A Hero at Heart

Romance Authors Define the Perfect Hero

"In your opinion, what qualities should a hero always have?"

Jayne Ann Krentz:  The fundamental qualities of a true hero are the ancient, heroic qualities: honor, courage, determination. Nothing has changed since the dawn of storytelling. We still look for the same things today in a hero.

Donna Kauffman:  A hero should be strong enough to stand by his convictions...and smart enough to know when to follow his heart instead of his head.

Catherine Anderson:  In my opinion, the one absolutely necessary quality a hero must always have is not good looks, suavity, or physical strength, but incredible, wonderful, irresistible heart—an intangible something that enables him not only to love deeply, but to live for love, sacrifice everything for love, and even die for love if it proves necessary.

Karen Ranney:  Qualities a hero should always have are the ability to change, learn, grow, and the willingness to do so.

Maggie Shayne:  Every hero should have a deep, festering, emotional wound that only the heroine can heal. It's the most appealing characteristic you can give a man—because it turns the woman into his hero.

Mary Balogh:  A hero, no matter how hard a time he has coming to terms with his noblest self, must ultimately display the ability to love truly and passionately and unconditionally and forever.

Susan Johnson:  Tenderness, understanding, a strong sense of self, and a willingness to take on the world.

Dorothy Garlock:  My heroes have high moral ethics and are always faithful.

Kay Hooper:  A hero should always, always have a sense of humor. Everything else is negotiable (grin).

Deborah Smith:  A hero should be wise enough to be strong without cruelty, vulnerable without weakness, and loving without possessiveness. A hero likes a strong woman and doesn't feel threatened by her intelligence. He treats his daughters with unpatronizing respect and his sons with gentle authority. He knows that a man should be respected, not feared.

Linda Winstead Jones:  A good and noble heart.

Dixie Browning:  Integrity and a sense of humor top my list. All else is gravy.

Jo Beverley:  I have to expound upon a couple of points first. Readers like different sorts of heroes, so my answer will be to what qualities a hero should always have to work for ME. My second point is that heroes change throughout a book. Some more than others, but a character without any change and growth would be very boring. However, it's the qualities they bring into the book that make the book work or not, not those they end up with. For example, the ability to trust is high on my list for qualities essential for the future of the relationship, but I can live with a character who can't trust throughout most of the book if there are credible reasons. Therefore, I'm talking about qualities that are there at the beginning of the book. Given that: intelligence, honor, and a sense of humor.

Julia London:  A sense of humor, especially when it comes to himself. And big hands!

Roberta Gellis:  I think you will find the characteristics of a romance hero the same for every writer, although each may use different words to describe them. For me, the hero must be physically appealing (this does not mean handsome; one of my heroes was described as being so ugly that no one who saw him ever forgot his face), intelligent, and softhearted. The latter two characteristics are frequently in conflict.

Virginia Henley:  My heroes are always dark, dominant, and dangerous, but above all they must have self-confidence. Underneath the arrogance, however, lies a gritty integrity.

Laura Hayden:  I believe a hero must be tall enough and smart enough to reach his dreams without walking around with his head in the clouds.

Robin Lee Hatcher:  A hero can be flawed, but in the end, he must ultimately rise above his own human weaknesses and behave in a heroic manner, which to me means acting with integrity and moral courage.

Laura DeVries - Laura Gordon:  A sense of humor about himself and the absurdities of the world.

Rebecca Brandewyne:  Intelligence, strength, caring, compassion, loyalty, faithfulness, honor, an utterly wicked sense of humor (grin), and a deep, undying love for the heroine.

Barbara Samuel - Ruth Wind:  Almost anything else can be negotiated, but a romantic hero needs to love the heroine with his whole heart and soul by the end of the book. And I really need a man who can laugh at himself.

Trish Jensen:  Compassion for the heroine's real and perceived shortcomings.

Candice Hern:  Personally, I prefer them flawed but redeemable, with a strong underlying sense of humor.

Janelle Denison:  A hero should always be strong intellectually as well as physically; sexy never hurts (and that doesn't always stem from his looks, but rather his personality, which can be charming, lightly flirtatious and attentive); and most importantly, he MUST be sensitive and not afraid to express his emotions.

Stephanie Laurens:  He should display the four Ps:  protectiveness, passion, possessiveness, and pride (in the heroine).

Jennifer Blake:  Based on a compilation of characteristics I've given my "Southern Gentleman" heroes over the years: strength (both physical and emotional), intelligence, honor, humor, charm, passion, grace (both physical and in his manners), dedication to a cause, self-sacrifice, and a tragic past.

Pamela Morsi:  A love of ironing and a willingness to pick up around the house.  ...Okay, okay, you're talking fiction. The above is REAL LIFE. The most important thing is the hero's willingness to make a commitment. All other obstacles can be overcome, but only a man who can marry and live happily ever after can be a hero in romance fiction. That's my take on it, anyway.

Emilie Richards:  Intelligence, sensitivity, courage, and integrity. Broad shoulders and a lopsided, quirky smile don't hurt, either.

Rosanne Bittner:  Compassion.

Alexis Harrington:  A hero doesn't need to be perfect—I'd rather have a man with human frailties and self-doubts. But despite his imperfections, he must have a nobility of spirit that gives him the ability to recognize his own flaws, to see the good in others, and ultimately, to do the right thing, regardless of the cost to himself.

Jennifer Crusie:  Honesty, empathy, competence, balance, and a solid sense of humor.

Connie Mason:  A hero should be tender, kind, faithful, and strong enough to overcome any flaws in his character (with the heroine's help, of course). He must be secure in his own worth, know what he wants when he sees it, and not be afraid to go after it. My heroes are always alpha men, strong, resilient, and forceful. Being a good lover is a prerequisite.

Marsha Canham:  He should have a good sense of humor, be protective without being possessive, and always be a little bit mysterious. Handsome as Zeus doesn't hurt either.

Judy Griffith Gill:  A hero should be bold, compassionate, and strong enough to be humble when it's necessary.

Cathy Maxwell:  Without a sense of responsiblity, a hero is incapable of sustaining a lifetime commitment to the woman he loves.

Karen Kay:  Honesty, integrity, a good sense of humor and, along with his undying love for the heroine, raw sexuality. Whew!

BJ James:  For me, the best hero is a paradoxical mix of steel and sentiment, making him both formidable and compassionate; a renegade beyond the trappings of convention, yet a man capable of extraordinary tenderness, enduring friendships, and even greater love.

Millie Criswell:  A hero should be strong in his beliefs and have the courage to stand by them. He should be kind, loving, and most importantly, he should have a sense of humor.

Susan Andersen:  Sex appeal and humor. And I like tough guys who are secret nurturers.

Janis Reams Hudson:  Integrity, honesty—he should be honorable. He needs the ability to be tender and gentle when the occasion warrants, or tough as steel when necessary, and he must be able to laugh at himself. When he falls in love, it must be with everything that's in him, everything he is—no half measures.

Maggie Osborne:  For me, the perfect hero always has a sense of humor, a strong backbone, and some money in his jeans. Having smoldering good looks is also nice.

Christina Dodd:  Stamina!

Lorraine Heath:  A hero should always be willing to sacrifice what he values most in order to ensure the heroine finds happiness.

Deborah Simmons:  I've written everything from alphas to betas, but they all have some qualities in common. My heroes must be handsome, intelligent, interesting, competent, strong (yet vulnerable in some way), and capable of deep love, passion, and commitment.

Georgia Bockoven:  A hero gives the perfect present—whether it's a robin's feather the exact color of her hair, a bowl of strawberries in midwinter, or a front-row seat in a sold-out concert.

Patricia Gaffney:  I've always had trouble figuring out what qualities a hero should have, but Carol Pearson (THE HERO WITHIN) said something good: "Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves."  Love that.

Liz Fielding:  Tenderness and a sense of humor.

Jo Goodman:  Boots (grin). Okay, let me try again. I want heroes with integrity and intelligence and convictions.

Lynn Kurland:  In my opinion, a really good hero should be a bit like a roasted marshmallow (and I am always a sucker for a good s'more)—crusty on the outside, but deliciously soft and tender on the inside.

Kathleen Eagle:  Any hero worth his salt must have an interesting background; inner beauty and strength; vulnerability, including a raw spot (emotional) and maybe a flat spot (wrong-headedness); and admirable ideals that he's willing to stand up for against all odds. The amount of each ingredient varies, especially at the beginning of the story, and the emphasis varies, depending on what the story is about.

Stephanie Mittman:  A good deal of integrity; a fine sense of humor; and a good, kind heart.

Susan Krinard:  In my opinion, a hero should always have the following qualities: integrity, charisma, mystery, compassion, the courage to forge on no matter what the obstacles (even if he's afraid), loyalty, the capacity to love deeply, and the ability to grow and change for the better (especially with the help of the heroine's love!).

Marilyn Grall:  Self-confidence, compassion....and broad shoulders.

Sue Civil-Brown - Rachel Lee:  A romantic hero should always be honorable. His honor may get him into trouble at times, but it should always be the basis for everything he does.

Victoria Chancellor:  A hero or a heroine should always have at least one characteristic or trait that is both identifiable and sympathetic to the reader. If the reader cannot find something important in common with a heroic character, they will not follow them on the sometimes perilous and always emotional journey through the pages of the novel.

Judith Arnold:  A hero should have self-confidence, an inner core of kindness, and the ability to laugh at himself.

Theresa Weir:  The most important quality is compassion.

Amanda Scott:  A good hero is strong, passionate about the people and issues he cares about, charismatic, and blessed with a sense of humor. In general, his virtues and faults contrast with but also complement, even highlight, the heroine's primary characteristics.

Anne Stuart:  A hero should be fascinating and ultimately redeemable. None of the rest (like honor, nobility, kindness, good looks, bravery) matter.

Stef Ann Holm:  The kind of hero I like is one who defends the heroine no matter how much she frustrates him.

Patti Berg:  My perfect hero never fails to be strong, intelligent, good-humored, and sexy. And no matter what the crisis, he won't think twice about danger or putting himself in a risky situation—protecting the ones he loves will always be his first concern.

Patricia Rice:  If he's in a relationship, he should always consider his partner's opinions as well as his own!

Linda Anderson:  Qualities a hero should always have: inner strength, courage, and modesty.

Dee Holmes:  No matter how raw, rugged and dark the hero is, he must have a vulnerability that will, in the end, have led to his redemption.

Donna Hill:  He must be totally captivated by the heroine, even if he fights it for whatever reason. He must be strong in that he won't let adversity get him down or let his past ruin his future. He must have integrity; honesty, which should be an attribute that you see grow and develop with the character; and a sense of humor—not fall-down funny, but able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and make the heroine feel good.

Rita Clay Estrada:  What I need most in a hero is strength coupled with tenderness—along with the ability to be wrong and willing to admit it out loud!

Fern Michaels:  A wicked sense of humor; never cruel; expressive eyes (mirror of one's soul); dark hair (blonde never seems to quite cut it); and lean and muscular (who ever heard of a chubby hero?).

Jo-Ann Power:  A romantic hero, usually a staunch supporter of truth and justice before he meets the woman of his heart, must more often than not be brought to the fullest realization of his potential by the strength and moral fiber of this woman, who then becomes for him his perfect mate.

Sharon Ihle:  It's nice if he's drop-dead gorgeous, funny, kind, strong, and honest—all the attributes we look for in a man; but I can forgive him any of those as long as he's hopelessly, helplessly, gut-sick and "besottedly" in love with my heroine.

Barbara Freethy:  A hero should always be smart and sexy with a great sense of humor, and be able to kiss the heroine senseless.

Margaret Evans Porter:  A developing love for the heroine that proves powerful enough to survive any and all conflicts and trials they undergo; the ability to forgive her mistakes and acknowledge his own; and a desire, by the novel's end, to commit to her and her alone.

Mickee Madden:  Whatever a hero's background, he should have the ability to find humor in everyday life and hold love and justice dearest to his heart.

Kathleen Creighton:  I'm sure this is going to be one of those "du-uh" answers, but I'd have to say the one quality a hero must always have is simply...a good soul. He can be almost anything, any type, anybody, but without that basic goodness inside, he is not and never can be a hero.

Madeline Baker:  He must be strong yet tender, have love and respect for his lady, a warrior's heart, and a sense of humor.

Mariah Stewart:  First and foremost, a great sense of humor. He doesn't have to be a "funny man" all the time, but he has to be able to see the humor in the situation. Intelligence—I've never met a truly sexy man who wasn't smart. I like a hero who cherishes his relationships, with family and friends, as well the heroine. Sensitive, thoughtful, supportive of the heroine's dreams and appreciative of her accomplishments, with a willingness to talk things out. A sense of real romance (I do like a man who dances in the moonlight and isn't afraid to hum off-key in a woman's ear). A great smile, used often, helps. Dimples never hurt. I guess it's obvious that I prefer the gamma man to the alpha man.

Jane Goodger:  A hero, though flawed, must have his own moral standards and his own code of conduct; and he must ultimately, despite any hard edges, have a kind heart.

Michele Hauf:  Honor; courage; and a little-boy enthusiasm for life, love, and adventure.

Linda Castle:  The most important thing to me is that the hero is always a man with a past...searching for a woman with a future.

Cindy Gerard:  Heroes, in my opinion, should always be something less than they appear to be. Yes, less, not more. On the outside they are strong, protective, often alpha. On the inside, however, they must have a vulnerable and breakable heart that only one woman can mend.

Curtiss Ann Matlock:  He should be strong enough to accept the woman just as she is.

Deb Stover:  A real hero is endearingly flawed, vulnerable yet strong, and absolutely MUST have a good sense of humor.

Jaclyn Reding:  For me, the #1 quality a hero must always have is honor. I like him to be strong, but not absolutely hard. I like him to have a soft spot, something hidden from the rest of the world that the heroine sees straight through. Couple that with tall, dark and handsome, and you've got my ideal hero.

Victoria Alexander:  A fair amount of arrogance, a good sense of humor and a really nice butt (grin).

Claire Delacroix:  A hero should always have integrity, even if he's a rogue and a flirt—maybe ESPECIALLY if he's a rogue and a flirt!—so we, as readers, will know he can be trusted and that he'll keep his promises to the heroine...and that they will be "happy ever after."

Kristine Rolofson:  I'm a sucker for a nice guy with a sense of humor; and if he's wearing cowboy boots, that's frosting on the cake.

Constance O'Banyon:  For me, a hero must always act and react to a situation with honor and a devotion to duty. He can be tortured and even have a jaded past, but he must always be willing to leap tall buildings with a single bound for the heroine. Once he meets the heroine, he is true to her alone. I like to write about powerful men who have a cause to fight for. He can be strong, yet sensitive; willful, yet bending; but most of all, the heroine is his one great love.

Tracy Fobes:  I guess the most important thing to me about a hero is that he is always acting in the heroine's best interests, or what he thinks are the heroine's best interests. You know he's looking out for her. If a hero doesn't do that, then the story loses something for me.

Judy Di Canio:  Since I've written a "Perfect Hero" (the name of the line for Dorchester Publishing), I can say that heroes should be strong, yet always be willing to help those in need.

Jill Jones:  I think a romantic hero should have passion and compassion. It doesn't hurt if he knows how to cook.

Heather MacAllister:  A romantic hero should always be willing to get up in the night with the baby. The most romantic words in the English language are, "Go back to sleep, I'll get up with the baby."  I'm serious!

Merline Lovelace:  A hero definitely should have a sense of humor and a sense of honor or integrity. Others may not always understand his personal code, but it's something he lives by and to which he is true.

Gwyneth Atlee:  In my opinion, a romantic hero should always have a strong moral core. To the reader and to the heroine that may not be clear at first, but by the book's end, his actions should be seen as motivated by some noble value.

Sandra Hill:  The perfect hero is a tormented man with a wicked sense of humor. A wonderful combination of dark and light.

Joan Johnston:  I like my heroes to be physically strong and emotionally vulnerable.

Cheryl Reavis:  The one quality my hero must have: he must ALWAYS take care of his children. I can't abide a man who shirks his responsibility for his child—I don't care what the reason; and a man willing to take responsibility for a child that is NOT his is REALLY a hero to me.

Ruth Ryan Langan:  A sense of humor, integrity, and a kind heart—no matter how gruff or aloof or mysterious the face he shows the world.

Cait London:  He should always have honor and try to do his best in any situation, working and thinking through difficult times with everything that is in him. He is concerned about others, rather than himself. He FEELS.

Alina Adams:  A hero—whether sweet or harsh, brooding or supportive—should never, ever be BORING.

Denée Cody:  A sense of humor and integrity.

Virginia Kantra:  I like all kinds of men and all types of heroes, but the romance really works for me when the hero sees and appreciates some essential quality in the heroine that gets to him at gut level. My romantic heroes have to be men capable of deep passion and devotion.

Edith Layton:  A good heart and good sense, good looks and a good sense of humor—and a good amount of money in the bank wouldn't hurt either.

Teresa Medeiros:  A romantic hero, no matter how flawed, should always be willing to run into a burning building to rescue a basket of kittens.

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