For the love of a Redhead
It isn't a truth universally acknowledged, perhaps, but it still is one: while the redheaded heroine is always in vogue, romance novels have a distinct lack of heroes the same. There are Titian girls, auburn girls, and tempestuous flamingly red-haired girls, yet want a ginger leading man, you'll be looking hard.
I have come across a couple. There was a great Mills & Boon I read with a heroine called Kitty Anderson, where the hero was a lovely, laidback Rufus who kept making her laugh. There was also a dubiously-researched 70s book my sister bought, with an Earl called Roger whose hair (inevitably) matched his hot temper. Unfortunately, Roger wasn't much fun, and the heroine wasn't half as entertaining as Lady Sharon, the greedy wench after his title who ruined it all by announcing her plans while drunk.
These two aside, redheads in my reading have been pretty thin on the ground, and this can't just be down to their being pretty thin on the ground in general. Black-haired, green-eyed men aren't that common either but they remain a prized type in romance. Then again, black-haired men don't come with the baggage of a redhead. Aristotle believed that redheaded men were emotionally unstable. In Scotland, a redheaded man brings the worst luck when first-footing at new year. The UK - where red hair isn't that rare - has never had a redheaded prime minister. Any redhead losing his temper cannot do so without everyone assuming it's because of his hair, along with unfunny jokes about being stepchildren.
And yet there has always been a fascination with red hair, a deep attraction to it. Flying the flag for gingers these days are Damian Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne and - beating the lot - the fabulously redheaded Prince Harry, who checks just about every romantic box there is. Tall, ex-Army, compassionate, sporty, wealthy, titled, and goes out with an intelligent, outspoken divorcee older than he is. And he looks as if he'd throw the best party ever.
Even for those who find full-on red hair too much, the red spectrum has much to offer. Anyone who has seen a dark-haired Scot with his red beard and summer highlights will appreciate the beauty. It's the surprise of it, the way it reflects the light. Red hair isn't just lovely on women. The fact is that lots and LOTS of women love a redheaded man. And that audience should be catered to.
So will this love of the Rufus strengthen in literature? Will the prejudice be overcome? Will the audience for them be satisfied? Have you a literary redhead you love?
I will be doing my bit!