I was driving to work recently and had an idea for another romance book. I was so struck by the idea that I actually used Siri on my iPhone to take a voice memo. Let’s face it, Siri is pretty but she’s stupid and rarely gets most things I ask her to do correctly. At 70mph per hour, on the toll road, this idea came screaming out of me. I recorded my words at a feverish pace, trying to convey the emotion and feeling along with the plot. Feeling accomplished, and knowing that Siri will have gotten so much of it wrong, I put my phone down and continued my drive. I will have to decode the jibberish that Siri actually recorded later.
The story idea still ran through my mind with less intensity now that I had documented it somewhere. It struck me that the idea was different because the “knight on the white horse” wasn’t a man, but a woman. She could rescue him! I really started to think about this idea of protectors and manly men who protect their women. Even that sentence sounds sexist to me, and it probably is, but I won’t lie, I love a good book where the love interest is an Alpha male. There is something so sexy about a man protecting the woman he loves… that sounds better. “Their woman”…ick!
The fact that I describe that sort of romance that way illustrates the issue perfectly. I like to think I am a feminist. I take women’s rights very seriously, as well as fighting for equality. I think a lot of women are in a similar space to me. I can only imagine being in a relationship with one of the Alpha males from the great romances I’ve read. No, get your head out of the gutter….. It would never work for me to be the wife of a man like that, we’d run into issues even with a quick romp. A man telling me what to do, even if it was in my best interest, I am just not wired like that. Discussion and mutual understanding are where I am at when it comes to the love interest in my life.
All of this set me to wondering, as a romance writer, where is the genre going when both the man and woman should be riding the white horse? Who rescues who? Is it still even appropriate to make the man the hero? Thinking this idea through I posed the question to my husband over lunch one afternoon. He suggested making the woman the heroine. His story idea went something like this: a man who is married to a terrible woman falls for another woman. The new love interest then has to rescue the man from a bad marriage and an abusive wife. My immediate response was no one would read that. Women make up the majority of romance readers, not many of them want to be thought of as a bad wife. Furthermore, I am going to venture a guess that none of them would sympathize with the husband and new love interest. What is weirder, is that if you turn it all around, and he rescues her from an abusive husband, you have struck romance gold…. weird huh?
I have to wonder if there is something about the way our genders are wired or if it is taught? I don’t want to get into the whole nature vs. nurture argument. I just wonder as a romance author how tastes will change over time. I am really interested to see where the genre goes. I mean is it anti-feminist to write an Alpha-male who throws a damsel (as smart, and capable as she may be) over his shoulder?
What do you think? Let me know in the comments because this is a conversation worth having…