Today we're joined by author Manda Collins, whose Why Lords Lose Their Hearts has just been released. Manda's book has a hero who is heroic, certainly (especially in the eyes of the heroine!), but he does not have a title—an anomaly in current historical romance. But Manda's hero has good company, and she's got a list of the best second (or more...) sons in historical romance. Thanks for joining us, Manda!
In the world of Regency romance these days, Dukes, Earls, and all manner of nobleman populate the role of hero. To paraphrase Mr. Elliot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, a good historical romance hero requires only birth, a title and manners. And with regard to title, it's not very particular. If he’s a hero, then he MUST be the historical equivalent of a Billionaire—a member of the peerage. (I’m looking at you for this trend Harlequin Presents and Fifty Shades!)
There are exceptions to any trend of course. And any number of younger sons or (gasp!) untitled fellows make it into published novels. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a younger son wooing the heroine on the pages of your favorite historical novels.
Not to say that I’m not guilty of peer-praise in my own novels. I’ve got a couple of Dukes, a couple of Earls and a Viscount to my name. But in my latest book, Why Lords Lose Their Hearts, I deliberately chose for my hero that loser in the birth-order lottery (for males, that is—females lose automatically just by being female—and don’t get me started on the lower classes): the younger son. And not only is Lord Archer Lisle a younger son, he’s the youngest of six.
Even if younger sons have been losing the popularity game of late. There are plenty of younger son heroes who remain in my own pantheon of favorites. And lots of them are favorites precisely BECAUSE they are younger sons. Here are a few of them:
As the “spare” to his brother Wulfric’s “heir,” Aiden was destined for the army. Even though he, in his heart of hearts, felt he was more suited to the life of a country gentleman, running an estate. But he did his duty and went off to war, and it’s this which eventually leads him to the doorstep of his heroine, Eve, when he arrives to personally inform her of her brother’s death. A born leader, Aiden is terse, taciturn, and every inch the officer. And, because he’s NOT the Duke of Bedwyn, he can marry where he pleases, which means there’s no (okay, there’s some) uproar when he weds a lady who is not nearly as noble as the Bedwyn family. I love Aiden because he’s Aiden, second son, soldier, wry humorist, all around good fellow. And he just wouldn’t be himself if he weren’t a younger son.
One of the issues Colin grapples with in this fan favorite among romances, is the fact that because he’s not Anthony, the head of the family, he needs some occupation. And it’s his desire to become a writer that (among other things) binds him to his heroine, Penelope Featherington, who is also a writer. One element of Colin’s personality that is so appealing is the carefree attitude that comes of NOT being in charge of a large family of siblings, like his brother Anthony is. Eventually Colin figures out his place in the world and settles down with his lady, but there’s a certain freedom in the choices he can make because he’s NOT Viscount Bridgerton—and he’s quite happy with that.
In my own collection of favorite romance heroes, Rupert Carsington is in the top ten. As the fourth son of the Earl of Hargate, he’s about as much of a scapegrace as any romance hero is every likely to be. And some of that is because as a younger son he has no real calling. It’s how he ends up imprisoned in Egypt so that he can, coincidentally and fortuitously, be freed by Mrs. Daphne Pembroke—widow and scholar. Compared to the book smart Daphne, Rupert—at first glance—seems to be a little on the, shall we say, unscholarly side. But despite his brawn (and boy does he ever have some strong muscles) he’s also much smarter than most people give him credit for. Certainly smarter than his family—including his elder brother, Lord Rathbourne, the heir—think him to be. And smart enough to protect both himself and Daphne from the bad guys who are determined to kill them. If Rupert were the eldest son of the Earl of Hargate he’d likely never have gone to Egypt in the first place. And we’d not have one of the (in my humble opinion) greatest novels ever written.
So, the next time you see a Duke, a Marquess, an Earl, a Viscount or some other historical iteration of Christian Grey on the bookshelf, look around to see if there’s a younger son lurking about in the shadows. He might not be all powerful, or richer than Croesus, or capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound (oh wait…), but he can be just as brave, a little more dashing, and twice as fun as his sobersides elder brother.
At least, that’s what all the younger sons tell me!
Learn more about or order a copy of Why Lords Lose Their Hearts by Manda Collins, available July 29, 2014:
Manda Collins spent her teen years wishing she’d been born a couple of centuries earlier, preferably in the English countryside. Time travel being what it is, she resigned herself to life with electricity and indoor plumbing, and read lots of books. An affinity for books led to a graduate degree in English, followed by another in Librarianship. By day, she works as an academic librarian at a small liberal arts college, where she teaches college students how to navigate the tangled world of academic research. A native of coastal Alabama, Manda lives in the house her mother grew up in with three cats, sometimes a dog, sometimes her sister, and more books than strictly necessary.