Sep 8 2016 10:00am

4 Reasons Why a Romance Hero Stays a Virgin

All I Am by Nicole Helm

Half the fun of the romance is how subversive the genre can be when it turns societal conventions on its ear. Romance is a safe place where women can explore, and embrace, their desires in a world that has largely dismissed and maligned female sexuality.  No other trope does this quite the way that the virgin hero does.  Throughout history a woman’s worth has been wrapped up in her hymen, and nothing screams subversive in this genre than when the shoe is on the other foot. 

From its inception, Heroes & Heartbreakers has made quite a bit of hay over virgin heroes.  We’ve written about virgin heroes with historical romance, science fiction romance, and swooned over Jamie Fraser (a lot!). However as much as readers love virgin heroes, we don’t seem to naturally gravitate towards them in contemporary settings.

The reason for this is largely the societal conventions the genre likes pushing up against in the first place. Contemporary virgin heroes are seen as “too unrealistic,” which leads to authors wanting to explore this theme into “explaining” why the hot, hunky hero has failed to get lucky.  He’s hot, he’s hunky, why is he still a virgin?  There has to be a reason! It’s an interesting phenomenon, especially given that the genre has existed for years without feeling the need to justify why the heroines are virgins.  It’s OK for her, but if he’s one there must be something wrong with him.  Don’t believe me?  I recently took a deep dive into this issue and realized that our poor contemporary heroes get saddled with extra baggage to explain their V card.

SEE ALSO: Trope-Flippers: 5 Category Romances that “Mess” with the Formula

Socially Awkward

The hero in All I Am by Nicole Helm is an honorably discharged veteran dealing with injuries sustained while he was overseas.  However it’s not the injuries keeping him from scoring.  It’s the fact that he’s socially awkward, not all that great around people, and a run-in with the local Mean Girl took an embarrassing turn.  Lucky for our boy our heroine comes along and she’s a mighty skilled tutor.

The hero in Offensive Behavior by Ainslie Paton is one part socially awkward and one part jerk.  He spends so much time in his own head, building his dot-com company from the ground up, that he fails to work on his people skills.  Which is to say, he doesn’t have any.  It takes him hitting rock bottom, drinking his liver away in a seedy dive bar, and meeting our pole-dancing heroine to learn to be a more social creature.

Abusive Childhood

The hero in A Beauty Uncovered by Andrea Laurence survived childhood abuse that left him with physical and emotional scars.  Even a loving foster home cannot undo all of the damage, and while successful in business, he’s lived his life as a recluse.  Hard to meet people when you shut yourself up between home and office.  Lucky for him the heroine hires on as his temporary secretary.

Lost Love

The hero in A Royal World Apart by Maisey Yates is as macho as they come – he’s a millionaire bodyguard.  In an added twist of genre conventions, he’s not only a virgin, but a virgin widower!  Defying their families and eloping, before they could begin their honeymoon, his bride is horrifically injured in an accident.  As in vegetative, needs full-time care, sex really isn’t an option here, accident.  And being the faithful husband, he cares for her until she dies, remaining true to his vows. 

SEE ALSO: How Would You Freshen Up a “Tired” Trope?

Size Does Matter

Sometimes the hero is a virgin not because of some accident or abuse, but because genetics is standing in your way.  The hero in Never Sweeter by Charlotte Stein is skilled in a multitude of reindeer games, having enjoyed the company of several women, all without actually doing “it.”  Why?  Because our boy is just that well-endowed.  Apparently size does matter and bigger isn’t always better.  But our heroine?  Up for the challenge.  Once she gets past the fact that he bullied her in high school.

We see these sorts of justifications in historical and paranormal worlds as well, but not with the same amount of regularity.  I suspect because as much as romance readers love to see societal norms tweaked in subversive ways, we cannot always throw the baby out with the bath water.  The idea that a contemporary hero in present day could still be a virgin, even as open-minded as we are, is still a shocking proposition and we want to know why.  Even though the why is the least interesting part of the whole affair.  It’s easier to believe in an era we didn’t personally live through or in a fantasy world the author spun out of whole cloth.

Learn more about or order a copy of the books mentioned in this post:

All I Am by Nicole Helm
Offensive Behavior by Ainslie Paton  
A Beauty Uncovered by Andrea Laurence
A Royal World Apart by Maisey Yates
Never Sweeter by Charlotte Stein

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Wendy the Super Librarian also blogs at So dig that library card out of your pocket and head for the stacks. 

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Jen Wattley
1. JenWattley
Never Sweeter is a fantastic novel and this element is handled well in a really believable way.
3. Kareni
Thanks for a fun post. I enjoyed reading Offensive Behavior by Ainslie Paton and am looking forward to reading Charlotte Stein's Never Sweeter.
alexander j hollins
4. alexander j hollins
So, did you as a kid, or do you know anyone, that had a fear of the bathtub? like, if you unplugged it while still in the tub, a fear of being sucked down the drain with the water?

I had a coworker in my teens that was 30, and honest to god was AFRAID of sex. He had this fear that he admitted he knew was irrational, but couldnt get over, that his penis would get stuck and rip off at the base.

As for myself, AMAZINGLY bad timing. by the time I was 24 and finally lost my virginity, I had had over a dozen ALMOSTs with 5 different women that all got stopped just short for various reasons. (one of them being her upstairs neighbor crashing through the roof and into bed with us. )
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