Monday, November 26, 2012

Male on Monday – Everyday Heroes with Lee McKenzie

Today Harlequin American author Lee McKenzie talks about everyday heroes. Take it away, Lee!

I don’t think anyone will argue with me when I say that one of the things we love most about romance novels are the larger-than-life and oh-so-sigh-worthy heroes. The tall, dark and...well...we’ve heard all the adjectives.

I’ve always loved a story with a prince charming or a knight in shining armor or a sweep-me-off-my-feet billionaire, but my favorite romance heroes are still the ones based on everyday men. The guy who’ll rush to hold the door for a little old lady, stop to help a stranger change a flat tire, serve you hot tea when you’re sick in bed.

One of the reasons I love to write for Harlequin’s American Romance line is having the freedom to write everyday heroes. Like widower and single dad Nate McTavish in my newest AR, The Daddy Project. Nate is trying to juggle a family, a home and a career while fending off the blind dates his well-meaning family keeps arranging. It’s all too complicated, until he meets the heroine. She has a similar problem, so they decide to be fake dates for each other. Because a fake date is far less complicated than a blind date...until it gets complicated!

Readers sometimes ask if my fictional heroes are based on the men in my life, and my answer is always the same. No, they’re not. Is it safe to say the heroes in my books are influenced by the men in the life? You bet they are.

My dad is one of those men. In his very early twenties he enlisted in the Canadian army and the next thing he knew, he was a tank driver in Korea, ostensibly part of a peacekeeping force.

As it turned out, there was no peace to keep. He’s never talked about most of what happened over there, but a lot of it was bad. Really, unimaginably bad. By 1952 he was home again and didn’t stay in the army much longer.

Like many soldiers who left the forces, he found a civilian job and fell in love and settled down to raise a family. I wish everyone had a father as hardworking and devoted as mine. I sometimes went without the things I wanted, but I always, always had the things I needed. So you can imagine my surprise, or maybe I should call it shock and dismay, to learn recently that my dad has been haunted by those really, unimaginably bad things that happened over there, and all these years had been living with PTSD. Yet in spite of that, you won’t find a more caring and generous man anywhere on the planet.

Is my dad a hero? He is to me!

In a recent news story I encountered another hero, one I haven’t met but whose story has captured my heart. His name is Justin, he’s seventeen years old, and he’s been battling brain cancer for two years.

Inspired by his strength and determination to win this fight, his friends and family have created a Facebook support group  to offer support and raise funds for Justin’s Bucket List and to help his family with costs not covered by health insurance. They recently held a bottle drive, and this is what $4,000 worth of empty cans and bottles looks like!

To his family and friends, Justin is a hero, so when his parents agreed to let him have a tattoo, this is what he got.

According to everyone who knows him, it’s absolutely perfect.

So though we love to curl up with a good book and meet one of those “larger-than-life and oh-so-sigh-worthy heroes,” we don’t have to look far to realize our everyday lives are touched by everyday heroes.

Who is your everyday hero? I hope you’ll share him with us!

Lee’s new book will be in stores on tomorrow (November 27) and the eBook edition will be released on December 1st.

The Daddy Project is the second book in her series about three best friends—Samantha, Kristi and Claire—who run a real estate business in Seattle. Their business, Ready Set Sold, helps people renovate and stage their homes for the real estate market. The first book, The Christmas Secret (November 2011) was Samantha’s story. She’s the company’s carpenter and all-round handywoman. Kristi is the interior decorator, and The Daddy Project is her story. Claire is the company’s Realtor and her story, Daddy, Unexpectedly, will be out in May 2013.

To find out more about Lee and her books, visit her website at Today Lee is offering a signed copy of either The Christmas Secret or The Daddy Project (winner’s choice!) to one lucky commenter on this post. Please include your email address with your comment.


  1. What a nice little series. We don't get American Romance in Australia but I've had the chance to read a few lately and they are lovely. Thanks for sharing about your dad. My dad was in WWII and sadly found alcohol the only way to block out the memories. He remained a gentleman til the end. Just not a very reliable one.

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  3. My dad was in WWII as well. He refused to talk about it to anyone and everyone until 1989 - a year before his death (he found out in November he had cancer and died one week later). It took alcohol to get him to open up, and that he did. He said the guys weren't as afraid of the artillery as they were of going home with gonorrhea from the "ladies of the night" in "Gay Paree". I was reminded of that story many years later when I inherited all the postcards he mailed to his now deceased parents, wife, and sisters-in-law. Every single card said he was having a "swell time" in Paris on his leave....
    seytype at hotmail dot com

  4. My grandfathers both died before my second birthday & so I do not know much about how they did/dealt with the war. I do know the stories of my grandmother about hunger, fear and the battle of keeping faith. Can't imagine what it must have been like... There where a lot of heroes back then that made it possible for me to live in peace. Something that must not be taken for granted.

    devapajo (at) gmail (dot) com

  5. PrincessFiona, thanks for sharing the touching story about your dad. There are worse things than being an unreliable gentleman ;)

    Several of my American Romances have been reissued by M&B in Australia, one as a Desire and one as a Sexy. I find the latter quite amusing, since there's no love scene in that book!

  6. Laney, my dad has never talked about the bad stuff, either, although I have heard stories about the "swell time" he and his buddies had on leave in Tokyo. He still has the tattoos to prove it!

  7. Jo's Daughter, it's too easy to forget that the peace we grew up with was hard won. Thank you for reminding us, and so eloquently.

  8. My father was in WWII and in the Korean war after its end. He was a career army officer and I grew up on army posts and with the values of duty and honor. He never talked about his war experiences either, Lee, and I learned recently that they troubled him throughout his life.

  9. Thanks for sharing, Diane. Everyone's story has a similar refrain...

  10. Lovely, touching stories, Lee--but then, all your stories are. Thanks so much for sharing!

  11. I've chosen two winners for my giveaway. Congratulations to Laney4 and Jo's Daughter!