Friday, May 04, 2012

Blond Heroes

Someone tweeted me the other day, thanking me for the fact that Leo Bailey, the hero of DEMON’S BRIDE, is blond.  She mentioned that blond heroes are relatively uncommon in romance, which made me wonder—why are blond heroes so rare in romance?

Maybe it all goes back to the idea of the 19th century Byronic hero—the dark, brooding loner, whose hair color reflected his inner turmoil.  If blond meant angelic, then dark hair represented the opposite.  Lord Byron himself had dark hair, and his wild antics and air of mystery made him irresistible to women (and some men).  Byron was a bad boy, and who can resist a bad boy?

Thinking of other heroes in early romantic novels, such as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, we see the dark hero become even more popular.  Perhaps that trend continues on in today’s romance novels.  I know there are blond heroes out there, but I’ve read far more heroes with black or dark brown hair, Lord Byron’s legacy.

I recall reading somewhere that even if the hero in the book is blond, he’s seldom depicted as such on the cover of romance novels because, apparently, blond heroes on covers don’t sell as well as their dark-haired brothers. 

So why did I make Leo Bailey blond?  First of all, I wanted variety in the looks and coloring of the Hellraisers.  Whit, the hero of the first Hellraisers novel DEVIL’S BRIDE, has dark hair, as does Bram, one of the other Hellraisers.  I didn’t want all dark heroes.  Secondly, Leo is the only one of the Hellraisers who isn’t a gentleman.  He’s not just a commoner, but he’s the son of a saddler.  Leo has worked hard to become one of the richest non-titled men in England.  He’s very driven, and bears a huge grudge against the aristocrats who look down on him.  There is an association of the nobility being fair of skin and fair haired, so I thought it would be an interesting inversion to have my lowest-born Hellraiser to be blond.  And Leo is far from angelic—a fact which becomes more and more clear to Anne Hartfield, the impoverished baron’s daughter that Leo weds at the very beginning of DEMON’S BRIDE.  Anne can’t help but be drawn to the contradiction that is her husband, however, and finds in him an unexpected connection that leads to desire, and something more…  Yet Leo’s dark, dangerous secrets imperil not only the new bond between husband and wife, but also the world as we know it.
So, tell me, do you like blond heroes in romance?  Or do you prefer tall, dark and handsome?  Who are some of your favorite blond heroes?  I’ll pick one commenter to win a copy of DEMON’S BRIDE (US/Canada only).

The Hellraisers, Book 2

Hell to Pay

Leo Bailey may have been born to poverty, but ruthless business sense and sparkling intelligence have made money worries a thing of his past. It doesn't hurt that the Devil himself has granted Leo the ability to read the future.

But even infallible predictions are a déclassé commoner's trick to some members of the ton. They'll never see Leo as their equal - one good reason to prove himself their better. And a noble marriage is an obvious start.

Bookish Anne Hartfield, daughter of a baron, is hardly the flashiest miss on the marriage market. But her thoughtful reserve complements Leo's brash boldness in an attraction neither can deny. A whirlwind courtship sweeps Anne and Leo into a smoldering marriage before either can believe their luck. But happiness built on Leo's dark powers can't last. Soon, Anne will have to save her husband...or lose her heart.

Zoë Archer is an award-winning romance author who thinks there's nothing sexier than a man in tall boots and a waistcoat. As a child, she never dreamed about being the rescued princess, but wanted to kick butt right beside the hero. She now applies her master's degrees in Literature and Fiction to creating butt-kicking heroines and heroes in tall boots. She is the author of the acclaimed BLADES OF THE ROSE series and the paranormal historical romance series, THE HELLRAISERS. She and her husband, fellow romance author Nico Rosso, created the steampunk world of THE ETHER CHRONICLES together.  Her steampunk romance, SKIES OF FIRE, is now available from Avon Impulse, and Nico’s steampunk Western, NIGHT OF FIRE, will be available in July. Zoë and Nico live in Los Angeles.

***The winner is Mary Anne Landers!  Please email with your mailing address!***


Karen H in NC said...

I like the occasional blonde hero and even a redhead (as in Damien Lewis) once in a while, but my preference is the dark haired guy with deep blue eyes...a stricking combination!

Maureen said...

I like all kinds of heroes, I am not picky. It's his actions that I am most interested in. I think St. Vincent from Lisa Kleypas' Devil in Winter is blond if my memory serves me.

Mary Anne Landers said...

Thank you for your post, Zoe. I agree: blond heroes are welcome.

I can think of another reason why romance heroes tend to be brunets. It's the influence of Hollywood on our collective cultural consciousness.

During the days of black-and-white film, actors with dark hair photographed better than those with light hair. The darker the hair, the more effectively it framed and drew attention to the face.

An actress could go blonde and get away with it because light hair was (and still is) associated with female sex appeal and (ironically) innocence. But there were no comparable advantages for a man.

Hence Hollywood presented the world with a slew of dark-haired leading men. Rudolph Valentino, John Gilbert, Clark Gable, Robert Taylor, Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum---the list goes on. They've all gone to their reward, but their legacy is still with us: dark hair for men equals masculinity.

Well, that's the cultural norm. We still must account for individual tastes. And I for one say a sexy man can have any hair color. Or no hair at all! What's on his head is nowhere near as important as what's inside it.

Good luck with the release of "Demon's Bride". Keep up the good work!

Di said...

What about Tall, Blond & Handsome? You can't lump all people by one characteristic. Some other blond actors (tho they may be darker blond) Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Daniel Craig). And I really enjoyed Rupert Penry-Jones in 'The 39-Steps'.

Dina said...

Hi Zoe never really thought of hair color, I like brown or blond, black. congrats on new book.

Jen B. said...

I don't buy into the whole tall, dark and handsome thing. I love it when an author creates a picture that isn't the norm of the perfect man. You know, super tall, built like a brick house, gorgeous, dark with tan skin. Oh gag! One of my favorite twists ever what that Acheron from Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunters series is actually a blond. He magically turns his hair dark. And I think he is kind of the ultimate hero.

Chrisbails said...

Not that big on hair color, but I sure do love a gorgeous blond. The one that always comes to mind is Eric(Alexander Skarsgaard)from True Blood. Tall, sexy, blond, and one gorgeous man. Plus he is a good actor.