Okay, what is worse than your child being sick the days prior to Thanksgiving? Perhaps your child being sick right when you are supposed to blog. Luckily I have a new brilliant friend (and great writer, though, sadly not for Avon) who agreed to stand in for me today. Presenting Cara Elliott!

A Hero of Our Time
(with apologies to 19th century Russian novelist Mikhail Lermontov)
By Cara Elliott

Like many of you, I am a big fan of historical romance. However, much as I hate to admit it, I’m more comfortable slipping into sweatpants than a silk ballgown. It may not be a very “girl” thing to confess, but I’m a bit of a “jock.”

I grew up swatting balls on a tennis court and played on my college squash team. (Given my love of Regency England, it’s no surprise that I moved on to an esoteric game that originated in the 19th century debtors prisons of London.) The pinnacle of my athletic career came when I won the New York City Women’s Squash Championship and got to hug an immensely impressive silver trophy called the Feron’s Cup.

Yes, THAT Feron!

Much to my delight, I recently discovered that Carrie Feron and I share more than a love for romance novels. A chance comment revealed that she is one of the “racquet” Ferons, a legendary family in the world of sports, going back to her great grandfather Stephen James Feron, who was the World Champion of squash tennis. So, we’ve been having fun trading sporting memories...and found that we also share a “thing” for tennis superstar Andre Agassi. (His new book, a revealing autobiography aptly entitled OPEN, has garnered a lot of attention in the media lately because of its candid revelations about his life on and off the court.)

Okay, you are probably scratching your head over where I am going with this. After all, we are here to dish about romance, and what do Andre Agassi and romance have in common? Be patient--I’m about to explain. But first, a slight digression on the nature of heroes, a subject near and dear to our hearts.

Another confession. I have a thing for bad-boy heroes--those outwardly tough men whose devil-may-care arrogance hides a brooding, lonely, vulnerable soul. Take, for example, Eloisa James’ Leopold Dautry, the notorious Duke of Villiers. Oh, that sardonic wit, wielded with the razor sharp edge of a rapier. Oh, that air of affected indifference, intoned in that lazy drawl. Or think for a moment about Loretta Chase’s James Cordier, the hard-bitten spy who sneers at the mere notion of softer sentiment. Don’t you just itch to get your hands on one of these men and light a spark in his heart? (and, er, perhaps in a slightly lower portion of his anatomy.)

Now, back to Agassi...As Carrie and I were discussing our mutual attraction, I pointed out that it was no great mystery why we both are in love with him. It’s because he is the quintessential romantic hero. Really, I’m totally serious about this. Just think about it--here was a rakish rogue who entered Society (i.e. the tennis world) and proceeded to thumb his nose at tradition and play by his own rules. He wore pink lycra and denim when white clothing was de rigeur. He was brash, bold, and deliberately outrageous in a game that was still a tad stuffy. And, he got away with it because he was one of the crown princes of the sport.

But along the way, Agassi occasionally showed hints of endearing vulnerability hidden beneath the outward show of cocky, self-assured toughness. One began to sense that there might be a beguiling chink in his lordly armor. And, sure enough, in his new book, he admits that he was often confused, lonely, and tortured by self-doubts.

So what happened? The Right Woman (i.e. Steffi Graf, a champion tennis player in her own right) came onto the court and it was a match made in heaven. It turns out that Agassi just needed the power of true love to bring meaning and happiness to his life.

For me, Andre Agassi’s story reads like the perfect romance novel. Conflict. Suffering. Redemption...which only affirms how well authors of our genre understand the essence of real people and real human emotion.

And so, the point of my verbal spins and slices is to raise a loud cheer. HUZZAH FOR HEROES, be they made of flesh and blood or paper and ink, be they dressed in lycra and spandex or velvet and lace. They make us sigh, they make us smile, they make us swoon. And, most of all, they make our hearts sing!


Anonymous Anne Gracie said:

Cara, wonderful blog. I think the parallel with a bad-boy Regency Rake hero holds up very nicely here. Love the crown prince of sport with the endearing vulnerability.

2:06 PM  

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