Two weeks ago I started this series about heroes and how the Outlander series has taught me a lot about how we measure heroes and heroism. I came up with four major characteristics for heroes: strength, intelligence, compassion, and passion. Today I’m looking at intelligence, because women, while attracted to the brawn, also want their heroes to have the brains.
Some people might think that intelligence would not make a top ten list of hero qualities or character traits. Those people might be in for quite a surprise. According to the article “The Surprising Qualities Women Want in a Hero,” intelligence ranks as #2, right behind protectiveness (which is linked to last week’s topic strength). The article states that “65 percent of readers list incredible intelligence as a trait of their ideal hero.” The article goes on to say that doesn’t mean the guy needs to be a member MENSA, nor a show-off, but most women want a guy with some smarts, including curiosity and a willingness to learn.
Interestingly enough, intelligence is also trait number two on Carrie Spencer’s list of “The Top Ten Traits of a Contemporary Romance Novel Alpha Hero.” According to her, “Whether he’s a bad boy biker or CEO of a major corporation, the alpha hero has not only brains but common sense and street smarts.”
Intelligence can manifest itself in several different ways. Not every romance hero needs to be a rocket scientist. But their intellect shows in other ways. One is the ability to strategize. In historicals this shows in their superior swordplay and their ability to wage war effectively. In contemporaries, strategy often comes into play with outwitting someone—often the heroine—in situation non-violence related, although of course military romance has warfare as a key element that the hero navigates with ease.
Another way heroes show their intelligence, I’ve noted, is their ability to learn a second, or in some cases third, language. I noted this characteristic, strikingly so, when I watched Last of the Mohicans, Braveheart, and Outlander back to back. All three of these heroes could speak more than English: Hawkeye spoke Mohican, Wallace spoke French, Latin, and Gaelic, and Jamie spoke French and Gaelic in addition to English. There is something very sexy about a man who can make love to a woman in more than one language! And this ability stems from his intelligence.
Apparently, heroes with the brains, get the dames!
Next week I’ll be looking at another characteristic in a hero that turns heroines and readers alike to mush: compassion.