May 15 2014 3:30pm

Your Hero Does What for a Living? Five of the Least Romantic Professions

The Proposition by Judith IvoryOnce long ago, an editor at a conference said she couldn’t picture a day care provider as a hero. Her off-hand remark is part of the reason my next book (out in July) features a hero who works with toddlers at a day care center.

There have been discussions on H&H about hit men heroes—and that seems a harder sell to me than a guy who works with babies—though there are some excellent criminal heroes.

I’ve found a surprising number of gigolo heroes, or guys who don’t mind living off women. There’s Freddie Sullivan in Mary Balogh’s Dancing With Clara and the wicked Lord Rival in Diane Farr’s The Fortune Hunter. More modern titles have guys who take the cash outright without the offer of marriage—like Ryan in Bonnie Dee’s Hired for Her Pleasure (formerly titled Homebound).

But I think these five professions are even more peculiar, at least for romance. In fact I can just imagine they’re part of any number of So Not Sexy Professions indices. I’ve found a few lists like that—including short pieces by Courtney Milan (at SBTB) and Gina Ardito (at her blog).

Maybe other romance writers encounter those lists of proscriptions and think…Challenge Accepted.

1. Rat Catcher

One of the best heroes ever is mentioned in this article about historical heroes with off the beaten track professions. Mick in Judith Ivory’s The Proposition is wickedly appealing—and kills rats for a living.

Maybe gay romance is more open to unusual professions for heroes? Because we have rule-breaking champions in a many of JL Merrow’s books. In fact, you have to wonder if Merrow starts the plotting process by contemplating non-standard romance-hero roles.

a. Pest Control

I think this goes under the first category. I haven’t read it yet, but J.L. Merrow’s hero in Caught! (out August 12, 2014) is a pest control technician. The story features a teacher and a motorcycle riding rat-catcher.

2. Plumber

In J.L. Merrow's Pressure Head and Relief Valve Tom, the hero, is a plumber (he’s also a psychic). The other hero is a more standard issue: a silent, macho detective.

3. Junk Removal

Junk by Josephine MylesThe hero of Josephine Myles's Junk is a clutter remover and counselor as he helps people cope with hoarding. And perhaps even more of a challenge for a hero? A hoarder—talk about romantic no-way. But yup, Merrow makes the other hero attractive too. He hoards books so that might help many romance readers connect. There are some frightening TBR (to be read) piles in our lives.

Merrow also has a version of a rent boy (more like a university student who puts out for rent) in Pricks and Pragmatism.

4. Death Scene Cleaner

Wendy Roberts has a heroine and hero who have the job of cleaning up the worst sort of messes in her Ghost Duster series. The heroine is also a psychic, but that doesn’t pay the bills. That crime-scene clean-up profession also shows up in Stephanie Bond’s Body Movers series. In those books, Carlotta is the one who scrapes up the blood and guts.

Maybe heroines are allowed to have some funkier professions? Because here’s one who works in a funeral home:

5. Mortuary Assistant

In Going to the Chapel by Janet Tronstad, the heroine only deals with grieving families, no hands-on with dead bodies. And this fun little book is more of a Christian chick-lit than pure romance. But turns out it’s harder to track down these strange occupations than I thought and I’ll take what I can find.

I looked for, but couldn’t find, a garbage truck driver or tax lawyer hero. Again, I’ve found a number of accountant heroines. I guess women are allowed to have careers perceived as dull or disgusting?

Oh, I did find a janitor hero—Jason in Bonnie Dee’s A New Life. He’s also brain damaged, so I guess that’s two no ways showing up in one attractive hero.

I suspect the insurance policy processing or sanitation engineer heroes are out there—or will be soon. Anyone up for the challenge?


Kate Rothwell writes romance using her own name and the pseudonym Summer Devon. She lives in Connecticut with four men (three of whom are her sons). You can find out more about her at and

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Amy Jo Cousins
1. Amy Jo Cousins
Love this list! It made me think immediately of ZA Maxfield's Grime series, about industrial cleaners. They'd fit in both your #3 and #4 groups, as they do both. :) Great books too. And I remember Cara McKenna mentioning once that she'd thought of a pest control hero once. Think that one's still on the drawing board...
Amy Jo Cousins
2. Julia Alaric
Does "Taxes and Tardis" count? :)

So much love for so many of these--The Proposition and Pricks and Pragmatism are both on my top ten list.
Amy Jo Cousins
3. Scarlettleigh
I have read a couple of Wendy Roberts books and really enjoyed them. I am glad you mentioned her name. I need to make sure I haven't missed any.

Kristan Higgins has a heroine, Penny Osterhagen that deals in junk - although she uses a fancier name - architectual salvaging.
Darlene Marshall
4. DarleneMarshall
I vaguely recall an old (70s era) Harlequin whose H&H were insurance agents, because someone told the author no one could write a romance about insurance agents. I shared that story with my husband the insurance agent, but still haven't found the book.

However, we've got Min the actuary in Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me. Just to put it in perspective, people tell jokes about insurance agents, but insurance agents tell jokes about actuaries.
Anna Bowling
5. AnnaBowling
Bonnie Dee had a wonderful circus freak (tattooed man, talking full coverage here) in her Bone Deep.
Jennifer Proffitt
6. JenniferProffitt
I gotta say, I read Her Summer with the Marine after we ran an excerpt on the site, and the hero and heroine were both morticians and it featured heavily in the plot (they had dueling family businesses that were in danger of being shut down) and it was a total turn off for me. That might have been because I thought I was going to read a sexy Marine story and got a mortician instead. The book itself was good...the occupation not so much.

As for your recommendations. Despite Mick's VERY odd career choice (or not considering his station and the time) I LOVED the proposition. But then again I love many etiquette teachers as heroines. Thanks for the great post!
7. wsl0612
Sadly the accountant is usually the guy the heroine dumps. And heroines are only accountants when the author wants to show a nerdy, dull girl looking to put some excitement into her life by dating the hot cowboy.
Accountants really get hosed in romance, I think someone needs to take up this challenge!
8. wsl0612
oh! I also wanted to mention that Mike Rowe does a great job of making Dirty Jobs look sexy ;-) so maybe authors need to use him for a role model when choosing some new "heroic" professions!
Mary Lynne Nielsen
9. emmel
@wsl0612 You need to read Kiss the Cook by Jacquie D'Allessandro! It's actually available in ebook--I got it in a "good guy heroes" collection a while back. The hero is an accountant, and believe it or not, his superior accounting skills are what saves the day in this romance! I really loved this book for showing both the hero and heroine in professions that many of us readers work in--no millionaires here. I highly recommend it.
10. wsl0612
@emmel, thanks! I do like Jacquie's work, I wonder how I missed that?
11. lauralee1912
@ JenniferProffitt - I really enjoyed her Summer with the Marine but it was sadly misnamed. I was trying to recommend it to a mortician friend and I think she thought I was trying to trick her. :)

In Robyn Carr's latest, The Chance, the hero owns a body shop.
Jennifer Proffitt
12. JenniferProffitt
Oh oh, @wsl0612 just reminded me that I read an accountant! It was Drop Dead Gorgeous by Jennifer Skully with a balding, tax accountant and a HILARIOUS redheaded heroine. Here's the blurb:
Where is love when you really need it?
Certain that she will depart this world at the tender age of twenty-eight, Madison O'Donnell is determined to experience breathless, passionate love in the two weeks left to her, no thanks to her stuffy boss, T. Laurence Hobbs! T. Laurence is the perfect tax accountant, a man who likes his ducks in a row and his numbers in a column. But there is no way he will sit by while the lovely Madison throws herself at the absolute wrong man.
If the only way to save Madison from herself is to make her fall madly in love with him, then it's up to T. Laurence to make it happen. And as he turns his number-crunching skills to capturing his sexy secretary, he's beginning to think that there is more to life than death and taxes!
@lauralee1912 Yeah, I enjoyed it too...minus the title! Make your friend read it. Lol! While this isn't a mortician, per se, Lynsay Sand's Love Bites features a coroner...which is close? Maybe? Actually I thought she was a mortician until I just looked it up!
Amy Jo Cousins
13. JL Merrow
In fact, you have to wonder if Merrow starts the plotting process by contemplating non-standard romance-hero roles.

Erm... *whistles* ;)

Great article, btw! :D
Amy Jo Cousins
14. Gina Ardito
Hi Kate!
Just wanted to thank you for the shout out on my list of unlikely career choices for heroes/heroines. Note, it's been six years and I guarantee most of these have been covered since then! But it's still a fun list to consider if you love a challenge.

Stacey Wahrman
15. staceyw
Loved Taxes and Tardis! The love interest in Love and Salvage: Skin Tight Levis as an actuary--close enough to accountant?
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