Aug 29 2013 10:00am

Blue Collar Heroes from Seidel, Higgins, Carr, and More!

Wade Kinsella in Hart of DixieNo one grows up dreaming of living on the edge of poverty and worrying about bills. That's likely why romance novels are filled with wealthy, well-to-do heroes like business owners, attorneys, pro athletes, doctors, architects, and engineers. Not only does the heroine fall in love with a wonderful guy, but she is almost assured that she will not want for the rest of her life. Small town romances break the mold a little bit as far as the hero being well-off, but then again, many times the hero is well educated, but he has rejected a high stress career for a slower pace lifestyle or for family. Or he is ex-military, now working in law enforcement. Finding romances featuring blue collar workers sometimes seems like looking for needle in a haystack.

You are probably wondering how the economic status of the hero or his way of earning a living impacts the romance. Don’t get me wrong—because I love the fairytale aspect of romance—but when an author puts a bit of realism into the story, then there just seems to be that little bit of added poignancy. The author has to be creative with the grand gestures; no wildly extravagant trip to Italy or a three carat diamond ring or new Prius car in the driveway. But many times the simplicity adds to the emotional impact, like one perfect red rose, instead of two dozen. Plus, the heroine is more apt to understand that her vows do entail “for richer or poorer,” and that she will be a valued contributor, a true partner in the marriage either by working outside the home or caring for the children. And the hero puts it all on the line so to speak, because he knows that they might never afford the rich life, but there is no one that will love her as much as he does.

And most of all there is a sense of familiarity or accuracy when reading about a blue collar heroes because my very first hero, my Dad, was a blue collar worker. He left me with an appreciation for men who can fix cars or dishwashers, or paint rooms or shingle roofs or build porches or lay hardwood floors.

One of the first blue collar heroes that came to my mind was Joe Brigham from Kathleen Gilles Seidel’s Don’t Forget to Smile. Joe is completely swoon worthy, but it is his wisdom and sagacity that made an impact.

Don't Forget to Smile by Kathleen Gilles SeidelWhen they had first been married, they had lived with her parents and that had been hard—the walls were thin. But then they had moved into the house, and they had their own home, their own bed. Marianne was always there, always willing. He couldn’t imagine that anything could be any better.

But Marianne read paperback romances, and one day, when he was home sick, he was bored and restless and picked up one of her books just because he couldn’t find anything else.

It had made him very uncomfortable. What happened between the man and the woman when they were in bed together did not have much to do with what happened between Marianne and him. What happened in the book was a whole lot better.

He felt like they were constantly surrounded by visions of things that they could not have. Every commercial on TV showed people moving about in a world of spacious kitchens and new cars. Even in the detergent ads, each woman had her own bright laundry room. TV housewives never went to the Laundromat as Marianne did.

Joe had hoped that someday Marianne would have her own washer and maybe even a dryer, but she’d never have a separate laundry room with a rocking chair and a window seat and blue gingham cushions. That was crazy.

They’d never have a wide-screen TV, a side-by-side refrigerator-freezer with an automatic ice-maker, a Cadillac with cruise control. But surely this was one part of the package that they could have. Surely sexual pleasures were not restricted to the rich.

And so, to Marianne’s absolute horror, he drove to another town where no one knew them and bought a few straightforward marriage manuals. It was the first time Joe had ever decided to change something about himself.

Marianne was embarrassed; she called the books pornography and refused to look at them. Joe said nothing more to her. But he did a great deal, and she responded in ways she never had before, bringing them a rapture they had not dreamed possible.

There is nothing better than having a handyman in the bedroom!

In Catch of The Day by Kristan Higgins, Maggie Beaumont has an enormous crush on the town’s priest, Father Tim, to the gossip mongers' delight. At first Father Tim is very understanding, but finally he kindly hints that maybe it time for Maggie to move on. She really tries, even going so far as to join a dating service. When her date stands her up and her ex-boyfriend shows up at the restaurant, lobsterman “scary Malone” saves the day:

“That’s my old boyfriend.” I confide. “He dumped me for her. I suppose to be on a blind date, but apparently, I’m being stood up and they came in and whipped out pictures of their perfect kids, and I was about to lose it.”
Malone keeps looking at me, and I realize that he knows all this. He came to my rescue.

“Thanks for pretending to be my date,” I say.

Malone and Maggie take it to the next level because they both have an itch to scratch, but she not sure he is what she is looking for, and she knows he is not the type of man her mother thinks she should see:

Mother is not one to be sympathetic to hormone urges. Young people today are so trashy, she’s fond of saying. Don’t they have any self-respect? Even if Malone and I had a real relationship, he’s not exactly what Mom has in mind for me. Why can’t you meet a doctor Maggie? Or a lawyer? Or maybe that Microsoft executive on Douglas Point? If you would just clean yourself up a little, you’d be quite presentable, you know. You need to stop lighting your fire under a bushel.

Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robyn CarrRobyn Carr has a similar scenario in her book, Bring Me Home for Christmas, featuring Danny Cutler and Becca Timm. Even though it has been three years, Becca feels that she has unrealistically idealized her past relationship with Danny, and it is keeping her from moving forward. She decides that if only she sees him again, she can finally let go of what they had. Of course, when her mother finds out she is not pleased:

“But Becca, you’re too different,” Beverly said. “You were never really right for each other. You come from completely different backgrounds and families. You and Doug seem such a good fit—your families are similar, you have both parents and siblings, you both went to college, you have similar interests. And unless there’s something you haven’t told me, Doug has never treated you badly. I knew right away that Doug was much more appropriate for you.”

“You’ve used that word before, I think. Appropriate.”

“The minute I met him, I knew—this is more the type of man I expected you to attract. To marry. You have similar goals. His family is stable. Successful.”

Harry Porter in Suddenly You by Sarah Mayberry has a stable family background, but the thing is, he is not ready for responsibility. He would rather work in a competitor’s garage than his family’s, because all he is interested in is having a good time with his mates:

Okay. You want the truth? You’re right. I don’t want it. Dad’s the one who had the burning desire to be his own boss, but that was never my dream. I like being a soldier ant. I like doing my hours and taking my wages and living my life without all the stress and crap I see Dad go through, worrying about taxes and superannuation and workers’ compensation and whatever.” Harry cut his gaze to his father. “No offense, Dad, but I don’t want to be a slave to anyone or anything.”

Meeting the right person, causes a person to look at his life in a new way, and re-evaluate goals.

The lyrics from the song “Loved by a Workin’ Man” by Pistol Annies is a great synopsis of the reasons to love a hard-working man.

He ain't much on roses but he'd walk a country mile
To pick a handful of white flowers that would make his baby smile
He won't do the dishes but he'll sweep you off your feet
And he'll make you feel like the prettiest thing that he's ever seen

'Cause he knows how to treat his woman
And he knows how to make ends meet

Do you have a favorite blue collar hero? If you want to vote and make it offical, cast your ballot in the poll, Who's Your Favorite Blue Collar Hero?


Leigh Davis, Blogger

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Lee Brewer
1. LeeB.
Haven't read the Seidel in a long time, but always love Kristan Higgins' books.
Maggie Boyd
2. maggieboyd66
My favorite blue collar hero is Ethan Quinn from Nora Robert's Rising Tide. He is a waterman (fisherman) who falls for the lovely Grace (who works odd jobs to keep a roof over her and her daughter's head). There might be money in the future but at the time they meet they are working class and their relationship isn't based on stuff or fancy dates but genuine feeling.
Carmen Pinzon
3. bungluna
I prefer my heroes more realistic, but it is hard to find anything too blue collar in contemporary romances other than cowboys. Here are a few examples of books with blue collar heroes that I've enjoyed:

Crazy for You by Jennifer Crusie has a mechanic hero.
The Bro Magnet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted had a house painter as a hero (very funny).
Perfection by R.L. Mathewson has a construction worker hero and a plus-sized heroine.
4. Joseri
I love After Hours by Cara Mckenna. The hero is a orderly in a psychiatric hospital. It sounds bad but he definitely proves he is great guy to have at your back. I definitely recommend the book.
Barbara Wilmot
5. miadevlin
I've just re-read "Spring Fancy" by LaVyrle Spencer. The heroine is a physical therapist engaged to a computer programmer but she meets and falls for a mechanic who restores classic cars. I loved the dilemma of whether she'll be able to get out of the HUGE wedding organised by her mother (who's also personally selected the bridegroom).
Jennifer Proffitt
6. JenniferProffitt
Agreed, @Joseri, After Hours was a favorite of mine--loved the hero!

I always really liked the Ruthie Knox Camelot series--one of the heroes from the first novella is a construction worker and they had a follow-up novella where he's struggling after the housing crash and I really loved the aspect of it!
7. parawriter
It has to be Logan in The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks.
Joanna Vaught
8. joleesa
Jack. Preacher. Mike. Noah. Denny. Anybody named Riordan. But my all-time, hands-down favorite is Walt Arneson. I adore him. And while he is not a "romance" hero, I might leave my husband for Sam Vimes! Actually, I don't really like the rich-boy heroes much. Hmmm....
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