I’m about to make a very bold statement. I, Mazey Eddings, have decided on a favorite romance trope: The Virgin Hero.
This isn’t to say I don’t love other tropes. Give me all your enemies to lovers. Best friend’s sibling? Yes please! Secret baby? I’ll take twelve, thanks.
But, in a world where women are still expected to be “pure” and demonstrate submissiveness and sexual passivity, while men are expected and encouraged to demonstrate their “manhood” by tallying up as many sexual experiences as possible, nothing sets my jaded heart aflame more than stumbling upon a virgin hero.
Even in romancelandia, the hero often is expected to bring a certain level of sexual skill and experience to the table. He’s expected to know his way around a woman’s pleasure and multiple orgasms. Which is great. Don’t get me wrong here, I love a skilled romance hero. I love the playboys and cocksure rakes (looking at you, Sebastian St. Vincent, owner of my heart and soul), but there is something so unexpected about the Virgin Hero, I can’t help but argue it to be the best trope.
My love for the Virgin Hero boils down to its subversive commentary on rape culture. In a society that still inundates us with the archaic idea that men have overwhelming sexual urges that they simply can’t be expected to ignore (i.e. What was she wearing? You wouldn’t dangle a piece of meat in front of a shark and not expected to get bit, would you? Boys will be boys! and all other kinds of absolute bullshit nonsense), the virgin hero works to restore our faith in a man’s capacity to be gentle. To be thoughtful and intentional. To rise above toxic masculinity, and not want to swim with the other males that self-own themselves to the highest degree by indicating they lack greater mental capacity than a predatory sea creature. A virgin hero gender-swaps society’s conditioning and provides a breath of fresh air on the age-old excuses of men being guided by some baser need that we must just except as a fact of nature.
On a much less serious and introspective note, the Virgin Hero is also just fun as hell to read. Nothing gives me the giggles quite like the mental dialogue we get from a hero during his first time, or the fact that these virgins always end up being total sex gods passing out miraculous orgasms like candy on Halloween.
With all that being said, here are some of my favorite reads with the virgin hero trope.
Lord Dashwood Missed Out by Tessa Dare
Going into this novella, I had no idea Lord Dashwood would be the Virgin Hero blessing of my dreams. I had to actually document my look of overjoyed shock at the reveal. Tessa Dare never fails to offer hilarious hijinks while simultaneously weaving in serious elements of love, loss, and a woman’s defiance of a role predetermined for her. Extra points for the one bed trope that was just the cherry on top of this delicious sundae.
The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne
Now this novel is not a light read, believe me. I want to offer some CW’s on it including violence, discussion of rape and sexual abuse, PTSD, and torture. But this book is absolutely beautiful. Byrne creates palpable emotion from page one and never lets us go. It will rip your heart out and put it back together again, all while giving us a highly complex (virgin) hero in Dougan. It also had one of the best epilogues I’ve ever read. What makes The Highwayman particularly great is its underlying commentary on the soul and how that is shared with a partner, through romance and through sexual intimacy. It’s an amazing analysis on choices and overcoming one’s demons and past trauma.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Now I know there is some controversy on whether Outlander is actually a romance (to me it is, but it isn’t an argument I’m making here), but for the sake of this discussion, we can still refer to the romantic elements and the hella amazing James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, virgin hero, sexy scot, love of my life (jk… kind of). Outlander is a story of epic proportions that looks at intimacy, trust, the power of love, and a woman’s fight for autonomy in a world that doesn’t actually grant her much choice. Also, kilts, ya know?
The Major’s Welcome Home by Tessa Bailey
Get ready to fan yourselves because this novella is SCORCHING. Beck, our virgin hero, just completed a six-year military tour overseas, and returns home with the emotional baggage of a huge loss. Kenna is our more sexually experienced heroine, dealing with issues of her own, particularly themes of family and loneliness. In just over 100 pages, Bailey creates a deep emotional connection with explosive chemistry, Beck taking that V-card out of commission in epic proportions. What I also love about Beck’s character is that he’s a physically huge military man, both traits that we traditional subscribe to male sexual dominance and collecting as many notches in their belt. But Beck is a gentle giant (most of the time, wink wink nudge nudge), that defies expectations of masculinity.
The virgin hero will continue to own my heart, offering a window into our own pre-conditioned notions on sexuality and gender all while working to subvert rape culture and the toxic masculinity we still have to battle against on a daily basis. But, whatever trope is your personal cat nip, embrace it for all it’s worth and keep believing in those HEA’s and the power of love.