This week is the one that sees my birthday come around again. And no you can’t ask how old I am! In my head I’m the age of the heroines I write about - and the heroes. And that’s the way it’s going to stay.
But thinking about age, made me start to wonder about those heroes and heroines. I mean, how old is a heroine? Or a hero for that matter? When I first started reading romances, the heroines tended to be young – and often a lot younger than there heroes. Girls of 19, 20 were partnered with men maybe ten or even fifteen years older than them and no one thought twice about it. Because of that, heroes were always well over thirty – sometimes heading for or even having reached forty and so more than likely to consider the heroine a silly little girl – and maybe even call her that too!
For myself, my first heroine was seventeen when she first met the hero - something I’m not too sure would be totally acceptable these days. Another heroine was eighteen to the hero’s thirty. These days, I’m far more likely to be writing about heroines of twenty-five or twenty-six and heroes just a couple of years or so older. That seems right in a Presents romance, though Modern Heat for example can have a younger. less well-established hero.
On the brand-new Mills & Boon Community web site. Someone raised the question of how old - or perhaps I mean how young - a hero can actually be. Would twenty–six be too young? And how about twenty-five? What about a hero who is older - forty – fifty . . . Or one who is younger than the heroine? Many readers I know believe that a man takes a while longer than a woman to grow, mature – achieve something in life. And yet for others the thirty something hero is too old.
It’s perfectly possible to write a heroine or a hero at any age. None of us (thank heaven!) is immune to the wonderful, uplifting, life-changing experience of falling in love at any stage of our lives. And equally age is no barrier to the intense and wonderful feelings that a loving relationship can bring no matter what stage of life we’re at, or how many times we’ve been through this before. Only this weekend I was reading about a man who lost his wife tragically when she was murdered five years ago and is now rediscovering the joy of a new love as time has helped him heal. He’s no spring chicken – mid-forties – but love is no respecter of age. My friend’s mother has just married for the second time and she’s approaching her seventieth birthday and I’ve seen the photos of her wedding day – I doubt if any younger bride could look more starry-eyed and head over heels in love.
But every now and then romance publishers say they are looking for younger readers, that they want to appeal to a younger market. Would younger heroes and heroines do that or is there something else that would appeal to the readers who are the age of my first heroine – in their teens and very early twenties? Is it the years in a character’s life or the life in those years? What about you? Do you care how old the hero and heroine are in a romance you read – or are you happy to accept any age, and any age difference as long as the author convinces you? And because I’m nosy – what about you as a reader? How old were you when you first came to reading romances? Are the publishers right to think they need to attract the younger reader – or are you already there?
Because I’m celebrating this week, and when I celebrate I like to share, I’ll get Sid the Cat to pick two names from the comments that are posted and there will be a signed copy of one of my backlist for the winners.
And if you want to read more about heroes – I’m running a special discussion on the Alpha hero over on my blog.
Kate's latest novel Cordero's Forced Bride was released in Harlequin Presents in February and Mills & Boon Modern in March it is still available on Amazon and the M&B website
Coming up is Kept For Her Baby which is to be published in August (UK) and October – in Presents Extra in America. But before that there is the reprint of At The Sheikh’s Command coming in the Sold to The Sheikh collection in June in the UK.
You can find out more about Kate and her books on her website or for the most up to date news, visit her blog.