Monday, November 23, 2015

The Billionaire: Christian Grey, Gideon Cross

You can find dozens of romance books with a billionaire mogul as hero, never mind that most billionaire moguls aren’t young, handsome, or looking for romance.

But here is where the rubber meets the road, if you’ll excuse the expression. There isn’t one of you reading this blog who hasn’t at least heard of E.L. James’ Christian Grey; there may be fewer of you who have heard of Sylvia Day’s Gideon Cross.  Nevertheless, there are multiple books written telling their stories and the characters have captured the imaginations of readers who desire more than a sweet romance with the boy next door.
     Christian Grey
Gideon Cross 
The men share similarities beyond handsomeness and money. Both are the products of traumatic abuse in their childhoods. Both are the heads of large companies with worldwide reach. Both fund charitable activities with their wealth. Both are tortured by nightmare dreams stemming from past horrors, dreams that threaten their relationships with the heroines. 

But the authors portray the heroes in different lights; there is a disparity in their behavior. Christian seeks out women with certain physical characteristics, and the heroine Anastasia Steele fits that mold. Gideon has always been attracted and had affairs with tall, brunette women, but the heroine, Eve Trammel, is petite and blond.

Grey reveals his Dom/sub lifestyle to Ana almost immediately; Cross seduces Eve and holds back the information of his dominant behavior until she has fallen for him. Christian’s desires drive Ana away from him in the first book, and in subsequent novels he is ever anxious that she will leave him if he goes further than their agreed upon “kinky f***ery”. It is another man, a past lover, who Gideon fears will tempt Eve from his side. 

Who is the more appealing romantic hero? Christian evolves into a protective, caring lover by the end of the series, while Gideon accepts the fact that he will continue to battle his demons while loving Eve deeply. Have you read both series? Which character do you prefer?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Tortured, Vindictive Hero: Heathcliff

No male character represents the archetype of a tortured man better than Heathcliff from Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights.

The familiar film adaptation from 1939 with Laurence Oliver tells the story of only sixteen of the novel's thirty-four chapters; the movie is a tale of the doomed romance between the well-bred heiress, Cathy Earnshaw, and Heathcliff, the gypsy boy her father adopted. When she dies at the end of the film (and halfway through the novel) he is a ruined man, and becomes an bitter villain bent on the destruction of members of Cathy’s family.

The complete novel recounts Heathcliff's retribution on those who have taken Cathy from him and treated him as a servant or worse. 

 “…You loved me — then what right had you to leave me? What right — answer me — for the poor fancy you felt for Linton? Because misery, and degradation, and death, and nothing God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, you, of your own will, did it. I have not broken your heart — you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine.”
From Wuthering Heights Chapter Fifteen

This is part of Heathcliff''s tortured words to Cathy on her death bed. Heathcliff is not an admirable man; his only redemption is due to his passionate love for Cathy.
Heathcliff is generally thought of as a romantic hero, but is he, really? When the woman he loves is taken from him by a rival who is from her social set, vengeance is his recourse.  In the novel, retribution goes beyond his enemies, and continues into the next generation. He is a man driven not by love, but revenge.

Can destructive actions be forgiven in the name of love? What do you think?

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Fully Formed Hero: Rhett Butler

What makes a romantic hero? In a world that seems to spin into a crazier maelstrom by the hour, why do we want to watch or read stories about a heroine who is swept off her feet in a passionate embrace by a man who embodies her dreams of love?

Is it sheer escapism? Do we search for what we believe we deserve? Are we longing for a simpler time when a man was a gentleman and our lofty expectations of love and marriage could be fulfilled?

Whatever the reason, the fact is that as more and more romance novels are read and enjoyed, and movies are produced that contain a strong element of romantic relationships, we obviously seek something that either inspires us or fills a gap in our emotional life.

That being said, this blog was created as a celebration of the romantic hero, to examine the many guises he takes in popular culture, to serve as a resource for writers and readers, and to have a bit of fun. I propose that the romantic hero can be categorized into several archetypes. Can you come up with more heroes to add to the list for...

The fully formed romantic hero. I am sure that both film and literature have many examples, but the man who springs immediately to mind is Gone With the Wind’s Rhett Butler. He arrives in the novel a fully formed, piratical hero who fascinates Scarlett. Here is the scene where she first encounters him:
“…her eyes fell on a stranger, standing alone in the hall, staring at her in a cool impertinent way that brought her up sharply with a mingled feeling of feminine pleasure that she had attracted a man and an embarrassed sensation that her dress was too low in the bosom. He looked quite old, at least thirty-five. He was a tall man and powerfully built. Scarlett thought she had never seen a man with such wide shoulders, so heavy with muscles, almost too heavy for gentility. When her eye caught his, he smiled, showing animal-white teeth below a close-clipped black mustache. He was dark of face, swarthy as a pirate, and his eyes were as bold and black as any pirate’s appraising a galleon to be scuttled or a maiden to be ravished. There was a cool recklessness in his face and a cynical humor in his mouth as he smiled at her…”
From Gone With the Wind, Chapter Six

Are there other heroes from movies, television or books that fit the bill? A man who is comfortable in his skin, knows what he wants and how to get it, and makes very few changes to his personality throughout the story? Let us know what you think...