Does romance need more older protagonists?

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A few years ago my partner and I drove to Los Angeles for his birthday. I was mostly going to Disney, but the main purpose of the trip was to see Clapton perform at the Forum on what was supposed to be his farewell tour. (That was before I knew he was racist AND anti-vaccine, but regardless, Gary Clark Jr. played first and that was all I cared about.) The Clapton drummer was a more guy. elderly – spiky white hair, tank top, covered in tattoos. And whenever the big screens on the sides of the stage touched him, especially during the separate “White Room” drum riff, all I could think of was him as a romance hero. . Or someone like him. How cool would it be to have an aging rock drummer in the center of a romance? I even wrote a scene in my head about a precocious kid telling his older teacher that his grandfather needed a girlfriend.

But I can’t imagine being able to take this romance and read it.

It wasn’t that long ago that you could barely find a romance starring someone over 25, and I still notice now that most of the romance protagonists I’ve read have * maybe * my age or just a little younger. They are 30 years old and thriving, or wherever they are in their life. Maybe one of them is approaching 40 years old. Sometimes I’m lucky to find a romance with a character who is 40 or older, but their love interest is younger (sometimes a lot younger). But we rarely find characters older than that, let alone in their 50s and 60s (maybe that’s why I jump the button with one click every time I see a blanket with silver hair). Of course, romance is about finding your One True Love (s) or whatever, but we have a lot of romance these days when people are way beyond their first partner. So why don’t we see more people over the age of 50 falling in love with each other?

(My theory? People are wary of reading / writing about older people having sex. But you know what? They deserve to have fun – have you heard of how much sex happens in retirement communities?)

But whatever. The big question: do we need more romance featuring people over 50? The answer, much like that of other under-represented groups in romance, is a resounding yes. Of course, we can cite some that we liked to read and some authors who do it well, but if we can do it, we definitely need more. No group is sufficiently represented until we not only have to work to name them all, but we just can’t because there are too many to name them. Are the Big Five (there are still five, right?) Are publishing them with glowing covers and big marketing efforts? No. Do review sites, major book sites, and vertical department stores for national and international newspapers cover the few that exist? No. Because they are rarely published traditionally in the first place. And when are they?

Crickets.

Every reader, especially those who are not young, who are not white, who are not conventionally attractive, would like to see themselves more represented in books, no matter what they like to read. When it comes to romance, there’s that element of whimsy, yes, but there’s also a verisimilitude that draws readers to a story. If an older person – whether perpetually single or divorced or widowed or whatever – is at the center of a story where they can find love, whether new or new, isn’t that an attraction? not only for readers with similar stories of their own, but all readers interested in that particular trope or setup?

Let’s look at some sample books featuring older couples, just to see how awesome they can be.

Cover of The Incomparable Adventure of Mrs. Martin by Courtney Milan

The incomparable adventure of Mme Martin by Courtney Milan

It’s an incredibly distinct book – not just because there’s a gorgeous, silver-haired woman on the cover, but she’s one of two women over 60 who fall in love … during the Victorian time. This book is part of Courtney Milan’s Worth series (Ms. Martin is a character we meet briefly in one of the Worth siblings love stories), but is mostly set aside, so everyone can take it and read it. It’s a charming, albeit brief, combination of sweet romance and fun hijinx to get revenge on a pretty terrible person. Have at it.

Cover of When Love Calls by Sharon C. Cooper

When love calls by Sharon C. Cooper

When Mona finally leaves the man she’s been with for 35 years, she’s ready for a new start. This includes starting over in a new location, with a new maintenance worker on site. It turns out that this man is Dex, whom she met in passing and who he finds very attractive. But while she’s not looking to do more than hang out, Dex is on the hunt for the real deal.

royal party by jasmine guillory

Royal feast by Jasmine Guillory

When her daughter invites her to spend Christmas with her in England, Vivian is reluctant to give up her job. But she is forced accepts and finds herself mostly alone in the English countryside while her daughter works for a very familiar looking Duchess in the days leading up to the holidays. What she didn’t expect was to run into Malcolm Hudson, the Queen’s private secretary, in the Duchess’s kitchen. And when he offers to show her around the park, something new could begin.

And i don’t know when it comes out, but when it does, I’m reading hell.

Note that three of the four books listed are published independently, by the way. Traditional has a lot of catching up to do.

There are many, many gaps that need to be filled in a romance featuring older people. Regardless of the sub-genre, it would be great to see older people fall in love. Remember that tweet (post tumblr? Post FB? Whatever) some time ago about an octogenarian going on a fantastic adventure? Give us that in the form of romance. Give me a 75 year old man who falls in love with a former vampire who was transformed in his 50s. Give me a gruff retired athlete or motorcyclist crossing the land, give me an arrogant conductor, give me blacksmiths, pirates and traders. What’s amazing about romance is that while there are situations and tropes that line up, no story bringing them together will be the same. Which means that even if a story has been “made before”, there is still room for it to exist with characters over 50 who fall in love.

So let’s see, the edition. Give us more books on these awesome, seasoned characters who have seen a lot of people and still deserve to find love, romance, and, if they want, lots of sexual intimacy.



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