Jan 9 2015 2:00pm

Make Mine a Virgin: Male Virgins from James, Gabaldon, Singh, and More!

We’re all used to stereotypical rakes with mad sex skills gleaned from years of practice who sexually awaken virginal heroines. It’s the dominant theme of the romance genre. But let’s take a moment to consider the elusive virgin hero.

I’m not talking about Steve Carrell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. No, us romance readers want very sexy virgins (sorry, Steve). If mishandled by an author, a male virgin could have a question mark over his masculinity and his sexual competency—the very characteristics that drive the romance novels. So for the story to work, for the hero to be untouched without being emasculated, they have to be endowed with physical strength, good looks, wealth or a super alpha personality. This requires some deft characterization, with heroes requiring almost superhuman sexiness to make up for their lack of experience.

In Unclaimed, Courtney Milan introduces us her to a handsome virgin hero, with the note, “Sir Mark Turner did not look like any virgin that Jessica had ever seen before.” In Love Hacked by Penny Reid, virgin Alex is gifted with deep-set indigo eyes and although he’s kind of a super weirdo, he’s also a sex god (virgin or not). And then there’s Jamie Fraser… (Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander) Jamie is six-feet-four-inches of perfection, broad shoulders, muscled, strong, ridiculously handsome. To say nothing of his personality, his courage, humor, protectiveness and confidence.


Jamie and Claire after the Wedding Night in Outlander 1x07

Of course, wealth, physical strength and good looks aside, there is still an inherent vulnerability to the male virgin. While female virginity may be a commodity (at least historically), this is not considered the case with male virgins. If American Pie taught us anything, it’s that men must get rid of their virginity as soon as possible to avoid ridicule. Male virginity is therefore awkward, it becomes a plot twist, worthy of a moment of “confession.” In nearly every contemporary/historical book mentioned in this post, there is a shocking revelation of virginity to the stunned heroine. For example, in Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James, the hero Gowan grimly confesses his inexperience to Edie: “A virgin,” he said, growling it, after all, a man isn’t supposed to be a virgin. Ever.”

Authors have often gone to great lengths to give heroes a reason for their purity, as though a legitimate explanation is required. After all, it’s intriguing. Why is the handsome hero a virgin? The answer can’t be that the hero simply has no game with the ladies! In Untouched by Anna Campbell, we have a hero imprisoned in a remote country manner. Bonnie Dee’s Bone Deep gives us a tattooed man mysteriously trapped in a carnival freak show (it’s even weirder and cooler than it sounds). In Transcendence by Shay Savage, we have an isolated cave man unable to communicate. In Born in Sin by Kinley MacGregor, an illegitimate hero is unwilling to bear a child out of wedlock. Then of course, there are Edward Cullen’s moral convictions in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series which make him a pretty famous 107 year old virgin.

It’s taken for granted that a romance novel hero will be pretty skillful in the boudoir. Where does that leave the virgin hero? Who actually gets it right on their first try? In Outlander, heroine Claire comments, “As yet too hungry and too clumsy for tenderness, still he made love with a sort of unflagging joy that made me think that male virginity might be a highly underrated commodity.” Indeed, in most romance novels, the virginal heroes possess an ultra- attentive drive to pleasure the heroine, usually derived from their feelings towards the lucky lady.

Caressed by Ice by Nalini SinghIn Nalini Singh’s Caressed By Ice, Brenna is delighted to discover Judd the virgin is so skilled, and he tells her, “I’m very good at research—some might say I was obsessed with this particular topic.” Perhaps even more interesting are the novels where the inexperienced hero struggles a little to please his lady. This works particularly in historical novels where a lack of internet probably made it difficult for a man to learn anything without hands on experience, which is the case in Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James.

Consider the paradigm shift between an adult male virgin and a sexually experienced heroine. In All of You by Christina Lee, we have a virgin male Bennett pursuing Avery, who only does one night stands to avoid getting hurt, this difference drives much of the conflict of the novel and demonstrates how male virginity doesn’t have to just be a gimmick, but part of a deeper, clever use of characterization. In Kresley Cole’s Dark Skye, novice Thronos is constantly slut shaming the more experienced enchantress Lanthe, until she finally snaps and asks, “Should I make you think I’m totally a virgin, or maybe that I only had a couple of fuck buddies?” Of course, Thronos eventually manages to overcome his insecurities pretty well, and despite his inexperience is able to more than hold his own with Lanthe. “Somehow he was beguiling her. The virgin was seducing the seductress!” It seems that even when a lady has a couple of notches on the bedpost, a virginal hero can sometimes make it work.

Finally, there is something damn romantic about a virginal hero, after all – his first lover is going to be his last. In Archer’s Voice  by Mia Sheridan, the hero Archer tells Bree: “There has only ever been you. There. Will. Only. Ever. Be. You.”

Let us know in the comments if you enjoy a bit of action from a novice!


Learn more about the books mentioned in this post:

Unclaimed by Courtney Milan  
Love Hacked by Penny Reid  
Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James  
Untouched by Anna Campbell  
Bone Deep by Bonnie Dee  
Transcendence by Shay Savage  
Born in Sin by Kinley MacGregor  
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer  
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon  
Caressed By Ice by Nalini Singh  
All of You by Christina Lee  
Dark Skye by Kresley Cole  
Archer’s Voice  by Mia Sheridan  













Jane Kriel, lover of chocolate and all things Sweet Valley High.

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Jennifer Proffitt
1. JenniferProffitt
Kresley Cole actually has another virgin that I love too--Sebastian Wroth in Book 2 in the series. He was oversized for the medieval era he grew up in, clumsy, and scholarly/shy so he never gave any ladies any attention. His first experience was when he was Blooded by Kaderin--a hot and yet sweet scene!
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
I reread Bone Deep recently, and I just love it so much. I love how the sex between the h/h is kind of awkward and yet super-intense.
Ellen Hutchings
3. shadowmaster13
@JProffitt. I <3 Sebastian but he had had some (terrible and embarrasing) sex before. Book 4, Conrad was a virgin.
Kresley is super willing to have heroes of all kinds of experiences and heroines with plenty of experience.

Courtney Milan's The Duchess War also has a virgin hero, with Robert being unwilling to even coerce a woman with his Dukeliness.
Evil Elisa
4. Evil Elisa
I absolutely love Penny Reid's "Love Hacked", it's my favourite book of hers! "Archer's voice" by Mia Sheridan, sigh, all her books give me the feels.
Evil Elisa
5. Lauralikestoreadalot
Alex from Penny Reid's Love Hacked is hands down my favorite virgin! Sorry Jaimie!
Jennifer Proffitt
6. JenniferProffitt
@shadowmaster13, I thought he had attempted but that it had never happened...but now that you say that I'm thinking that didn't the tavern girl or something laugh at his bumbling. Oh jeez, what a hardship, I guess I'll just have to go re-read to be sure!
7. Kareni
Pax, from Joanna Bourne's newest book Rogue Spy, fits the bill.
Ellen Hutchings
8. shadowmaster13
@JProffitt the torture you go through to be properly informed. I actually think that Sebastian's awful past makes him even more embarrassed than if he'd had none.
Evil Elisa
9. Mizz Crow
I agree on Kresley Cole. She does great male virgins.

I am a lady who has ridden the carriage around the block a few times, twice widowed. I was my first husband's third wife... and was the second sexual experience my second husband had ever had, at 32. Let me tell you something. A man who has been thinking about it a long time and is eager to please can be the best lover in the world.
Evil Elisa
10. Fiona Marsden
I'm taking notes for my TBR. Love virgins of all descriptions but male virgins are yummy. I would disagree with the statement that rakes & virginal heroines are the dominant theme however. This was so in the past but these days virginal heroines are getting hard to find with increasing numbers of courtesans and fallen women and experienced widows taking the leading roles.
Evil Elisa
11. Bonnie Dee
Wanted to say thanks very much for the mention of Bone Deep, and offer a couple of other titles of mine that feature virgin heroes. The Countess Takes a Lover in which the older woman's tutorial of a younger man takes a surprising turn, and The Warrior's Gift, set in a fantasy world in which monklike warriors are occasionally gifted with a female as a reward. Virgin heroes are a great trope one rarely sees enough of IMO.
Evil Elisa
12. Suzanne Dye
Lorraine Heath had a cowboy virgin in one of her earlier books but I cannot remember the name. If I could I would re-read it.
Evil Elisa
13. Suzanne Dye
Lorraine Heath had a cowboy virgin in one of her earlier books but I cannot remember the name. If I could I would re-read it.
Evil Elisa
14. 715helva
I think all of Nalini Singh's Psy heroes were virgins as the Psy race smothered emotions and the need for sex. Judd Lauren, his brother Walker Lauren, Kaleb Krychek, Vasic, and Aden, among others were all virgins who, nevertheless, were quick studies (and stud-lys) when they met their Changeling or Human loves.
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