When the Hero You Want Isn’t the Hero She Gets

I’m thinking of calling it The Eric Factor.

For those of you who don’t read Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series, Eric is a 6’ 4” thousand year-old Viking vampire who – and I don’t think I’m giving away much here – isn’t likely to get the girl.

Yep, it’s true.  No matter how much I keep wishing and deluding myself into finding “hopeful” clues in the books, it’s crystal clear that telepath heroine Sookie isn’t going to hook up on a permanent basis with the devilishly sexy Eric.

It’s a situation I should be used to since it’s not the first time I’ve found myself in the position of rooting for a hero the author…well, obviously isn’t.  (And, gee, something tells me it won’t be the last either.)

But this time out, it hurts bad, baby. And I blame HBO and True Blood, the series loosely (and by that I mean really loosely) based on Dead Until Dark, the first book in the series. 

Whatever else I found disappointing about the show’s first season – and this isn’t the post to get into the depths of my displeasure – the casting was perfect and quite simply the best I’ve ever come across when something I’ve loved was made into a TV show or film.  Stephen Moyer’s vampire Bill was hot – hotter than I ever imagined him.  Heroine Sookie as played by Anna Paquin was perfect.  And Sam Trammell’s adorable Sam was exactly how I pictured him – only cuter.

And then there’s Eric.  Oh yeah. Not only did Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgard physically embody my vision of Eric to the peak of stupendous perfection, it’s also clear that he totally “got” the character:  Eric’s charm, humor, lethal menace, and imperious nature – all were perfectly realized.  In short, he was as devastatingly, bone-meltingly sexy as I ever imagined Eric the Viking to be.  (And my imagination?  Let’s just say it was pretty freakin’ hot.)

But despite the heap ‘o melted bones into which he turned me – and no doubt tens of thousands of other women, too – Eric just isn’t going to get the girl.  (Nor, for that matter, much screen time either.)

Frustrated by developments (or, more appropriately, the lack thereof), I found myself wondering if creating a fantasy-inducing character the writer knew she wasn’t going to let the heroine – or readers – ever really have wasn’t some kind of Big Authorial Tease.  I decided to investigate. (Tough job, I know.)  Since I hadn’t read the series from the start in several years,  I began revisiting the books in order to determine if my Eric fixation was the result of my own shallow fascination with a smokin’ hot Bad Boy.  The good news?  It’s not.  Charlaine Harris makes it perfectly clear that Eric really and truly cares about Sookie – at times even more than Sookie’s first lover Bill – in his own uniquely powerful and vampiric way.

And he re-gravels her driveway.  (Nothing like giving a woman exactly what she needs, right?)

Still, there’s the undeniable fact that once again reader Sandy is out of step with the direction an author wants her to go.

Author Colleen Gleason revealed heroine Victoria’s love in last summer’s When Twilight Burns and – yes, it’s true – it wasn’t the hero I was secretly hoping for.  I’ve been vocal about liking both of the heroine’s potential lovers, but a sad little part of me knew the one I preferred.

And it’s not the one she got.

But, hey, we’ve all been there, right?  AAR’s Lynn thought Jacob would make a better, healthier match for Bella in the Twilight books.  Both Lea and Jane were hoping that Hardy would get the girl in Lisa Kleypas’ Sugar Daddy.  (Okay, me, too, Lisa.)  And Rike wants anyone but series hero Sam Gianelli in Linda Barnes’ Carlotta Carlyle mysteries.

And, while I’m on the subject of Big Authorial Teases, let’s not forget the whole Suzanne Brockmann Sophia-Decker firestorm.  Thousands of readers – including many very vocal ones right here at AAR – want heroine Sophia to have her HEA with the dark, complicated Bad Boy Decker in Dark of Night.  Woe betide the author who messes with that HEA.

I think it ultimately comes down to this:  In real life we all know that reforming Bad Boys doesn’t work.  (We’ve all tried, right?)  But fiction isn’t real life and the books we love represent our fantasies about the way we want things to be.  Forget that truth sometimes. Play with it. Push the envelope. Think outside the box – whatever tired clichés float your proverbial boat. But that fantasy HEA is why we came to this party.  And it’s why we keep on coming back.

And you know what I think that means?  That sometimes the best hero for a good girl heroine really is a semi-reformed Bad Boy.  Maybe even a semi-reformed Bad Boy vampire. 

-Sandy AAR