Heroes come in all sorts of different varieties from tortured, Alpha, Beta, wild and dangerous, to just all around nice guy. The journey of the tortured hero’s growth as the author peels back the layers to reveal a wounded soul, and then through the power of love puts him back together again, can be gut-wrenching.
Watching the Alpha hero being brought to his knees by the heroine never fails to tap into a woman’s fantasy of being both powerful and seductive. Then there is the fairytale dream of the grand gestures—the public proposal, the expensive diamond ring, or skywriting “I love you” over a tropical beach.
But for me, there is just something so appealing about the all-around nice guy. Could it be that there is more realism surrounding these type of heroes? For most of us, these are the type of men that we grew up around. Nice guys typically do things rather than buy things—giving of their time rather than money—like always making sure your gas tank is full or warming your car up when it is 9 degrees outside, or even better yet, the nice guy who drives you to work in the ice and snow.
Some authors specialize in writing about nice guys. That doesn’t mean that every hero is a doppelganger of the previous one. But the heroes do share characteristics. Jayne Ann Krentz’s heroes are nice guys with a machismo. They are all about honor, doing the right thing, and family.
The same goes for many of Robyn Carr’s heroes. There is no better example of a quintessential nice guy hero than Jack Sheridan from her Virgin River series or Hank Cooper from her Thunder Point series. Each reaches out a helping hand to others in need.
Sarah Mayberry and Kristan Higgins write about nice guys working through painful issues. Or maybe just needing to grow up. My knees were turned to putty by Harry Porter from Mayberry's Suddenly You after he spends all night fixing the heroine’s car:
“These are yours.” He caught her hand and dropped a set of keys into it. “Before you say anything, it was my pleasure. Consider it an early birthday present for Alice.”
It took her brain a full ten seconds to process his words and understand their meaning.
“You fixed my car,” she said stupidly.
Sure enough, Old Yeller was in the driveway, brighter and larger than life.
“It was no big deal. Like I said the other day, it was the gasket. A few hours and the problem was solved.“
Sometimes the hero and heroine have a past that gets in the way of the hero being a completely nice guy. I call them nice guys with an edge, because when push comes to shove, the hero can’t help himself—he just does a wonderfully sweet thing. John Stark and Darcy McDaniel from Hot Wheels and High Heels by Jane Graves are like oil and water, but when it comes to things that matter, John knows what is important:
The strangest feeling came over her. She’d fought with John from the second they’d met. He was irritating and exasperating and thought he knew what was best for her every moment of every day, and he was doing it again tonight. But right now she couldn’t get around one undeniable fact that gave her a whole new awareness of him. Jeremy had brought her expensive but frivolous gifts.
John had brought her food and safety.
Maybe he had an ulterior motive, too, but Darcy sensed none of that. Suddenly the man who drove her crazy had filled her with the most amazing sense of warmth and comfort, overshadowing every need or desire she’d felt before he knocked on her door. Within a few minutes, she’d probably be fighting with him all over again, but still. . . right now . . .
She wanted one of these men to leave. And it wasn’t John.
“Uh. . . no,” she told him. “You didn’t interrupt anything. I think you’re right. I really do need that deadbolt.”
Delaney Shaw and Nick Allegrezza from Truly, Madly Yours by Rachel Gibson had an acrimonious parting, but like John, Nick can’t help himself when it comes to Delaney’s safety:
He folded his arm across his chest and tilted his head to the side. “Do you plan to slide your way through town all winter, or just until you kill yourself?”
“Don’t tell me you’re worried—That might mean you actually care about me.”
He wrapped his hand around her upper arm and stopped her. “There are certain parts of your body I care about.”
“Give me the keys to Henry’s car,” he called after her.
“Why? What are you going to do, steal it?”
“Hey,” she called down to the top of his head, “what do you think you’re doing? Give me my keys back, you jerk!”
Nick jumped into the silver car and fired it up. He scraped a portion of the windshield, and then he was gone. By the time he got back an hour later, Delaney was fully dressed and waiting for him at her front door.
You’re lucky I didn’t call the sheriff,” she told him as he walked up the stairs toward her.
He took her hand and dropped the keys in her palm.
His eyes were on the same level as hers, and his mouth inches from her lips. “Slow down....slow down before you kill yourself,“ he said, then turned and headed back down the stairs.
Disappointment slowed her racing heart to a distressing thud. Over the side of the rail, she watched him walk into his office, then she moved to the Cardillac parked below.
No dents. No dings. The car looked the same as it always had—except it now had four studded snow tires, so new they shone.
Logan O’ Donnell from Candlelight Christmas by Susan Wiggs is extremely swoonworthy because he is so kind. A woman—not one in whom he is even remotely interested—got herself in a bit of trouble, and might have to go to jail. Just see what Logan says, when she confides in him:
My lawyer said foster care is good these days. Lots of enrichment opportunities for the kids. But it’s . . .”
“Foster care,” he finished for her. And then from a place inside himself he did not know existed, he said, “I’ll take care of them, if it turns out you need someone.”
She fell utterly still. She even seemed to stop breathing. “You don’t mean it.”
“I do,” he said, “completely.” He did intend to help her. “Look, you’re probably not going to need my help, he said, “but if you do, I’m here.”
Sometimes the author keeps the hero and heroine in the dark about each other's true character, leaving only the reader to know what how decent each are. Like Adam MacLean and Stevie Honeywell from The Birds and the Bees by Milly Johnson:
So this was the mythical creature Stevie had heard so much about then. This loud, hard intruder standing on her sheepskin rug was him. She gave his big muscular frame a quick once-over. And there she was, thinking Jo had been exaggerating when describing the control-freak nutter she was married to.
In the same second Adam MacLean had affirmed that this woman was, in fact, the greedy, lazy, rarely sober, slob thing that Jo had reported her to be. That’s why the kitchen behind her resembled Beirut on a bad day and why she herself looked as if she had been hit at close range by a chocolate bomb. On a binge, most likely.
But the reader soon knows what a darling Adam is, and then so does Stevie:
“Cool. Mr. Well Life, what do you think is morer important to a Superhero,” said Danny, when he had finished chewing his present mouthful. “A cape, a good heart or tights?”
Adam threw back his head and laughed.
“I think tights are very important, and so is a cape, but I think a good heart is probably the answer,” he said finally.
Stevie had taken a slow walk back to Adam. She had watched him find Danny in the crowd and take him off for a drink. It was instinctive, not the action of a man out to use a little boy to impress an ex or keep her onside. He had thrown back his head and laughed at something Danny had said and there had been real warmth there.
Tell me, does your heart flutter for nice guy heroes? If so, who are your favorites?
Leigh Davis, Blogger