Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Are two heroes better than one?

No, this isn’t an entry about favorite erotica themes :). The title refers to a dilemma that more and more heroines of popular mainstream romance face: they must choose between two equally fascinating men in order to achieve their happily-ever-after. Ah, we should all have such problems.

This trend appears particularly popular in continuing series.

Before Anita Blake decided to just sleep with everyone, Laurell K. Hamilton had us arguing the merits of master vampire Jean-Claude versus alpha werewolf Richard.

For thirteen books (and counting) Stephanie Plum has been waffling between Joe and Ranger. Loyal readers everywhere debate who is the better man for our Steph. Of course, some readers are ready to tie Stephanie (or Janet Evanovich) to a chair until she decides between the two. Other readers have simply given up on waiting for the romance pay-off.

And there lies the balance that must be kept in such books: to keep the reader engaged in the choice the heroine has to make without frustrating her to the point that she takes great joy in pitching the book against a wall.

Some authors walk that line by limiting the amount of time that their characters (and readers) struggle with the choice.

Patricia Briggs decided three books of angst was enough, and let her heroine, Mercy Thompson, choose between two equally strong alpha werewolves, Adam and Samuel, at the end of the third book of her series.

Colleen Gleason’s regency vampire slayer, Victoria Gardella, is currently caught between the brooding Max and bad boy Sebastian. Colleen has promised an end to the madness when Victoria makes her choice in book five.

Do you think two heroes are better than one? What are some of your favorite books that have multiple heroes? And, if you’re a Stephanie Plum fan - Joe or Ranger? (I’ve always been a Ranger girl – I think Steph needs someone with an unlimited supply of cars!)


Lexie O'Neill said...

Ooh, I'm the first to reply! I like it when THE hero is not too obvious from the get go. Or something has to not be too obvious from the get go. Maybe I've read too many romance novels (gasp!) and I want some mystery.
However, that said/written, I have stopped reading the Stephanie Plum series--there's something unpleasant about a woman who can't make a decision in such an important part of her life.
Just my humble,
Thanks for making me think of such a pleasant topic,

Mel Hiers said...

Yeah, I sort of have Joe/Ranger fatigue. I've always been a Ranger girl, too. Basically because Joe tends to want her to be someone two steps away from of who she actually is.

I think she'll make a decision between the two when she finally makes a decision about herself and how she wants her life to be. Until then...

Holli Bertram said...

Lexie - You have a good point. Maybe that's why the multiple hero has become so popular. Readers are looking for a little more mystery in their romance plot lines.

Mel - Y'know, I think you hit the nail on the head as to why I like Ranger! He allows Steph to be who she is. Thanks for the insight :).

Lexie O'Neill said...

I didn't actually express my preference for Joe :), my reason--I was intimidated by Ranger. More relevantly, I think I think Stephanie was intimidated by him. I'm seeing a theme in my writing and preferences here...

Helen Scott Taylor said...

I enjoy series books like these. I've read most of the Stephanie Plum books, but feel the will she won't she has gone on for long enough. I used to enjoy Laurel K Hamilton in the early days and the Richard or Jean Claude dilemma. I've only read the first Colleen Gleason so I haven't fully got into the Max/Sebastian wrangle. But I could see it coming. I think about 3 to 5 books before the heoine decides otherwise I get fed up with the indecision. Another series like this I love is The Wine Lovers' cosy mystery series by Michele Scott. Her heroine Nicki has to choose between a sexy Spanish guy, Andres, and a yummy fair haired vineyard owner, Derek, in the Nappa Valley. She left us hanging at the end of the last book and I can't wait for the fourth book.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

I've not read many books with this particular conflict but I can honestly say I'd LOVE to have this problem in real life!

I read one of the Stephanie Plum books but it was in the middle of the series and I had no idea what was going on with her back story. I would like to check out the rest of the series since I enjoyed the mystery presented in the book.

Mel Hiers said...

No problem, Holli! :-) I love how Ranger can pretty much anticipate all the crazy stuff she gets herself into.

Hey, Anitra! Definitely start with #1 if you can. That's remained my favorite one so far. I giggled so much when I read that one, I thought my family was going to send the nice men in the white coats after me.

Savanna Kougar said...

I have to say the whole choose between the two hero thing doesn't do it for me personally. I can see the appeal, the mystery, the competition between the men, the heroine's angst. But truthfully, it's a turn off me. Guess I'm just weird that way.
I prefer the in-depth interaction between the heroine and hero, rather than who gets who and why.
Just me.

Savanna Kougar said...

Hey all, if you haven't checked out Renee Lyon's blog with mine yesterday and her Lyrical Idol contest, please do. It might be a good opportunity for someone you know. Thanks, Savanna

Holli Bertram said...

Helen - I LOVED the early Anita Blake books. Jean-Claude was always my favorite. Colleen Gleason does a fabulous job of making me love both Max and Sebastian - and that's not an easy trick to pull off. I've been thinking of trying some cosy mysteries - I'll look up Michele Scott.

Anitra - I agree with Mel. Start with One for the Money. I laughed out loud, too. Only a few authors can make me do that (Susan Elizabeth Philips is another!)

Lexie - I agree Ranger can be intimidating, but then he'll go and call Stephanie "Babe," and suddenly he seems like a sensitive guy - almost (okay, I'm probably interpreting a lot from that single word!)

Sav - do you read JD Robb? There's an example of a one woman - one man relationship carried out over many books. I never get bored of the dynamic between Eve and Roarke.

Anonymous said...

I am a two hero girl.....and Anita Blake did it so well until she turned into a nympho....I always voted for the vampire over the werewolf....wonderful blog Holli.....I am not really anonymous, it just wont let me sign on....:-) hld

Savanna Kougar said...

Holli, yeah I have read some of the J.D. Robb, and I do luv that kind of dynamic between heroine and hero.