Back in the early days of historical romance, most heroes were what I would consider promiscuous or, at the very least, constantly sexually active. The hero’s pattern is interrupted when the oh-so-virginal heroine arrives on the scene and in his heart. He is suddenly repelled by the offerings of the barmaid he has tumbled regularly since he was sixteen. Or he must dismiss his mistress – one in a long line of mistresses – by giving her a splendid diamond necklace.
Even though I enjoyed those books in their day and still revisit some of them, I do not particularly care for a slutty hero, first because he does not represent an ideal man to me, and second, I do not think a zebra can change his stripes that much. Men who feel entitled to sex continue to feel entitled to it, marriage certificate or no.
Since I’ve started writing my own historical romances, I tend toward the opposite direction. In fact, my heroes’ sexual restraint is actually helpful to developing motivation and sometimes plot in all three books in my Evolution Series.
My hero in Unbidden is sexually experienced but with few partners and none involving long-term relationships. He finds the idea of regular sexual relations with the woman with whom he is falling in love a wonderful, increasingly frustrating enticement.
In Redeemed, I go out on a bit of a limb with a hero who is not only the villain in the first book but who has never had intercourse – not for lack of interest – but because of a physical disability that tripped him up the one time he tried during his adolescence. His wife has to initiate him and luckily she is a widow who knows enough about the business to get them started down the road to discovering the pleasures of marriage together.
The hero in the third book in this series, Vain, to be released March 2013, is experienced but strictly avoids dallying with the women in his town and does not maintain a mistress. He starts to realize that having a satisfying sexual relationship might be an important consideration to him in choosing a wife.
What do you think, readers? Is a virgin hero hot or odd? Do you demand a hero who is a walking Kama Sutra or do you like your fictional couples to discover a few moves together?