When I started writing romances, I was told avoid the do-gooder hero. Military men and billionaires? Thumbs up. The billionaires can always be philanthropic and send their bucks to an orphan asylum. Naturally the military guys will protect the orphans by blasting the bad guys who threaten them. But to go into the asylum and take care of the kids every day, full-time? Not going to fly with romance readers.
I figured the romance world had changed. Not every hero has to be an alpha or dangerous, and they don’t have to all make big bucks. Doctors are okay, of course. But a really quick look on the internet showed that the docs tend to be heads of hospitals or surgeons who might do some charity reconstruction work on the side…but as a life calling? Not so much.
Yo, how about some male nurses?
Hadn’t I just read a book about an epidemiologist that traveled the world, seeking sources of diseases? Whoops, in this case it is the heroine in About the Baby by Tracy Wolff. Kara is so devoted to tracking down the sources of horrible diseases, she’s almost killing herself at her job, literally. Lucas, the hero in the story, is a doctor at a low-cost inner city clinic so he certainly qualifies for the title of Do-Gooder Guy.
Okay, well, if you need a heroic hero fix, there are always cop and firefighter stories, such as Jennifer Bernard’s Sex and the Single Fireman. A book with that title has to have the standard elements of beefcake, and it delivers, yet it also spends a fair chunk of time exploring the profession. The firefighters feel like working men and women and you get a sense of what their job entails.
Catherine Mann is known for her SEAL series but she also has a four-book series based on the military pararescuers, military types who go for extreme rescue situations.
Still, I had trouble finding the humanitarian heroes. How about a crusading activist? There are political undertones to activists that are big no-nos in romances, editors have warned. Yet I know I’ve read a few books featuring heroines who set out to defeat the encroaching environmental disaster (Usually perpetrated by the hero who has to learn his lesson).
When I looked through my overloaded bookshelves and Kindle, I couldn’t find the professional good Samaritans. There are social worker heroines and heroines who work in refugee camps. Why can’t I find the guys who do it too? Okay, there are some guys in those camps (see Suzanne Brockmann’s Breaking Point), but they’re not the heroes.
I put out the call on a couple of RWA loops and people directed me to a few helping heroes who aren’t cops or firefighters.
When I looked more thoroughly—and forced my friends to look too—I found some doctors in it to help mankind, and not just Lucas in About the Baby. Eloisa James’s historical When Beauty Tamed the Beast stands out because the hero, Piers, doesn’t charge his patients and trains other doctors. (I love that book, and not just because the grouchy Piers is so obviously based on Dr. Gregory House.) If we’re talking historical doctors who aren’t in it for the money, there’s also the military surgeon, Philomen Brittle, in Carla Kelly’s The Surgeon’s Lady.
How about some other helping professions out there? My friends came through with ideas.
Someone pointed out that JoAnn Ross’s Sea Glass Winter has Dillon, the ex-military now physics teacher who also coaches basketball.
One friend suggested Dance with Me by Heidi Cullinan. Her hero Ed is a former semi-pro football player who volunteers with inner city youth at a rec center. The other hero, Laurie, dances with the kids too.
Elizabeth Hoyt’s historical Thief of Shadows has a fabulous hero, Winter Makepeace (Hoyt does go for the unusual names!). He is a masked hero who champions orphans and fights for the poor.
I think that the winner of the most activist do-gooder has to be Jascha, in Jennifer Thorne's male/male The Road Not Taken. Jascha is an eco-warrior who rebuilds houses in third world countries after devastating natural disasters.
I’d be grateful if someone would point out more heroes who spend their professional lives helping the beleaguered, the hungry, and the orphans. Your hero gains bonus points if he conjures images of Jimmy Stewart in a Capra movie.
Kate Rothwell set out to write a natural-born do-gooder in her historical Somebody Wonderful. She writes romance using her own name and the pseudonym Summer Devon. Kate lives in Connecticut with four men (three of whom are her sons). You can out more about her at KateRothwell.com and SummerDevon.com.