What’s the ideal age to fall in love? If you pick up a romance novel, you might think your late twenties is the sweet spot — the only sweet spot. Yet these authors are writing romances starring more mature characters — and readers of all ages are cheering them on.
At first, writing older heroes and heroines seemed like a risk to fan-favorite author Kristen Ashley. “I thought it would be a disaster, have a very narrow audience,” Ashley told us of her Magdalene series, which stars heroes and heroines nearing 50. But Ashley says, ultimately, she decided to age up her protagonists because, “I was in that zone with age personally.”
Bestselling author Roxanne St. Claire also found herself more drawn to older heroes. “For years I ran a Friday feature on my Facebook page that I called ‘Because it’s Friday … ‘ with a hot guy pic. But some of those guys were starting to look more like my son than a man I’d be interested in romantically,” the author told us. “So, one day, for fun, I used a gorgeous shot of George Clooney and wrote, ‘Because it’s Friday … and sometimes sexy comes in silver.’ My page blew up with comments, likes and shares. I knew then there was an untapped market. I stuck with silver foxes on Friday and by the time I was ready to create the next Barefoot Bay mini-series, I had no doubt silver was the way to go.”
Bestselling author Rochelle Alers knew her readers were ready for older protagonists — because they kept telling her. “Whenever I am invited to speak at book clubs, the majority members are over forty and complain as to the dearth of characters that represent their age,” Alers said. She added, “they want to read about men and women who are given a second chance at happiness or fall in love for the first time,” — just like them.
Taking the input, Alers wrote her Innkeepers series, beginning with The Inheritance. Her readers’ response to her 58-year-old, recently laid-off attorney heroine was, Alers reports, “similar to the reaction I received from readers when I was first published thirty years ago: overwhelmingly positive.”
St. Claire’s books were also a hit. The author reports that Barefoot at Sunset, starring a 48-year-old widower hero and the fake fianceé he falls for, was recently voted by BookBub readers as one of the Top Twenty Most Romantic Books Ever. “Ever! Like on the list with Outlander and Pride Prejudice and The Fault in our Stars!” St. Claire told us.
And readers of all ages are turning to these romances. “When I started to write older and older heroes and heroines, I thought anyone not in that life zone or imminently facing it would not be interested,” Ashley said. “Readers of or around that age were utterly delighted to be represented in romance,” but what Ashley also found was, “younger readers also responded beautifully to these stories, learning that life does not ‘end’ at 35, relevancy (especially for women) does not grind to a halt, hope for a full life and finding true love is not dashed and, last, passion, desire and sex drive do not go away.”
All three authors cited the life experience of their heroes and heroines as a bonus — there’s so much more material to draw from. “My mature characters are usually over forty, married, divorced, widowed, or single,” Alers told us. “They are also independent, financially solvent and, even after undergoing unforeseen occurrences, survive and thrive.”
By your forties, “you have more time to accumulate more baggage that needs to be sorted out,” Ashley told us. “Kids. Exes. Mistakes made. Different jobs. Losing loved ones. Regrets. Accomplishments.”
St. Claire concurs, saying of her seasoned characters, “They are mature, they have lived, they have baggage, they have families, and they may be set in their ways. The life situations are different for someone in their late forties or fifties than in their late twenties, so that opens a whole new world of plots and possibilities.”
In all, the authors believe, as St. Claire says, “Love can happen anytime in someone’s life.” And if that makes us all accepting of the age we are — even better!
Ashley sums it up, saying, “You so often hear, ‘I’m dreading facing 40.’ Why? You’re alive. You have this beautiful gift. You’ve survived all life threw at you to this point, so you’re a warrior. You’ve (hopefully) celebrated all life’s blessings along the way. There is so much more waiting for you. Sullying it based on a number that society or the media or Hollywood or whoever has indicated defines you as relevant or irrelevant is such a waste of that gift you still have. Ignore that garbage! Make the absolute most of your life and time on this earth. If you’re breathing, you have no excuse not to be living, I don’t care if you’re 23, 43 or 83.”
After all everyone deserves a happily ever after, no matter their age.