A long time ago, in a bedroom far, far away, the geeks were passing their days happily ignored by romantic fiction readers. Our romantic heroes were no nerds. They were alpha males who’d dominated their way to the top of their macho worlds, with their ripped bodies and chiselled jaws, hunky men who would offer us the occasional flash of a white smile – when they weren’t being horribly aggressive to the heroine.
But now it seems there’s a welcome turn in the tide of the geeks’ fortunes. There’s a newer, younger audience of readers who want more from their hero than some sort of himbo – even if he does happen to be a muscular billionaire.
Recently Fiona Harper, one of my favourite Mills & Boon (Harlequin) authors, tweeted that she was looking for suggestions for #sexygeeks in TV/films, as she was trying to persuade her editor that a geek could be a hero. Of course, she was immediately inundated. So that’s it. If even Mills & Boon, that last bastion of chisel jawed manhood, is finally accepting the geek as lead then the day of the nerd has definitely arrived. And I, for one, am welcoming him with open arms.
Camilla can set her watch by her hunky rocket-scientist neighbor who jogs past her window each day. But it’s hard to connect with a man who doesn’t seem to know she exists…
Ivan feels at home in the lab, not in social situations. When he finally approaches his attractive neighbor, it’s not for a date—he wants tutoring in how to behave at an important fundraiser. Ivan doesn’t expect the chemistry between them to be quite so explosive, and is surprised when Cami actually accepts his proposal to embark on a series of “lessons.”
See what I mean? Finally, a hero who’s not at home in social situations! Who’d have thought it! And Ivan isn’t the only one. Nerd in Shining Armor, by Vicki Lewis Thompson, deserves a mention for the title alone, but if you’re looking for more geeks then here’s a choice of one hundred of them in this Goodreads list of Brainy/Genius Romantic Heroes.
Why has there been such a rise in popularity of this kind of hero? Maybe it’s because in recent times it’s become more acceptable for men to show their gentler side. Maybe it’s because women are better educated than ever before, and want to have conversations with men who can discuss more than the Footsie or the footie results. Maybe, on a more mercenary level, it’s because advances in modern technology have made geeks some of the richest people in the world, and they can now hold their own with the traditional billionaire hero. I’d be interested to hear your comments on this, as I find this one of the most intriguing developments in romantic fiction.
To be fair, though, I have to point out, that some of the world’s best authors got there first and were ahead of their time. I’m thinking particularly of the maths geek Christopher Tietjens in Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End , published in the 1920s. Tietjens was played to absolute perfection by (who else?) Benedict Cumberbatch in the recent BBC adaptation. Now there’s a great geek hero!
What about other geeks? Do you have any favourites from books or screen? Please let me know in the comments, as I’d love to check them out!
2 thoughts on “The rise of the geek as romantic hero”
I’m not surprised, Helena. I’ve always liked nerds. :-) One of my favorite TV shows is IT Crowd, although I wouldn’t call Moss and Roy heroes exactly even when they are trying hard. They even model for a nude nerd calendar. Check it out, if you haven’t seen the show. Great fun and very endearing nerds. :-)
A nude nerd calendar – ha ha, that’s brilliant! No, I’ve never seen it but definitely going to look out for it. Thanks for the tip! :)