I dedicated my teens to amassing an encyclopaedic knowledge of romantic fiction. During the course of my ‘scholarly research’ based on numberless novels by Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer and the miscellaneous authors who wrote under the imprint of Mills and Boon and Harlequin, I assembled a checklist of the essential attributes of a romantic hero. It was: wealth, broad shoulders, height, blocked tear ducts.
The wealth of a romantic hero could range from the vast riches of a shipping tycoon to the less impressive but still substantial holdings of a sheep farmer, but on the issues of tear ducts, vertical inches and shoulders, there was no compromise. For men, they were broad-shouldered, tall and dry-eyed. Above all, dry-eyed. When overcome by emotion, a Mills and Boon hero’s flinty grey eyes could narrow to slits but those flinty slits never ever leaked fluid. To cry would have been tantamount to revealing frilly underwear beneath those close-fitting jeans he favoured.