May 22 2012 3:30pm

Missing in Action: Sexy Heroes Who Work with Their Hands

Homeward Hearts by Alexis HarringtonThere’s nothing sexier than a hero who can craft objects with his bare hands. In historical times, constructing even the most basic everyday item required skills of imagination, geometry, attention to detail, and strength, among others. Artisans who created shoes, vases, wagon wheels, and tools were both intrepid laborers and talented artists. Makes one wonder what kinds of feats they’re capable of performing in the bedroom!

Recently, I began to wonder why artisan heroes seem scarce in the romance genre. To me, their allure is clear, but am I in the minority? On the other hand, maybe they’re not scarce, but rather discussions about them are in short supply.

What led me on this path? First, some background information and a disclosure: I have an erotic steampunk romance novella coming out with Red Sage called The Blacksmith’s Lover (July 2012). The hero is a blacksmith in 1840, New England. Once I finished that project, I went Googling for other romance titles featuring a blacksmith hero so I could read them.

Unfortunately, I only was able to uncover five books (four of them from a forum at All About Romance:

  • Mattie and the Blacksmith by Linda Lea Castle
  • Homeward Hearts by Alexis Harrington
  • Sunrise by Miranda Jarrett
  • Vows by LaVyrle Spencer
  • To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer

Vows by LaVyrle SpencerMy initial response? That number simply can’t be right. With romance titles numbering in the thousands, many of them historicals, are there really only a handful featuring a blacksmith hero? What about other artisan heroes? Where are the shoemakers, tailors, potters, carpenters, metalsmiths, wainwrights, chefs, farriers, coopers, and watchmakers?

Or is the number accurate because readers simply love their dukes and other titled heroes that much?

In The Hero’s Agency, Jane of Dear Author speculated that “the most important trait” of a romance hero is “agency”:

…the hero of a romance story can only provide safety, security and certainty if he has agency. Agency means the hero has the freedom to make decisions and affect the outcome of his life regardless of those who might have power above him.

When readers think of “agency,” duke heroes often come to mind. However, they’re not the only game in town. Frankly, since historically many artisan heroes successfully ran their own businesses and/or were visionary entrepreneurs, I think their fictionalized counterparts have plenty of agency. Not to mention a nice set of muscles from all of that physically demanding work!

Given the seeming draught of blacksmiths in the romance genre, I saw a need to crowdsource a list of artisan romance heroes. Dukes are great, but readers can always use a resource for other types of heroes with agency when the mood strikes them.

Therefore, if you know of any romances featuring an artisan hero, hit me up!


Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.

She’s also an author: Her forthcoming erotic steampunk romance is The Blacksmith’s Lover (Clockpunk Trilogy #2), coming July 2012 from Red Sage Publishing. To learn more about her published work, visit www.heathermassey.com.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. EvangelineHolland
I agree that a man who is good with his hands is teh sex! But I don't think we'll see very many blacksmiths or artisans in historical romance as long as the British Historical reigns supreme. After all, blacksmith in Britain equals laboring class, and I'm sure it ruins the fantasy for many to read about the hero tugging his forelock to the duke riding by on his horse!! But I'm sure there must be some in American-set historicals.
Kylie Scott
2. Kylie Scott
You've got me thinking about a Blacksmiths arms. I bet they were the best in the village... Sigh.
Heather Massey
3. HeatherMassey
@EvangelineHolland You're probably right, but perhaps ebooks will help level the playing field a bit.

@Kylie Scott Don't you know it!

After I turned in my post, I discovered Deirdre O'Dare's MISS BEA AND THE BLACKSMITH. It's an erotic western romance short story (ebook) and the blacksmith hero is front and center. It's a fun, quick, spicy read, and if Miss O'Dare cares to revisit the setting in future works then I'm so there. She clearly put some research into her period details.

I also read TO WIN HER HEART and athough I normally don't go for inspirational, I enjoyed the romance and setting quite a bit. And I must say, the blacksmith forge action was pretty good!

I just started VOWS, nom nom.
4. Janga
It's contemporary rather than historical, but Kathleen Eagle's The Last Good Man (2000) has recently been reissued by Bell Bridge Books. The hero is a rancher and a farrier. I loved it as much rereading it as I did when it was first released.
Kylie Scott
5. Janet W
http://www.likesbooks.com/cgi-bin/bookReview.pl?BookReviewId=870 Can my guy Declan Fitzgerald (the hero of Nora Roberts' Midnight Bayou qualify? He's a lawyer turned contractor but wait: he can build cabinets and restore anything and he's a fabulous shopper ... OMG. The perfect buy 'em present guy. I'm sure I'll think of a few more fellows that muscle up but he's all I could think of. Nora sort of fudges the artisan, horse-wrangler thing -- all of her heroes seem to have money.
Kylie Scott
6. Margreads
I can't help with a lot of the professions you mentioned, but Louisa Edwards writes great contemporary chef heroes!
Heather Massey
7. HeatherMassey
@Janga Hey, it's all good!

@Janet W Thanks for the rec!

@ Margreads Oh, that's right! Bring on the Anthony Bourdains!
Glass Slipper
8. GlassSlipper
I looked through my TBR list, and found some that have blacksmiths:

The Sword Maiden by Susan King (Scottish historical)
The Lady of the Storm by Kathryne Kennedy (historical paranormal)
Cruel Enchantment by Anya Bast (contemporary paranormal)
Sean Donovan by Lori Wick (inspirational historical)
Angel of Jamestown - inspirational historical novella - part of the Colonial Christmas Brides anthology
Alexandra W
9. parasolprotectorate
Jens Harken in LaVyrle Spencer's November of the Heart builds boats, as do all of Nora Roberts' Quinn brothers.

I'm pretty sure Nora Roberts has one of everything: Mikhail is a carpenter in Luring a Lady; Carlo in Lessons Learned and Shane in Tears of the Moon are chefs; Grant in One Man's Art is an artist, as is Seth in Chesapeake Blue; the Montgomery brothers in her newest Inn at Boonsboro series are builders/carpenters; Logan Kitridge in Blue Dahlia is a landscape gardener etc etc. This is Nora Roberts, after all :)
Kylie Scott
10. Barb in Maryland
Don't forget Lavyrle Spencer's "Spring Fancy"--hero is a mechanic. There's also an old Barbara Delinsky--"The Carpenter's Lady".
Those were the two I could think of off the top of my head (besides all the Nora Roberts ones( *g*)).
11. wsl0612
How I wish British romance historicals would involve other heroes rather than Dukes, Earls and former soldiers! I would love to have more artisans, I really enjoy reading about the daily lives of the "ordinary" people too. I loved Anna & John's romance in Downton Abbey way more than any of the other characters, even if they are in service. John is a very romantic character.
Heather Massey
12. HeatherMassey
@GlassSlipper You rock! I *knew* there had to be at least a double handful! Thanks for taking the time to look up those titles.

@Parasolprotectorate Great roundup, thank you!

@Barb in Maryland Ooh, and "Carpenter" is even in the title. Sweet!

@Wsl0612 Re Anna & John: OMG yes. That was my favorite romance, too. These types of characters have an earthy sensuality that I just adore.
13. MissGB
I'm a little late coming to this, but Tessa Dare's novella from her Spindle Cove series is all about a Blacksmith. And isn't he just ha ha! It is called The Beauty and the Blacksmith. It was out in 2013, so Tessa may have read this article and realised there was a big blacksmith gap out there!
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