The movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail features a swordfight between King Arthur and the Black Knight. First Arthur severs the Knight’s left arm, who shrugs off his injury: “Tis but a scratch...I’ve had worse.” Then Arthur reluctantly continues their swordplay, cutting off the Knight’s sword arm. Though now armless, the Knight still refuses to concede, and by the end of the fight—when he is but a stump of a man—he suggests they “call it a draw.” By the time Arthur “rides” away (clip clop, clip clop), the Black Knight, belligerent to the end, taunts him: “Running away, eh? You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what’s coming to ya! I’ll bite your legs off!”
After my husband badly injured an already-bum knee, I realized that too many romance novel heroes are like the Black Knight, only with the self-awareness the character obviously, comically, lacks. They may masquerade as regular, albeit Alpha, men, but in certain ways they have more in common with the Zap!, Pow!, and Wham! of comic book superheroes. Just as historical romances are impossibly riddled with Dukes, the number of heroes resembling SEAL Team Six members is way out of proportion, not just as skilled warriors and deadly assassins, but where their recuperative powers are concerned.
These are Energizer Bunny Heroes. They are able to ride for miles in the Medieval muck with an arm out of its socket to rescue a fair maiden. They can rip out their IVs after being felled by bullets in order to hare after the bad guy out to blow up the world. And as they recover from the Plague or Foil a Deadly Plot, they somehow manage to get aroused and Need Sex.
Unlike Schmidt in New Girl, however, whose painful erections (after breaking his penis having sex with a girl whose “vagina contains a right angle”) slows down his libido, Energizer Bunny Heroes’ constant erections don’t subside, even when recovering from mortal wounds. In fact, these injured Alphas are not only capable of getting aroused, they are somehow able to sate their erotic hungers.
I call bullshit. Pain—and painkillers—kill the libido. Thoughts of sex never even enter the mind, no matter how strong and stalwart you are, when you’re in a world of pain. When you require another person to help you shower, stand, or dress yourself, Sexy Time is not on the calendar.
Anyone who has ever nursed a loved one after a major injury probably knows this. I myself had shoulder surgery in December, followed almost immediately by a fall that broke my hand, which resulted in my sympathetic nervous system going kerflewy. Luckily, two injections in my neck while under heavy sedation arrested the pain syndrome, or put it in remission. It took me four months to be able to bend the fingers on my left hand enough to make a fist...and a week later, my husband wrenched his knee. Can I tell you that Doing the Deed has not been high on our to-do list of late?
While I was ambulatory and able to dress myself in sweats and hoodies, it’s been nearly three weeks after hurting his knee and he still cannot put on underwear without help. We figured out a way for him to shower a week after he zigged when he should have zagged, but my fastidious, very fit and healthy husband spent this entire past weekend on the couch because he was so exhausted from going to his office the week before, and in pain from trying to bend and bear weight on his leg so the swelling would subside enough for surgery, at which point we’ll be doing it all again.
Caring for him while he’s injured is incredibly intimate, and I know it’s at least—if not more—difficult on him to rely on me for so many things as it was for me to allow him to help me during my convalescence. He is a man, after all, in all his self reliant glory. And I’m the woman who loves him. I’m frankly so fearful of hurting him by driving over speed bumps and potholes now that I’m chauffeuring him to and from work that the thought of climbing on him to ride him like a cowgirl has not once entered my mind. Even if he were a Navy SEAL instead of a mild-mannered lawyer.
Please share some of the Energizer Bunny heroes you’ve read. Did you believe how Totally Awesome they were, or did you mentally call bullshit?
Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Keep up with her on goodreads, be one of the few who visits her at Toe in the Water or follow her may-be-too-political-for-you tweets at @laurie_gold.