One of my favourite mental games to play around Valentine’s Day is all about fictional dates I would love to have. You know what I mean—an afternoon of bounding through the heather with Highlander, dancing with Mr. Darcy, or skulking through ruins for a candlelit tryst with the darkling doomed. Half the fun of a good hero is to see if he could fit into one of these mental vacations. However, there are a few safety tips one must observe:
1. Tasteful editing is a must. Vampires especially benefit from a buff-up to rid them of blood breath, coffin hair, and that musty basement odor. Ditto for demons and that special eau de sulphurous damnation.
2. Choose your version. For instance, a barbecue picnic with Conan the Barbarian will always work better with the film version of the hero than the original Robert E. Howard. In the movie world, you’re less likely to be eaten by something gruesome while muscle boy spaces out in a big broodfest about conquering the neighbouring kingdom. For another, a Hollywood hero would never burn the burgers.
(Speaking of Hollywood, Last of the Mohicans is a huge improvement with Daniel Day Lewis. The film managed to almost never mention the fact that the hero’s name is Natty Bumpo.)
3. Historical heroes can be brought up to date where it counts. Yes, when it come to things like voting, we like our modern men.
The list goes on, but you get the idea. Once the man of choice is knocked into shape, the fantasy begins. Will the ride be a coach? A phaeton? A Lamborghini? A wild stallion tamed only by the strength of his manly thighs? And you will go to … the opera? A ball? The midnight pillage down at the oasis? Or will you skip all that and dine in on champagne and peeled grapes? The possible permutations are endless.
This is when it’s good to be a romance writer. On a good day, these fantasies are paid employment.
What’s my thrill? I’ve always favoured the idea of swashbuckling through seventeenth-century Europe, convincing the Duke of Buckingham to forget Anne of Austria and give me the diamond necklace instead, but then I’m probably the only person on earth who thinks foiling Cardinal Richelieu would make a fun night out. Lace, swords, and chase scenes … I’m in. The only thing better is to add a splash of magic.
So if you had absolute free rein, who would be your Valentine?