Dad Ever After

Guess where?

Guess where?

I’m still in Scotland, in part because next September, I’d like to lead a writers’ retreat here–a little bit sight-seeing, a lot writing. I’m exploring the area around where the group will stay, but also taking a few days to think about what’s important for somebody who sits down to write a good romance. (If you’d like to come with us to Scotland, please email me at [email protected]).

I’m not talking about the tea, the comfy writing chair, the chunks of time, but rather, what must go into the story. There’s a myth loose among writers, for example, that romances tend to be either hero-centric or heroine-centric. I think that’s baloney, for many writers (not all). The protagonists trade off taking center stage, while the relationship itself is what carries the tale.

darius_4502And yet, a traditional romance will have a hero, and that character will be male. Here again, myths proliferate. Some editors claim the hero must be gorgeous, so the reader can “fall in love” with him. Good looks certainly don’t detract from a man’s appeal, but to focus on that… vaguely insulting the reader, if you ask me, and to all the guys who aren’t gorgeous but are well worth a lady’s notice.

What a compelling hero must be is flawed. He must be a character who’s struggling, at least emotionally, if not in other regards. He’s a failure, at least in his own eyes. He might not even admit this to himself at the beginning of the book, but he carries the knowledge of his inadequacy with him.

ThomasThe book takes off when the heroine comes along, and challenges him to be the person he wishes he was (and he does the same for her), to let go of the wounds, to grab on to the love–and to her. This is scary business, and a villain or two usually complicates matters, and the heroine has her own issues which the hero helps sort out. There’s a lot that has to get done in the space of 375 pages.

By the end of the book, though, our hero has become a person who loves and is loved, who can face loss and change with courage and dignity, who honors his commitments, and his loved ones. He may still be short on charm, may still lack worldly wealth, may still limp too badly Dancing nipped tushie moved namesto waltz, but he’s kind, he’s honest, he’s a gentleman, and he’s worth sticking with over the long, hard, haul.

At the end of the book, in other words, after hundreds of pages of struggle and backsliding and getting it wrong, the hero is finally, finally worthy to be a dad, and the woman who caught his eye at the beginning of the book is ready to be a mom.

Any heroes in your family? To one commenter, I’ll send a copy of Dancing in the Duke’s Arms, which is on sale in print now, and will go on sale in ebook on Friday.



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30 comments on “Dad Ever After

  1. One of my uncles was very much a hero, to hear my mom tell it. I won’t air dirty laundry online, but it’s a beautiful story.

    • My grandfather was apparently a roguin’ and sportin’ kinda guy who managed to be a high roller through the Depression. My grandma left him for his impecunious brother, who was a much better role model for my dad.

  2. My Dad is my hero.
    He taught me how to forgive & forget, to have faith and to strive to be a kind & compassionate person.
    I am thinking of him this morning as I have my coffee with Molly and Celeste.

    Enjoy your time in Scotland!!

  3. My late beloved father is my hero. He came to the US in 1957 during the Cuban revolution at age 18 and struggled for awhile before he finally made a go of it. He always retained his accent but never returned to Cuba. Now I hope to someday visit his homeland and discover where this wonderful man came from.

  4. My husband is my hero. Much like your description of a Romance Hero, he’s a bit flawed (I could list each and every one of them!)and a bit insecure but he is a hero to many. He’s a physician who truly cares about his patients. He’s a son and brother who loves, if not always agrees with, his parents and siblings. He’s a loving husband who makes me a better person and I make him a better person as well–together we’re formidable. But finally, he’s an outstanding father. Our sons have had challenges, autism and…ummmm….genius (the genius has been, in some ways, more difficult than the son with autism),and he’s made sure they are loved and know they are loved. By him.

    Have fun in Scotland. From the pictures, it looks like you’re having a blast!

    • I’m convinced autism is a form of genius, at least in its higher functioning forms. But I get what you’re saying. The child with an “abnormal” intellectual gift is often lonely, outcast, and bored.

      And when has that ever been an easy kid to raise?

      • My son with autism is lower functioning but as smart as a whip! Some believe autism is the other side of genius.

        My *genius* was easy-peasy until he got to high school and then all heck broke loose. He is a pianist (and organist and harpsichordist), Grace, and looks at the world musically. Not always a great way to look at things. Your *Valentine* from “The Virtuoso” reminds me a bit of my Mr. B. I know things will eventually turn out fine for him, but it kinda stinks right now.

        No one said it was going to be easy but no one told us it would be this hard!

  5. There are all kinds of heroes, and I’d like to salute my hubby, John, which I don’t do often enough. He has endured my bad moods, my sad moods, my need for solitude, and my hobbies that he doesn’t understand. Unlike me, he’s quick to forgive and never holds a grudge. He still loves me and and is always telling me so.

  6. My Dad died almost 30 years ago. He was not a hero in the normal sense of the word. He had a sad life. He was an alcoholic and broke my heart more times than I can count.

    But he made me feel loved and could make me laugh quicker than any other person on earth.

    I love and miss him still.

    • They tell writers that heroes and villains are often struggling with the same fundamental wounds, but they each make different choices when it’s crunch time. Oversimplifying, but to me that says we all have heroic potential, but some of us don’t live up to it–or can’t live up to it–as well as others.

      Glad there were some smiles, though. They make the rest easier to deal with.

  7. My dad died this past January and we just interred his ashes last Sunday due to scheduling issues. It was mentioned several times during the ceremony that we should have done it on Father’s Day instead because he was the “dad everyone wished they had”, as numerous cousins put it. We grew up a lot differently than most of our generation.

    My dad and his three brothers all lived on the family ranches with their families. The family and the family business were invariably intertwined. When the cattle market crashed in the 70’s, we strove for some diversification that had the three younger brothers traveling a lot while my oldest uncle pretty much ran the ranches. My mom and my aunts had a rotation where each of them cooked dinner for everyone one night a week – for 32 people! – so I guess what I am getting at is that my extended family is so well meshed that it seemed almost like we had four sets of parents, and really it allowed the parents to specialize to some extent.

    My dad was unique in his abilities to keep the peace like a diplomat, listen like a psychologist, and find humor in everyday situations like a stand-up comedian. I liked it too that outsiders always thought my dad was intimidating, even though he was mostly just a big oversized teddy bear within the family (your Nicholas character reminds me a lot of my dad) but if the situation called for it he could turn into a grizzly bear. While dad’s specialties kept him at center stage among our “dads”, the supporting roles my uncles played within the family as crew foreman, business manager, marketing specialist, disciplinarian, etc. were crucial, too. When the younger brothers gradually decided to completely give up the ranch and pursue other things full-time, the family break-up was almost like a huge, congenial divorce, complete with a new geographical distance. With all the parents having to become the typical generalist parents, we all felt the pinch of loss.

    It was nice to hear so many of my cousins acknowledging how much they appreciated my dad and especially his parenting abilities, but I couldn’t help but think about how much my uncles brought to the table as well. My oldest uncle worked so hard to keep the ranching operation together and manage a bunch of wild kids as ranch hands; I’ve never asked but I’ll bet he can really identify with John Wayne’s character in The Cowboys. One uncle did a great job of marketing all of the goods and services and kept the music alive; I don’t know how much playing for weddings and street dances payed, but some of my best memories are of these events, the family that plays music together really does stay together – at least for a while. My youngest uncle thrived on juggling complicated finances and creative problem solving while managing to raise his four kids after his first wife decided motherhood was not for her, three months after having their fourth child in six years! With considerable help from my mom, grandma, aunts, several temporary wives and finally, his soulmate.

    While I’ll admit that there’s no one who’s going to be able to fill my dad’s size 15 boots, I feel all of my “dads/uncles” are deserving of hero status in their own way.

    • We woke up this morning to our horses being out in the road and I’ve been off my game all day. I got in such a hurry to get back to helping my husband repair the fence that some drunk drove through in the middle of the night that I posted my comment before mentioning that my husband deserves hero status of his own. He is truly the only person I can imagine as the father of my children and has been a great dad since he was 21!

      Now since he is tough enough not to take a break to cool down from fixing fence in 100 degree weather on Father’s Day, (I am so envious of that Scottish weather, Grace!), I’d better get back outside to help.

      • The family that chases loose livestock together will always have a place in my heart. Thanks for the memoir of an upbringing that reminds me of my Mennonite former husband’s upbringing. There was more moving around, but the same sense of being surrounded by a huge family. Seems there ought to be a TV series to made based on your upbringing, but what a huge cast!

  8. I would love to join you in Scotland.

    My hero is my husband. He deals with spiders in the house and snakes in the chicken coop!

    And he makes me laugh…he’s a JOY, that’s for sure!

  9. Dad was my hero. He was a decorated WWII vet, a police officer, a community and church volunteer, a good man and a great father. Thanks, Grace, for a nice Father’s Day post.

  10. The very last words my brother (one of four) said to my Dad were, “You were always my hero.” My Dad was a hero to all six of us, and I’m very proud to say that my siblings all learned his parenting skills. I still miss him dreadfully.

  11. My late father is my hero. He was the familys “every man” he helped, he loaned money (never to be repaid) became a father at age 41, after 12 years of marriage, a widower at age 54 with a 13 yr old daughter when my mother took her own life. We cooked, cleaned, did laundry with the old wringer washer. He saw to it my teen years were wonderful. He was a super grandpa to my three sons, and was gone too soon 43 years ago. I miss him, he was my Special Dad

  12. My husband is my own personal hero — he’d have to be one to put up with me for 24 years! 😉

    My father is a farm boy who left the farm and ‘made it’ in the world. He worked his way up from a line worker to part owner in a manufacturing company with locations in 2 states. He knew that we’d have a better chance of having easier lives than him if we got a college education. He made sure we knew that he was going to pay for our education no matter what.

  13. I have 2 – first is my husband because he is loving and true. He still finds me hot after 23 years. He always apologizes – he is absolutely my best friend and I still get a fluttery feeling when I look into his eyes when kissing. He works hard to support the family and is an adamant feminist. Yes he has lots of flaws. But when a single woman asked me how i stayed married for 20 years – I said love and laughter and being patient thru those down times. The other hero is my son because being 18 is tough and coming out as Bi is hard even when your family is liberal.

  14. Enjoyed your comments so very much. Your last paragraph line up with history and tradition. Marriages for thousands of years have been practical and expedient with one goal in mind …. the propagation of children. It makes perfect sense, romance aside, that your hero would seek a woman ready to be a mom and the heroine would seek a man ready to be a dad.

  15. I can’t think of ever hearing about a hero in my family. I am sure way back when there must have been one but I have not heard of him or her.

  16. Sign me up, tell me when, what time to be where, and how much this mental feast will set my husband back……and welcome home