Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thursday Talk-Time: International Men

Harlequin Presents author Kate Hewitt joins the Pink Heart Society with a great post on the Appeal of International Men (and boy, are they appealing....) Take us away, Kate!

Take a quick glance at the shelf of category romance at your local bookstore, and you can’t help but notice the international flavor of the titles. Consider the next few months’ offerings across the board: The Wealthy Frenchman’s Proposition (Silhouette Desire), Sheik Seduction (Harlequin Intrigue), The Italian Tycoon and the Nanny (Harlequin Romance) and The Greek Tycoon’s Defiant Bride (Harlequin Presents). And that’s just a small sampling. I had plenty to pick from!

While I love to read about the all-American man, the buttoned-up Brit, or the rugged Aussie, there is definitely an appeal to the more ‘foreign’ hero, whether he’s an Italian millionaire, a Greek tycoon, or a sexy sheikh. You can see it in the titles, and also in what tends to sell (Daniel Craig helped me sell--or at least write--my British hero, though).

So just what do we like about our international heroes?

Well, to be shallow... they look good! If tall, dark, and handsome is a prerequisite (and admittedly it isn’t always) for a good romance, then look no further than Italy, Greece, Spain, or even France. Or why not take a quick trip to a fictional Middle Eastern principality for a drop-dead-gorgeous sheikh? And let’s not forget the sexy accents, which we can hear in our minds as we read...

But behind the seemingly superficial, what is the deeper appeal of the sheikh, the tycoon, the Mediterranean millionaire, or whichever international hero catches your fancy?

My grandfather always warned my mother not to run away with a ‘Spanish dancer in tights’. It’s become a bit of a joke in our family, and I’m not sure where my grandfather thought my mother was going to meet a Spanish dancer--in tights--in small town Ontario in the 1950s! But the meaning was clear: beware the dangerous, the different.

Now admittedly I don’t think that’s particularly good advice to follow in real life, but it does give us a glimpse into the appeal of the foreign or international hero. He’s an unknown quantity, exotic, perhaps even a little dangerous. He comes from a different country, which can feel like a different world. Yet with that little hint of danger he’s also got the Old World values that every hero must have: loyalty to family and friends and an impeccable sense of honor. I think our international heroes can sometimes get away with strong values the home turf hero might not be able to; his code of honor might seem narrow-minded or old-fashioned in a man we’re more familiar with, but if a Greek tycoon or Mediterranean prince is kept from being with the heroine out of loyalty to his family—or has to marry her because of his family--well, it’s a bit easier to accept, isn’t it?

International heroes can also add flavor and flare to a romance, allowing the reader to escape to another world--a different world--and visit places we might never get the chance to see in real life. I love writing exotic settings and so far I’ve described villas in Italy, remote Greek islands, and the Dutch Caribbean, along with more familiar settings of London and Edinburgh. Next I’m looking forward to describing the deserts of North Africa!

The category world seems to have a preponderance of Mediterranean men, but they don’t have the monopoly on ‘international’. Frenchmen have come to the fore recently, and heroes from ‘new’ countries are appearing, including Russia, India, and parts of Scandinavia. So there is lots to look forward to if you like an international man, and are waiting to be whisked away...

So far I’ve written two Italian heroes, two Greek heroes, and a Scot. Next up is a sheikh!

To win a copy of my second book, The Greek Tycoon’s Convenient Bride, share what kind of hero you like to read, or would like to see in future books, and don’t forget to mention what country he hails from!

Kate's first book was out in December in the UK and is out in stores this month in North America: The Italian's Chosen Bride! You can grab it at eharlequin, Mills and Boon and of course, in book shops everywhere!


  1. Congrats Kate on your new book! I will definitely have to pick that one up at my favorite bookstore in town.

    Well, my favorite hero I like to read about are the tall, dark haired, sexy ones! Think of Pierce Brosnan or Hugh Jackman. Also, I love when they are a gentleman to ladies. I guess I am a true romantic! Ha,ha!

    Oooo what country he hails from? Good question. I do like the looks of Spanish fellas. Also, I love the accent the british speak so I would have to mention anywhere in Europe such as France. I am a sucker for accents. Also, I love the way French men speak. Oo La, la!

    So that is my input! I hope you like it!

    Michele L.

  2. Hi and welcome Kate; I would like to see a hero from Sweden- a tall, strong built blonde with the accent. He should be loyal, kind and have a sense of humor and be an outdoorsman.

  3. Hi Michele and Robyn,

    Your heroes sound lovely! Swedish is an intriguing possibility, and accents are always wonderful to imagine...

    I also like heroes with hobbies, such as an outdoorsman. Not to mention the other advantages-- strong body and hands...! :)


  4. Lovely pics, Kate. (That guy from Heroes was so gorgeous. I also had a soft spot for Peter Petrelli, especially the episode when he was 'Kick-Ass Pete' and looked like Mel Gibson!)

  5. Good tips! Thanks, Kate. Congratulations on your release this month. I'll have to watch for it...
    I love accents...tall, dark...oooooh!
    Carol Hutchens

  6. I enjoy the Greek heroes just for those reasons you listed, he can act more old-fashioned and macho and I accept what I might not in a hero from the United States.

  7. Congratulations on your new book! Way to go! I like men from Australia! The accent, the down-under type of attitude. Of course, Mel Gibson is an Aussie. He was born in American,but his family moved there when he was around 11. A man who is a little rough around the edges, but has a kind heart. Thanks,Cindi

  8. Congrats on the new book Kate.

    As to the type of hero I like reading about, I have to go with Greeks. I love the accent when I hear them speak english and they are almost all tall, dark and handsome so what's not to like :D

  9. I like the typical italian alpha male... arrogant, handsome... yet still has a sensitive side :)