How old are your brain children, your characters?

While organizing my bookcase, I browsed through some old historicals. Although dog-eared and yellowish they are very precious to my heart. The Kathleen Woodiwiss, Heather Graham, Johanna Lindsay and so many that I read and reread in the eighties. The heroines were blushing virgins, fresh out of puberty, sixteen to eighteen. They were living in country castles with strict fathers or guardians, dreaming and waiting for knights in shining armor.

The older heroines who had reached the respectable twenties were either widows who had just buried an unloved husband thirty years older; or spinsters as they called them at the time. Offspring of noble but penniless parents, they earned their living by chaperoning young pupils until the right husband showed up. The twenty-something spinsters were good mannered but assertive, claiming they didn’t want to get married while hiding a blazing curiosity under an uptight façade.

The Regency books of Stephanie Laurens, particularly the Bar Cynster series, presented heroines ranging in age from twenty-two to twenty-nine. And still not married. These books were published in the late nineties. The heroines were hot, daring, determined to follow their own minds.

What about the heroines of contemporary romances?

Most of the contemporary romances I read use heroines in their late twenties or early thirties, earning their own life and often determined to be happy without the help of a husband. They are experienced, assertive, sometimes passionate, but deep down they hide a secret longing for real love and commitment.

Before staring in my romances, the heroines of my books had to study for many years and earn advanced degrees. They work hard and dedicate themselves to their career.

In TO LOVE A HERO, Cecile Lornier is quite successful professionally. She has a Ph.D. in Chemistry and wins an international contract to refurbish a laboratory in Belarus. But her personal life was a mess. At thirty-four, she is recovering from a bad personal experience with the wrong man. The last person she needs in her life is an alpha hero, a Russian general and national hero. And yet, she is attracted to Sergei and falls in love with him. Sergei recognizes she doesn’t need him like his delicate first wife. In spite of her love for him, Cecile hurts him while trying to protect her independence and her career.

In FRENCH PERIL, my heroine, Cheryl Stewart is twenty-six. She is my youngest heroine and is still working on her Ph.D. in architecture. She is more spontaneous but also more susceptible to be the victim of a charming playboy. There is a certain freshness about her that appeals to the experienced Count François. He becomes protective, abandons his current mistress and is even ready to cancel his most important project to shield her from danger.

In BABIES IN THE BARGAIN, Holly Collier is a doctor who has gone through four years of college, four years of medical school, three years of residence and three years of fellowship to specialize in neonatology. No wonder, her ultimate goal is to pass her board exam and finally practice medicine. At thirty, she is determined not to let anyone mess up her sacrosanct schedule, especially not the drop-dead gorgeous Dr. Marc Suarez, who broke her heart seven years ago and made her almost flunk her exams. But when Marc is transformed into a father to his orphan nephew, Holly gives in to her maternal instinct and helps Marc…too much.

In PRESCRIPTION FOR TRUST, Dr. Olivia Crane is a psychiatrist and respected University Professor. At thirty-five, she is totally dedicated to her career and her daughter. With too many secrets lurking in her past, she considers love a useless baggage and resists trusting the man who adores her and tries to help her, the French psychiatrist Luc George, she loved but refused to marry ten years ago.

My heroes are all in their late thirties, mostly alpha heroes, successful, gallant and respectful of their protagonists’ independent spirits and successful careers.

Whether you are writers or readers, you probably have a good idea of who like for heroine and hero.

How old are your favorite heroines? Are they seventeen, twenty, thirty, forty? Are they blushing virgins or brazen women, shunning love or looking for commitment? What do they do for a living?

How old are you heroes? Are they protective or possessive?


  1. Toni V.S. // March 21, 2009 at 2:50 PM  

    Age of characters. A good question. That is one of the first things I decide when starting a book. In Bloodseek, king's soldier Riven kan Ingan is 26 he meets 14-year-old Barbara's and she is my youngest character. (They don't marry until four years later, however, when he's 30 to her 19.) The age of the characters in my novel Sinbad's Last Voyage are reversed: Andi is 31 to Sin's 29 and though he's had two lifetimes of adventure, she's very sensitive about that fact, especially since she also had a 15-year-old son to whom the smuggler become stepfather. I might add that in both series, I follow the characters from youth to maturity--Riven is in his late 50's in his last book, Sinbad in his mid-sixties. Most of my other characters' ages range from early 20's to late 30's, though in Bargain with Lucifer, I feature Jean-Luc Deveraux, a Creole millionaire in his 60's and still a handsome ladies' man. Because of Earth's Law of Minority, the two main characters in Earthman's Bride and When the Condor Returned are--at 17 and 20--considered children by the adults in the story though it is they who determine the fate of an entire world. My oldest character? Vampire Christopher Landless in Murder in Old Blood. Kit is 328 years old, but still younger than his lover Honoria, who is 640, but very well-preserved for her age, as he often reminds her.

  2. Mary Ricksen // March 21, 2009 at 3:21 PM  

    Everyone is always going on about alpha males. I personally would rather write a character who is strong and brave, but also more emotional, sensitive,trustworthy. The kind of guy who is there for you. Who can help my heroines learn to trust and respect men. He doesn't have to be swashbuckling for me, or a ladies man, or a rake, rather I want him to be a good, down to earth man. He is a hero inside and that's what I want to portray.
    Now my heroines I like them to be the same. I want there to be room for immense character growth. She will need him and he will show her how it's supposed to be. He will help her to be all that she can be. Now my stories may be a little tame for most people, I am looking to make you cry, laugh, and feel. That's my goal. Maybe after I finish this series I will change my hero and heroine to be more mainstream. You can't write a story about vampires and make them sensitive. Ha!

  3. Edie // March 21, 2009 at 5:53 PM  

    My current heroine is 32, but I plan to have this a series with stand-alone books, and the next one will be in her 50s.

    In my last WF, one of the four women protagonists was in her early 60s and had just retired. I can't remember the age of the youngest, but it was early twenties. the other two were 30- and 40-something.

  4. Scarlet Pumpernickel // March 21, 2009 at 6:14 PM  

    I think the story dictates the age of the characters! To be historically accurate, the heroine is usually quite young and the hero is older. In contemporary romance, it depends on the characters and where their lives have led them. And then you have the vamp's who break all the normal rules!

    Scarlet-who spent the weekend with NYT best selling author, Haywood Smith!

  5. Mary Marvella // March 21, 2009 at 8:07 PM  

    Interesting post, Mona.
    Most of my heroines are late 20's to early 30's except for the 40 year old virgin the my 40ish one. The men are sally mid 30's to early 40's.I won't list them all. My heroes are all protective. My male protagonist who is the least admirable has so much room for growth my critique partners want to fix him and make him a hero.

  6. Joanne // March 22, 2009 at 8:54 AM  

    Hi Mona,
    The heroines in my manuscripts are between their 20's and 30's. Interesting discussion, and definitely food for thought. The romance novel has changed through the years.

  7. Mona Risk // March 22, 2009 at 2:37 PM  

    Mary, the alpha hero is strong, brave and trustworthy. The kind of guy who is there for you. He is also emotional and sensitive, but he hides it well and is difficult to guess. These features will only appear when he is deeply in love or terribly worried about the people he loves. Then he goes through a terrible battle with himself to acknowledge his deeper emotions and accept them.

  8. Mary Ricksen // March 22, 2009 at 8:37 PM  

    I still don't mind a guy who can cry.
    I like a sensitive guy, what can I say.

  9. Romily Bernard // March 23, 2009 at 9:56 PM  

    Love the post! Personally, I have no use for young heroines. Most of mine have had some hard living and some failure. It makes them more interesting. I could never get into any of the eighties' romances because the heroines were always beautiful, always innocent, and always boring to me. I love the new turns romance has taken with more unusual characters. The genre is really growing.