Half the fun of the romance is how subversive the genre can be when it turns societal conventions on its ear. Romance is a safe place where women can explore, and embrace, their desires in a world that has largely dismissed and maligned female sexuality. No other trope does this quite the way that the virgin hero does. Throughout history a woman’s worth has been wrapped up in her hymen, and nothing screams subversive in this genre than when the shoe is on the other foot.
From its inception, Heroes & Heartbreakers has made quite a bit of hay over virgin heroes. We’ve written about virgin heroes with historical romance, science fiction romance, and swooned over Jamie Fraser (a lot!). However as much as readers love virgin heroes, we don’t seem to naturally gravitate towards them in contemporary settings.
The reason for this is largely the societal conventions the genre likes pushing up against in the first place. Contemporary virgin heroes are seen as “too unrealistic,” which leads to authors wanting to explore this theme into “explaining” why the hot, hunky hero has failed to get lucky. He’s hot, he’s hunky, why is he still a virgin? There has to be a reason! It’s an interesting phenomenon, especially given that the genre has existed for years without feeling the need to justify why the heroines are virgins. It’s OK for her, but if he’s one there must be something wrong with him. Don’t believe me? I recently took a deep dive into this issue and realized that our poor contemporary heroes get saddled with extra baggage to explain their V card.
The hero in All I Am by Nicole Helm is an honorably discharged veteran dealing with injuries sustained while he was overseas. However it’s not the injuries keeping him from scoring. It’s the fact that he’s socially awkward, not all that great around people, and a run-in with the local Mean Girl took an embarrassing turn. Lucky for our boy our heroine comes along and she’s a mighty skilled tutor.
The hero in Offensive Behavior by Ainslie Paton is one part socially awkward and one part jerk. He spends so much time in his own head, building his dot-com company from the ground up, that he fails to work on his people skills. Which is to say, he doesn’t have any. It takes him hitting rock bottom, drinking his liver away in a seedy dive bar, and meeting our pole-dancing heroine to learn to be a more social creature.
The hero in A Beauty Uncovered by Andrea Laurence survived childhood abuse that left him with physical and emotional scars. Even a loving foster home cannot undo all of the damage, and while successful in business, he’s lived his life as a recluse. Hard to meet people when you shut yourself up between home and office. Lucky for him the heroine hires on as his temporary secretary.
The hero in A Royal World Apart by Maisey Yates is as macho as they come – he’s a millionaire bodyguard. In an added twist of genre conventions, he’s not only a virgin, but a virgin widower! Defying their families and eloping, before they could begin their honeymoon, his bride is horrifically injured in an accident. As in vegetative, needs full-time care, sex really isn’t an option here, accident. And being the faithful husband, he cares for her until she dies, remaining true to his vows.
Size Does Matter
Sometimes the hero is a virgin not because of some accident or abuse, but because genetics is standing in your way. The hero in Never Sweeter by Charlotte Stein is skilled in a multitude of reindeer games, having enjoyed the company of several women, all without actually doing “it.” Why? Because our boy is just that well-endowed. Apparently size does matter and bigger isn’t always better. But our heroine? Up for the challenge. Once she gets past the fact that he bullied her in high school.
We see these sorts of justifications in historical and paranormal worlds as well, but not with the same amount of regularity. I suspect because as much as romance readers love to see societal norms tweaked in subversive ways, we cannot always throw the baby out with the bath water. The idea that a contemporary hero in present day could still be a virgin, even as open-minded as we are, is still a shocking proposition and we want to know why. Even though the why is the least interesting part of the whole affair. It’s easier to believe in an era we didn’t personally live through or in a fantasy world the author spun out of whole cloth.
Learn more about or order a copy of the books mentioned in this post:
|All I Am by Nicole Helm|
|Offensive Behavior by Ainslie Paton|
|A Beauty Uncovered by Andrea Laurence|
|A Royal World Apart by Maisey Yates|
|Never Sweeter by Charlotte Stein|
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Wendy the Super Librarian also blogs at WendyTheSuperLibrarian.blogspot.com. So dig that library card out of your pocket and head for the stacks.