You have 30 seconds to come up with as many redheaded romance heroes as you can, ready? Go!
Not so easy, right? What if I ask for dark-haired heroes, or even blonds?
Brown and black are undeniably the most popular hair colors of choice for romance heroes. Blonds are not as common, although I can easily think of a few. But redheads are very scarce. And I wonder why. In real life, dark is the predominant hair color. But we’re talking about fiction, and writers—not genetics—are the ones in charge of hair colors. There must be a reason why authors are not choosing to make their heroes ginger.
Part of the problem has to do with stereotype. Redheaded men are often portrayed as either nerds or bullies. And I bet that when I say the words “redheaded men” you’re more likely to picture Carrot Top than Kevin McKidd. I also wonder if the lack of redheads reflects real-life preference; are women less attracted to ginger men than they are to dark-haired or blond men?
Conversely, redheaded heroines are a dime a dozen. The popularity also comes from stereotypes and character traits associated to hair color, but in this case those characteristics are positive. Just as ginger men are often seen as unattractive freaks, ginger women are usually feisty, impulsive and sexy.
I believe that redheaded men can be great romantic leads and just as hot as their female counterparts. After all, one of Romance’s more memorable heroes is one. I’m talking about Jamie Fraser, the hero of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. And he is not alone.
In Johanna Lindsey’s The Heir, the hero, Duncan McTravish is described as ruggedly handsome, with a very attractive harsh masculinity, and oh yes, dark red hair. Cameron and Ian Mackenzie are two redheaded heroes created by Jennifer Ashley. And let me assure you that although his book is titled The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, said madness is in no way related to his hair color.
Next, there’s another Historical but in this case the hero is English (yes, I did notice the Scottish pattern). In Follow My Lead by Kate Noble, Jamie isn’t particularly happy with his hair, but he takes it in stride:
“Then again, he was a Duke. A Young Duke, and perhaps a manageably good-looking one—Despite the curse of his red hair”.
Contemporary Romance also gets its tiny share of ginger men. In Susan Andersen’s Cutting Loose, Devlin has hair “the dark, rich color of an Irish Setter." Granted, his eyebrows are black and he’s rather tanned, but at this point I’ll take any resemblance to ginger, and as far as I’m concerned, Irish Setters are the redheads of the canine world.
My favorite Virgin River book has a memorable redhead in it. In A Virgin River Christmas, Ian is a big, taciturn lumberjack with a heartbreaking past who wants to be left alone. He has brown hair, but a glorious red beard. And since beards are part of the head, I guess that makes him a redhead.
Fans of M/M romance should check two great stories featuring redheads. In Damon Suede’s Hot Head, sexy firefighter Griff, has coppery head and red hot attraction towards one of his teammates. And in Marie Sexton’s heartbreaking Between Sinners and Saints, Jamie is a massage therapist with lots of red hair, but sadly no freckles to go with it.
This list needs a Paranormal touch, so I’ll end it with Angel’s Dance by Nalini Singh, a novella found in the Angel’s Flight anthology. Galen is a powerful angel and a ruthless warrior. His hair “a red so pure it was a flame” and he falls for someone who looks fragile on the outside but has a core of steel. It’s a beautiful love story that shows us how appealing redheads can be.
How do you feel about redheaded heroes? Have you noticed the lack of them in Romance? Who’s your favorite ginger hero?