So, ladies, in celebration of this divinely romantic holiday of Saint Valentine, let us pay tribute to all the men in our lives—including the fictional ones.
That’s right, you heard me. Those fictional heartthrobs that live on our bookshelf. AKA, the parallel universe where a man can be sweet, thoughtful, (totally gorgeous!), and perfect in every way. This is, of course, only possible in romance novels, where they’re scripted by….[drum roll]…women. No wonder they always know the right thing to say! With a guy this amazing, how can us ladies resist?
But, we also love those non-fictional men in our lives. Well, most of the time. They’re goofy and oh-so-loveable, even if they say things that make us want to smack them. Even if they fail to shower us with flowers or spoon-feed us ice cream. (Any men reading this, take notes). But these real-life gems change the oil in our cars, fix household equipment, and open jars with tight lids. They love us in their own, clueless way. These guys are the best, too.
So, which guy is first on YOUR list? That scripted Eros chiseled by our imaginations, or those real-life knights in shining armor? We’re going to throw a real-life scenario at these guys and let the chips fall where they may.
Scenario: The fictional man. After a hard day, Scarlett returns home to her fictional husband, Jean-Claude (yeah, really). 3, 2, 1, action.
Scarlett kicks off her shoes and trudges into the kitchen where Jean-Claude, her former FBI chief / model / five-star chef is whipping up a gourmet meal.
“How was your day, love of my life?” Jean-Claude asks in his sultry, French accent.
Scarlett lets her purse slide off her shoulder and plop onto the counter. “Awful.” She blows out a breath. “One problem after another, and I haven’t eaten since breakfast. I’m starving.”
Jean-Claude curls a perfectly-muscled arm around her waist and ushers her to the recliner. “Put your feet up and relax, my apple tarte soufflé. Your only concern is whether you want your duck à l’orange medium or medium-rare.” An inexplicable breeze ruffles his wavy, black hair.
Scarlett closes her eyes and feels the tension drain from her shoulders. “Oh, Jean-Claude, you are the best.”
“No, you are.”
The orange sauce begins to smoke, so Jean-Claude allows her to win the argument, as always. Despite working all day at his six-figure job and then slaving away at the stove for the past three hours, Jean-Claude’s couture outfit is pristine. Not a crease or speck of lint to be seen. Ditto for the thick locks and chiseled face.
After a mouth-watering, candle-lit dinner replete with rousing discussion, Jean-Claude rubs Scarlett’s shoulders and draws her a hot bath.
Hmm…not too bad, fictional man. Now for the competition.
Scenario: The real man. After a hard day, Scarlett returns home to her real-life husband…let’s say, Joe. 3, 2, 1, action.
Scarlett kicks off her shoes and trudges into the living room where her husband, Joe, is watching televised sports. Joe notices her presence out of the periphery of his vision.
“If Miller doesn’t start catching passes soon, they should can his ten ‘mil a year keester!”
Scarlett isn’t sure if the comment is directed at her personally but takes it as a cue to speak. “My day was awful.” She lets her purse slide off her shoulder and plop onto the floor. “One problem after another, and I haven’t eaten since breakfast. I’m starving.”
Joe is fixated on the screen, the vein bulging in the center of his forehead. “Another fumble. Ah, you idiot!” He rakes his fingers through his hair, which does not happen to be black or wavy. There is no mysterious breeze to gently tousle it.
Scarlett blows out a breath of frustration. Joe glances up at her. “How was your day, honey?”
Scarlett resists the urge to throttle him…but just barely. She glares at him, and he looks back with befuddlement.
“So, what’s for dinner?” He glances back at the screen. “Go, go, go… Yes!” He’s on his feet, pumping his fist.
Scarlett assumes, but doesn’t care, that his team has just scored. “You know what’s for dinner?” she says, a chilling edge to her tone. “Nothing. Nada. Zip. Because I’m exhausted!”
Joe’s arms fall to his sides. “You have a bad day, honey?”
Scarlett fantasizes about slapping him silly. She lets her face fall into her hands. Joe steps closer and folds his arms around her. They’re not perfectly-muscled, but they’re warm and comforting. His clothes aren’t exactly runway-worthy, let alone perfectly creased, but Scarlett sort of likes the soft, cushy feeling of his hoodie. She rests her head on his shoulder and recounts the unpleasantness of her day. Joe proceeds to, in manly fashion, offer a suggestion for every problem. His advice is both annoying and reassuring.
“Are you hungry?” he asks.
Scarlett rolls her eyes but opts for good grace. “Yes.”
A grin spreads across his face. “Well, not to worry. Joe’s taking care of dinner tonight, honey. I’m going to spoil you.”
Scarlett lifts an eyebrow but refrains from comment.
Joe pulls out his cell phone. “General Tso’s chicken?”
Her favorite. She grins and gives him a thumbs up. Oh, her Joe. He knows her better than anyone. He plops back down on the couch and reaches out his hand. “Watch the game with me?”
A PBS drama would have been more her style, but she takes a perch next to him. He lets out a contented sigh, slings an arm around her, and becomes instantly engrossed in his game once again. A few minutes later, he turns to her and gives her a kiss on the cheek.
“So, how was your day, honey?”
Now for the analysis. Jean-Claude is, objectively, perfect. I mean, who wouldn’t like gourmet meals and back rubs? Still, I must admit, I have a weakness for Joe. Joe is real. Joe is loyal. Joe will order you Chinese food when you’re too tired to cook. Besides, who wants perfect, anyway? Perfect is nauseating. Sure, it’s nice to escape into an idyllic, fictional world from time to time, but in real life, I’ll take charmingly flawed over obnoxiously perfect any day. So, Jean-Claude, even with your sultry French accent, six-figure job, and perfect abs, I cast my vote for Joe.
I feel blessed every day for the man God sent into my life to comfort me when I’m upset, offer really helpful solutions to all of my problems [ahem], and step up after a long day at work. Even if that means a frozen pizza and a sporting event on TV that I care nothing about. As long as his arm’s around me, I’ll probably stick around—until the end of the first quarter, anyway.
In my romantic suspense novel, Nothing Ventured, Jax is the heart-stopping hero who captures the best of Jean-Claude and Joe. He’s hunky and handsome and skilled at fighting off the bad guys. But he’s also sweet, adorable, and charmingly imperfect. He’ll rescue you from any threat, fix the muffler on your car, and take you out to eat because there’s no food in your fridge. Not to mention, he’s a brilliant attorney who hauls trees and plays hockey. How can we not swoon? I personally give him five stars.
Happy Valentine’s Day, guys. And forget about those dinner reservations. The game starts at seven, and I’ve ordered some takeout.
It’s a date.
Julie Arnold is the author of the romantic suspense series: Garden of Nymphs, Hiatus and Gold in the Dust. She lives for heart-stopping danger, plucky heroines and happily-ever-afters. Her latest novel, Nothing Ventured, is set to release in March 2019. She lives in Sylvania, Ohio with her husband and three children. Julie invites you to connect with her at:
Release Day: March 12, 2019
When Maizey Faye’s fiancé dumps her, leaving her with nothing but a lonely little tree farm in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she sees it as the fresh start she so desperately needs. So what if she knows next to nothing about tree farming. It can’t be that hard, right? Wrong! She’s in over her head, and if she doesn’t figure it out soon, she’ll lose everything.
Maizey never imagined her salvation would come in the form of her handsome business rival, Jax Lawson. She’s not sure if she can trust him, or if he’s just another traitorous man to add to her growing list. But when she starts receiving mysterious messages and dangerous threats, she has no choice but to accept Jax’s help. With her life on the line, she’ll learn real soon whether Jax is sincere about his affections or if it’s all been a lie to get his hands on her farm.