The Gen X Woman’s Romance Hero
Note: the following contains generalizations about romance trends. If you do not fit these generalizations, be content with the fact that you’re a loner, Dottie, a rebel, and you want what you want. Just don’t @ me about it.
I’ve been a good indie author and taking a look at what readers want in their romance heroes, and I’m noticing a definite divide between the generations. Millennials and Gen Z seem to be very big on hot, ruthless heroes who know what they want and take it, much to the delight of their female counterparts. Dark romance, monster romance, bully romance—they adore these subgenres, and the sales of romance writers who work in those subgenres reflect that.
And that’s fine. Romance is all about fantasy, and Millennial and Gen Z readers are dealing with the fact that they don’t have the advantages and rights the generations before them had (not to mention that the world is going to shit) by wanting heroes who are big and gruff, will kill to protect them, happily rail them until they pass out from orgasms, and look damn good in a Henley and a pair of jeans while doing it. They want their stories to feature women being claimed by dangerous, implacable aliens/shifters/monsters/Russian bratva hitmen and swinging from a chandelier in flagrante delicto.
Then there’s my generation. Generation X likes the idea of big, buff romance heroes as well, don’t get me wrong. But we’re also old and tired. A lot of us are in perimenopause or menopause and are more likely to reach for a cast iron skillet than swoon if a man tries to order us around. We like our heroes gorgeous and protective, yeah, but we also want them to know when to back off and let us do shit, and how to do things like clean the house/take care of the kids/do the food shopping without us having to hold their hand through the process.
And that’s kind of a challenge for a Gen X romance writer. Do I write stories that only appeal to my generation, or do I write stories that appeal to readers in their forties and younger? If I write both, do I risk pissing off one set of readers who were expecting hot young bully wizards and got a cinnamon roll hero in his fifties? I’ve already gotten horrified reviews from someone who read my solitary contemporary romance and then read the SF romance that indirectly inspired it (they are … very different in tone and subject matter. Let’s leave it at that).
I don’t have an answer to this, nor do I think that there is one (at least, not one that I would enjoy implementing. Remember, I have problems coloring inside the lines). But it’s one of the things that’s been on my mind lately.