Romance novels tend to have a formula for the plot, as well as a prototype for the hero and heroine. There's nothing wrong with this plan, because those who read and love romance expect certain aspects in the novel.
A problem might arise, though, if all our heroines are gorgeous and have flowing lovely hair, and all our heroes are six feet tall with jet black hair and blue eyes. Still, if these attributes fit the character, that's well and good.
To be honest, though, the most memorable romances I have read have something in common: an unorthodox hero or heroine. It wouldn't do, though, to make both different from the norm.
Where's the conflict in that?
Author Pamela Morsi is a master at writing romance with characters that don't fit the mold.
Simple Jess--I read this long ago, but I still remember the characters. The heroine, Althea Winsloe, is a young widow with a young son and a farm with the finest corn bottom on the mountain. Knowing she must marry, she chooses Simple Jess, and very big young man who happens to be a little slow, but is strong, handsome, and friendly. However, he learns quickly what love and sex are, and makes a fine husband.
Ms. Morsi's romance novels almost always showcase characters that do not fit the norm.
Author LaVyrle Spencer, as you may know, is my favorite romance author of all time. Most of her characters do conform to the standards--at least to some degree--but some of her books have unorthodox characters.
And Then Came Heaven--In this novel, the hero is Eddie Olczak, a young husband and father of two beautiful little girls. His wife, Krystyna, dies in a tragic accident, leaving Eddie mourning and forlorn with a broken heart. Sister Regina teaches the children in the church school, and she has already learned to love them--which is against the rules. She also cares for Eddie, for she has always felt a special affinity for him, his wife, and daughters. She becomes concerned about the church's strict rules while worrying about the family. She and Eddie continually cross paths, and one day, both frightened and thrilled, they discover they have feelings for each other.
This is one of Ms. Spencer's novels I have read several times, and I experience the same deep emotion for these characters every time.
The Great Escape; Natural Born Charmer; and First Lady--Susan Elizabeth Phillips has no rival in the super fun/super sexy novels with quirky characters: An ex-President's daughter and a menacing-looking guy on a motorcycle; a Chicago Stars quarterback and a young woman who is wearing a beaver suit when he picks her up on the road; Female President of the United States runs away, is picked up by a stranger driving a beat-up RV, and travels incognito across the country with him.
Phantom Waltz--Catherine Anderson has written more than one novel about an unorthodox heroine, mainly those with physical or mental handicaps: a paraplegic heroine, a young woman who is blind regains her sight after most of her life, and a young woman with severe traumatic disorder.
None of my own novels feature unorthodox or unusual heroines, but I would like to write one--maybe. I think, though, I'm still stuck in the orthodox, the normal, the familiar.
Have you read a novel with a heroine or hero who differs from the norm? I'm certain this description has varying degrees, depending on our own perspective.
What do you think, either about your own novels or another author's novels?