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The Makings of a Hero by Kari Edgren


For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about Lord Henry Fitzalan, my main hero in “The Goddess Born series”. In the process of dissecting his character, I thought it might be helpful to compile a short list of my most memorable romantic heroes in order to identify what makes them so special to me. The list was a whole lot shocking and a little embarrassing:

            Erik from Susan Kay’s Phantom

            Tyrion Lannister from JRR Martin’s Game of Thrones

            Mr. Rochester from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

            Rhett Butler from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind

In full disclosure, I appreciate a gorgeous man as much as the next woman. However, these are the characters that endured in my thoughts long after the book went back on the shelf. Somewhat concerned about this list, I sent several friends two questions: Who do you think are the best/sexiest heroes ever created? Who are the characters you could fall in love with? Here are some of the men that made the list:

Mr. Darcy, Odysseus, Edward Cullen, Atticus, Noah Calhoun, Legolas, Ren and Kishan, James Bond, Beast, Samwise Gamgee, Neville Longbottom, and Luke Brandon.

My first thought was, “Well, there’s no accounting for taste.” Especially my own—three of my heroes are considered ugly by most standards. Tyrion Lannister is a dwarf who loses part of his nose in battle. Erik (aka The Phantom of the Opera) doesn’t even have a nose and lives in the basement. While debating the need for immediate therapy, I decided to get out the scalpel for some serious character dissections. I wanted to know what makes these men special to me when other so-called “heroes” are about as memorable as a warm glass of milk. Or, in other words, what makes some men jump off the page and under my skin, while others stay precisely where they are. During this process, I stumbled on six desirable traits shared by many of these characters, regardless of physical beauty. I call these traits The Makings of a Hero.

For my purposes, I have focused primarily on the Phantom, Tyrion Lannister, Mr. Rochester, and the Beast (a favorite of my teenage daughter).

1. Emotional baggage

My hero may not be handsome, but he’s handsomely damaged. The right amount of trauma is, for some reason or another, sublimely attractive. This baggage can be in the form of childhood distress and physical disfigurement (the Phantom and Tyrion), a deep secret (Mr. Rochester), or a single event that irrevocably changed the course of his life (the Beast). It can even be an actual piece of luggage, so long as it’s filled with serious pain and torment.

2. They’re ruthless, yet kind

To achieve their ends, the men on my list are willing to commit all manner of sin. They kidnap, manipulate, steal, lie, cheat and kill. In other characters, the same actions are considered unforgivable. So why do these men get away with it? From what I can figure, it’s all in the intent. They do it for preservation of self and others, for love, and for redemption. Even more, underneath their ruthlessness is a heart of pure gold.

3. They’re so smart it’s annoying

There’s not a dull tool to be found in this shed. Each of my heroes has intelligence and wit aplenty, and for me there’s something uber sexy about a man who utilizes both to either hold up his end of a conversation or win a battle without flexing a muscle. Tyrion’s verbal grace makes it easy to forget that he has to waddle from one place to the next. Mr. Rochester’s extensive travels and quest for knowledge is downright sexy when coupled with his dark moods and brooding silences. The Phantom is so freaking intelligent, he jumps straight to godlike status.

4. They’re built

And by “built,” I mean like a bear, not a birdhouse. Not just because muscle is sexy, but because it represents physical strength, and for me, a hero has to be able to protect himself and those he loves. However, if he lacks physical strength, he can easily compensate (or complement) with:

5. Power

Power comes in many forms. It may be in the form of talent and genius, as with the Phantom. Or it may manifest as family influence, as with Tyrion, whose diminutive size is more than compensated by the number of gold cloaks, wildlings, and sell-swords at the ready. For some, like the Beast, their power is a direct subset of their physical strength, resulting in a dearth of bear-men to compete for the title of “Belle’s Most Powerful Suitor.”

6. Are hopelessly devoted to that one special girl

By far, the perfect hero’s most attractive quality is his devotion to his lady. Why? Because we’re ladies. And we like men who like us back. These men may be villains, outcasts, and emotionally damaged, but more than anything, they desperately want to love, and be loved in return. 

So that’s my list, the six qualities that compel me to champion the underdog, whether he’s four feet tall, horribly deformed, or a literal dog. It is also these qualities that make me wonder if I have relied too much on my own hero’s physical beauty as a character shortcut. For a worthwhile experiment, try peeling the ‘skin’ from your favorite hero. Has his character been hobbled, or is there enough left for him to stand on?

Kari Edgren did not dream of becoming a writer. Instead, she dreamed of everything else and was often made to stay inside during kindergarten recess to practice her letters. Despite doting parents and a decent school system, Ms. Edgren managed to make it through elementary school having completed only one book cover to cover – The Box Car Children, which she read approximately forty-seven times. Things improved during high school, but not until she read Gabrielle Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude in college, did she truly understand the power of a book.

Ms. Edgren aspires to be a Vulcan, a world-acclaimed opera singer, and two inches taller. She resides in the Pacific NW where she spends a great deal of time torturing her husband and children with strange food and random historical facts. Ms. Edgren hasn’t stopped dreaming, but has finally mastered her letters enough to put the stories on paper.

About the Book

Selah Kilbrid may descend from the goddess Brigid, but her heart beats—and breaks—the same as any human. Yet enduring the scorn of London's most noble lords and ladies is a small price to pay for a chance at true happiness. Selah would endure much more for love, and her betrothed, Lord Henry Fitzalan, is prepared to challenge anyone foolish enough to stand in their way—even another goddess born.

But when a captivating young gentleman draws Selah into a world shadowed by secrets, she is forced to confront her darkest fears. What if some differences are too great to overcome and a future with Henry is doomed from the start?

With these doubts threatening her impending marriage and the very last of Brigid's fire draining from her soul, a violent attack on an innocent child pushes Selah to the very edge of her power. She must find a way to cross into the Otherworld and regain her strength—or forfeit the streets of London to death and disease.

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