Christina here. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary stories where the heroes are wealthy and successful, and I have noticed that they all seem to have very similar tastes when it comes to their homes. They usually live either in a penthouse apartment, with floor to ceiling windows and incredible views, or in a converted warehouse apartment, where so called “industrial chic” rules. Bare brick walls, huge spaces and cavernous ceilings, all tastefully furnished to suit a man of course.
Is this how we want or expect our heroes to live? Or is it how we believe the super-rich live and this is our impression of success in building form?
Personally, I like heroes who are a little quirky. Someone who lives in a soulless penthouse where everything is sleek with chrome, shiny surfaces and leather sofas is not going to attract me. (Sorry, I should call them “sectionals”, as that is apparently the preferred type of seating for these men – not sure why as they don’t look particularly comfortable to me!). Sure, they might be too busy making their millions and therefore have to hire some interior decorator to choose everything for them, but what does that say about them? Don’t they have some input, give the professional a brief to work from? And why are they allergic to actual colours? To me, it simply means they have no individual taste and don’t care if their apartment feels like a home or a showpiece.
I almost feel sorry for the heroines who agree to move in with their heroes. They’ll have an uphill battle to get them to redecorate and replace all the boring (often dark) colours with something more cheerful. Even the bedlinen is dark or bland, even if the thread count is in the thousands!
A home says so much about a person. Individual choices can give a glimpse into someone’s personality and I love when a hero dares to be different. If they insist on having grey/white/black leather sofas, at least let them be covered with colourful cushions or throws. Mind you, from what I’ve read, most heroes (and men in general?) find scatter cushions totally unnecessary and downright perplexing. They can’t see the point of them, but anyone who has tried to sit on a square leather sofa will know you need at least one or two in order to be comfortable! And adding a splash of colour to an otherwise monochrome room is surely a good thing? Apparently not if you’re a multi-millionaire.
How about the addition of specific artwork? A hero who collects, for instance, old album covers and keeps them on his walls in frames would be good. The reader would know that he likes art and music. Perhaps he has a penchant for 1970s/80s rock? Or he could have a bookcase filled with first edition hardback books, showing that he’s a voracious reader (always a hit with me). Artistic black and white photos on his walls that have specific meaning for him could be good (though not very colourful). Or how about old movie posters, showing he’s a film buff? It all helps to build up a picture of him.
When it comes to historical books, the heroes will hopefully be rich enough to live in a mansion or country house of some sort. The type of building they own can give an impression of their personality, even if it’s a property they have inherited that’s been in the family for generations. In that case, whether they like the house or not is an indication of their character. The property might be completely at odds with the type of home they’d really like, but they can always put their own stamp on it. I love stories where the hero allows the heroine free rein to sweep into a dreary, neglected old house and breathe life into it by cleaning, moving furniture around and brightening the place with flowers and new curtains or whatever. And if the hero puts up with a place simply because it’s his duty, it shows that he cares about his heritage, which is a nice trait.
A stiff duke might be likely to own a perfect Palladian style mansion where everything is in perfect proportion and the rooms are decorated in the latest style. It will be tasteful and understated, but entirely without personality or quirks. He’ll own copious amounts of Old Master artwork, statues from Grand Tours, and expensive furniture, like Chippendale chairs. The garden and grounds will include a home park and a lake with a folly on the other side, and will be meticulously cultivated and looked after. Obviously, what he needs is a lively heroine who will breathe life into this vast place and fill it with love and laughter, transforming it into a home.
A ramshackle rake might be more likely to own a sprawling abbey, an old house that used to be a monastery but has been turned into a home over the centuries, added to at whim and without symmetry in the architecture. Or perhaps an old tumble-down Elizabethan mansion, with higgledy-piggledy additions, and a charming knot garden. The heroine would fall in love with either of these alternatives before falling for the hero (or at least, I would!).
For romantic/Gothic suspense, an old mansion on the moors or on a lonely clifftop would be ideal. It takes a brave heroine to fall in love with the owner of such an atmospheric place.
A really rich Regency gentleman would, of course, own several properties – a main country residence, a few other manor houses or estates spread out over the country, and a grand house in London’s Mayfair. We usually expect our dukes to have a London home that includes a ballroom and a large garden, as well as numerous other rooms. In reality, I don’t think there were that many houses of such enormous proportions. If you take a walk around Mayfair nowadays, most of the houses left over from that period are considerably smaller, but there’s no way we can imagine a duke living in one of those.
Going further back in time, the choice is narrower – heroes of an earlier age would be likely to own/live in a castle of some sort, or aspire to own one, while my Viking heroes naturally have large longhouses to show their status.
So why don’t most of our heroes live in cozy cottages? Quirky, poky little apartments? Or a homey place that’s messy and comfortable? Is that a “girly” thing to want to do? The first two have never appealed to me as I much prefer homes with huge windows and high ceilings in the Victorian style. I like as much space as possible. I could be attracted to a hero with a warehouse conversion (again big open spaces), but it would have to be furnished in an eclectic way. A mixture of antiques, plush sofas in bright colours to sink into, and deep Persian carpets/rugs covering polished or varnished original floor boards. No harsh lines, chrome or uncomfortable modern furniture. Nothing that feels “cold” and impersonal.
Or what about a mews house? If the hero is based in London, that would be a perfect alternative as they often come with a built-in garage for his sports car (another must for a rich guy). However, having lived in one myself, I know they are often dark and poky, with windows only on one side and small rooms. So not as attractive as it might sound.
In Pippa Grant's novel The One Who Loves You, the hero lives in a tree house he’s built himself – now that’s what I call quirky! I loved him immediately.
But we are all different, and what appeals to one person will repel the next. Where do you prefer your heroes to live? Do you like the monochrome penthouses? What style of property would make you think “this is an interesting person, I’d like to get to know him better”?