I am a well educated, confident 21st century woman. I believe in equal pay for equal work and I don’ need me no man, girlfriend. But. There’s something about those historical heros.
They are bold, decisive, ruthless and their bodies are honed from things like chopping wood and heaving logs rather than staring at their biceps in a gym mirror. But it’s a truth universally acknowledged that no red-blooded gal can resist a shirtless man chopping wood, all rippling muscles and brute strength.
It’s the other bits I don’t get. Like the bit in Terri Brisbin’s The Conqueror’s Lady where the hero claims the land and the heroine as his own without even a “How ’bout marrying me darl?”. But I love it! I love how he takes control and takes charge and does what he wants without asking her first.
What is it about these ol’ fashioned blokes? Do I suffer from the dreaded Cinderella Complex? (I read that book, but have forgotton what it said. Something about all women want to be saved…Yawn.) Maybe the idea of a big strong man taking on all my worries is appealing sometimes, but I’m no whimpering bunny and I’m too much of a control freak for that and besides I prefer the kick-arse heroines like the one’s Kelly Hunter conjures.
But all those manly men doing manly things…I just can’t resist. They make my brain swell. It’s crazy. I even like the dumb things they do and the stupid things they say. This scene from Jeremy Kirk’s The Build Up Boys is one of my fav’s (and it’s not even a romance novel!)
‘”You’re selling ‘Make Mine Anne Tremaine’. Do it right and he’ll buy it.”
Her eyes widened in horror. “Clint, I can’t, I’m not built that way, I – ”
He didn’t hear the rest. Something was wrong inside his head. It was a boiling tea kettle getting ready to blow off its lid.
He cried, “I’ll show you how your built.”
He grabbed the collar of the white blouse, wrenched. A button spun off. His fingers had a life of their own. They raced down the blouse. Soft cloth folded back. There was flesh under his fingers now, cool white flesh that suddenly flamed red.
She slapped him. He blinked.
The boiling tea kettle in his head simmered down and a haze cleared away from his eyes. She was standing very straight in front of him, blouse open to her waist, breasts heaving under the twisted cloth of her brassiere.
She said coldly and clearly, “You dirty pimp.”‘
Wowser. This book was published in 1951. The hero is asking the heroine to flaunt her stuff to win support of a business partner. I should hate him. But I don’t. He’s an idiot, yes. But she gives it back to him with a good hard slap.
Maybe that’s it. Strong men need strong women to simmer down their tea-kettle. And historical novels often feature strong independently minded women. (The one’s I read anyway.) So maybe it’s the competition these old boys offer that makes them so irrisistable and not the fact that they’re riding in on their white horse to save the day. The push and pull, the matching of wits. The challenge of whether the heroine can stand up to his controlling tendencies. I adore that the historical hero is the alpha male times one thousand. But what really floats my boat is that the historical heroine is no simpering Cinderella.
Bring on the biff I say.