And which so-called romantic heroes or heroines of fiction definitely would not be? Seven for whom it’s a definite yes please, and seven for whom it’s a definite no way … to make fourteen, for the 14th of February. If anyone’s actually reading this, and wishes to cheer me up by making their own suggestions – I need cheering up, seeing as Storm Ciara ruined my plans for last Sunday and now Storm Dennis has ruined my plans for this weekend, bleurgh – then please, please do. People usually think I have terrible taste in fictional heroes, so yours are probably much better!
Yes please to:
- Orry Main from North and South, but only to the TV mini-series version played by Patrick Swayze. The real Orry (i.e. the real fictional Orry) drinks too much and has a scruffy beard. The TV version has a great deal to do with my very long love affair with American history. Seriously.
- Guy Charlton in the Sadlers Wells books. Yes, I know I am the only person in the world who thinks Guy is a romantic hero, but he is! I accept that he is a pain in the Marjorie books, but people do grow up, and adult Guy is amazing. He can rescue me from a Scottish mountain any time.
- Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Well, he does own Lyme Park … er, sort of. And, OK, he starts off being rude and obnoxious, but he’s a good guy at heart, and it’s so romantic how he changes his ways when he realises how unworthy are all his pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased. Henry Tilney and Captain Wentworth would also be “yes please”, as far as Jane Austen heroes go. Edward Ferrars and Edmund Bertram less so. Mr Knightley is a maybe.
- Almanzo Wilder in the Little House in the Prairie books. I never used to think of Almanzo as a romantic hero. His silly name doesn’t help, especially as it probably came not from the Crusades but from a daft story that was being serialised in a magazine. But he, along with Cap Garland, goes out in the blizzards to find food to save everyone else in the town from starvation. And then he, again in bad weather, goes to collect Laura from the Brewsters’ every weekend, brings her home, and takes her back again – even though she tells him that it doesn’t mean there’s anything going on between them. Bless!
- Gilbert Blythe in the Anne of Green Gables books. He gives up the teaching job at the local school so that Anne can stay with Marilla after Matthew dies. How lovely is that? And I love the way he tries to get Anne’s attention at school – so typical of what boys of that age can be like. Then they end up getting married. So sweet!
- Jem Russell in the Chalet School books. Yes, OK, he can be bossy, but he is supportive of Madge keeping the school open, he adores his sister Margot, and he is clearly a feminist because he pays for Daisy to go to medical school. Better than all of that, when Madge is upset because of Joey’s nasty remarks about her weight, and decides to go on a diet, he tells her that she’s fine as she is. This is a man telling a woman that she does not need to lose weight! Now there’s a true romantic hero.
- Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music. He counts as fictional because he’s nothing like the real Captain von Trapp! OK, he’s very rude to Maria at first, he runs his house in a very odd way, and you’d get lumbered with looking after his seven kids … but you so would, wouldn’t you? And he makes a stand against the Nazis!
But a definite no to:
- Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. Why on earth is Heathcliff classed as a romantic hero? The guy is a complete psycho. He wants locking up. And the key throwing away.
- Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre. OK, he’s better than Heathcliff, and I accept that he was trying to do his best for Bertha, but he tries to trick Jane into a fake marriage, and, when she finds out the truth, assumes she’ll be happy to be his mistress! And he’s horrible to Blanche Ingram as well. Jane had terrible luck with men – St John Rivers was probably even worse than Mr Rochester – but I’m sure she’d have found someone decent if she’d kept looking. But she didn’t.
- Maxim de Winter in Rebecca. Again, why is he classed as a romantic hero? He murdered his first wife!
- Theodore “Laurie” Laurence in Little Women. Amy tells Laurie that he is a sulky idiot and that she despises him. Unfortunately, she then marries him. She was right about the sulky idiot bit. He’s OK as a teenager, but he’s a complete pain as an adult. Why does everyone wish he’d married Jo? OK, Prof Bhaer’s hardly Mr Darcy, but Laurie isn’t either.
- Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary. Well, more in The Edge of Reason. He doesn’t realise that he’s supposed to be going out with Rebecca, but he spends the night with her because they’re put in the same room. Even though he’s supposed to be in love with Bridget. Oh please. Mr Darcy, he is not. Well, he is, but you know what I mean.
- Jack Maynard, who’s probably actually supposed to be the hero (insofar as there is one) of the Chalet School books. He keeps giving his wife sleeping pills. That’s not romantic. It’s creepy. And he deals with stroppy kids by refusing to speak to them. And spends money given to him by a grateful patient on buying a lime-green minibus, instead of handing it over to the sanatorium. Jem would never have done that.
- And, last but not least, Rhett Butler. Gone With The Wind is the greatest book ever written, and I love the way Rhett is always there for Scarlett. Every time things go wrong, Rhett is there to help put them right – even though she just can’t see that he, not Ashley, is her true love. He should be the greatest romantic hero ever. But Margaret Mitchell spoilt it by including the marital rape scene. I know that times were different then, but there’s no getting past that. It’s horrendous. I really wish that scene wasn’t there.
So there we are. Seven hits and seven misses. And that’s about as romantic as my day is going to get, but, hey, if anyone’s reading this, I hope yours is better. And your list of romantic heroes is probably better as well, but this is mine!