Trend Watch: Historical Heroes Who Work

When you pick up a romance set in England during the 1800s, you're probably expecting pretty dresses, lots of rules and ton intrigue and sometimes a spy or two. But in several of this summer's historical romances the heroes have jobs, real jobs.

 Many readers are familiar with the popular horse owner/breeder hero, such as the Duke of Morland in Tessa Dare's One Dance With A Duke, or the spy in disguise like in Sherry ThomasHis At Night. And while we definitely love these heroes, these aren't the ones I'm talking about. I'm talking about heroes with jobs, not interests. Men who are doing something to make their family and their dependents more financially secure.

In Patricia Rice's The Wicked Wyckerly, her hero, Fitz, is a professional gambler. After he inherits an earldom with massive debts, he recognizes that even if he married the wealthiest heiress around, his family would still need more money. (Fitz and his gambling kicks off Rice's new series, The Rebellious Sons, so readers can expect more of her impoverished heroes in the future.)

 Vanessa Kelly and Mary Blayney take a different tact to employing their heroes in Sex And The Single Earl and Courtesan's Kiss, respectively. Both the Earl of Trask and Lord David Pennistan are entering the work force, each hero is becoming his own boss building from the ground up the mill business that he hopes will sustain his family.

In all three of these novels, the authors refer to the fact that at that time, “jobs” was a four-lettered word. All three heroes attempt to keep their occupations to themselves to avoid the scorn of their peers. Kelly’s Earl of Trask keeps his identity a secret by having a friend front the business. After Blayney's Pennistan tells the heroine what he is doing, she gets up and leaves the table, believing that he is lying. As for the gambling Fitz, once his professional occupation becomes public knowledge, he nearly losses his chance at love.

This new emphasis on working heroes may have something to do with the growing number of historical romances set in England after the Regency era ended. While the Regnet was always more interested in parties than affairs of the state, these heroes come to the hard realization that their family’s reputation alone would not feed and clothe everyone they are responsible for and therefore the heroes must change their lives. This new type of English hero is working toward advancements for his family and dependents. He's risking social censure to gain financial security. He's refusing to rest on the power of his family's reputation. In fact some of these goals sound downright American. (And of course we all love of American historical heroes --  those ranchers, sheriffs and saloon owners -- who are definitely some hardworking, yet swoon-worthy leading men.)  But for these heroes in merry old England, they are embracing a different kind of frontier, leaving class behind in favor of financial stability. Proving that the old ways are not the best ways!

So what do you think of these working English heroes? Have you read any stories with working historical heroes and have any stayed with you long after you turn the last page?