I recently came across some interesting statistics. Two female psychologists, Maryanne Fischer and Tami Meredith, analyzed the titles of over 15,000 romance novels published by Harlequin from 1949 to 2009 and came up with a list of the most common hero professions. And the results?
All ultra alpha professions, with the possible exception of #4 and #8. I certainly don’t think of Prince Charles as an alpha-type, although admittedly the role of royalty has changed over the years and it’s safe to assume that historical royals had an abundance of alpha-ness.
But why so much alpha? As a single gal, I have to say I’d much rather meet a veterinarian than I would a doctor. I’d choose a landscape architect or even an organic farmer over a rancher. A soldier would always be away, as would a pirate (hehe). And the idea of a surgeon romancing me… according to a close family member who’s also an ER doc, surgeons have the most impossible egos. God complexes even.
Granted, the study involved books that were published as far back as 1949 when most women didn’t have career ambitions of their own. Back then, maybe the alpha pull was stronger than it is today, I thought. But then I read the second set of statistics.
For their book, A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire, Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam analyzed the romance titles on Amazon at the time. Although I haven’t been able to find the total number of titles they included in the study, they revealed that they found 415 millionaires, 286 billionaires and 263 sheiks in the titles alone. Yikes!
I understand the appeal of a romantic hero who’s loaded. I do. I’ve spent my fair share of time daydreaming about Christian Louboutin heels and jetting off to the Caribbean to escape the winter blues, so I get the whole Cinderella fantasy. However…
Maybe it’s to do with my Midwest upbringing, but I’ve got a fiercely strong work ethic. I take great pride in being able to provide for myself (which hasn’t always been the case, hence…) I can’t accept help without a heaping of self-imposed guilt. And I know I project my own issues on the characters in romances I read. And on the ones I write.
In Fashioning a Romance, I didn't want to stray too much from the norm, I gave my hero, John, one of the top alpha jobs (#3 Boss), and he’s got heaps of money too. Caitlyn, my heroine is a hard working seamstress-slash-fashion-designer who’s uncomfortable with the kind of money he wants to spend on her.
Once I’ve got another few books signed, sealed and delivered, I might experiment by giving a future hero a very un-alpha profession. Would readers root for a romantic hero who works in a bookstore? What about one who works in construction? Would these men have to be secret millionaires in order for readers to fall in love with them?
Perhaps this is naïve of me, but I think readers would be open to unconventionally, non-alpha heroes. If the romance is strong enough, it shouldn’t matter if the hero is a cowboy or a horse trainer, should it? I would LOVE to know what you think. ;-)