If you’re like me, you have read a ton of books with the vivacious virginal heroine and the world-weary rake. I’m very pleased to see a trend of aging that vivacious virginal heroine from seventeen to mid-twenties now, but the world-weary rake is usually still in his thirties. I figure he’s had close to two decades to get into mischief and debauchery. Instead of finding innocence boring beyond belief, he’s going to be swept away by a clueless dewy-eyed ingénue before The End. Yeah, right. I cannot forget Charles and Diana, separated by a dozen years and the Relentless Rottweiler, and we all know how that turned out.

In Third-Rate Romance, I have my three metafictional heroes discussing their sexual experience as they drink themselves silly in a New Orleans bar. One of them, Lincoln, the sheriff in the Historical-Western-Inspirational, confesses to Liam and Lionel that until his marriage, he was a virgin too.

Lionel had never been so shocked in his life. He was fairly sure he’d lost his innocence with a tavern girl much like the barmaid here, barring all the body adornment, when he was a mere stripling, and a jolly time he’d had of it too once he deloused. “Good Lord, man! How old are you?

“Same as you. Thirty’s the age, ain’t it? We’re all thirty, every one of us heroes. It must be the law or somethin’.”

I read somewhere that the average age for a woman to marry today is 25; for a man, it’s 26. In romance novels, I believe most of us would find 26 to be a bit young for the hero. I mean, Justin Timberlake is 26. Who wants to marry him? (Besides a zillion young girls.) Other than being a sexy singer with a d*ck in a box, how is our fictional billionaire-CEO-Duke going to make all the money necessary to ensure the heroine fulfills our Cinderella fantasy? Maturity means success, or at least coming into your inheritance.

My husband could be my older brother. He was born in January, I in October of the same year. Technically he’s the older man, but we don’t have that Romanceland Age Range. We have a common history, though, and get each other’s cultural references. If I had married a much older man, I’d probably be rinsing his teeth off and counting the days until I planted him.

When does the age gap get icky for you? I loved Heyer’s These Old Shades, but Avon is way older that Leonie. I wrote a historical novella where the heroine is eighteen and the hero thirty-eight, and I suspect I’ve gone into icky territory. How much older is too much older? How old are your favorite fictional couples? What are the ages of your own protagonists? TRR’s writer-heroine is in her late forties, her guy in his fifties. They do say to write what you know, and I can still remember my forties. *g* Have you read any older woman/younger man stuff, and does that work for you? I smiled through Crusie’s Anyone But You.

The painting above is Edmund Blair Leighton’s Till Death Us Do Part. Originally titled L.S.D., a British abbreviation for money and not drugs, it depicts an unhappy young bride on the arm of her elderly, presumably rich groom exiting the church.

Lindsey! You’ve won the copy of Forbidden Shores. E-me at maggierobinson8@yahoo.com with your snailmail address.