Jun 5 2012 4:00pm

The Ginger Hero: Romance’s Redheaded Stepchild?

Kevin McKiddYou have 30 seconds to come up with as many redheaded romance heroes as you can, ready? Go!

Not so easy, right? What if I ask for dark-haired heroes, or even blonds?

Brown and black are undeniably the most popular hair colors of choice for romance heroes. Blonds are not as common, although I can easily think of a few. But redheads are very scarce. And I wonder why. In real life, dark is the predominant hair color. But we’re talking about fiction, and writers—not genetics—are the ones in charge of hair colors. There must be a reason why authors are not choosing to make their heroes ginger.

Part of the problem has to do with stereotype. Redheaded men are often portrayed as either nerds or bullies. And I bet that when I say the words “redheaded men” you’re more likely to picture Carrot Top than Kevin McKidd. I also wonder if the lack of redheads reflects real-life preference; are women less attracted to ginger men than they are to dark-haired or blond men?

Conversely, redheaded heroines are a dime a dozen. The popularity also comes from stereotypes and character traits associated to hair color, but in this case those characteristics are positive. Just as ginger men are often seen as unattractive freaks, ginger women are usually feisty, impulsive and sexy.

The Heir by Johanna LindseyI believe that redheaded men can be great romantic leads and just as hot as their female counterparts. After all, one of Romance’s more memorable heroes is one. I’m talking about Jamie Fraser, the hero of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. And he is not alone.

In Johanna Lindsey’s The Heir, the hero, Duncan McTravish is described as ruggedly handsome, with a very attractive harsh masculinity, and oh yes, dark red hair. Cameron and Ian Mackenzie are two redheaded heroes created by Jennifer Ashley. And let me assure you that although his book is titled The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, said madness is in no way related to his hair color. 

Next, there’s another Historical but in this case the hero is English (yes, I did notice the Scottish pattern). In Follow My Lead by Kate Noble, Jamie isn’t particularly happy with his hair, but he takes it in stride:

“Then again, he was a Duke. A Young Duke, and perhaps a manageably good-looking one—Despite the curse of his red hair”.

Contemporary Romance also gets its tiny share of ginger men. In Susan Andersen’s Cutting Loose, Devlin has hair “the dark, rich color of an Irish Setter." Granted, his eyebrows are black and he’s rather tanned, but at this point I’ll take any resemblance to ginger, and as far as I’m concerned, Irish Setters are the redheads of the canine world.

A Virgin River Christmas by Robyn CarrMy favorite Virgin River book has a memorable redhead in it. In A Virgin River Christmas, Ian is a big, taciturn lumberjack with a heartbreaking past who wants to be left alone. He has brown hair, but a glorious red beard. And since beards are part of the head, I guess that makes him a redhead.

Fans of M/M romance should check two great stories featuring redheads. In Damon Suede’s Hot Head, sexy firefighter Griff, has coppery head and red hot attraction towards one of his teammates. And in Marie Sexton’s heartbreaking Between Sinners and Saints, Jamie is a massage therapist with lots of red hair, but sadly no freckles to go with it.

This list needs a Paranormal touch, so I’ll end it with Angel’s Dance by Nalini Singh, a novella found in the Angel’s Flight anthology. Galen is a powerful angel and a ruthless warrior. His hair “a red so pure it was a flame” and he falls for someone who looks fragile on the outside but has a core of steel. It’s a beautiful love story that shows us how appealing redheads can be.

How do you feel about redheaded heroes? Have you noticed the lack of them in Romance? Who’s your favorite ginger hero?


I love talking about books just as much as reading them. I review Romance Novels on my blog Romance Around the Corner and you can also find me on Twitter.

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Tamara Morgan
1. Tamara Morgan
They're not book heroes, but I love every last one of the Pontipee brothers from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Seven rugged gingers all under one roof!
Tamara Morgan
2. Jeannie Lin
Inez Kelley's Bryton in Salome at Sunrise

And wasn't Jude in A Little Bit Wild by Victoria Dahl a red-head?
Manda Collins
3. mandacollins
Ewan from Eloisa James' Kiss Me, Annabel is a ginger! But, you're right. It's hard to come up with names. I didn't even remember that Ian MacKenzie was red-haired. Which makes me a terrible person, I think...
Darlene Marshall
4. DarleneMarshall
I must chime in, even if it's shameless self promotion: The hero of my new release, Castaway Dreams, is a red-headed Scotsman. I got to use words like "russet" and (my favorite!) "rufous" to describe Alexander Murray's hair.
Brie Clementine
5. Brie.Clem
Tamara Morgan: He! I love them, although seven guys all at once can be too much, ginger or not ;-)

Jeannie Lin: I can’t believe I forgot about Bryton! I love that book (she’s writing the third book, BTW). Haven’t read A Little Bit Wild, is that one of her historicals? I have to check it out.

mandacollins: Another Scotsman! And don’t worry, you’re forgiven, just don’t forget again.

darlenemarshall: Don’t worry, go ahead and promote all you want. I’m happy authors are writing more redheaded heroes, the more the merrier!
6. Rose In RoseBear
Ginger-boys are kinda rare, and they shouldn't be!

Edith Layton's socially awkward hero Raphael Dalton in The Chance is one of my favorites. He's so blunt and wades into social messes without thinking ... love it!

J. K. Rowling's Ron Weasely is a great hero from Sorceror's Stone on. Sometimes it's harder to be the sidekick than the superhero, and Ron transcends the sidekick trope.

And don't forget J. R. Ward's Blaylock! He was the first of the vampire-raised boys to speak to John, and he was the first one to make friends with the mute human-raised kid with the goofy name. And Blay's a kick-azz warrior, or he wouldn't be a soldier for the Brothers. His book with Qhuinn will be a watershed event (... can't wait, can't wait, can't wait ...)

And now, how many red-headed heroines can you name?

And what's the deal with green eyes nowadays? Is it some kind of epidemic?
Brie Clementine
7. Brie.Clem

Cat -- Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series
Faith, Mercy and Sienna -- Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series
Irena -- Meljean Brook’s Guardian Series
Nora Roberts has a bunch of redheaded heroines (Born in Fire, Vision in White, The Search, The Witness)
Molly -- Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter series (and I think the heroine in the first Tall, Dark and Dangerous book was one also)
Barrie -- Linda Howard’s McKenzie series

And this is just off the top of my head, but I bet most writers have at least one, they’re everywhere!
Tamara Morgan
8. Blythe Gifford
It's not always author choice. For my very first book, my editor steered me away from a red-haired hero because "red-headed men on covers don't sell." Finally, years later, I got my way! The hero of my upcoming Scottish Borders book, RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, has red hair! Of course, you have to look closely at the cover to see it...
9. Rose In RoseBear

And, Lord love her, seems like every one of Jayne Krentz/Amanda Quick's heroines is a redhead! (Jayne Castle's women, not so much ...)

You know, I'd like to see more heroes who are prematurely gray. There was one --- seems like it was a historical --- and much was made of his gray hair and youthful features. Seems like he was wearing armor. Does anyone remember this guy?

And a prematurely gray heroine would be cool! Emmylou Harris-like!
Devynn Fisher
10. DLF
Diana Gabaldon's James Fraser. From the Outlander Series.

I believe he's a redhead. Correct me if I'm wrong though! ;)
Tamara Morgan
11. CCRead
There is a true bias against Red-headed males. Read http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/09/19/the-worlds-largest-sperm-bank-is-turning-down-redheads/
How can so many be dyeing their hair red but hold Ginger Men in low regard.

Not happy about this...
CC a natural born redhead!
Brie Clementine
12. Brie.Clem
Blythe Gifford: I’ve heard that too. Publishers asking authors to change the hero’s hair color because women, apparently, don’t prefer them ginger. That’s why I wonder if in real life women aren’t attracted to redheads. And now that you mention covers, I don’t think any of these books have men in the cover…. Interesting!

Rose In RoseBear: Well, JAK is a redhead so probably that’s why.

I’d like to see more gray heroes too! I’ve read a couple of “silver fox” books, but now I can’t remember the titles… One of Elizabeth Hoyt’s heroes has grey/silver hair, I think. And if you read m/m, JL Merrow ‘s novella in the Winter Warmers anthology has one also.

What about bald heroes?

DLF: Yep, Jamie was on top of the list, one of the most memorable ginger heroes ;-)
Brie Clementine
13. Brie.Clem
CCRead: ack! I think we were posting at the same time. Oh no! Poor ginger sperm, that's just wrong. Come on people! Redheads are fun ;-) I'm a natural redhead too (In case you couldn't tell from my avi, although IRL I don't look like a cartoon) and I know all about vias and the stereotypes.
Tamara Morgan
14. Jeannie Lin
The problem with red-headed heroes is that you have Eric Stoltz...and then you have Conan O'Brien and Carrot Top. The popular visuals kind of lean towards someone a little goofy.

Inez Kelley remarked once about her Bryton: "If I knew he'd have his own book, I wouldn't have made him a red head. :)"

Now red-headed heroines are very popular on the other hand. I liked how Victoria Dahl made fun of it in A Little Bit Wild. Her heroine has reddish hair and when she sees Jude has red hair, she thinks NO!! Two red-heads--what will become of the children? There'll be no escaping it!
Brie Clementine
15. Brie.Clem

Exactly, the character traits and physical appearance associated to redheads are not usually those we use to describe heroes. The mental image of a hero is the opposite of the mental image of a redheaded man. As I said, if you hear the words ginger man, you’re more likely to think of Carrot Top than Michael Fassbender.

I’m happy Bryton got to keep his original hair!
Jennifer Proffitt
16. JenniferProffitt
I'm a redhead and I find that in "real life" I don't really like redheaded men, the few exceptions being: anyone with an accent because then all can be forgiven. But I find I gravitate towards redheaded heroines in books because I relate to them more (if you're a ginger, you understand the pain of not being able to wear red and orange!). Nine times out of ten I forget a hero has red hair because I put in my own version of the perfect man.
17. wsl0612
The real fault lies with Ronald McDonald! Women cannot think of red-headed men as sexy with that sort of stereotype :-)
Tamara Morgan
18. Isobel Carr
The hero of RIPE FOR PLEASURE started out as a redhead, but my editor objected (her mind’s eye goes right to Carrot Top and Ron Howard) and she didn’t like that both hero and heroine were redheads. My email with pics of Eric Stoltz and Kevin McKidd and Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson got me nowhere, LOL! So Leo ended up “auburn”. And I know that Sara Ramsey reported on twitter that her beta readers were 2-1 against her redheaded hero too. Outside of Scottish historicals, where the strapping redhead in a kilt seems to be beloved, they do seem to be very hard to get away with.

I hosted a #ManCandyMonday for #HotGingers on twitter. We got a lot of love for them, and quite a debate about who even qualified! So interesting to see that we don’t all see the same thing.
Tamara Morgan
19. Iggiesr4me
How could you not mention Jamie from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon?! Best. Red-headed. Hero. EVER. IMHO.
Tamara Morgan
20. Isobel Carr
She DID mention "Jamie" (paragraph 6).
Tamara Morgan
21. Neece
Read headed heroes are my favorite. They are fiery! (My husband is a redhead and I love it!). Robbie from The Vampire and the Virgin by Kerrilyn Sparks was also redheaded. I need to make a list. I know that in the Paranormals they show up every once in a while, particularly when speaking of men of Irish or Scottish decent. We need more ginger heroes though. Lots more.
22. keen23
Aren't they all redheads in Virginia Henley's Wild Hearts?
Brie Clementine
23. Brie.Clem
JenniferProffitt: I’m a redhead too, and my only problem with redheaded men in real life is that every time I’m we my friends and we see one, they tease me saying that I should marry him, or ask me if he’s my long-lost brother. But I do find them attractive.

Wsl0612: don’t forget about IT! Red is the color of choice for creepy clowns.

Isoblel Carr: you mentioned that on Twitter the other day. I think it’s a shame there’s so much resistance against redheaded heroes. Personally I’m tired of dark hair, blue eyes. And yes, I think 90% of the redheaded heroes I found where from Scottish historicals.

If you ever host a second edition of #HotGingers, let me know, I would love to participate!

Iggiesr4me: he’s there, a bit hidden, but he is!

Neece: I don’t read much PNR so that’s why the list was short on them, but if you have more recs come back and post them here. We want more ginger!

Keen23: I don’t know! Haven’t read those books. Are they?
Tamara Womack
24. tamara7363
"...Long red hair flowed past his shoulders, coarse rather than soft, tied back at his nape as the others’ was, though it had the appearance of having been tamed only under protest." from Lora Leigh's Styx's Storm, one of her Breed Series novels - he is one of my favorites, Scottish background of course. I have a weakness for redheads - more please!
Jennifer Proffitt
25. JenniferProffitt
@Brie.Clem I have friends who do that too. After all we have a civic duty to save the hair color right? After 2050 or something like that there won't be any more natural redheads.
Bella Franco
26. BeguileThySorrow
I love the read/auburn haired MacKenzies of Jennifer Ashley's series:)
27. wsl0612
@Tamara - do you remember Howard Keel? Now he was a hot ginger!! And I can't think of him without thinking of Maureen O'Hara, what a beautiful ginger she was too.
Tamara Morgan
28. nath
LOL, I can't name any ^_^; It's not stuff that I usually remember LOL. I'm pretty sure though if you dig deep, you'll find a redheaded hero from NR....

I guess it's as you said, stereotyped, and also the fact there isn't a ton of men out there redheaded... unless you're in Scotland LOL. So perhaps it's slipping from authors' mind?
Tamara Morgan
29. Rhoni
What about Christian Grey?! He's always described as having copper hair - that sounds like a shade of red-head to me!

I have a thing for redheaded men though - anyone else in love with Eddie Redmayne? He's a sexy ginger...
Donna Bailey
30. donnarb60
Jamie *sigh*, THE best red-head in romantic fiction, although Christian Grey is running a hard second (no pun intended, lol). I agree with the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers post...one of my all time favorites. AND...in the acting world, Chris Pine is a mighty fine strawberry blonde!!!
I've always had a thing for red-heads.
Tamara Morgan
31. ReneeK
My fav YA redhead is Marcus Flutie from the Jessica Darling books! I would have doodled his name on my notebook in high school. Le sigh.
32. EvangelineHolland
If red-headed heroines are supposed to be hot-tempered, tempestuous, and passionate, what about red-headed heroes...*waggles brows*

The red-headed actor who makes me swoon, however, is Damian Lewis!
Tamara Morgan
33. willaful
If you haven't seen the infamous redheaded hero book trailer for Follow My Lead, it's hilarious:
Virginia Llorca
34. VirginiaLlorca
There are so many redhead kids in my subdivision, you have to wonder who is responsible. And I was taught it was not a recessive gene but that was a while back. Then there is the website relating it to the Rh negative thing. She postulates ET influence. Yeah. I'm obsessed with the subject.
romance reader
35. bookstorecat
@JenniferProffitt Red is my favorite color and I wear it all the time. Everyone has a shade of red they look good in, especially we redheads. Of course, we also look better than just about anyone in black or purple.

@Rhoni And, of course, Stephenie Meyer's original Edward had the same "copper" hair.
Cheryl King
36. fotofix
Darling Cruel/Kere from Kenyon's "The League Series". Yum!
Tamara Morgan
37. Kelly Meding
It doesn't release until next year, the hero of my upcoming MetaWars novel, TEMPEST, is a red-head. :)
Claire Louise Thompson
38. Nefersitra
Seth from Sherrilyn Kenyon's The Guardian was a red head (of course so was his father, Seth)
Tamara Morgan
39. goddessani
Nora Roberts has several red headed heroes. Top (for me anyway) is Nate Burke from Northern Lights. I know one of her old Silhouette's had the young MacGregor as a redhead (but I don't have the book with me to tell you which it is).

I know a lot of her heroines are redheads (most are Irish) but I think a few more of her heroes are, too.
Tamara Morgan
40. Grace S
I find red heads very attractive provided that color isn't that obnoxious orange color.....and I say this as a natural auburn woman.

Nothing, I repeat nothing, is more gorgeous than how I picture Jamie Fraser in my mind. That said, I think Kevin McKidd is smoking hot as is Damian Lewis, and one of my all time old school fave gingers is Van Johnson.
Brie Clementine
42. Brie.Clem
tamara7363: haven’t read Lora Leigh’s books, but now I think I

JenniferProffitt: did you read the article that CCRead linked to? Even if there are no more redheads around in 2050 there will be plenty of redheaded sperm! LOL

BeguileThySorrow: It’s a great series, isn’t it?

Nath: I tould you it was hard! LOL I think it’s preference, not everyone likes ginger men.

Rhoni: ha! You’re right, but that’s because of Edward –I think-. There, two more coppery heroes.donnarb60: “a hard second” LOL! That pun was totally intended and you know it!

ReneeK: those are Megan McCafferty books, right? Haven’t read them. *adds to TBR list*

EvangelineHolland: red headed heroes are just as passionate. And Damian Lewis *swoons* Love him!

Willaful: that’s the best book trailer I’ve ever seen, very clever and fun. It makes me want to re-read the book.

VirginiaLlorca: I didn’t know it wasn’t a recessive trait. I though it actually was a recessive gene that caused some sort of mutation in a protein, or something like that. Pay no attention to me, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

fotofix: another one for my TBR list!

Kelly Meding: I’ll keep my eyes open!

Nefersitra: so Kenyon likes ginger men!

goddessani: Nate was a redhead? I must check my copy. I know the matchmaker grandpa in the McGregors books is a redhead and he also gets his own book. And yes, she has a ton of redheaded heroines.

Grace S: “obnoxious orange color” To be fair, that color can only be found in a bottle… I think Van Johnson is more blond than red, though.

MFrampton: thank YOU for posting that pic! *drools*
Tamara Morgan
43. latelee
I love reading about red headed heroes, especially with a scottish brogue.I've spent many a night swooning over Jamie Fraser!

By the way, I've always been attracted to red heads. Sadly, I've never hooked up with one. There were a couple in high school but I was so shy then. When I was older & a little braver they were so scarce. That's probably why I love reading (and fantasizing ) about them so much!
Tamara Morgan
44. CathyJ
Hannah Howell also has several redheaded heroes, Sigamoor Cameron and his cousin Liam Cameron being the two that come to mind first.
Tamara Morgan
45. Ollieblu
What about the brothers in Jennifer Ashley's, Highland Pleasure series? I believe their all red heads.
Tamara Morgan
46. VirginiaLlorca
I will freely cop to being a mutant. It may be a necessary adaptation considering the way things are going.

One thing, I can't stand when a redhead has red hair on his arms or legs.
Tamara Morgan
47. Fathin SN
Even though there are some heroes with red hair, theirs are always "dark" red hair, not lighter version. Go lighter then you will get blond heroes. Unless the heroes are some paranormal characters then it's ok to have vivid red hair!
theresa norris
48. theresan
Kevin McKidd gets my vote. I cross my fingers every new season of Greys Anatomy that he want be written out.
Tamara Morgan
49. pittsguy
Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series where the entire telepathic Lords and Ladies were red-haired.
Did Redbeard count? Pirate I know. Was Robin Hood a ginger?
And lets not forget the Heroine of Brave was a Fiery Ginger, as was her Father and her 3 younger brothers.
Jennifer Proffitt
50. JenniferProffitt
I'm currently reading a ginger hero--Nat from Melanie Moreland's Over the Fence!
51. carmenlire
I've spent the past month rereading, and I have Ed from Nora Roberts' Brazen Virtue and Cross from Sarah Macleans' One Good Earl Deserves a Lover! (And yeah I know this post of 5 years old but it seemed disproportionate that I should find 2 ginger heroes in as many weeks and got me thinking about how H&H must have made a post about it!
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