As with my other analysis posts, I am not a psychologist, I just like to find the reasoning behind everything. My mom's trademark scold to me was: "Brook, stop being so f*cking analytical!" Damn, I miss her.
Anyway, one cannot help but notice many regular themes in romance novels, and many of those stand out because they are often unrealistic. I'm not writing this post to defend or attack these themes, I'm just pointing out my theories in their appeal to readers.
1.) Virgin Heroine (unless it's a historical): Many women regret their first time...especially if their first time was with a total jackass. I believe the virgin heroine fulfills the readers fantasy of having the first time be with THE ONE.
2.) Extremely Beautiful Heroine: Okay, I have a cynical theory and a optimistic one. Cynical: Society is so fixated on physical appearance that it could be hard to believe the hero would fall for an ugly heroine. Optimistic: Maybe the heroine isn't that beautiful in society's standards...but the hero sees her that way.
3.) Naive Heroine: I must stress, Naive, not TSTL (Too stupid to live). I believe the appeal of such a character is to give a breather from the jaded people we know, including ourselves. It's fun to learn new things and see the world from a fresh perspective. I also enjoy watching a character grow.
4.) Gorgeous Hero:
A.) The reader may be turned off by an ugly hero. Of course it's all in the imagination of the beholder. I thought those hairy, "porn-stached" heroes from 80's romances were repulsive.
B.) Remember back in high school when all the girls swooned over a certain guy? (In my case I never did because I'm not into the tan-blond-pretty-boy look) Anyway, I believe the "gorgeous hero" fulfills the fantasy of the reader landing such a paragon.
5.) Rich Hero: One cannot argue that one of the biggest fights in a marriage is about money. With the rich hero, this issue is nullified. Also, it's so much easier to focus on adventures and sexual chemistry if the characters aren't slogging through a 40+ hr work week and panicking about bills. The reader deals with that enough in real life.
6.) Alpha Hero: I've touched on this subject before in my post, "Alpha or A-hole?" But I didn't speculate much on the appeal of such a hero. I think a lot about my paternal grandparents' marriage. She totally wears the pants and I remember once asking her what would happen if she wasn't able to cook every meal. "Well, I think he could figure out how to make a sandwich," she replied tentatively. ::sigh:: It makes me even more appreciative that my man can cook and does it well. Still, I run the show most of the time. (Shhhh...don't tell him!) From a reader perspective, it's a nice vacation to see the man take charge and do things for a change...as long as he isn't being a bullying prick about it.
7.) Characters with extraordinary jobs: Who wants to read about Harold the accountant, or Susan the Wal Mart greeter? Rock stars, Navy Seals, Spies, Vampire Lords, and Alpha werewolves are just so much more fun and fiction is a great place to find 'em.
8.) "Magic Hoo-hah" and "Mighty Wang": Thanks so much to the ladies at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books for educating us on those lovely terms. Okay, they called the first "Hoo-hoo" but I prefer Hoo-ha for inexplicable reasons...maybe it just sounds more cheerful. Again, I have to be cynical on the basis for their popularity. In today's jaded society, it seems rare for couples to remain faithful to each other. But with a "magic hoo-hah" or "mighty wang," your partner would never dream of straying to another after experiencing such greatness.