When I first started reading romance, most of the heroes were dark, brooding, angst-filled men. But there was one out-of-the-ordinary hero who instigated a lifelong love affair, not only with him, but with others who share his literary DNA.
May I present to you: Beauvallet by Georgette Heyer.
He is an English pirate of the Elizabethan era who falls in love with Dominica, a spirited Spanish noblewoman. He laughs, constantly, especially in the face of danger. He actually courts danger, probably just so he can have another good laugh. The heroine falls in love with him because of his derring-do, but also because he says he will go straight into enemy territory to get her, and he does, cheerfully risking his life, to rescue this woman he loves.
They meet when his crew captures the ship she and her father are on, although the pirates did not know they were aboard. Some of his men hold her captive, until Beauvallet appears on deck:
Two men went staggering aside, spun apart by an iron hand on the shoulder of each. The lady looked fearfully into the face of El Beauvallet. He had cast aside his morion, and his close black hair showed, curling neatly over his head. Under straight brows she saw fine eyes, the blue of the sea with the sunlight on the water. They were bright eyes and keen, vivid under the black lashes, laughing eyes, watchful yet careless. The laugh was stayed in them now as he checked in his impatient stride. He stood staring; a mobile eyebrow flew up comically; Sir Nicholas Beauvallet appeared incredulous, and blinked at this unexpected vision. His glance, quick moving, took in next the lady’s captors, and the stilled laughter went right out of his eyes.
One of the men gets a fist to the jaw, while the other “was sped on his way by a shrewd kick to the rearward.” Beauvallet apologizes to Domenica, as though nothing important had happened. And the heroine’s reaction?
The lady was forced to admit him a personable fellow, and she found his smile irresistible. She bit back an answering gleam: one would not smile friendly upon an English freebooter.
Soon the fiery Dominica has a chance to attack Beauvallet in her bid to escape, but this is not an “old skool” romance filled with ravishing and plundering:
“Good lack!” said Beauvallet, staring down into that exquisite face of fury. A smile of amusement and of admiration crept into his eyes. It caused Dona Domenica to lose the last shreds of her temper. What would you? She was a maid all fire and spirit. She struck at him, and he caught her hand and held it, pulled her closer, and looked down into her face with eyes all a-twinkle.
. . .
It was not to be borne. The lady’s eyes fell, and encountered the hilt of a dagger in Beauvallet’s belt. She raised them again, held his in a defiant stare, and stole her hand to the dagger’s hilt.
Sir Nicholas looked quickly down, saw what she would be at, and laughed. “Brave lass!” He let her go, let her draw out his dagger, and flung wide his arms. “Come then! Have at me!”
She stepped back, uncertain and bewildered, wondering what manner of man was this who could mock at death itself. “If you touch me I will kill you,” she said through her teeth.
Still he came on, twinkling, daring her. She drew back until the bulwarks stayed her.
“Now strike!” invited Beauvallet. “I’ll swear you have the stomach for it!”
He turns away, unconcerned, but the heroine is confused, and starts falling head over heels, just like I did. Ever since, I’ve been unable to resist irreverent heroes who laugh more than they frown. Who don’t take themselves too seriously, but are seriously devoted to the strong woman that holds their heart. And who forge ahead even when the obstacles would make a less carefree man call in sick that day.
It’s not fair to hold other heroes to the same standard as your first love, because they can pale in comparison. So while the following gents are not intended to be replicas of my beloved Beauvallet, they share some traits that bring him to mind:
1. Izzy Izzanelli in Suzanne Brockmann’s Navy SEAL Troubleshooter series. Izzy is actually in several books of the series, but his story is in the most recent release, Breaking the Rules. Izzy is so irreverent he borders on inappropriate. He sings songs at the top of his lungs, with lyrics that go with whatever situation he finds himself in, even though it would be better if he’d keep his thoughts to himself. He loves hard, falling for a woman who needs his help, and he remains devoted to rescuing her even after she breaks his heart.
2. Bobby Tom Denton in Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. He’s a football star, using his good ole boy charm to distract people from how smart and driven he is. He’s weary of being fawned over by starstruck female fans who fantasize about being his wife, so he devises a football knowledge test designed to weed all of them out. And when he finds the one who steals his heart, is it any surprise she passes the football test even though she gets most of the answers wrong?
3. Davy Dempsey in Faking It by Jennifer Crusie. He lies for a living. He’s a freelance fraud consultant (aka reformed scam artist). When a character first meets him, she thinks, “He’s charming. That can’t be good.” He uses his quick wit and rakish smile to help the heroine with her quest, even though it conflicts with his own. She keeps him at bay, almost like Dominica did with Beauvallet’s dagger, but he still ends up losing his heart, and capturing hers too.
There’s plenty more room in the “My First Romance Boyfriend” club, so feel free to suggest some Beauvallet-esque heroes I need to read. I also want to hear about your first romance boyfriends! Tell me who stole your heart, and who steals it now.
Donna Cummings writes lighthearted contemporary and historical romance. She can be found at www.AllAboutTheWriting.com, or talking incessantly about coffee on Twitter @BookEmDonna.