Jun 20 2012 5:00pm

Author Jennifer Probst on Complete Opposites in Romance

Today we welcome Jennifer Probst to Heroes and Heartbreakers to discuss the very real adage that “opposites attract.” Jennifer’s The Marriage Bargain has taken readers by storm, landing on the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal’s bestseller lists, with a print version coming soon. 

Thanks for joining us, Jennifer!

(Be sure to enter Jennifer’s sweepstakes for a chance to win a digital copy of The Marriage Bargain! Details and rules at the bottom of the page.)

Confession time.

I adore romance novels where the main hero and heroine are complete opposites. Immediately, a thrill launches through me and in a capable writer’s hands, I become putty. There is something exciting about watching two people who have nothing in common fight the journey of a happily ever after. The harder the fight, the more satisfaction I get in the end. The strong ones not only resist the burgeoning physical attraction, but also reach deep and fight back with their minds, heart, and soul. I secretly know it will all end well, but watching the journey play out brings some of the most satisfying romance novels on the page.

The three most popular ways authors use this dynamic is personality aspects, backgrounds, and goals.

1. Personality: Stories with a shy, sort of geeky hero pit against the bubbly, feisty heroine can be a great way to turn off the paved road and take the one less traveled. We’ve all read about the dominant alpha hero sweeping the heroine off her feet. But what about the more subtle hero –sort of like Superman dressed like Clark Kent—and the heroine is the factor that frees up all that hunky strength? Some great books that include this include Vision in White by Nora Roberts and Absolutely Positively by Jayne Ann Krentz.

In Robert’s story, Carter is definitely under the radar next to the outgoing, ambitious Mackenzie. His scholarly background adds to that professor type geekiness that appeals, and his determined pursuit of Mac gives us a glimpse of the strong core hidden beneath the tweed jacket. Yum.

Absolutely Positively pits the gutsy, determined Molly against the controlled, very logical Dr. Harry Stratton. Watching Harry slowly lose his control, and claiming it back in the bedroom, is some of the most satisfying stuff around.

Flipping it in the opposite direction, Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a genius in pitting character personalities against each other. In Nobody’s Baby But Mine, heroine Jane is a brilliant physics professor who decides to have a baby with a man who can help balance her “nerdy” genes. Enter Cal, the star football player, well known for his biceps rather than his brain. It’s only later we are treated to the truth that shows he is not as dumb as Jane thinks.

2. Backgrounds – Wealth versus poverty. Breeding versus street smarts. This is a big conflict in many romance novels. One of the most famous is Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Darcy needs a wife with the proper breeding and wealth for his beloved estate, and the lovely Elizabeth is everything Darcy shouldn’t want. She’s been raised loosely, has no money, and isn’t the right fit. Fortunately, their emotions bring a new level to this classic love story that makes it one of the best in romance history.

The same spin went for Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Jane is the governess in Rochester’s house. This type of background gives the hero power and the right to call the shots—but of course, he’s secretly powerless due to the attraction he feels for Jane.

Even the current bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James uses the world weary, tortured, billionaire Christian Grey who becomes fascinated with the innocent, young heroine. The difference in their world experience, age, and past is a huge conflict in the book and drives the story.

3. Goals – Give the heroine a specific goal, and pair her up with the hero who wants the exact opposite. What do you get? A great story! In Ain’t She Sweet, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, heroine Sugar arrives in town with one goal: restore her reputation and gain forgiveness from the town she once tried to ruin. The hero, and the town who had been wronged by her, wants to make her pay.

The talented Linda Howard created a yummy conflict in Angel Creek. Rancher Lucas needs to complete his dynasty by buying a certain family ranch. Of course, the ranch happens to belong to the lovely heroine, Dee, who refuses to give it up at any price. Their shared past and different backgrounds add an extra layer of zest.

Using opposing character types add an extra element of conflict, fun, and sexiness to the romance novel.


What are some of your favorite?

To enter for a chance to win a digital copy of Jennifer Probst’s The Marriage Bargain, make sure you’re a registered member of the site, and then simply leave a comment about the post below!*

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 or older. To enter, fill out entry at beginning at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) June 20, 2012. Sweepstakes ends at 4:59 p.m. ET on June 29, 2012 (the “Promotion Period”). Void outside of the 50 US and DC and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules at Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.



New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Probst wrote her first book at twelve years old. She bound it in a folder, read it to her classmates, and hasn’t stopped writing since. She took a short hiatus to get married, get pregnant, buy a house, get pregnant again, pursue a master’s in English Literature, and rescue two shelter dogs. Now she is writing again.

Her publications include her bestseller The Marriage Bargain, Heart of Steel, and her erotic Steele Brother series, Catch Me, Play Me, and Dare Me with Decadent. She has also written a children’s book, Buffy and the Carrot, co-written with her twelve-year-old niece, along with a short story about a shelter dog, “A Life Worth Living.” She loves to hear from her readers; to contact her, please visit her website at

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Jennifer Proffitt
1. JenniferProffitt
I really have a soft spot for opposites attracting. I loved it in Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl where our Hero is a straight laced sheriff of a small town and our Heroine hides her profession as an erotica writer. They don't want to mix and she's all wrong for him, but their chemistry is almost always out of sight! Anytime you put "against his/her better judgement" in the cover copy I'm in.

Another good example of the "Background" conflict is in About Last Night by Ruthie Knox. I haven't read it yet, but it's on my TBR pile because of the characters drastically different backgrounds. And don't even get me started on Jane Eyre, one of my all time favorite books!
Heather Waters
2. HeatherWaters
Great post and examples! Like both you and @JenniferProffitt, I am all about the opposites attract trope. Many of my absolute favorite fictional relationships, including Kara/Lee in the show Battlestar Galactica, have been between total opposites.

Looking forward to reading The Marriage Bargain.
Carmen Pinzon
3. bungluna
Both "Vision in White" and "Absolutely Positively" have places of honor in my keeper shelf. I love a good story about opposites who find their way to each other and HEA.
5. julieid
I like JD Robb's In Death series with the Roark and Eve. The main characters have contrasting personalities and wealth. I like Eve's indifference to fashion and spa treatments vs. Roarke's interest in fashion.
Joan Boose
6. joan.boose
I 'm more a fan of the opposites attract in Gabaldon's series. Time makes all the difference!
Jennifer Walter
8. jlc341
This book sounds great! I love books with opposites attracting!
9. Tina Brimlow
I have this book on my Nook. I fell in love with the whole story line. I wish I had the actual book though. I can't wait for the next book. I am so looking foward to reading it.
Jessica O'Brien
10. JLOBrien
I will admit, while sometimes it can be slightly cliche...I love "opposites attract". It seemed like all of the Bride Quartet had a little bit of it weaved into the storylines. I probably would have picked Mal and Parker as the most opposite, but I can definitely see it with Mac & Carter.

I am looking forward to reading The Marriage Bargain!
11. angelfire63
So true. Opposite characters does make for some good reading. I just discovered Susan Elizabeth Philips with Call Me Irresistible. Meg and Ted couldn't be more opposite. Can't wait to discover Jennifer Probst
12. Casey B.
I've been seeing this and thinking i should read it for awhile! After reading this i know that i DEFINITELY need to read it!!
Jordan R
13. jrojrojro
I've always loved the bad-boy-with-a-soft-spot-for-the-good-girl stories. And this post was perfect - I'm excited to read some of the suggestions (especially the nerdy hero ones)!
14. Sharlene W
I love Vision in White! I've read it a few times! Carter is depicted as nerdy, but hot! Call Me Irresistible is another good one! How about A Night Like This, by Julia Quinn? Daniel is an earle & Anne has been employed as a governess. Yet, he wants her from day one!
Brandy Stott
15. brandeeleigh
Love the cover - never heard of this author before this but I will def have to pick this up. Thanks!!!!
16. Becky Lees
I also love opposites attract romances. Completely love them. One of my favorites...Danny and Sandy in Grease!
jennifer beck
17. jenjenlee
this book sounds really ... i love lora leigh,breeds series!!!
Lori K
19. LoriK
I love a good opposites attract story and this one looks interesting, and I agree that the cover is good.
Jenny Wentz
20. Jennywen20
I think the best relationships come from people who are opposites.
Marian DeVol
21. ladyengineer
Love the post and the recommendations.

Although having similar occupations (both are naval officers), I enjoyed the fact Captain Cordelia Naismith and Lord Aral Vorkosigan start out on opposite sides of an interstellar war in Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor and have to resolve major cultural differences after their marriage in its sequel Barrayar.
L Lee
22. lwl8
Sounds very interesting. I love opposite attract books and leads to very interesting conflicts.
23. ShellyE
Your book sounds really interesting! Of course, now that I need to think of a great opposites attract book, I can' think of one!! It'll come to me later, I'm sure. I do love Elizabeth & Darcy!
Post a comment