We love love here at RT, of the real-life, fictional and celebrity variety. And one of our favorite tropes is the older women-younger man pairing. Author Sandy James knows what we’re talking about, because her new book, Fringe Benefits, features a heroine a decade older than her hero. Sandy shares why she loved writing a cougar, and what real-life older woman/younger man couples are her favorite.
Fringe Benefits was such an entertaining book to write—for two reasons.
First, I was able to bring back the cast of characters from one of my favorite books—Turning Thirty-Twelve. I decided it might be a lot of fun to see how married life had been treating Jackie and Mark Brennan, and I always wanted to see where her youngest son Nate had ended up. So I asked my editor if I could turn Nate into the hero of the fourth Ladies Who Lunch story, and she gave me her blessing.
I love to see characters grow. I was able to age Nate from a college freshman, naïve and just stretching his adult wings, to man who’s finished college, earned his Master’s, and is starting his life as a teacher. I imagine the reason I found Nate’s “makeover” so appealing is because that’s a transformation I’ve witnessed hundreds of times as my students graduate from my high school, then I run across them as nurses or police officers or even as teachers like me. There’s so much satisfaction in watching them bloom.
The second reason I loved writing Fringe Benefits was that Nate lands himself a cougar. The fourth Ladies book is Danielle Bradshaw’s turn at love, and she’s already in her thirties when she meets Nate. I’ve always wanted to explore and older woman/younger man story, and this was the perfect opportunity, especially since I know both characters so very well!
I suppose some of the inspiration to write the older woman/younger man story has to do with my own fascination with that particular dynamic. So let me describe my three favorite real-life cougar stories!
1. Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness
Not many people realize that Hugh is fourteen years younger than his lovely wife, Deborra-Lee. They’ve had a strong relationship for 20 years, and I was so touched at the emotional appreciation he gave her when she surprised him by presenting him with an honorary Emmy Award.
Hugh said, “Why any of this means anything, that is because my incredible wife and my kids support me.” Turning to Furness he told her, “I love you with all my heart. I know how much you hate public speaking. This is probably the greatest thing you’ve ever done for me.”
Then he planted a hell of a kiss on her!
2. Tina Turner and Erwin Bach
If anyone deserves a “happily ever after,” it’s Tina Turner. After suffering years of abuse from her ex-husband, Ike Turner, Tina had no interest in a serious relationship. But then she met younger man Erwin Bach, a record executive. Although she’s 16 years older, she accepted a date with him, and after twenty-five years of dating, she finally agreed to marry him in 2013.
3. Mary Tyler Moore and Robert Levine
I grew up on The Dick Van Dyke Show, and I always thought Mary Tyler Moore was one of the prettiest women on television. She married Dr. Robert Levine in 1983—the same year my husband and I married—when she was forty-seven and he was twenty-nine. They’re still married today.
Do you have a favorite older woman/younger man couple? Tell us! Fringe Benefits is available digitally tomorrow! For more love stories visit our Everything Romance page.