Bringing Sexy Back

This weekend, I was doing laundry after my vacation and cleaning out piles of old magazines, flipping through them before I put them in the recycle bin. (I like to tear out pics of pretty dresses, lipsticks to try, useful location/character images, etc). Anyway, I came across last summer’s In Style “what’s sexy now?” issue. As usual, some of the photos were gorgeous; some did nothing for me. Just like some actors or books others love and go crazy for leave me cold, and vice versa. And yet “sexy” is a vital concern, for romance novels as well as fashion mags. And in real life, too. (I had a long talk with some girlfriends at dinner Sunday night as I was thinking about this post, and after a couple glasses of wine there was much contention. One of my friends loves Simon Baker, who I think is boring as can be, while she mocks my fascination with Rob Pattinson’s angular beauty. Yet we are still friends–I think).

So–what is Sexy now? As romance authors, I guess we have to think about this quite a bit (tough job, I know, but it’s for our Art, of course….) How do we make our characters irresistible to each other, and thus to readers, when sexy is such a subjective thing? (For instance, it’s not enough to simply make them beautiful. Good looks are no guarantee of sexiness, nor is the lack thereof a deterrent. Was Mr. Rochester any less sexy after the fire?)

But what then makes romance novel characters, movie characters, real-life couples,
drawn to each other, combustible? How do we convey that attraction to readers and make them invested in it, too? It’s tough, to say the least. In real-life, and in characters, I do know that I love two qualities that may seem incompatible with each other–intensity and humor. A man who is focused and passionate about what he does, and is funny? Solid gold, people. I like to see that in the heroes I read and write about, too. (And there is such a fine line between “sexy bad-ass intense hero” and “complete jerk you would avoid at all costs”!)

So, now it’s your turn. What do you think is sexy? Who are some of your favorite characters, the ones you think of when you think “sexy”? What makes them so for you? Any movies/books that you love and others don’t, or vice versa?

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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21 Responses to Bringing Sexy Back

  1. Oh, and I forgot to mention in the post! Diane, Deb Marlowe, and I are at Romance Vagabonds today, talking about the new anthology (and giving away copy!) Come see us there πŸ™‚

  2. Diane Gaston says:

    what is terrifying as a writer is, will readers think your heroes are as sexy as you do? Humor is so tricky because what I find funny, someone else might not. I know I don’t laugh at some things that other people do.

    Anyway, Deb, Amanda and I hope you LOVE our heroes in The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor.

    And…I’m just saying…. The Unlacing of Miss Leigh is number one again on eHarlequin. Once again beating out Menage on a Train.

  3. Elena Greene says:

    Amanda, I’m with you on intensity and humor. Heroes who are merely bored with their wealth and power sometimes leave me cold. That’s a fine line as tricky as the badass/jerk one. I also don’t think looks are essential. I often find the rugged, even the maimed, hero sexy. I’m currently reading BEAST by Judith Ivory and find Charles very sexy.

    Some things I find sexy? Passion (not just for sex). Vulnerability. Courage–the real kind, not mere bravado or ignorance.

  4. Jane George says:

    The dance between attraction and revulsion is tricky in real life. And then romance writers have to distill that down into a satisfying fantasy. My hat’s off to you ladies.

    I appreciate heroes who are intelligent but not cold, vulnerable but not weak, uniquely attractive but not too sexy-for-their-shirts.

    And Alice Gaines (Menage on a Train)is a friend and fellow chapter member so I wish both books success. πŸ™‚

  5. Kwana says:

    I’m with you on the intensity. I like a bit of humor but dry humor. But I like a slightly dark hero. That is sexy to me.

  6. Diane Gaston says:

    And Alice Gaines (Menage on a Train)is a friend and fellow chapter member so I wish both books success. πŸ™‚My hat is off to Alice, Jane. The mystery is why Alice’s Spice Brief isn’t Number One EVERY day!!! Who could resist that title and cover?

  7. “I like a bit of humor but dry humor.”

    LOL–I am definitely not talking about slapstick, Jim Carrey-esque humor, but something more…clever. Like a British TV show. Have you ever seen “Black Books”? Definitely wouldn’t want someone who is that slobby a drinker (tee hee!), but his lines are HILARIOUS, and always have me rewinding to make sure I caught them. I guess that is what I really mean–someone who is smart, and savvy enough to see the ridiculousness of the world

  8. “I appreciate heroes who are intelligent but not cold, vulnerable but not weak, uniquely attractive but not too sexy-for-their-shirts.”

    Okay, where can I find this one? πŸ™‚

    And Elena, I love “Beast”! Must re-read that one soon. (Though “Sleeping Beauty” is my very favorite by her)

  9. Jane George says:

    Yeah, I really liked Black Books at first, then I got turned off by the total narcissism of his self destruction. So hard to pull off. I’m still in love with Withnail from Withnail & I, a movie with a similar character, even though he’s a selfish git too!

    Have you seen the series Spaced with Simon Pegg? Not a sexy show IMO (g) but very funny.

  10. Nice hands, nice voice, irony. That does it for me.

  11. Totally OT, but I just saw a thing about a new version of “Emma” coming out next year, with Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller. Interesting….

  12. As I’ve said before, probably so much all are sick of it, I like the dark hero. But I definitely like witty, acerbic humor, too. Like Rochester in a good mood. Mm, hawt!

  13. Honorable, quick witted, smart enough not to talk down to a woman, brave, thoughtful, a dash reckless – especially when it comes to responding to a passion he can’t deny, someone who listens and watches before he acts, the ability to make a woman feel like she is the only one in the room. Those are the qualities of a sexy man to me.

  14. Jane Austen says:

    I love Captain Wentworth. I know most people go for Darcy, but I love Wentworth’s consistency. I love that he loved Anne for seven years and still does when he meets her again.

    I am probably the worst person for this because I really like the “good guy”. I like a dry sense of humour, but (and you may call me a prude) I’m not for the man that whores around. I don’t like men who have to discuss their conquests. They bore me. Besides I hate that the woman has to be virginal and that the man has to be manly and sex it up.

    I want the guy who will save a stray dog or help the less fortunate. Boring perhaps, but that’s what I like.

    Give me the guy next door. Give me reliable. Give me a romantic. Give me the good guy.

    PS I am also intrigued by the new cast of BBC’s Emma. I must admit I loved Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightly and was not too fond of the Kate Beckinsale version. I will have to see what happens. Too bad they didn’t get Hugh Dancy for Mr. Knightly (I like Hugh…Total boy next door and nice) then it would be a Daniel Deronda reunion. And oh, Daniel Deronda….total good guy.

  15. Oh, I loved “Daniel Deronda”! Must watch that again.

    I saw the end of “Little Dorrit” on Sunday, and some old “MI-5” episodes tonight from Netflix, and I think that is exactly why I like Matthew McFadyen, too–his characters always come across as good and honorable (a bit melancholy, too, which never hurts, LOL)

  16. MARIA GRAZIA says:

    What do I find irresistible in a man? What makes a hero a sexy temptation? He must have a deep “velvety” voice as well as a strong temper. An example? Thornton /Armitage in BBC 2004 adaptation of Mrs Gaskell’s “North and South”.Have a nice day.

  17. So glad to see this topic. I had an interesting situation a few weeks back. I literally almost bumped into George Clooney! He was inches in front of me and we were eye to eye! He gave me a quick ‘oops’ type smile, his eyes crinkled and. . . My heart pounded, my skin tingled, all in a few seconds.

    Later, on my flight home, I sat by the most adorable, goodlooking man from Montreal. But not the same vibes at all. His accent was wonderful, his smile charming, but not at all the same reaction.

    The George reaction is what I want in my stories. BTW, I do like Simon Baker, something about that quirky smile of his. See? Hard to define – but I know part of it is humor.

  18. Kate Diamond says:

    I think a huge part of it is the attitude towards the heroine. I want LOTS of bottled sexual tension.

    One of the reasons I love Mr. Darcy is because, in the BBC version starring Colin Firth, there’s lots of eye sex. You know, smoldering silently and making me want to claw the television screen? Sweet lord, by the time he smiles at the wedding and we finally see his teeth it was almost like seeing him naked. What a build-up.

    I’m the same way with David Boreanaz on “Bones.” His character, Seeley Booth, is king of the deep, dark look.

  19. “I literally almost bumped into George Clooney!”

    George Clooney??? I probably would have fainted away. πŸ™‚

    I don’t think I have ever seen any “movie crushes” in real life (if I did, they didn’t look at all the same)…

  20. Susan/DC says:

    Quick question: who are the actors in the first picture (the one where he is lying in the grass dressed in what appears to be a military uniform)? I recognized Toby Stephens from “Jane Eyre” but didn’t recognize this one.

  21. Susan, it’s from “Marie Antoinette”–Kirsten Dunst, and, er, that actor who played Count Fersen whose name I can’t remember (I do remember that he was Keira Knightley’s ex, though–I spend too much time on!)

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