Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Need A Hero!

Why I Write & Read Romance
Lise Horton

In recent days the gossip-ravenous media has latched on to the latest Mel Gibson saga. There’s been his long-reported history of over imbibing, fisticuffs and DUIs. A while back there was his anti-Semitic rant. More recently the revelation that this member of an extreme Catholic sect, husband to Robyn and father of seven children with her was being divorced. Fast upon the heels of this was the exposure of his extra-marital affair with the beautiful, much younger, Oksana Grigorieva and the ensuing love child (kid # 8).

Now the latest. Lurid, downright ugly tapes have been released and are being listened to and reported on in every news outlet available. Racist, sexist, violent, threatening and lewd screaming at the mother of his child who alleges that Gibson also hit her and threatened her with a gun, in the first case while she was holding the baby in her arms. A restraining order is in place and the entertainment trades reported that his agency, William Morris Endeavor has removed him from their roster. Which, I assume, means they fired him.

Add this to the cacophony of other news of men behaving badly. John Edwards, Al Gore, Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen, Chris Brown, Mark Sanford, Elliot Spitzer, and those are just the guys who’ve been leaving broken hearts hither and yon. How about the truly abhorrent cases of mad love like Scott Peterson, Brian David Mitchell, Josef Fritzl, Bruno Fernandes? Every day’s headlines bring more horror, betrayal, disappointment (and don’t get me started on the likes of Bernie Madoff, Ken Starr, Jack Abramoff, Scooter Libby – it isn’t just in the arena of love where guys are doing their darndest to disappoint!) It begs one to ask the burning question:

Where have all the heroes gone?

It is this tawdry state of public affairs, my readers, that is the reason I write and read romance. When this gal’s faced with a tsunami of infidelity, disloyalty, dishonor, rage, hatred, and homicidal acts, not to mention back room business double dealings and greedy shenanigans, I need to escape. Where I turn for solace from the daily grind of reality is to a good fantasy. As in a romance novel. Where a man may have a stock portfolio or a race car, fur or fangs, but he treats his woman right, he’s brave, loyal and true, and, after some good loving, a girl’s guaranteed a happily ever after.

But it’s a fairy tale, you say! My response? Darn right it is! The kind that helps me escape to a world where good triumphs over evil, where the bad guy always gets his just desserts and men don’t cheat with the babysitter, beat the crap out of their lover, or kill them and feed the body to their dog. It’s where heroes and their women battle the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune side by side and hand in hand and share smooches and a glorious, happy ending.

I’m sure that there a oodles of good guys out there, and women lucky enough to have them. For the ladies who enjoy both a good romance and a good man, congratulations on your good fortune! (Would that the press saw fit to cover everyday heroes and honorable men doing good deeds. But NOOOO! What fun would THAT be? So the bilious deluge continues.)

For me, however, I create the heroes I’d love to encounter in my own romances, and I voraciously read others’ novels about their ideal men. And there are great romances to enjoy. Entertaining stories filled with wonderful characters and terrific tales of love. There’s a genre for every taste and heroes and heroines for every sensibility, from virtuous Regency misses to kick-ass urban fantasy heroines who never let their dudes forget they are men, to the Scottish rogues and starship troopers who can make a girl’s bosom heave with a single sardonic glance.

So when I cannot stomach another exposé of a man who done his woman wrong, I indulge in romance. Rather than ponder the broken marriages, destroyed lives, damaged children and families, instead, like Dr. Frankenstein-builds-a-romance-hero, I create my own perfect men. I compile the characteristics of the sort of fella I’d like to get up close and personal with. The kind of dude who’d do my heroines justice and though they may be high maintenance, they’re never low down dirty dogs. When not penning my own, I enjoying the romantic literary fruits of other creative minds. It is how I keep from despairing over the sad state of affairs that is in my face at every turn.

Say what you will - that I’m being unrealistic, that I am turning a blind eye to the harsh truths of life. True and true. But I am certainly less angst ridden, less depressed, and more hopeful for it.

In these trying times, that’s my reason for loving romance novels.

What’s yours?


  1. Geez, Lise, I'm a little depressed now! Yes, the world does seem a sad state of affairs much of the time. But I haven't given up on humanity just yet. There are heroes and heroines out there in the real world, and they sometimes even make it into the news. NBC Nightly News often ends their broadcast with a segment called "Making a Difference" spotlighting the unsung, selfless, everyday heroes who help disadvantaged children, wounded veterans, homeless Haitians or the lonely elderly. The news magazine THE WEEK always includes a section entitled "It wasn't all bad" featuring three "feel-good" news stories. Last week's included the story of 8 Kansas teenagers who found a purse containing $7700 in cash and turned it into the police who were able to locate the owner, a local widow who had collected the money for her late husband's memorial. I do understand your frustration with the heavy focus on the bad stuff out there. It does seem to sell more newspapers (and fill more internet space) than uplifting material. Ah, but I haven't answered your question. Why do I read romance? Because it makes me feel good. And I have to hope that the heroic characters authors create reflect in part the decent people in the real world who are indeed out there.

  2. Gee, I'd wondered what all the hoopla about Mel Gibson was. And now I know why I never bothered to find out. lol There's a man who's his own worst enemy. So I guess I read romance for the same reason you do - to have something to read that doesn't depress me. It's better to have hope than not, right?

  3. "Hope" is a great reason, Carly and Lis, I'm glad to hear there's still recognition of the good guys among us.

  4. I read romances for the happy ending. I'm a sucker for one...everytime. And you are correct, if I can't find it in real life then I make do with the fantasy. Not as satisfying but hope lives. Maybe there is a hero out there somewhere who is not taken and coming my way. ;p