Dear Bitches, Smart Authors Podcast

38. Blue Collar Heroes

In this episode, we attempt to define blue collar romance heroes – and figure out whether they really exist. We talk about what drives Sarah nuts about sex scenes and erotica. And then, can Jane convince Sarah not to read the Kristen Ashley books?

Here are the books we discuss in this episode:


Cowboy's Don't Quit Lean on Me - HelenKay Dimon All He Ever Desired - Shannon Stacey

All He Ever Needed - Shannon Stacey Yours to Keep - Shannon Stacey Fearless Love - Meg Benjamin

Don't Forget Me - Meg Benjamin Second Hand - Heidi Cullinan Marie Sexton Twilight - Stephenie Meyer

Leave Me Breathless - Cherrie Lynn  What I Did for a Duke - Julie Anne Long Double Down - Katie Porter

Fallen Crest High - Tijan Karen Marie Moning's Rock Chick -  Kristen Ashley


Our music is provided by Sassy Outwater. This podcast features “Three Ships” by a UK duo called Deviations Project, which features producer Dave Williams and violinist Oliver Lewis – they have their own Wikipedia page! Badass. This song is from their Christmas album Adeste Fiddles.

You can find their music on iTunes, Amazon, or wherever music is sold.

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  1. 1
    bookstorecat says:

    This podcast looks like awesome. Hope there are recommendations for good books with blue collar heroes, cause I am pretty sick of billionaires & rich aristocrats. 

  2. 2
    Beccah W. says:

    I think one of the big reasons why rich guys are so common in romance land is because when you don’t have to work, the story can focus on the couple’s relationship without any interruptions. That and, of course, it’s supposed to be a fantasy and a lot of people are so sure that money = happiness. I love the stories that feature (at least) self-made men, like Where Dreams Begin by Lisa Kleypas.

  3. 3
    Angela James says:

    Re: the Kristen Ashley POV discussion. Jane mentioned that they’re from the heroine’s POV normally, and they are first person, and she was struggling to say why you still know what the hero is thinking. One reason is that you do get the hero’s POV even in the heroine’s first person POV because the author writes what I’ve taken to calling omniscient first person. I can give you an example if you want (I marked passages for my own reference). Essentially, we see something in the first person POV that the heroine doesn’t see. Omniscient. So the reader gets clues to the hero’s emotion/POV even when we’re not in his POV. Also, she does switch to the hero 3rd person POV at times.

  4. 4
    Prachi Jain says:

    Suddenly You by Sarah Mayberry. Harry, I would say is a proper blue collar with little ambition too.

  5. 5
    aspee says:

    “Just Remember to Breath” Main Male Character is a soldier who just got out of the Army

  6. 6
    SB Sarah says:

    That would drive me absolutely bananas. Yet I remain curious to see if I am immune to the crack that has afflicted so many.

  7. 7
    Ashley L. says:

    I think omniscient first person would drive me a little crazy too. POV switches in general throw me for a loop when I’m not expecting them.

  8. 8

    Aside from the faux-blue-collar small business owner trope you mention in the podcast, I’ve also noticed a trend of heroes who are allegedly blue-collar workers, but then they turn out to be secretly obscenely rich. I HATE THAT TROPE. I always feel like shouting, “Hey, you! Elitist douchebag! How dare you act like holding (or losing) a perfectly respectable job is something to do for fun, when so many people depend on it for survival? How dare you demean me and people like me by ‘slumming it’ as though economic disadvantage is something you can try on just for kicks, always knowing that you have a nice, cozy trust fund to fall back on?”

    I had a very moderated version of this reaction to one of Sarah Mayberry’s books. I felt like her handling of the trope was better than most, so I didn’t lose any respect for the hero, but I was thrown out of the book a little bit because of it.

    It’s particularly annoying when a hero does this so he can find someone who will “love him for himself.” Great job reinforcing the stereotype of women as gold-diggers! Because we all know that what this world needs is another baseless excuse to hate women! Here’s a thought: if all women except the heroine are only after money, what does that say about the reader, assuming the reader is a woman?

    Apparently my tolerance for the foibles of the rich is at an all-time low. Or maybe I just know from experience that it is possible to have a really great love without all the money in the world. Anyway, here’s my message to the romance writers of the world: Knock it the fuck off with this trope. It’s insulting.

    /end rant

  9. 9
    Ros Clarke says:

    Yes! That was one of the things that annoyed me about Grease Monkey Jive. In general, I liked the book a lot, but I wished the hero was really just a mechanic, not a secret property owner/developer with plenty of cash to splash around at the end to make everything right. They didn’t need that to be happy.

  10. 10


  11. 11

    I’ll have to listen to this podcast this weekend, ‘cause I’m totally sick of bajillionaires and Dukes!

  12. 12

    Makes me sad that it’s only acceptable for heroes to “be their own boss” in Romancelandia.  I also thought of Jennifer Crusie heroes (I *think* the hero from Tell Me Lies is also true blue collar, I just can’t remember his job…)

  13. 13
    Alpha Lyra says:

    re: “there are no genre busting romance writers”—There absolutely are, but authors have a hard time selling genre busting books, or at least they used to. I expect e-publishing and self-publishing to open some doors for these books.

  14. 14
    Sarah Morgan says:

    I don’t normally dance to the podcasts but I’m dancing to this one. Sassy Outwater picks the BEST music.

  15. 15
    Ashley L. says:

    I would love to see more actual blue collar heroes. Like I would love some patrol cop heroes in addition to all of the police chiefs, hostage negotiators and Navy Seals I see.

  16. 16
    Anna Cowan says:

    I immediately thought of A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant. The driving force for much of the book is the h/h’s shared need for money and ***SPOILER*** they don’t get the money they need in the end, but are offered a path that involves hard work and a step down the social ladder. It’s one of the most wonderful, romantic endings of any book ever.

  17. 17
    Kaetrin says:

    I was going to suggest Sarah Mayberry’s Suddenly You also. Heroine is a struggling single mum and hero is a mechanic and a lot of his story arc is how he doesn’t want to take over the family business and deliberately chose to work elsewhere.

    Another one I thought of was Isabelle Rowan’s A Note in the Margin. It is an mm romance. Hero 1 is a bookstore owner. Hero 2 is homeless with a mental illness. It’s unusual and moving and quite beautiful in parts.

  18. 18
    Lizzie R says:

    In Toni Blake’s Sugar Creek the hero Mike is the town patrol cop and not the police chief.  He spends most of the book fining the heroine Rachel because she’s always speeding or badly parked.  He’s the surly law and people don’t usually stand up to him but Rachel does, so the fines end up being foreplay for the two.


  19. 19

    I finally got a chance to listen – you guys mention exactly what annoys me about romance in general, and military characters in particular! The fantasy world is fun – billionaires and dukes and people who walk away from their boring job and start a small business that flourishes within 150 pages – but I LOVE reading about real people too.

    And when it comes to the military, I mentioned this to Sarah at RWA back in July, not everyone is a Navy SEAL or Special Operations or even an officer rank of Captain, Major or Colonel. Jessica Scott has written about NCOs (sergeants) but she’s honestly the only author I can think of who has. I want to see military heroes and heroines who are new Lieutenants or Sergeants or even just in the Reserves or the Guard so the military does not comprise the entire plot.

  20. 20
    cleo says:

    Just listened to this today.  Sarah – I really, really want you to review a Kristen Ashley book.  I’ve resisted them because they really don’t sound like my thing, but all of the positive reviews have me curious – I haven’t seen a really negative review yet and I’d *love* to read one by you (but no pressure).

    Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist is a good historical with working class protagonists – the heroine is a parlor maid trying to become a ladies maid, and the hero is a footman.  It’s an inspirational, but not obnoxiously so, imo.

    Courtney Milan has at least two novellas with non-aristo protags.

    Conduct Unbecoming by LA Witt is a contemporary m/m with probably the most realistic portrayal of military characters I’ve ever read (speaking as someone with no military background at all, so take that with a grain of salt).  It’s set post-repeal of DADT but one hero is an officer (in Naval intel, I think) and the other is enlisted (military police), which is the source of most of the conflict in the book.  I found the portrayal of Navy life fascinating – it’s set in Okinawa and the descriptions of the base and their jobs is really interesting.  All of the work drama comes from interactions with difficult people and crazy co-workers and not some crazy, defeat-the-bad-guys / save-the-world plot, and that felt real to me.  The romance is hot, although the “I want you but no one can know or we’ll be in trouble” angst got old after awhile, as did the bits that read like an Okinawa travel guide.

  21. 21
    Hannah says:

    Sarah, I also think you should review or maybe live blog review a Kristen Ashley book.

  22. 22
    SB Sarah says:

    But…. but…. oh, fine. I’ll try one. Harrumph. :)

  23. 23
    library addict says:

    I tried one Kristen Ashley, but just couldn’t get into it.

    I like that even though some of the books mentioned might not have true blue collar heroes by the strictest definition because they own their own business, they are truly SMALL business owners. They are books in which the characters don’t have unlimited wealth and they do have to work for a living.

    I think many category romances from the late 80’s and 90s were like this (many Silhouette Intimate books).

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