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

30 thoughts on “When the Hero You Want Isn’t the Hero She Gets

  1. I have to be honest and say that part of me wanted Bella to be with Jacob in the Twilight series

  2. I agree about the True Blood casting, especially of Bill and Eric.

    And, having just finished Dead to the World, I share the Eric lurve.

    What does a fan do these days when the author refuses to play it her way? Either stop playing the game or write fan fic, I guess.

  3. I can’t comment on True Blood since I’ve never watched it (or read the books) but my sister loves it. In terms of Twilight, I firmly in Edward’s camp. However, I do have two examples where I wanted the heroine to end of with another character and both are from the “golden age” of bodice rippers.
    First – Whitney, My Love. I sooo wanted Whitney to end up with Nicolas, but probably out of spite mostly. He was so much more of a hero than Clayton.
    Second – (and this is a really old one that I seem to mention often) The Flame and the Flower. I think that Heather would have been much better off with Brandon’s brother Jeff, who was much nicer, possessed a sense of humor, and was more laid back. Granted, it was never a love triangle that was possible, but it would have made me happier.

    Yet, my favorite heroes are often the semi-reformed bad boys, just not the two mentioned above.

  4. I just read (on the internet, so it must be true) that after all the brouhaha and intense fan interest in casting the Perfect Eric, said Perfect Eric got a whopping 35 minutes of screen time in season one. That includes time spent in the background just exuding sexiness. A criminal waste! Let’s hope that Alan Ball gets the message that legions of us want more! more! more! Eric.

    I love Eric’s grumpiness about admitting that he “has feelings” for Sookie – feelings he doesn’t want to have. I love his sly sense of humor. What a wonderful moment when he sits on Sookie’s bed and tells her that he remembers. Sigh. Talk about your bad boy with baggage!

    Even though I know that a Sookie/Eric HEA isn’t in the cards, I look forward to Eric’s continuing to drop in on Sookie’s life at just the right time. And call her “my lover.” I don’t think he’s ever going to be able to leave her alone.

    Thank you Charlaine Harris for creating such a delicious fantasy man. Thank you Alan Ball for casting the perfect actor. I just want more.

  5. I’ve never read the Sookie Stackhouse books but I have seen all the episodes of True Blood. Honestly, I can’t stand Eric and I’m totally gaga over Bill. Sam, eh. He could go away and I wouldn’t care.

    But Bill, there is just something so tortured about him that draws me – his desire to be human again or at least as much as possible being the top one. Then there’s how he stayed in his home, his reaction to the daguerrotype of his family, his simple and sweet Southern gentleman style until someone makes him mad. He loves Sookie and it is so obvious.

    Maybe if I’d read the books I’d feel differently, but he is totally the one I want Sookie to end up with.

  6. The casting of Alexander Skarsgard as Eric was a brilliant move. He fits the role perfectly, and has more than satisfied the expectations of the loyal book-lovers! With the minimal screen time devoted to Eric, he has managed to create quite a stir, leaving a lot of us anxiously awaiting Season 2, and beyond!

  7. Beth Re – I’m glad I’m not the only one! At first I was an Edward fan, but I just can’t help thinking that a relationship between Bella and Jacob would have been more of a meeting of equals. Bella just seems too dependent on Edward for me to be entirely comfortable with their relationship.

  8. And in the BBC’s Robin Hood, where Maid Marian had the choice between the pacifist Robin and the leather clad why-wouldn’t-I-kill-my-own-baby? Guy of Guisborne, I was firmly rooting for Guy. In real life, no, but in fantasyville Richard Armitage looking menacing in eyeliner wins every time.

    I preferred Jacob too, though in real life, Mike might have been her best option.

  9. Charlaine Harris isn’t finished yet with The Southern Vampire series, so there may yet be hope for Sookie and Eric. Ever since book four (WOW!) I’ve wanted Eric to win Sookie.

    I agree about the casting of Alex and Stephen….perfect for Bill and Eric.

  10. For me, the realization and disappointment that the heroine would not always get the hero I wanted began with Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – how, how, how could Jo not end up with Laurie?

    And I too adored Nicholas in Whitney, My Love and sigh every time when I read his “Bon voyage, cherie”.

    And if Kate ultimately ends up with Jack and not Sawyer in “Lost”, I’ll be absolutely heartbroken.

  11. MMcA, you made me lol! Armitage menacing in eyeliner is one of those visuals stuck in my brain forever.

    Wendy, count me on the Sawyer team as well.

  12. Thanks so much to everybody who commented!

    Wendy, you are so very right about Laurie and Jo. And, now that I think about it, I think that was my first experience as well with hero disappointment. Professor Baer? Surely Louisa May Alcott was kidding — but, sadly, she wasn’t.

    Sorry to say, I am a Jack woman. He is so very tortured. Me like tortured. (In fantasyland, that is.)

    Monique, Bill isn’t quite the totally likable guy in the books that he is in the series. I don’t know if that would change your opinion, but there it is.

  13. I’m usually firmly on the side of the hero the writer picks, (thinking Edward from Twilight/Jean-Claude from Anita Blake… the other heroes were werewolves and were pushy little buggers in my opinion) but I’ve finally come across a novel that I want the unhero or Eric hero as it were to win the girl… so frustrating! I can see why Jacob/Richard fans go batty when the real hero comes around… ugh!

  14. AAR Lynn: “Beth Re – I’m glad I’m not the only one! At first I was an Edward fan, but I just can’t help thinking that a relationship between Bella and Jacob would have been more of a meeting of equals. Bella just seems too dependent on Edward for me to be entirely comfortable with their relationship.”

    See, I’m completely okay with Edward. I have real serious issues with pushy Jacob. He couldn’t recognize Bella was trying to get away from him when he kissed her? Is he completely clueless? Having been in situations where I want to avoid said kisses by pushy males, I completely side with Bella hauling off and whacking him one in the jaw… when Edward faced a similar situation (bk 3 end) and Bella pushes him halfheartedly away he stops. Based on the singular difference in reaction (stalker/domineering) Edward wins my vote and Jacob does not… Jacob ends up looking like a potential raper.

  15. Diana: Richard Armitage menacing in eyeliner isn’t such a bad image to have stuck in your brain! Judge for yourself:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OtLjIhjgU4
    Actually, his Guy of Gisborne was the first thing that leapt into my mind when I was reading this post, because he’s that irresistible sort of Deeply Wounded Bad Boy who secretly longs to be good…guess I’m a sucker for that, as well. :-)

  16. If they don’t do more of an Eric/Sookie storyline and continue with the Bill/Sookie storyline — its just going to get boring real fast!
    They have to shake things up because the art of surprise is what keeps bringing the fans back to it.
    It was HOT when Bill/Sookie started, now its safe and predictable.
    AB knows that in order to keep the fans coming back, you have to have some unpredictability into it — casting Alex as Eric was brilliant — now they need to take him out of the background (35 minutes of Season 1 — are you freakin’ kidding me!!), and put him out front — oh the scenerios running through my head with more airtime with the viking — it would be such an awesome Season 2!!

  17. Call me weird, but I’m always a sucker for the nice, stable guys myself. I’ve only read the books, never watched True Blood, but I’ve wanted Sookie to end up with Sam from the start even though I think a blazing hot affair with Eric would be in order first (never liked Bill). I want Sophia with Dave. And if I were Bella I would have been all over Jacob.

  18. I’m still trying to figure out how you could have read all eight existing books and then come to the conclusion that Charlaine Harris is NOT rooting for Eric. His role has expanded with each successive book while Bill’s role has diminished to the point where Charlaine herself has had to reassure fans on her website that Bill will even be in the next book. Call me crazy, but I don’t interpret that as the author not rooting for Eric.

  19. “His role has expanded with each successive book while Bill’s role has diminished to the point where Charlaine herself has had to reassure fans on her website that Bill will even be in the next book.”

    :)

    I’m really behind on this series.

  20. @ Wendy: OMG! I was brokenhearted when Jo and Laurie didn’t end up together. And it was made even worse by the fact that he ended up with Amy whom I despised then and despise now.

    @ AAR Sandy: It might change my mind. Especially since I generally prefer the more alpha male type and Eric fits that while Bill does not. Perhaps it is only Eric’s lack of exposure in the show that is holding him back for me. Since I certainly plan on watching more (I actually watched the first 5 episodes back to back on HBO On Demand), I’ll reserve judgment and see what happens.

    LOL – all this Twilight talk is making me feel like I *have* to read the books even though I am convinced I’ll hate them. But seriously, even knowing almost nothing about the series, I had been rooting for Jacob just because he seems to be the “bad boy”.

  21. Wendy –

    Oh yes! Jo and Laurie – that was one of the great disappointments in reading for me. They were just so perfect and he seemed like the one person who would let her be who she really was.

  22. Beezle68, I don’t think she’s rooting for BIll. I think there is another major character who’s been there from the beginning who was heavily foreshadowed in the last book. And it’s not Eric.

  23. Has Charlaine Harris confirmed that Sookie does not end up with Eric? This is a fact? I thought Eric was the hero. It seems obvious. They are going through all the stages of a classic romance novel.

    As for Whitney, My Love-Nicholas went the friend route. Clayton went the bad boy route. Who got the girl? This is my all time favorite book ever. I decided at 14 to name my daughter Whitney Allison, 16 years later I did.

    “Everyone knows refomed rakes make the best husbands.” From Whitney, My Love

  24. Pingback: Eric, bite me! « Sucker for Vampires

  25. AAR, I hope you don´t mean Sookie could end up with Sam? At least I don´t see it happening, they´re better off as friends and Sam seems to have accepted Eric more and more along the way. I don´t see passion between Sam and Sookie, well maybe from Sam to Sookie but Sookie doesn´t reciprocate.

    Also I haven´t heard any confirmations that Sookie and Eric don´t end up together and I totally agree with Karen that Eric is the hero type.

    I read somewhere that Charlaine has said that she knew since she wrote the 2nd book that Eric and Sookie are meant for each other. I surely hope so. :)

  26. AAR, I was curious to know if your recent review of the upcoming 9th Sookie book Dead and Gone changes your perspective on this blog entry. :)

    If I’d seen this back in December, I would have definitely tried to persuade you that Eric’s role in the series has increased in a gradual and natural way, and it also appears to me that he is very much on the Hero track. I wasn’t clear why you believe(d) that Eric was unlikely to Get the Girl. I think Ms. Harris has several creative routes open to her to resolve in favor of Eric and yet leave Sookie mortal (though with her fairy blood which may affect the course of her life in as yet unexplained ways).

    I do agree with you that Sam is the leading contender to steal Eric’s thunder, but I tend to put higher odds on his being a red herring than you do it seems. The telling factor for me is that Sam seems bent on extricating Sookie from the greater supernatural world that opened up to her after she met Bill and keeping her in the quiet untroubled existence that Sam tries to lead. I asked Ms. Harris after the 8th novel whether Sookie would want to distance herself from the supe world at some point, and her answer was that Sookie has enjoyed the opportunities afforded to her from her involvement in the supe world too much to want to leave it (or words to that effect). That tells me that Sam and Sookie have fairly incompatible life aims at base. I think Sookie has satisfied her curiosity about the chemistry that she feels for Sam, but she never dwells much on Sam, even after sharing a sizzling kiss or two in the series so far.

    No, when Sookie’s thoughts meander to one of her potential suitors, it’s far more apt to be Eric than anyone else. Such as when she is enjoying a beautiful sunny day and thinks how much she’d like to share it with Eric. Yes, that points up that Eric never can share such a day with her and is thus not a perfect fit for her — but the very fact that she wants to share a nice day with him speaks volumes to me.

    Anyway, I hope you eventually have to come up with another name for this phenomenon rather than the Eric Factor. I do think it’s a very real phenomenon (so says the still-avid Harry/Hermione shipper), but I don’t think it’s applicable to Mr. Eric Northman. I have long thought that he is The One.

  27. For me, seems like eric and sookie will end up together.. Just feels right! Their relationship has had a natural progression over the book series.. The problem with the character of eric is he seems like in so many ways, both the worst and best choice for sookie. So much so, that it is not clear cut on if she will go for him??? and thats way CH wants it… Love is a mess, who you love is not so simple… Sometimes you cant see whats in front of you, sometimes you fear to love… that is how CH has developed their relationship… I cant wait to see how she ends their relationship in the book series… good or bad!…. The show TB is great, I love that it is its own! I think following the book series step by step would be a mistake… Take the good bits from the books and work it into its own entity!!!

  28. This is the reason that despite the people who bash the Twilight books, especially the last one, I respect the author’s integrity. There are things that (a majority of) readers want.

    After reading all of the books and watching True Blood religiously, it would destroy me to see Sookie with Bill or Sam. And Quinn? I’m sorry, but I can’t stand that character. Eric is supposed to be Charlaine’s “baby” character, so I hope she has enough faith in her own character and in his relationship with Sookie to let things play out how they should. She has been setting the stage for Eric and Sookie for years.. I also see him as the hero (as another reader pointed out) and definitely not the bad boy. It would be crushing to see them not end up together.

    I also agree that the casting of Eric was beautiful. Alexander Skarsgard is amazing.

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