Aug 11 2014 3:30pm

Not Quite a Duke: In Praise of Younger Sons

Why Lords Lose Their Hearts by Manda Collins

Today we're joined by author Manda Collins, whose Why Lords Lose Their Hearts has just been released. Manda's book has a hero who is heroic, certainly (especially in the eyes of the heroine!), but he does not have a title—an anomaly in current historical romance. But Manda's hero has good company, and she's got a list of the best second (or more...) sons in historical romance. Thanks for joining us, Manda!

In the world of Regency romance these days, Dukes, Earls, and all manner of nobleman populate the role of hero. To paraphrase Mr. Elliot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, a good historical romance hero requires only birth, a title and manners. And with regard to title, it's not very particular. If he’s a hero, then he MUST be the historical equivalent of a Billionaire—a member of the peerage. (I’m looking at you for this trend Harlequin Presents and Fifty Shades!)

There are exceptions to any trend of course. And any number of younger sons or (gasp!) untitled fellows make it into published novels. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a younger son wooing the heroine on the pages of your favorite historical novels.

Not to say that I’m not guilty of peer-praise in my own novels. I’ve got a couple of Dukes, a couple of Earls and a Viscount to my name. But in my latest book, Why Lords Lose Their Hearts, I deliberately chose for my hero that loser in the birth-order lottery (for males, that is—females lose automatically just by being female—and don’t get me started on the lower classes): the younger son. And not only is Lord Archer Lisle a younger son, he’s the youngest of six.

Even if younger sons have been losing the popularity game of late. There are plenty of younger son heroes who remain in my own pantheon of favorites. And lots of them are favorites precisely BECAUSE they are younger sons. Here are a few of them:

Slightly Married by Mary Balogh1) Colonel Lord Aiden Bedwyn from Slightly Married by Mary Balogh.

As the “spare” to his brother Wulfric’s “heir,” Aiden was destined for the army. Even though he, in his heart of hearts, felt he was more suited to the life of a country gentleman, running an estate. But he did his duty and went off to war, and it’s this which eventually leads him to the doorstep of his heroine, Eve, when he arrives to personally inform her of her brother’s death. A born leader, Aiden is terse, taciturn, and every inch the officer. And, because he’s NOT the Duke of Bedwyn, he can marry where he pleases, which means there’s no (okay, there’s some) uproar when he weds a lady who is not nearly as noble as the Bedwyn family. I love Aiden because he’s Aiden, second son, soldier, wry humorist, all around good fellow. And he just wouldn’t be himself if he weren’t a younger son.

2) Colin Bridgerton from Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mister Bridgerton.

One of the issues Colin grapples with in this fan favorite among romances, is the fact that because he’s not Anthony, the head of the family, he needs some occupation. And it’s his desire to become a writer that (among other things) binds him to his heroine, Penelope Featherington, who is also a writer. One element of Colin’s personality that is so appealing is the carefree attitude that comes of NOT being in charge of a large family of siblings, like his brother Anthony is. Eventually Colin figures out his place in the world and settles down with his lady, but there’s a certain freedom in the choices he can make because he’s NOT Viscount Bridgerton—and he’s quite happy with that.

Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase3) Rupert Carsington, hero of Loretta Chase’s Mr. Impossible.

In my own collection of favorite romance heroes, Rupert Carsington is in the top ten. As the fourth son of the Earl of Hargate, he’s about as much of a scapegrace as any romance hero is every likely to be. And some of that is because as a younger son he has no real calling. It’s how he ends up imprisoned in Egypt so that he can, coincidentally and fortuitously, be freed by Mrs. Daphne Pembroke—widow and scholar. Compared to the book smart Daphne, Rupert—at first glance—seems to be a little on the, shall we say, unscholarly side. But despite his brawn (and boy does he ever have some strong muscles) he’s also much smarter than most people give him credit for. Certainly smarter than his family—including his elder brother, Lord Rathbourne, the heir—think him to be. And smart enough to protect both himself and Daphne from the bad guys who are determined to kill them. If Rupert were the eldest son of the Earl of Hargate he’d likely never have gone to Egypt in the first place. And we’d not have one of the (in my humble opinion) greatest novels ever written.

So, the next time you see a Duke, a Marquess, an Earl, a Viscount or some other historical iteration of Christian Grey on the bookshelf, look around to see if there’s a younger son lurking about in the shadows. He might not be all powerful, or richer than Croesus, or capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound (oh wait…), but he can be just as brave, a little more dashing, and twice as fun as his sobersides elder brother.

At least, that’s what all the younger sons tell me!


 Learn more about or order a copy of Why Lords Lose Their Hearts by Manda Collins, available July 29, 2014:

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N

Buy at iTunes

Buy at IndieBound



Manda Collins spent her teen years wishing she’d been born a couple of centuries earlier, preferably in the English countryside. Time travel being what it is, she resigned herself to life with electricity and indoor plumbing, and read lots of books. An affinity for books led to a graduate degree in English, followed by another in Librarianship. By day, she works as an academic librarian at a small liberal arts college, where she teaches college students how to navigate the tangled world of academic research. A native of coastal Alabama, Manda lives in the house her mother grew up in with three cats, sometimes a dog, sometimes her sister, and more books than strictly necessary.

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Mary Lynne Nielsen
1. emmel
And I wish there were more. Soooooo tired of the editorial axiom that readers only want dukes in their romances!!
Lege Artis
2. LegeArtis
You had me at Rupert Carsington. He was on my mind when I read the title of post.
My list would also have Smite Turner from Courtney Milan's Turner series, but I don't know if he really fits the list since circumstances around Ash's title are unusual.
Manda Collins
4. mandacollins
Emmel, I think one of the great things about self publishing is that it allows authors to write more heroes who come from all over the spectrum. Hopefully the publishers will see this and expand their offerings too! (Though, FWIW, my editor has not once told me to write a Duke hero. So far both my dukes were my own idea!)
Manda Collins
5. mandacollins
Lege Artis, I'm always happy to meet another Rupert fan! He's the best!
6. chinshah
well now
i do love Aidan..but then i love Alleyne too... then there is Josh and Gervase(how can one leave out any of them...)... and without a doubt i love Wulfric.... dear Wulf with his quizzing glasses...

i liked Rupert too but i think i liked his brothers story more...
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