Aug 12 2012 3:00pm

Compare and Contrast: Romance Novel and Olympics Heroes

Hercules statueDuring the Olympics, we’ve all witnessed some pretty incredible athletes overcome serious odds, beat records, or compete with fierce determination. Thousands of fans cheered them on in the stands and millions upon millions cheered them on across the globe. We are infatuated with our heroes, but why do we hoist them onto a pedestal in the first place?

Is it because they inspire and motivate us to do our personal best? Or maybe it’s because we envy them, wishing we had the athletic ability, intelligence, courage, good looks, or countless other qualities that make up a good hero. It’s not so bad, picturing yourself in their shoes—whether it’s an Olympian or your favorite romantic hero.

Speaking of those heroic qualities, which do we value most in a real-life hero? There are plenty to choose from: Loyalty and honesty come to mind first. Our moralistic society has instilled in us that people must be honest, not only with others, but also with themselves. When we find out that someone we hold in high regard has lied to us, we become enraged because of the disappointment, sadness, and ultimately, the feeling of betrayal..

Next in the quality lineup, speaking personally, is courage and bravery. It takes courage to step outside of your comfort zone, to apply the pressure to move forward. When a person steps outside of their comfort zone, they grow personally and/or professionally from the experience. Courage and bravery stems from confidence, which comes from believing in yourself and having others support you. While a hero is not confident in every move they make, they are their most vulnerable when they make that leap. If they are successful, the experience builds more confidence. If they are not, and have the other qualities mentioned, they will likely try again until success is theirs.

I think the willingness to put other’s desires or needs before their own is a quality many of us look for in heroes. We need our heroes to step up to the plate and do what needs to be done for the greater good, regardless of what the outcome is for them personally. For our Olympic heroes, that could mean sacrificing any semblance of a normal life so that they can bring home victory for their country. Passion. Perseverance. Determination. These qualities also come to mind when I think of heroes, because if the passion and drive are not present, they may give up before they achieve their goals.

Six Million Dollar ManAnd lastly, having character flaws is important, because it reminds us that heroes are not so different from us after all. There is no such thing as perfection, and while we may think we look for that in our heroes, at the end of the day, being able to relate to them is most important. No one is perfect. Not even Gabby Douglas, Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, though they are extraordinary people. In that light, perhaps the person who spoke to me most during the Olympics was South African sprinter, Oscar Pistorius. Now that man is a hero (not to mention, a good looking dude)! He has overcome insurmountable odds as a double amputee and competed in the 2012 Olympics. Can you imagine the courage, confidence, and perseverance he must possess? But are the qualities we seek in romantic heroes the same as the qualities we look for in real-life heroes?

On the surface, I would say yes. Romantic heroes should be honest and loyal. While heroes—at least initially—might have some mystery surrounding them and their motives, in the end, they need to demonstrate their honesty and loyalty. Self-confidence is something a lot of ladies appreciate, as it proves that a man is sure of himself, which equates to strength in our minds. We seek internal strength and fortitude in a hero, someone who sacrifices their own goals to rescue a person or population of people. We want courage and bravery, passion and perseverance. And lastly, we want our romantic heroes to be real. We want them to question their motives, rethink their actions, or make a misstep in achieving their goals. We need, on an unconscious level, to be able to relate to them as humans, even if they are paranormal beasties.

Lover Mine by J.R. WardJohn Matthew from J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series is a huge hero to me. Full of self-doubt and psychological and physical harm, JM was flawed and damaged. But his internal strength was blinding, and it was all due to love and support from others. They built up his confidence, which in turn led to bravery. Xhex is also a hero, for providing exactly what JM needed: acceptance and love. Other great heroes include the following: Bones (Jeaniene Frost), who encompasses great determination and confidence; Khalil (Thea Harrison) for stepping outside his comfort zone to relate to a human; Acheron (Sherrilyn Kenyon) for always putting his others’ needs before his own; and lastly, Barrons (Karen Marie Moning) for his perseverance, fierce determination and confidence. Of course, these are all my opinions. Now I’m interested to hear: what qualities do you seek out in a hero?


Ash H, aka Smash, loves a good zombie book and firmly believes that a snarky personality is the best kind to have. Alcide Herveaux makes her weak in the knees, a fact she proudly flaunts. You can find her rambling about books at Smash Attack Reads or getting her (hourly) Twitter fix.

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Cara Bristol
1. Cara Bristol
Good post. There are many qualities I like to see in a hero, but one that you mentioned is that he has to honest. If he's not honest, he's not hero material.
Smash Attack Ash
2. SmashAttackAsh
@Cara- Honesty is probably the most important. If we cannot trust someone, then all the other admirable qualities go right out the window.
Cara Bristol
3. Lee @shewolfreads
I would say honesty, compassion and humility. Confidence is great, a dash of arrogance can be sexy, but a full on arrogant assault drops my respect level. Great post!
Cara Bristol
4. SassyT
I agree with the others...definitely honesty. If a real life person (or a hero in a book) can't be honest, I don't want to deal with that person (or read about them in a book).

@Lee: Yeah, compassion and humility are great too. A little arrogance is good. It says you have a lot of confidence in yourself but when you go overboard I just want to throw something at you. The key is to not go too far into arrogance on the way to jerktown.
Smash Attack Ash
5. SmashAttackAsh
@Lee - Ahhh, humility. Nice one. Compassion is something that is quite important, as well. I always wondered about arrogance in real life heroes vs. book heroes. I have to be honest, arrogance in real life only makes me want to kick you, but a bit of arrogance in a book character is always welcome. Hmmm...

@SassyT: I think honesty is definitely the most important aspect. Without it, respect goes out the window.
Cara Bristol
6. Jennifer Lane
Honestly, I hadn't thought about how damn important honesty is, but you're right. It's part of a bigger trait that's essential for me in a hero: integrity. Doing the right thing even when it's hard. Following through on your word. Treating others with respect. I love romantic suspense author Pamela Clare's heroes because they are full of integrity.
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