Monday, December 20, 2010

Male on Monday - Heroes on Horseback

Today our regular columnist Annie West delicately wipes the drool away as she muses about the appeal of men who ride horses.

There's something so sexy about a hero on a horse, don't you think? I know a lot of young girls become fixated with horses a few years before they discover the appeal of the opposite sex. I wonder if that's why the idea of a handsome man on a gorgeous horse works so well. There's something dangerous yet attractive, powerful and heroic about the picture.

To a woman in peril the thundering sound of hoofbeats approaching could mean danger or deliverance. I loved those old stories and films where the tall, dark stranger who looms up on his horse could be either the hero or the villain. And of course I adored those stories where he'd sweep her up on his horse and ride with her to safety before turning and doing battle with the baddies. Sigh. I know I'm supposed to want to fight my own battles, but that image just gets me every time.

Heroes on horseback come in so many forms - a variation for every mood! There are the laconic cowboys, loners who are tough enough to battle the elements for their living. Men who know their land and respect it. Who work hard. They're usually the salt of the earth, strong and dependable, unless of course they're the sort with a twinkle in the eye that's hard to resist.

There are adventurers, men who break the rules and live by their own code of conduct. They often have a dangerous streak and love a life of action. I'm sitting here thinking of Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn....

There are soldiers. Who can resist a man in uniform? Well a man in uniform with a horse is even better. When they designed those cavalry uniforms a few hundred years ago they knew what they were doing! My current release features a prince who's a soldier. The book starts immediately after a formal reception where, to his annoyance, he's had to wear his dress uniform - hussar style, complete with crimson stripes down the sides of those long legs and braiding across the chest. Think Prince Charming with a tougher edge. You have no idea how much I enjoyed visualising that scene! If only I'd managed to work out a way to have him actually on horseback it would have been perfect - but as he's in a castle library at the time it was a little difficult.

I love stories about outlaws and renegades who, of course, ride. Zorro is a firm favourite and so are all those other Robin Hood type stories that feature horse riding daredevils. Of course I had to include the Sheriff of Nottingham here. I know he's not the hero but Richard Armitage on a horse is fine by me. Actually, I have a soft spot for villains on horses. At least they've usually got some style!

Hm, I'm sitting thinking about masked men on horseback, maybe wearing cloaks. Did anyone else go through a stage where they found fictional highwaymen romantic? Maybe it's those boots they wore, and those old fashioned shirts.

Speaking of shirts, I searched for a photo of Mr Darcy on horseback as I remember that vividly from 'Pride and Prejudice'. Sadly I couldn't find a decent one. Just one of Colin Firth in a damp shirt after a hot ride. I wasn't sure I should include it as he's technically horseless, but I couldn't resist.

Then of course there are sheikhs. As I write this blog I'm also deep in the writing of a new manuscript. A sheikh story. In my mind's eye I
can see my sheikh on a gorgeous arab horse, riding through dangerous countryside, looking imposing and rather dangerous. It worked for millions of women when Rudolph Valentino arrived on the horizon and I think that fantasy still has the power to entice a lot of us into a world of fantasy.

Two of my sheikh stories have involved men with horses and believe me, I had a thoroughly lovely time writing them. Readers seemed to enjoy the combination too. I wonder if it's the symbolism of the hero as strong and elemental, a little out of the common way that holds such appeal.

Do you like heroes on horseback? Do you have favourites? Do you have photos or heroes you'd like to share?

Annie's latest release, PASSION, PURITY AND THE PRINCE features a hero who first appears wearing a gorgeously sexy cavalry uniform. He knows his way around horses but he's more interested in a certain intriguing book archivist who disrupts all his plans... To read an excerpt visit Annie's website or buy the book from The Book Depository. This book will be released in North America next February as PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE. Annie also has an end of year contest running on her website with books to be won by Australian romance authors.


  1. Hi Annie - love the post :)

    I totally agree, there's something about a bloke on a horse, strong thighs, muscular arms, hair mussed from the wind, ooh - I could go on for ages :D

    Perhaps that's why I also like historical romances ;)

    I really enjoyed PPP. Thanks for making my day by including a photo of a wet/damp Colin Firth (as Mr Darcy) :D

  2. I never really got into historicals, i think I read too many that were tooooooo into the details, and it swamped the story.
    As for guys on horses in movies... a cousin is a costume designer for one of the movies you have stills from (thank goodness that doesn't include Mr Darcy), and my estimate of the actor dropped when she told me he screams like a little girl every time he had to go near a horse!

  3. Annie, firstly, huge congratulations on PASSION,PURITY AND THE PRINCE/PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE (hmm, alliteration gurus were working overtime at Harlequin that month, weren't they? LOL!). It's a fabulous story. And man, that scene where Alaric is in the Hussar's uniform. Well, I have to say it made me feel like a hussy (ar)! Or perhaps a pirate hussy - ARRRR! I love this post about heroes on horseback. As you know, I'm a sucker for the dashing men from a historical and there's pretty much ALWAYS A scene where he gets on a horse and does something masterful. Oh, be still my beating hooves. Love the pics! Hmm, someone had fun looking for those, didn't she?

    Happy Christmas to all the Pink Heart people! I always have fun hanging around this blog!

  4. Hi Joanne, you really do have a way with words - strong thighs, wind-mussed hair...I'm visualising the picture very strongly! Yes, I think this might be one of the things that works so well in historicals. I think often the heroes there are shown in very physical pursuits and that doesn't hurt!

    I'm so glad you enjoyed Tamsin and Cassie's story. I suppose I should have referred to it here as PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE as that's the upcoming title in North America. It gets a little confusing when titles sometimes change between editions.

    Merry Christmas, Joanne! I hope there are lots of equestrian heroes in your holiday reading.

  5. Duh, sorry, Joanne. Of course I meant to refer to Tamsin and Alaric's story! Can you tell I'm neck deep in revisions on my current book (about Cassie and her hero, Amir)?

  6. Oh dear, Sue. You're shattering illusions here about Colin Firth. I suppose we're all allowed to have a phobia, aren't we? Fortunately mine's not horses. Or men on horses. I can sit back and enjoy the picture!

  7. I love heros on horseback! Lol! I've got my own hero always on horseback!

    Season's Greetings to everyone!

  8. Anna, yes I DID have fun looking for these pics - sigh - research can be so taxing!

    Snorting here (how appropriate!) at your 'be still my beating hooves'!

    Oh, yes, I enjoyed that scene too when Alaric appears in his old style cavalry uniform. I think it's pretty clear when you read it that I was having a ball with that scene. Cinderella/Prince Charming/debonair man of mystery themes all together plus the fantastic outfit. Sigh.

    Merry Christmas to you too. It's great to have to pop by.

  9. Waving hi, Nas. It's great to see you here and all the best for Christmas too. Glad you approve of the heroes on horseback approach. It works for me all the time, though writing Presents I don't always get the chance to include so many scenes like that.

  10. I absolutely agree! Give me a man on a horse anyday - lucky my husband is a "horse man".

    Soraya Lane

  11. Hi Soraya,
    Glad to have another horse lover here. How lovely that your husband is a 'horse man' too!

  12. Oh, Annie, a man on a horse... isn't that just the most divine sight? One afternoon when I was 16 a boy who was a "friend" at school came cantering towards me on a gorgeous horse... and suddenly my heart went pitter patter. I remember it vividly. Don't you just love hormones .

    Love your pics too, by the way :-)

  13. Michelle,

    Yes, I do know what you mean. I think the sight of a capable man on a horse really tugs at some primitive part of our consciousness. Maybe it's a throw back to the days when they could mean danger or protection. It's quite a powerful sight though, especially if you're on foot!

    Glad you like the pics.

    I've just been revising my ms and there's a scene where my sheikh gallops down from the mountains at dusk just in time to save the heroine. Sigh. It was only short to write but such fun.

  14. Merry Christmas, Annie!

    I have to put the horse before the hero here--what a magnificent grey Arabian you found there for your last pic!

    The Man From Snowy River springs to mind as one of my favourite hero-on-horseback stories.

  15. Annie, my very favourite thing - heroes on horseback! Sadly not much call for them in Medical Romance... though come to think of it I do get my hero on horseback in my next release... LOL

    When I was growing up, screen heroes on horseback were the best - I loved Ivanhoe and The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and The Lone Ranger! Mmmm lovely walk down memory lane! Thanks!

    Merry Christmas, Annie!


  16. Hi Annie, do I like heroes on horseback? Absolutely. There is something intensely masculine about a man who can master a powerful horse (but while also being kind to his horse, nothing heroic about anyone who mistreats an animal.)
    You mention Vitto Mortensen as Aragon (one of my utter favourite movie heroes) but Vitto Mortensen also starred in a movie called HIDALGO which combines American cowboy with Arab mystique--it's one of my horse-mad daughter's favorites. The character Vitto plays takes part in a desert race pitting his horse against thoroughbreds to win through against incredible odds and a lot of skulduggery. Vitto is gorgeous and so are the horses!
    Love your sheik stories--proud, handsome princes and proud, handsome thoroughbred Arabian horses work so well together!

  17. Men and horses ... aaaah. Wasn't it Churchill who said the best thing for the inside of a man or a woman is the outside of a horse? No need to convince me though ... I'm a horsey girl through to the bones. Every time I see my husband on one of our horses I fall that little bit more. And Aragorn ...he looks so good in the saddle he positively sizzles. Hugh Jackman fills out a saddle nicely too. And who can forget that rogue Willoughby riding his big grey on the hilltop in the last scene from Sense & Sensibility. Cowboys or cavaliers ... hero's and horses go together. Great post Annie :)

  18. Annie, not to worry it wasn't Colin Firth who screams like a little girl! but it was one of your pictured guys!

  19. Vanessa,

    Yes, isn't that Arabian just gorgeous. You don't know how long I looked for that photo!

    Now, why didn't I think of 'The Man From Snowy River' immediately! It's a great film for women who love men on horses. That scene where they race full tilt down the incredibly steep mountain always makes my breath catch. Each time I tell myself they angled the camera to make it look more dangerous, but then you see the way the trees are growing straight up and realise they really are galloping at breakneck speed down a ridiculous slope. Tom Burlinson looked great on a horse and I loved the scenery too - just gorgeous. Thanks for reminding me about it!

    Merry Christmas to you too!

  20. Hi Sharon,

    I'm looking forward to seeing your next hero on horseback. Now there's a challenge for you - find a way to get more of them riding!

    Oh, you're bringing back memories. I remember wet afternoons watching Lancelot and the others on the TV. Westerns were a big part of the programming when then.

  21. Kandy,

    I think you put your finger on it when you said a man in control of a powerful horse seems so intensely masculine. I was at an agricultural show a few years ago and stopped a watch a man practicing on his horse before he went into the ring. It was an exhibition of teamwork rather than dressage or jumping or any of the rodeo events. The way horse and man worked together was stunning and had plenty of people (especially women) glued to the spot.

    I haven't seen 'Hidalgo' but it's one of the ones I've earmarked to watch. I can imagine why your daughter loves it.

    Thanks for the kind words about my sheikh stories (especially the ones with horses). That's a nice thing to hear as I finish this one!

  22. Hi Helen,

    Yes, Willoughby looked fantastic, didn't he? I'm trying to think of Hugh Jackman in the saddle. What film was that?

    You're right, it doesn't matter if they're cowboys or cavliers, does it. Remember Omar Sharif on a horse in 'Lawrance of Arabia'?

    Actually, this discussion has reminded me of another film where the hero rides and looks spectacular. 'Ladyhawke' is one of my faves. Rutger Hauer riding that big black horse is magnificent. Now there's a film to watch again.

  23. Whw, Sue! Thank goodness for that. You really were shattering my illusions there for a while.

  24. Have you seen 'The Kings Speech' yet? I saw it yesterday, and in one scene is Colin First as king George VI and playing Geoffrey Rush's wife is none other than jennifer Ehle... Yeap Elizabeth and Darcy ride again...
    I don't think I'll ever fully recover from Darcy all sweaty from riding, cooling off in the lake...