Leigh Greenwood is the USA Today bestselling author of the popular Seven Brides, Cowboys, and Night Riders series. The proud father of three grown children, Leigh resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. He never intended to be a writer, but he found it hard to ignore the people in his head, and the only way to get them out was to write. Visit him at www.leigh-greenwood.com.
Find Leigh at:It’s hard to say what my favorite characteristics in a hero are because I’ve made a conscious effort to write about different men in different circumstances. I’ll give it a try, but keep in mind that I’m talking about cowboys. Heroes of other genres might face different challenges that would put the emphasis on different characteristics.
To begin with, my hero needs to be tall, strong, and handsome. This may seem obvious and even a little trite, but we’re talking about an idealized, romantic hero. You can make a hero out of any man if he has sufficient character or manages to rise to the occasion at one particular moment in history. I like my romantic hero to be tall and strong because he needs the strength to handle the kinds of physical challenges that faced men in the West between 1865 and 1890. He needs to be handsome because I want that strong, physical attraction to exist between him and the heroine right from the beginning. The way to get this is to make him physically very appealing. I have no preference for hair or eye color though I probably tend to make the men darker rather than blond. Maybe it’s just me, but I find dark more masculine and blond more feminine.
However, it’s his inner characteristics that hold my heroine’s interest and make her want to have the hero for a husband and the father of her children. Honesty, trustworthiness, intelligence, dependability, loyalty, all the usual suspects, but it’s how he displays these characteristics that counts. He will stand up to overwhelming odds because he refuses to yield to tyranny and because he will protect what he has and those he loves with his life. He will not bend to public pressure. He can and does stand alone, but he needs to be part of a community, of a family. He believes women have as much intelligence, ability, and as many rights as men. He loves children – maybe tends to indulge them a little too much – but he expects them to step up to challenges with the same courage determination he expects of himself.
I’d like to emphasize their sense of family. George Randolph gave up the career in the army he wanted because his brothers needed him. He hired Rose because they needed a housekeeper and kept her despite opposition because he knew she was good for the family. Jake Maxwell wanted nothing to do with all those orphan boys – he thought they were on a fast track to nowhere – but once he took on responsibility for them, he worked to provide them with the family and sense of worth they lacked.
They have a strong sense of justice, loyalty to friends and family. As the Randolphs would say, you touch one of us and you touch us all. The Night Riders stuck together for seven years to see that a traitor was finally brought to justice.
I want my heroes to have pride without being prideful. I want them to have confidence in themselves, but be able to admit when they’re wrong, even if it’s a woman who got it right. I want them to be forceful in standing up for themselves, but able do it without abridging the rights of others. If this sounds a little like stubbornness, you’re right. But it takes a lot of self-confidence to do things other people say can’t be done, to face unknown dangers with no guarantee of success, to go it alone knowing there’s no one watching your back. That makes him something of a gambler, but he only gambles for the really important things, the things that last, the things that make life worth living.
Heroes have a strong sense of adventure. They have a need to accomplish something of importance, to do something memorable. They need to think they matter. He’s willing to hurt people’s feelings, to knock them down so to speak, as long as it’s for their good. Yet despite all this ego and need to succeed, he can’t be too noisy about it. Good people should be able to like and respect him. He has to fit into his family, his community, to be a positive influence even if has to force a few recalcitrant souls to see the light.
I’m sure there’s more, but I’ve rambled on long enough. I’ll close by saying I’ve never had a list of characteristics I work from. Each hero deals with his own set of challenges. In the first book of my Cactus Creek series, Colby Blaine is the epitome of an action hero. You could make a typical western movie of his story. In the third book (due in 2015) my hero is sick and thinks he’s dying. The challenges he faces are entirely different and therefore his characteristics are also different.
Torn Between a Desire to be Free…
When Laurie Spencer said “I do”, she never realized she’d be trading one pair of shackles for another—until her husband’s unexpected death leaves her with an opportunity to escape her controlling family for good. Determined to be independent, Laurie approaches sexy rancher Jared Smith with an offer she hopes he can’t refuse…
And a Longing to be His...
Jared’s determined to make it in Texas, but with the local banker turned against him, it looks like his dream may be slipping through his fingers. When unconsciously sensual Laurie offers a partnership, his luck may be changing…but when she throws herself in as part of the deal, Jared’s not sure he’ll be able to respect the terms of their agreement and keep his eyes—and his hands—to himself.
There’s something about Laurie that awakens every protective instinct Jared has…and when all hell breaks loose, there’s nothing and no one who’ll be able to keep this cowboy from her side.
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