Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Virginal Heroes: Yea or Nay?

Hi troupers! Jessi Gage here with a post about virginal heroes.

The Starz series, Outlander, is hugely popular right now, and it features a virginal hero. Those of us who have read the books know that Jamie is as yet inexperienced in "tooping," even though the show hasn't gotten to that yet.

But Jamie aside, virginal heroes don't exactly abound in romance. Why is that? Are virgins un-sexy? Are they the less attractive antithesis to the large and in-charge alpha heroes we see everywhere?

Would readers welcome a billionaire virgin? A shifter virgin who is the pack alpha? A small town virgin with a blue-collar job? Is sexual experience a mandatory item on the list of attractive qualities for fictional men?

All good questions.

What do you think? Do you like virginal heroes? What characteristics must they have to be appealing to you in their inexperience?

Personally, I tend to write a lot of virginal heroes. I am up to three now, including Emmett in my new contemporary romance release, Jade's Spirit.

So how do I make virginal heroes work (Gosh, I hope they work!)?

I pair my virginal heroes with sexually-experienced women.

This pairing sets up a delicious role reversal where the empowered, sensual woman is the one who shows the inexperienced man the ways of physical intimacy. Lest you envision leather-clad dominatrices who dent the poor virginal heroes chest with their stilettos, the heroes always get a chance to do some teaching of their own.

I always include a component to the physical intimacy that challenges the heroine. Maybe she realizes something about herself through the pairing. Maybe she learns that with this man, the perfect man for her, sex is more than it has ever been in the past.

If the learning goes both ways, both characters have a chance to grow, always a good thing in romance.

I make my heroes active in the plot

Whatever the external (non-relationship) challenge the characters face, the hero plays a vital role. Maybe he rescues the heroine from certain death. Maybe he uses his political clout to negotiate a way out of peril for himself and the heroine. However he saves the day, he does it because he is strong, determined, and smart.

Through being active, the hero demonstrates desirable characteristics that outshine his sexual inexperience.

My heroes have darn good reasons for being virgins

In the movie The 40 Year Old Virgin featuring Steve Carell, the virginal protagonist is portrayed as awkward. His inexperience is because he is not attractive to women. He is relatively handsome, but his personality drives women away.

He would make a terrible romance hero. Good thing this is a comedy!

For a romance hero to be attractive AND a virgin, there must be a reason other than awkwardness.

Darcy, the hero of Wishing for a Highlander, is a virgin because a prank played on him in his teen years made him believe he is too large under his kilt. He believes he would cause a woman pain by trying to join with her. Naiive? Yeah, probably. But he is also sympathetic. He has chosen celibacy over hurting women. There is a certain honor in that that is appealing to his heroine, Melanie, who has the great privilege of showing Darcy that he is not abnormally large, but rather wonderfully large and extremely desirable.

Riggs, the hero of The Wolf and the Highlander, is a virgin because there are no women around to have sex with. He is wolfkind, and his people are slowly dying. The birthrate has tipped toward males with the youngest females still alive being nearly too old to breed.

When Riggs meets his heroine, Anya (who happens to be the one who played the cruel prank on Darcy in Wishing), he is tempted by her sensuality. But he must not take her as his mate because the king of the wolf people needs an heir. To take Anya for his own, Riggs would be a vile treason.

Again, themes of honor abound, and the hero has a good reason for having gone without.

In my latest release, a contemporary romance, Jade's Spirit, the situation is not so cut and dry. Emmett, the hero, has stayed a virgin because he took a virginity vow as a seventeen year old. He is a Christian and is doing his best to live a life ascribed by Biblical principles.

Being a devout Christian might strike some romance readers as not super attractive. Emmett is definitely no domineering billionaire. But he is handsome, confident, and flirtatious. He owns his own lawn care business and has a great sense of humor. He is not a virgin because he isn't attractive to women. He is a virgin because he has resisted oodles of temptation and lived to tell the tale.

By the time Emmett meets Jade, the heroine for which the book is named (who also happens to be a stripper from Boston), he is struggling to hold to his vow. Something is going to have to give. Either he will give in to temptation and break his vow, or he will get married so he can have sex without breaking his vow. But Jade isn't exactly the marrying kind. And there's this pesky incubus demon fanning the flames of desire between them.

What do you think? Are virgins sexy? What romance novels have you read that feature virginal heroes? Are there non-romance virginal heroes, say in fantasy or other genres you have read and loved?

Do share! I'll be giving away an ecopy of Jade's Spirit to one commenter, so don't be shy. And please share if you enjoyed this post!

Jade's Spirit

When exotic dancer Jade seeks refuge from an abusive boyfriend in her grandmother’s aging Victorian home, she finds she’s not the only houseguest. A dream-invading incubus has taken up residence, and it wants Jade’s soul. Fortunately, a flirtatious lawn-care provider has a trick or two up his sleeve for dealing with hauntings. And he has definite rebound-guy potential—if only he would stop inviting her to church.

The virginity vow Emmett "the lawn guy" Herald took when he was seventeen has become legendary in Dover, Vermont. Ten years later, everyone is waiting to see if he’ll blow a decade of “waiting for marriage” now that he’s dating the new girl from the big city. Even Emmett thinks he has met his match in the vivacious Boston beauty. In fact, he’s starting to think virginity may be overrated.

A spark of attraction ignites between Jade and Emmett, and quickly grows into a roaring inferno. But with a demon fanning the flames, attraction has never been so perilous.



  1. Great post. In my latest medieval I wrote a virgin hero, A knight who wants to be a monk and lives his life in that belief. I think you touched on something important, you need to balance that immaturity with a woman who learns something from the encounter. My heroine is recovering from an abusive relationship and his gentler approach is just what she needs to help her feel sexually freer

    1. Ooh, that sounds delicious, Sarah. I love the idea of a gentler virgin (but he's also a knight...active!) helping an emotionally scarred heroine.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. I read well over 200 books a year, so I have many experienced hero stories in my stack.
    Virginity is the body's natural state. There's nothing wrong with it. Choosing when to have sex is an individual thing and no one should pressure someone into it. Each character is different. Personally, I find virgin heroes endearing and enjoy reading about their first dip into pleasure.

    I wrote a virgin hero in Surrender Love, and readers adored him. The book is currently out of print because I reclaimed publishing rights and will be re-releasing it with its sequel soon. One reader even told me she wanted to start an "I love Izzy" campaign. His hero, Luc, had an aversion to virgins. Luc was immortal and had milennia of experience and no real interest in seducing a virgin... until he met his forever love. I also had a virgin hero in At the Mercy of Her Pleasure (another one about to be re-released with a sequel).

    We've had virgin heroines forever. About time we had books where it's the hero's first time. We all have to start somewhere. Kudos for writing about it!

    1. Both those books sound awesome, Kayelle. In fact, I would love to see an ARC of Surrender Love to review when you're close to release. It sounds hot.


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