book, opinions

Where Have All the Good Men Gone?

Re-posting this from the “main” blog.

Bike RideThere has been no secret made over how we girls tend to (and like every second of it!) swoon over a good leading man. A good man can go a long way. He inspires entire conversation threads and sometimes, stirs our hearts or compels us to think beyond the “normal” reaction.  In the last month, I have been baffled by some of the oversights in Christian fiction and proud of others. The greatest imperfection has left me questioning, where have all the good men gone? Cutting out the dramatics and making concession for creative licenses, there is a real weakness in the story and a gaping hole painfully evident if the man isn’t someone who inspires admiration. Recently, I have been preoccupied with this trend at length, only instead of relating it realistically, I’ve been thinking about it fictionally. Specifically the men in the fictional titles that occupy much of my time have been on my mind.

One of the best things we can do for ourselves is have the foresight to distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t. What we are living is reality, the fiction we read isn’t. Let’s start out with that admission. Fiction doesn’t entail living – breathing, people. Precluding the genres that are clearly all fantasy, fiction does imitate life. In most of the novels I read, the characters are “real.” Christian fiction has rapidly changed in recent years. Instead of prim and proper romance, novels now push the envelope when it comes to protecting and cherishing the purity in romance and is, on occasion off-putting for readers of a more conservative nature – or those of us who still cling to the belief that love is more than lust, that there is a way to one’s heart that is pure and beautiful. (It is possible!) Romance with a passionate personality keeps the romantic chemistry interesting, true – where some books rarely ignite a spark, leaving romance is dull as dishwater – but herein lights a dangerous fire if one is not careful. Depending on how this is written to the page, it can be a detriment or strength. Realistically, the first overture of “love” (or interest) is the physical pull that draws us to a person, it’s when we don’t realize love is so much more than the surface that there is trouble; love and lust are not equals, their connotations do not match. Recently I met a hero who falls into lustful trappings and is a contradiction. One side of him shows what a devoted family man he is, taking fiercely protective care of them. Another proves he’s a bit of a rascal with a fondness for taking what he wants – and the “first kiss” proves that.

What should a first kiss be? Should it be quick and chaste? Sweet and longing? Or passionate but full of promise? Any of these are possibilities. Nothing about a scene in which a kiss is forced endears the hero – he certainly won’t did steal my heart and… I am sad when that kind of behavior is thought of lovingly. I always want to like the hero and no, I am not talking about him always doing the right things or impressing us with his romantic tenderness; a liege doesn’t always have to rescue the lady, a gentleman doesn’t always have to open the door or show up with a bouquet of flowers. All I am asking is that he encourages respect and before the book is over with, make me wholeheartedly like him. Whether he’s a figment of someone else’s imagination or not, a reader should never feel as if the “good guy” is in any way taking advantage of or pressuring the girl whose heart he should be winning with respectful behavior. This is a big no-no.  

There is a fine line in writing a man who can find someone attractive but not be “in lust” with her. When a book travels too far into the opposite side of this, there presents a challenge. It’s a problem when the relationship feels like nothing more than a “bet” or some sort of amusement. Call me naïve but even if the guy isn’t a Christian during the principal of the story, there doesn’t have to be an issue because the truth is, usually he knows better. Impossibility or not, I am sticking with this because I have
experienced it – and let me tell you, it’s much more pleasant. 
Scores of novels have beautifully portrayed leading couples in ways that is cute, flirty, sassy and romantic without making the reader question the motives of the hero or wondering if he would turn his attentions
to the next woman who caught his fancy.

Heroes should be imperfect – as the saying goes, “heroes are made, not born.” That does not mean that we should be asked to root for one who mistreats ladies. Minor or in excess, it makes no difference. Personally, I do not believe that all men are unable to remain faithful – even in a minor fashion. This is perhaps why I am so frustrated. I am used to the “bad” guy being the one who engages in relationships that are unhealthy, not the one we are asked to root for. If the man who should inspire respect is going to trend towards being taking what he wants instead of respecting the bounds, then I am one reader who is very disappointed.  

So here is my message to all those fictional men who could be so much more: step up, stand out, be respectful and become the men we know you are. If you do, you’ll be treasures we, as a reader will cherish and your leading ladies will find in you, a keeper.
…and now it’s your turn!

Have any of you ever experienced a hero whom you had a tough time warming to

or has there been a moment when you doubted him?

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4 thoughts on “Where Have All the Good Men Gone?”

  1. Well said. Who is the hero you mention that is both a family man and rascal? I am interested because I recently read a book who’s hero fits this description…

    1. Thanks for reading – and commenting, Cassie!

      It was Julie Lessman’s new book, actually. It’s ironic because I adore her novels (they take risks) but couldn’t fully warm to the hero in this book – he was likable but… it bothered me how he treated the heroine.

  2. I totally agree with you. I have seen and read so many fictional “heroes” like this, but what’s kinda annoying and sad is it’s invading into the Inspirational fiction. I’ve read quite a few books where I felt like the only feelings the writer conveyed about the two lovers is exaggerated physical attraction.
    I also have a real problem with heroes who are essentially described as rakes suddenly being devoted to one woman. There is never any admission or revelation of what he did n the past was wrong. He just decides, for no real reason, that he likes this one pretty girl and now he will be with her forever. And I’m like, “Really? You were just with three other girls two chapters ago.”
    “Deirdre” and “Veil of Pearls” are some recent Christian fiction books I’ve read where the heroes made me doubt them. I had a lot of trouble warming to Deirdre’s hero – in fact, I was skimming through the book, after awhile – I just felt the sensuality was a bit unnecessary. And I found it ridiculous that a guy who is completely immoral stops wanting to be with other women… because his “feelings” for them suddenly disappear.
    I think I’m talking about this too much, lol. I’m glad you posted something on it – sometimes I feel like I’m the only one noticing all this stuff. 😀

    1. Physical attraction doesn’t bother me, Hope… if it’s done well – attraction can be appealing yet “proper.” Another reason being that usually the “physical” is what first attracts us (women) to a guy. A hero who is a rake then suddenly decides to devote himself to one woman – or even marry her! – is a change insanely impossible to believe. I also have opinions on whether or not guys can remain faithful and believe, of course they can contrary to the clichés they fall into. Transformation of men (or female) characters can be done but it stirs up feelings of distrust when a woman falls in love with a man who shows her no respect. And what’s worse is if that change (or salvation) is hurried since it makes the reader feel cheated and leaves us wondering why the heroine decided to marry the hero.

      I have not read either of the two novels you mention although do want to read the latter. Thanks for the heads-up and for sharing two examples.

      You aren’t alone and didn’t talk “too much” about it at all in this comment. I enjoyed it very much.

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