Mar 14 2011 9:00am

From Zero to Hero: Geek Love Turns Up the Heat

Harrison Ford as Dr. Henry When I say “absent-minded professor,” do you think of Jerry Lewis, the buck-toothed wonder, sporting a Three Stooges Moe 'do while screeching, “Hey laaaaai-dy!”

Or does your mind wander to Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones, cute as can be in his horn-rimmed glasses, little bow tie, and tweed suit?  If the latter, then welcome to the Romance sub-genre group of “Girls Who Make Passes at Hunky Guys in Glasses.”

Don't you love a good geeky hero? These guys spend all their time in laboratories, or on archeological digs, or writing treatises on newly discovered flora. Their concentration and absorption is all-encompassing. Their field of study rules their lives. They have no time for interruptions, for the mundane workings of the world, and they resent heartily being forced to deal with the real world. When the real world includes a woman—egad!—it is even worse. Oh, how they rail! How they whine! If only they could be left alone with their beakers to—wait . . . is that an ankle? A shapely bosom? Maybe further study is called for.

Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee GuhrkeIn Laura Lee Guhrke's Guilty Pleasures, Daphne Wade works for Anthony, Duke of Tremore, restoring and cataloging the artifacts from the Roman Villa he unearthed on his property. Daphne was smitten with Anthony at first sight, but Anthony sees nothing but his project. He doesn't even recognize Daphne as a person; she is part of the well-run machinery he has put into place. When forced by his sister to look at Daphne as a woman, he declares that she has “no feminine appeal. . . . The girl's as noticeable as a stick insect on a twig.” Ouch.  Well, Daphne, heartbroken, makes herself seen by giving her notice, by standing up to him and calling him out on his loutish behavior.  Anthony must take notice. She “lifted her face to look up at him. The moment she did, he forgot whatever he had been about to say. She had beautiful eyes. This was the first time he could recall seeing her . . .” Yes, indeedy, Mr. Duke. Wake up! There are more interesting things on your property than mosaics.

Affair by Amanda QuickBaxter St. Ives, in Amanda Quick's Affair, is mightily miffed that he has to leave his experiments in order to find a murderer, especially as he will have to consort with Charlotte Arkendale in order to do so. Everyone he knows agrees with him when he says, “I not only look dull, I am dull.” Charlotte sees the dangerous man lurking beneath his spectacles—his inner Indiana underneath his Dr. Jones—and she drives him crazy. “Good God, he was moving about the laboratory. He was pacing. He never paced. . . . And he was seething. He never seethed. Seething, like pacing, was a sign of a lack of self-mastery. It was a signal that emotion, rather than reason, ruled one's brain. It was too much for a serious-minded, methodical, logical sort.” Baxter St. Ives is a doomed man. 

But this is what attracts me to the Geek Hero. He thinks that his calling is his entire life. Nothing could be as important as the next discovery. Then his whole world gets all discombobulated by a woman, by something as illogical and unpredictable as love. He has been figuratively dope-slapped. He is forced by—qu'elle horreur!—emotions to reassess his priorities. Watching that transformation from preoccupied geek to loving, if still nerdy, lover is pure fun.  And, oh, to be the woman that steams up Dr. Jones's glasses!

Cheryl Sneed reviews for

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Megan Frampton
1. MFrampton
Cheryl, you've mentioned two of my favorite heroes. I adored the Guilty Pleasures guy, and I think Amanda Quick's one-word titles were my first legitimate romance glom. Oh, le swoon!
2. JillSorenson
I love Indy and Baxter St. Ives! Have you read The Dangerous Viscount by Miranda Neville? Sebastian is a sexy, awkward, adorable nerd hero. In spectacles! *swoon*
Donna Cummings
3. Donna Cummings
This is great! I think Peregrine in Last Night's Scandal by Loretta Chase might qualify for this category. He is obsessed with Egypt, and wants to get back there (partly to avoid his crazy family), but the heroine derails his plans, in a fun way.
4. Alie
I always loved Ian from Michelle Jaffe's 'Stargazer'. He was so into astronomy and his love interest Bianca in medicine.
romance reader
5. bookstorecat
Remembering Raiders of the Lost Ark, I realize I was surprised to suddenly find Indiana Jones attractive when he first appears in full professor mode--before that, he was just a very sweaty ophidiophobic guy in a grungy hat.

Something about the glasses gets me...I don't know what it is.
Jennifer Ma
6. Jen X
I adore this type of hero! I will have to look into these titles. I'm sure I've read that Amanda Quick but I get confused with all her titles.
Laurie Gold
7. LaurieGold
I too am a tremendous fan of the absent-minded professor, both in book form and in movies. It probably dates back to Bringing Up Baby, but it even, strangely enough, includes Desk Set, even though Spencer Tracy, not a hunk to begin with, was in his late 50s.

Not long ago I posted a one paragraph review on goodreads of Leanne Banks' Expectant Father, which features this type of hero. I use goodreads more or less as a database for myself, but occasionally I'll write something. In this instance that one paragraph generated responses from three of my goodreads friends. Mind you, the book was published in the mid 1990s, and most people who own it have owned it for probably fifteen years. That showed me the power of the geek hero. It's hard to beat smarts in the long term.

Probably my favorite hero of this type appeared in High Energy by Dara Joy. She totally mucked it up when she wrote a sequel called High Intensity, but anyone who wants to fall in love with a brilliant, gorgeous, and ahem, "creative" hero should read it immediately.

Surprisingly enough, I have not read Affair. It's one of the few remaining Amanda Quicks I have not read. When I get time, it moves up the list.

Thanks, Cheryl, for a really fun walk down memory lane.
Virginia Campbell
8. VirginiaCampbell
Harrison Ford/Indiana Jones...the sexiest whipcracking, wisecracking "geek" there ever was...or ever will be. Whip it. Whip it good!

I would like to see a Warrior Alpha Heroine partnered with a hunky, nerdy Beta Hero. They would have to team up in order to save their fabulous fantasy world from dark, demonic invaders. Opposites attract. She lights his hidden fires. He smooths her rough edges. Kind of a supernatural "showgirl and the professor" type of romance. Oooh...I love it when those spectacles get steamed up...then they come off!

A Beta may start slow, and then build momentum. After a time, you may not be able to see any other man in your mind but your Beta. You will note and cherish each little lovely Beta quirk, and those idiosyncrasies will somehow become eroticisms. Your "nutty professor" may just become your "naughty professor", and you will definitely need, may even demand, extra tutoring : )
romance reader
9. bookstorecat
Virginia C said

"I would like to see a Warrior Alpha Heroine partnered with a hunky, nerdy Beta Hero. "

Me too! Me too! I don't think I've ever seen that before. It would be like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Doctor Simon Tam (from Firefly)--or something along those lines. Sorry I can't think of better-- i.e. non-TV-related--examples. But if anyone can think of a book like (or even like-ish) this, I would read it in a heartbeat.
Charli Mac
10. CharliMac
I want girl nerds. Liz Lemon needs her own Romance Novel. I means she snarts and says goodnight to cheese.
*Charli who is obsessed with 30 Rock*
Heather Waters
11. HeatherWaters
@Ali -- Oh, man, I loved Stargazer! So glad you brought that up. I should reread...

@Virginia C & bookstorecat -- That's a big part of the reason I was drawn to Starbuck and Apollo in the new Battlestar Galactica. Starbuck is the alpha and Apollo, while he has his alpha moments, is nearly always the beta in the relationship. As Kevin Smith once put it, she's the Han Solo to his Princess Leia. It's hot.
Cheryl Sneed
12. CherylSneed
Thanks all, for your comments and recommendations. I love the idea of an Alpha woman with a nerd. How would that work in an Historical, I wonder? What kind of characters would they be, and has anyone tried this before? I'd read that book in a heartbeat!
13. AMG
What about The Devil's Delilah by Loretta Chase? The hero, Jack, claims constantly to be a geeky bookworm, with no time for love. Fun romp.
15. southerngirl
To Virginia C and bookstorecat:
Kresley Cole's book "No Rest for the Wicked" (3rd installment in the Immortals After Dark series) mostly fits the bill for an alpha female and a nerdy beta male. A valkyrie warrior (female), who is very good at killing evil vampires, finds herself attacted to Sebastian, a scholarly vampire guy who is not evil. Sebastian is quite hot and good at swordfighting, so his skills come in handy when they compete in the immortal, cut-throat version of the Amazing Race. This book rocks! Sebastian may be my favorite romance hero ever! The whole series rocks, too!
16. Janet W
Darn you Jill Sorenson, beating me to the punch with Miranda Neville's The Dangerous Viscount. Two more nerds (or at least somewhat*ish): Philip from Heyer's Powder and Patch -- certainly before his Made in Paris transformation, and the hero of Balogh's The Notorious Rake. How I love that book.
17. JM Frey
I love Professor Jones! This kind of hero has always been my favourite. It's why I wrote Dr. Basil Grey the way I did in "Triptych". There's nothing better than a cutie who gets your geek references. --JM
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