Once long ago, an editor at a conference said she couldn’t picture a day care provider as a hero. Her off-hand remark is part of the reason my next book (out in July) features a hero who works with toddlers at a day care center.
I’ve found a surprising number of gigolo heroes, or guys who don’t mind living off women. There’s Freddie Sullivan in Mary Balogh’s Dancing With Clara and the wicked Lord Rival in Diane Farr’s The Fortune Hunter. More modern titles have guys who take the cash outright without the offer of marriage—like Ryan in Bonnie Dee’s Hired for Her Pleasure (formerly titled Homebound).
But I think these five professions are even more peculiar, at least for romance. In fact I can just imagine they’re part of any number of So Not Sexy Professions indices. I’ve found a few lists like that—including short pieces by Courtney Milan (at SBTB) and Gina Ardito (at her blog).
Maybe other romance writers encounter those lists of proscriptions and think…Challenge Accepted.
1. Rat Catcher
One of the best heroes ever is mentioned in this article about historical heroes with off the beaten track professions. Mick in Judith Ivory’s The Proposition is wickedly appealing—and kills rats for a living.
Maybe gay romance is more open to unusual professions for heroes? Because we have rule-breaking champions in a many of JL Merrow’s books. In fact, you have to wonder if Merrow starts the plotting process by contemplating non-standard romance-hero roles.
a. Pest Control
I think this goes under the first category. I haven’t read it yet, but J.L. Merrow’s hero in Caught! (out August 12, 2014) is a pest control technician. The story features a teacher and a motorcycle riding rat-catcher.
In J.L. Merrow's Pressure Head and Relief Valve Tom, the hero, is a plumber (he’s also a psychic). The other hero is a more standard issue: a silent, macho detective.
3. Junk Removal
The hero of Josephine Myles's Junk is a clutter remover and counselor as he helps people cope with hoarding. And perhaps even more of a challenge for a hero? A hoarder—talk about romantic no-way. But yup, Merrow makes the other hero attractive too. He hoards books so that might help many romance readers connect. There are some frightening TBR (to be read) piles in our lives.
Merrow also has a version of a rent boy (more like a university student who puts out for rent) in Pricks and Pragmatism.
4. Death Scene Cleaner
Wendy Roberts has a heroine and hero who have the job of cleaning up the worst sort of messes in her Ghost Duster series. The heroine is also a psychic, but that doesn’t pay the bills. That crime-scene clean-up profession also shows up in Stephanie Bond’s Body Movers series. In those books, Carlotta is the one who scrapes up the blood and guts.
Maybe heroines are allowed to have some funkier professions? Because here’s one who works in a funeral home:
5. Mortuary Assistant
In Going to the Chapel by Janet Tronstad, the heroine only deals with grieving families, no hands-on with dead bodies. And this fun little book is more of a Christian chick-lit than pure romance. But turns out it’s harder to track down these strange occupations than I thought and I’ll take what I can find.
I looked for, but couldn’t find, a garbage truck driver or tax lawyer hero. Again, I’ve found a number of accountant heroines. I guess women are allowed to have careers perceived as dull or disgusting?
Oh, I did find a janitor hero—Jason in Bonnie Dee’s A New Life. He’s also brain damaged, so I guess that’s two no ways showing up in one attractive hero.
I suspect the insurance policy processing or sanitation engineer heroes are out there—or will be soon. Anyone up for the challenge?
Kate Rothwell writes romance using her own name and the pseudonym Summer Devon. She lives in Connecticut with four men (three of whom are her sons). You can find out more about her at KateRothwell.com and SummerDevon.com.