby (Alpha Lyra) says:

    Very interesting post. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here, and as LauraN mentioned above, I think Moning’s Fever series fits this pattern as well. Interestingly, none of the examples are true romance novels in that none of them end in an HEA (not at the end of the first book, anyway). At least, not that I’m aware of. I have not read all of them.

    I’m going out on a limb here, because I’m not from the era of old skool romances and have never read them, but I wonder if the increasing emphasis on hero POV came with feminism. As women began moving into spaces that were formerly male-only, men became less foreign and strange, and readers became more interested in relating to them as sympathetic characters with complex motivations.

    But in the Paranormal world, the concept of a potentially frightening and unknowable hero is preserved because he’s a vampire, or a werewolf, or who-knows-what creature with who-knows-what drives and motivations.

  19. 19
    Svet_chick says:

    Recent one I read was Janelle Taylor’s novel. I don’t know what it says about me, but I never liked Twilight, and didn’t enjoy Janelle Taylor’s novel either. I also attempted to read 50 Shades but couldn’t get past four or fifth page…I like reading novels from both hero’s and heroine’s points of views.

    http://sveta-randomblog.blogsp&#8230;

  20. 20
    Jaelwye says:

    I certainly hope this trend you have detected is not here to stay. I adore the hero’s POV and I would love to read a romance mostly or entirely from his perspective. And I doubt I’m the only one who thinks that the emo hero is what makes, say, a J.R. Ward book so cracktastic. In fact, this interest in the male POV is the reason m/m fic is a hot subgenre among straight female readers.
    If one of the protagonists in a romance is going to be a mystery that needs solving, i would like it to be the heroine. I want to read about a knight in tarnished armor fighting for his lady like a Chretien de Troyes romance from the 12th century. Call me Olde Skoole.

  21. 21
    SB Sarah says:

    Bollocks. Now I go for Woodwissian reread of epic proportions.

  22. 22
    elladrake says:

    I’ve seen this used in a few recent historical romances in a bit of beauty and the beast way. It goes back to the gothic romance, right? Where you don’t know if the hero is the good guy or the one who was going to murder the heroine in her sleep. When that mystery is there, not having the hero’s POV really works well. It *is* the mystery, but if that’s not an essential part of the plot, I miss the hero’s POV.

    For a contemporary romance, I haven’t run across many that didn’t share time with both hero and heroine. But it really worked for me in Sheltered by Charlotte Stein. The entire story is in Evie’s POV and it works beautifully. The story is hers, her sexual awakening, her finding love, her growing up, and her connection to Van. The core of the story seemed to be unwrapping this hero and finding his heroic qualities as the heroine learned who she was, too.

    Looking at it, I think it’s the slow reveal that makes the mysterious hero appealing. If it’s done well, it doesn’t feel as if we’re missing the hero’s POV but we’re learning who he is.

  23. 23
    Shal says:

      My current read is Lynsay Sands’s The Perfect Wife, so far I’m loving this book :) Its has both the H & h POV, maybe a little closer to the h on Sarah’s drawing. But I happen to like books with the H’s POV. The h’s POV do be bias on how she sees herself, her baggage & the situation, which most times is vastly different from the H’s.
      I read a historical romance where the H was an asshat douche bag who practiced a lot of ‘rapery’. The h was his guest, he was engaged and was supposed to find her a suitable husband. While he was searching for a suitable husband he was having sex with her, which made her feel cheap and dirty & of course he blamed her for his lost of control…like i said before, douche bag. In the very last scene, he confessed his love for the h & I felt like he had a heart but I wasn’t given enough time to know him let alone like him. He could have lied in that last scene and I wouldn’t be surprised cuz he was a menacing villain to me. Was he a hero I could probably fall in love with. HELL NO!
      Now Paen in The Prefect Wife I could fall in love with…and isn’t that how you’re supposed to feel about the heroes? Who wants the poor girl to shack up with a wife beater?
      Paen was marrying a chubby girl of his parents choice but he wanted a wife with ‘meat on her bones’ so its all cool. The scenes from his POV added insight into his confusion about how he felt about her, also into his actions/conversations or lack there of with his wife because he wasn’t sure how to behave towards her, what to say etc. And when he did something caring or behaving loving or fretted over her well being I cheered for him because I knew the emotions behind that action/ words and was happy for them and like I said before aren’t we supposed to want this couple to find their way to each other and have a HEA?

  24. 24
    Char says:

    Great post for thought! I’ve lately have been reading mainly books written in First Person. These are mostly indie books like Kristen Ashley and some Young Adult books like Beautiful Disaster. This started for me with the Stephanie Plum series I finished in January. Now I can’t get enough of this type of perspective. I think the mysterious hero could be one of the main reasons. First Person keeps a reader guessing. I would of never thought of it that way but now I think of it. It’s true at least for me. I do read urban fantasy and cozies because of this reason too. I like a mysterious hero! This may explain my obsession with Ranger. lol

  25. 25
    Kaetrin says:

    I’m a very hero-centric reader so if the hero is too much of a mystery I don’t like it.  He needs to have a reasonable amount of “screen time” even if I’m not in his head.  But I do love being in his head.  For example, the earlier Kristan Higgins novels (as much as I liked the humor and other aspects to them) just didn’t have enough of the hero in them for me to consider them a satisfying romance – Catch of the Day is the best example perhaps.  Malone is so quiet he barely speaks and as that is the only way we get any information about him, he was beyond mysterious and well into missing territory for me. 

    In Bared to You, I spent enough time with Gideon that I was satisfied even though he was quite mysterious.  But, maybe I’m talking about a slightly different thing…

    And, I remember there being some hero POV in all the Woodiwiss books I read.  Sorry Sarah :)

  26. 26
    Nancy says:

    I was just thinking the other day how I wish more recent historical romances were written in this type of narration. I like reading both the H/h viewpoints sometimes, but I also want variation in my narration. I’d like to read stories from either the heroine or hero’s perspective. I think some stories are better told through one viewpoint. For example, when one of the parties has a Big Secret. With both the H/h’s points of view, it often seems silly when one of them has a Big Secret and the reader is inside the character’s head but still isn’t told what the secret is. Instead, the character makes vague allusions to The Secret just so the reader can’t deduce what it is. When authors do this, it always seems clunky to me.  Along the same lines, I think spy romances are more fun when it is from one viewpoint. I enjoy figuring out with the heroine how much she can reveal to the hero and which side the hero is working for.

    I also enjoy this narration because I like looking at the different ways people’s actions can be interpreted. I think this is very true to life – people often have misconceptions about others. So it’s fun when the heroine sees the hero one way and we as the reader see him completely different because we figure out the reasons for his actions before the heroine does.

  27. 27

    >What would be really interesting, though? A romance told entirely from the hero’s point of view. Are there any?

    There are a few of them in sci-fi romance:

    Blue Galaxy by Diane Dooley
    Alpha by Catherine Asaro
    Wreck of the Nebula Dream by Veronica Scott
    The Watchmaker’s Lady by Heather Massey (in the interest of full disclosure, that’s me)

    I’m all for more of them, myself, especially in SFR. I really enjoy reading about the heroine as the mysterious/secret/anti-heroine/tortured/extraordinary character as viewed exclusively through the hero’s eyes (which is the case with Blue Galaxy and Alpha). I like the idea of more all-hero POV stories mixing things up a bit.

  28. 28
    Kari says:

    I can think of one romance told almost entirely from the hero’s POV – The Wedding Journey by Carla Kelly. You never see much of the heroine’s thoughts or feelings. (Since Jesse was absolutely adorable, it’s a nice treat. He is a doctor, and has conversations in his head with Hippocrates.)

  29. 29
    SB Sarah says:

    I totally want to read The Wedding Journey- it’s going to be released digitally in February 2013. You can pre-order, though. I just did, and I bet you $2 that when it arrives I’m going to be all, “Why is this here? What is this?!” 

    Amazon | BN | iBooks

  30. 30
    cleo says:

    I can think of several contemorary m/ m told from only one protag’s pov.  Some of them even have that mysterious, possibly dangerous, hero. Frex,  Uneven by Anna Crow, Hard Fall by James Buchannan and Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan. They all are also bdsm, which where some of the potential menace comes from, but it also comes from the protag fighting something in himself that the other hero makes him really want.

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