Aug 24 2012 2:07pm

Trope of the Month: May-December Romance

Beast by Judith IvoryAcademically put, tropes are “common or overused theme[s] or device[s]," which makes them sound like cliches, which makes them seem like a bad thing.

But they’re totally not! Romance novel fans all have their favorite—not to mention least favorite—tropes, from friends to lovers, chick in pants, secret baby, marriage of convenience, opposites attract, May-December, boss-assistant...the list goes on.

Each month, we’ll be picking a romance novel trope and ask you to offer recommendations falling under the trope rubric (again with the academic talk!). This month, we want your recommendations for May-December romances, or novels in which there’s a big age difference between the hero and heroine (or hero and hero, or heroine and heroine). We asked our Twitter followers to help us out, and here are the books they mentioned:

  • Anne Calhoun’s Liberating Lacey
  • Georgette Heyer’s  These Old Shades
  • Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander
  • Judith Ivory’s Beast

What books would you add?

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1. KateNagy
In theory, May-December squicks me out. In practice -- LaVyrle Spencer's Years, in which the hero is 34 to the heroine's 18. Love that book so hard! There's also a fairly significant age difference between Aral and Cordelia in Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor/Barrayar, where it works beautifully, and between Cazaril and Betriz in The Curse of Chalion, where it also warms my heart. (The Sharing Knife books, not so much, perhaps because the heroine's child-like-ness is so heavily emphasized.) Also, in many paranormals, the (human, 20-something) heroine hooks up with an immortal who is hundreds of years old, but I really don't consider those May-December the same way something like Years is.
Carmen Pinzon
2. bungluna
To me, May-December age differences means that the one could be the parent of the other in a believeable way, meaning at least 16 years difference.

I like Susanne Brockmann's The Admirl's Bride because, even though there is an age difference, they hero and heroine deal with it and develop their relationship from there.
3. Susana Ellis
Jane Eyre is one. Also Carla Kelly's Marrying the Royal Marine. I don't think Outlander qualifies; Claire isn't more than five years or so older Jamie.

I like it when the hero is much older than the heroine, but only as long as the heroine is mature for her age.
Jordan R
4. jrojrojro
I agree with what bungluna said about considering May-December to be a significant age difference. In my mind, that's 10+ years difference, so Jamie and Claire wouldn't really qualify as a May-December. I honestly can't think of any that I really loved besides Jane Eyre. While the idea of May-December is intriguing, I've found in my own reading that I often don't see the relationship as believable just because there is ususally such a difference in values, culture, motive, etc when there is that big of an age gap.
5. JacquiC
One of Robyn Carr's Virgin River Series (Temptation Ridge) qualifies. I think the hero is in his mid-to late thirties and the heroine is in her mid twenties.

There is also an erotic contemporary that I've read that has a really significant age difference between the heroine who is older and the hero who is much younger (15 yrs I think). Title is Keeping Pace, by Dee Carney.
Betty H
6. happymaking
I recently read Mary Calmes' Acrobat and loved it. One of the heroes is 45 and the other in his twenties. You absolutely want to root for them, it is that adorable.
7. Rose In RoseBear
First, a pair of historicals ...

Roberta Gellis' Roselynde, where Alinor, a feudal lord in a teenaged female's body, schemes and crafts herself a most satisfactory marriage to Simon Lemange, an honorable man who isn't quite sure how to handle the spirited girl who won't take no for an answer.

Again, Roberta Gellis, this time in The English Heiress, where Roger St. Eyre steals into Revolutionary France to rescue the young and brave Leonie de Conyers, who has survived the insanity. This one also showcases one of the bravest little mop dogs ever!

And, lastly, a pair of BDSM romances. First, Nobody's Hero, by Kallypso Masters, one of the best BDSM romances out there. Veteran Marine Master Adam Montague is twenty-five years older than Karla, but it doesn't matter a bit!

And Cherise Sinclair's Club Shadowlands, featuring the empathetic Master Z --- a child psychologist when he's not at his club --- and Jessica Randall, his bratty sub accountant. They met on a dark and stormy night ... and that was before she figured out she's taken shelter in a BDSM club!
8. RKM
Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie. Nina is 40 to Alex's 30. Im not a fan of romances where the woman is older, but because anything by Ms. Crusie is winners I gave it a shot...and I loved it!!
9. Janga
The Robyn Carr book someone mentioned is Temptation Ridge, and it's a great example of what makes the trope work for me. Shelby may be thirteen years younger than Luke, but she's not a typical twenty-five year old. Experience has made her older than her years in significant ways.

Two of my favorites that haven't been mentioned are actually older women-younger men books: Pam Morsi's Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar and Cheryl Reavis's The Older Woman. I love Balogh's A Promise of Spring too. As with the Carr book, they work for me because the authors are skilled enough to make me believe the relationships will work for these characters--not because I believe in an HEA generally for heroines who marry men fifteen years their junior (or vice versa).
Cristina P
10. krissapl
The Trope of the Month is such a great idea!!! Love it, will be looking forward to it each month :)
11. Katy L
The absolute modern classic of May-December romances has to be These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer. It's a double dipper trope, as it also covers morally corrupt (or at least ambiguous) hero redeemed by love. I'll second Gellis' Roselynde (one of my gateway drugs to romance, back in the day) and Brockman's The Admiral's Bride.
12. Oona Fitz
Well, they're not hot or erotic, but just about every book Betty Neels wrote has a significant age difference. Most of the heroines are extremely mature, so it usually works pretty well.
Carmen Pinzon
13. bungluna
@Oona Fitz- pretty much all the Mills&Boons of the '70s featured an age difference between hero and heroine of at least 15 years.
Jennifer Meriwether
14. JenM
I love this trope, although I tend to read books where it's the woman who is older. A couple of books I really liked:

A Different Kind of Forever - Dee Ernst - 20+ year age difference. He's a young rock star, she's a 45 YO college professor. You wouldn't think it would work, but the author did a great job of selling the relationship.

Flat-Out Sexy - Erin McCarthy - one of her NASCAR romances - I can't remember the age difference, but I think it was at least 9 or 10 years (woman is older).

Tempting - Hope Tarr - Victorian romance - hero is 15 years older.

Fallen From Grace - Laura Leone - this features an older heroine (by 9 years) and a male prostitute who lives next door. Lots of angsty goodness in this one.
Lindsay Beeson
15. lindsayb
I just finished the novella, "Sway" by Lauren Dane from the Cherished anthology with Maya Banks, and I loved it. The heroine, Daisy, is a 24 year old artist and dance instructor who keeps running into Levi, a 40 year old wealthy, widowed lawyer. They hit it off and start dating. He's dominant, and she's naturally (and happily) submissive. It is an erotic romance, but very romantic. He's not hoisting her up on a St Andrews cross and passing her around to all his buddies or anything (not I have anything against that in a romance, but usually I want more "romance" in my romance). It's definatly a story I'll be re-reading.
16. lm7418
Are we counting all those Kresley Cole, Feehan & Showalter types where the hero is generally a few hundred or even thousands of years older? But it's ok because he's watched MTV and calls his comrades "dudes".

I love Thea Harrison's "Devils Gate" - she's a "late middle-aged" 430 medusa/coroner, he's a whippersnapping 180 yr old vampire lawyer.
Carmen Pinzon
17. bungluna
LOL @lm7418 - I'd forgotten about that one. I'll have to go back and re-read it.
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