A hero who brandishes his well-developed sense of humor makes me swoon more often than the one with bulging biceps. Any hero worth a swoon, in fact, knows that humor is disarming.
When characters laugh together, for a moment they see eye-to-eye about something (even if only for a moment!), and they forget about the conflict and tension that usually defines their relationship.
What really makes me weak-kneed is when a hero utilizes humor to deflect the uneasiness brought on by newfound emotions. In Starr Ambrose’s Thieves Like Us, the hero Rocky jokes with his friend about his interest in the heroine being strictly physical, telling himself afterwards:
Crude guy humor was safer than admitting the truth, that he might just want something more with this woman.
Humor can also create a neutral meeting ground for a hero and heroine who are wary of their growing feelings for each other. When they have their own inside joke, it creates a bond between them, but with a safer level of commitment. Janet, the heroine in Thieves Like Us, realizes how her feelings have changed for Rocky when she responds differently to their private joke:
He even tried to protect her heart. She’d known it when he’d joked about letting her use him again. The phrase had been useful for establishing an emotional distance between them. But now it grated against her happiness . . .
And then there’s banter—the Triple Threat—combining humor, wit, and intelligence. A man who uses clever wordplay to woo the heroine is never going to spend a night alone (unless he wants to). He’s also guaranteed a permanent spot on my keeper shelf.
So what exactly is the allure of a hero with humor?
Humor begets pleasure. It’s as simple as that.
When a hero tries to make the heroine laugh, it shows he is aware of her needs, and, even more importantly, he wants to fulfill them. He pays attention to her response, to determine if he has met with success, and then does whatever will increase her satisfaction.
In other words, if the hero is devoted to making the heroine laugh, he is definitely interested in making her. . .happy.
Jack, the hero in Erin McCarthy’s You Don’t Know Jack, is a master at blending sexiness and humor, putting the heroine, Jamie, at ease and arousing her at the same time. Jamie is nervous about their first intimate encounter, but when Jack reveals how she makes him feel so free, and all he wants to do is have fun with her, she relaxes—until he tells her to jump onto his back so he can give her a pony ride to the bedroom.
’I think I’m too heavy for this.’ Damn that Ben & Jerry’s. An embarrassed giggle escaped her as she realized her nipples were poking his firm, warm flesh.
’Try again,’ he said over his naked shoulder.
’Are you crazy?’
’I think so.’
Which made her laugh. If he was going to be a nut, no reason she shouldn’t have fun.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but let’s just say Jack was responsible for a great deal of happiness after this particular moment. And in several other scenes.
Humor is the ultimate seducer, but sometimes it is the hero who falls prey to its effects.
In Your Scandalous Ways, by Loretta Chase, the hero, James, is a British spy, attempting to retrieve some incriminating letters from the heroine, Francesca, a courtesan in Venice. He has used several disguises, as well as his devilish sense of humor, to get close to her.
In one instance designed to make her laugh, James pretends to be an Italian gigolo, speaking very broken English as he relates his fictional escape from a cuckolded husband. When Francesca does laugh at his antics, it had a wholly different effect than he had anticipated:
James sucked in his breath.
He’d heard about the laugh, and dismissed it as another of the myths men created to explain their stupidity about a woman.
He knew—knew—it was her art, yet the husky invitation in the sound caught him. It was a lover’s laughter, hinting at private jokes amid tumbled sheets. It was the laughter of shared secrets, almost unbearably intimate.
It was like those sirens, calling to what’s-his-name. Ulysses.
Tie me to the mast, he thought.
It’s not the last time he’ll utter that phrase, especially after their numerous escapades together, not all of them in the bedroom.
With each of these couples, the humor they share is merely the first step to building trust, and intimacy, and ultimately, a deep love.
All of it starts with a laugh, and a hero with a yummy sense of humor.