Friday, October 14, 2011

The Inexperienced Hero by Josephine Myles

Are any of you fans of the inexperienced hero? I’m not necessarily talking about virgins (although I’m happy to include them here), but those guys who’ve either never had a relationship before, or are entering into a new type of relationship for them. I’ve realised I really enjoy reading and writing these types of heroes, as there’s so much scope for conflict and character development as they negotiate their way through the minefield of a brand new relationship.

The virgin hero

I’ve got to admit, I don’t find enough of these as I’d like within m/m romance. Perhaps it’s because it’s hard to imagine someone getting it completely right the first time around, so no matter how beautiful the love story between two heroes in their early twenties, the realistic part of me doesn’t always hold a huge amount of hope for their HEA. I say this having recently written a novella featuring two young university student heroes, one of whom was a virgin at the start. I believe in their HEA, though – I have to!

Of course, you do occasionally find characters who stay virgins for longer (yes, it does happen), but the author needs to work extra hard to make the reasons for this convincing. Perhaps a past traumatic sexual experience if it’s a darker story, or maybe they’re just workaholics or painfully shy.

What’s more likely in m/m romance, is to find a hero who’s had sexual encounters with women, but is still a virgin when it comes to same-sex encounters. It takes skill to make a gay for you or out for you storyline work, but I really appreciate them when they do. Not only does this character have the fun of discovering what goes where in the bedroom, but they have to face the world as a gay man for the first time. They also get to find out all the ways in which sharing a relationship with a man is different to doing so with a woman.

Okay, I know men and women probably more similar than we are different, but I still think hormones have a lot to answer for. Testosterone is great for action and single-minded purpose, but it doesn’t necessarily help with compromise and domestic harmony. I’m just sayin’...

The never-had-a-boyfriend hero

These ones are great fun to write, because they can be as experienced as you like in the bedroom, but they’ve never before found anyone they wanted to settle down with. Watching them discover the trials and joys of having a life-partner can be by turns amusing, angsty and heart-warming. This was one of my favourite things about writing Dan in Barging In – he might have had boundless experience in terms of shagging his way around the world, but he didn’t have the first clue about how to behave as a boyfriend.

Of course, this type of character can be extremely angsty if their reasons for not having settled down are because of previous traumatic experiences, such as being abused or betrayed. I’m not quite so keen on these kinds of darker stories, but I know a lot of readers adore them.

The novice hero

These guys will have had regular relationships before, but are entering into a new kind of relationship for the first time. An awful lot of BDSM novels have one of the characters (usually a submissive) as a novice being initiated into a D/s relationship. I think this works really well for readers who are unfamiliar with these kinds of relationships, as it gives them an outsider’s view of a new world. They can share the novice hero’s new impressions, and are given the explanations they need to make sense of the power dynamics that a more experienced practitioner would take for granted. In many BDSM novels this is all the conflict you need – or all that the author sees fit to include, at any rate.

Alternatively, you can have someone who’s experienced as a Dom or sub, but is entering into a 24/7 Master/slave relationship for the first time. These books can be absolutely fascinating, but only ring true when they’re written by authors who’ve done their research diligently or lived the lifestyle themselves.

Ménage relationships are another great testing ground for the novice hero. Indeed, in many of these set-ups all three characters are entering into a ménage for the first time. Again, there is ample grounds for interpersonal conflict simply from the dynamics of three men trying to work out how to make this work – especially when it’s a form of relationship much of the outside world condemns. Not only do you have all the deliciousness of three guys in bed together, but you have three guys fighting over the duvet and who gets to sleep in the middle.


Those are some of my favourite kinds of inexperienced heroes in m/m, but perhaps you can think of more? Do you have any favourite novels to share that feature any of these types of hero? Alternatively, do you prefer your heroes to have plenty of previous relationship experience, and if so, why?

Please share!


Sharon Stogner said...

I am relatively new to the m/m genre (6 months or so) they tend to give me more emotional bang for my buck than the m/f. I am a big forbidden love fan and m/m has that in spades .

I like the gay for you storylines because of all the complicated emotions tied up in it. The first one I read was Faith and Fidelity. Wow, was all I thought after reading it. Their love story blew me away.

I just finished books 1-3 in The Making of a Man series by Diane Adams. It is about a 15 year old who has had no experience and a 20 year old who has had one really bad experience. There is no touching till the boy is 16 and then no sex till he is 18. It is a touching and sweet story of how they get from point A to point B. Their first sexual encounter was messy and quick.

I also love Doms that discover they are subs to another.

I don't like menages. I want the cliche romance, fated mate type of thing .

okay, talked a bit much, but I am glad I found a blog where m/m books are discussed.

Jenre said...

Hi Jo

Thanks for stepping in for me today :).

I love inexperienced heroes, especially when they are paired with someone of experience who can help them come to terms with who they are and make their first time a good one. I've just read Slow Bloom by Anah Crowe and Dianne Fox and the young hero in that story was inexperienced and a little bruised by finding his feet as a gay man. It was delightful to read the way he blossomed under the careful hands of an older man. delicious!

Josephine Myles said...

Hi Sharon - I know exactly what you mean about the emotional charge m/m can give you. It's exactly what draws me to read and write it!

If you want links to any other blogs where m/m books are discussed, check out the links page on my website here.

@ Jen - thanks for giving me the opportunity! I know just what you mean about watching characters blossom under another's watchful care, so I'll definitely check that one out :)

Sharon Stogner said...

@Josephine - Thanks for the links. I haven't heard of most of them, but funny...I am a guest reviewer at two of them ;) Rarely Dusty Books and LoveRomancePassion.

I also help run a paranormal blog called I Smell Sheep.

Stevie Carroll said...

Hi, Jo ;-)

I do like characters who are inexperienced in a particular type, or aspect, of relationships. But then I also like to see the individual tropes turned on their heads. Either the inexperienced character is the one doing the pursuing and pushing for more, or there's an upsetting of expectations, such as an older character with very little experience outside of their one big relationship encountering a younger character who's tried everything and is now a touch jaded.

Prue said...

I should try a 'novice hero' book. It won't surprise you to know I've never read any BDSM. Tbh I'm not sure I want to :D

On the other hand, I must think of my education...
Any suggestions for a first novel? :)

Josephine Myles said...

@ Stevie - oh yes, it's great when the tropes are turned on their heads. I have a situation a bit like you've outlined in my next novel, Handle with Care (to be released sometime in 2012, hopefully)

@ Prue - BDSM recs? Hmmm... Let me have a think as I wouldn't want to scare you off. Two of the best ones I've read have been menage romances too: Out of Focus by L.A. Witt and Soft Focus by Jaye Valentine and Reno MacLeod. Actually, Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan would probably be a better place to start out - it's a lovely romance and a great read - the BDSM aspect doesn't overpower the rest of the story. There are some menage scenes, but it's the relationship between Sam and Mitch that really counts.

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