A recent post on Virgin Heroes in Science Fiction Romance discusses some of the more memorable heroes who have never done the deed prior to meeting the heroine, and how that element works for the story and the characters.
The topic got me thinking about another brand of hero, the hero who engages in self-imposed celibacy by choice or circumstance. Does celibacy make for a realistic hero? Or does our society's focus on sex make it implausible? What possible reasons would make a man resort to celibacy?
Actually, there are a number of reasons a man might decide to disengage sexually from society.
It may be because of his experiences. A broken heart can be a powerful deterent to intimacy, either because the man was badly burned in a relationship and doesn't care to repeat the experience, or because he still grieves for a lost mate.
He may chose not to be in a sexual relationship to focus on his duty or profession.
He may have been injured and is now undergoing a long recovery.
He may be a prisoner of war, a slave, a hostage, or incarcerated.
He might have chosen to become a priest or a monk with a vow of celibacy.
Or he may simply observe religious principles against sexual relations outside of marriage that he feels he must honor.
When you start thinking of all the reasons a man might opt for sexual abstinence, it no longer seems so far-fetched in the context of romantic fiction.
And that goes just for our world. Once you start delving into the SFR universe, there can be any number of barriers to sex presented by a non-Earth culture or religion.
Whatever the reasons, abstinence often makes for a more appealing hero. It shows his degree of moral integrity. He's someone who doesn't treat sex--or relationships--as fun and games. In his mind and in his heart, it's serious stuff--and it's going to take one heck of a woman (cue the heroine) to overcome his resistance.
Examples of Celibate Heroes in SFR
Linnea Sinclair's Dock Five Series is anchored by the romance between Chas and Gabriel "Sully" Sullivan that blossoms in the first novel, Gabriel's Ghost. At a turning point in the story, Sully confesses to Chas that he had once been a monk. It's never perfectly clear why he took this step, but it seemed to be a result of his ongoing war with his personal demons. Chas has always thought of him as a player and a ladies man, and when she learns the truth about his past, she looks at Sully in a totally new light.
In Pippa Jay's Keir, the hero is an outcast who is demonized by his own culture. Tortured, tattooed and treated as a social pariah, he is eventually imprisoned for the "threat" he poses to his own people. Feelings of self-loathing and shame create an emotional barrier between him and the woman who later rescues him, the kind-hearted Quinn, who he secretly longs for but believes his desires are disrespectful.
Born of Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon features a hero who's a top assassin with a tortured and twisted past. In his role as a trained killer, he has no time or patience for a love interest. Until he's assigned to protect Princess Kiara, the daughter of a consulate president.
Finn in Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy, is a hero who's an expendable slave in a situation that makes sex the least of his concerns. Leashed to the heroine with a biotech connection that will kill him if he's separated from her, he begins to experience temptation, even though her mental state can cause him extreme discomfort.
Celibacy is a hot topic for romance readers. There have been lists of books with discussions on Amazon and Goodreads about celibate heroes.
So now it's your turn. What books have you read with celibate heroes? Were you more or less intrigued with the hero because of his choices regarding celibacy?