(c) 2007 by Gracie C. McKeever
I love twists. I love reading stories with twists and I love writing about them. My favorite twists involve role-reversal (as in my sex-switch reincarnation story New Life Incognita where a young black man is murdered only to return as a young white woman…double whammy!)
There’s nothing better than the shock value of characters thrown into a seemingly untenable situation who twist a reader’s (and author’s) perception and do the unexpected or the unacceptable. And nothing to me provides more of a twist than flipping deep-rooted social mores (i.e. the customary age or sexual experience of a novel’s h/h) upside down.
I explored one such role-reversal and twist with an older woman/younger man dynamic in Manifest Destiny: The Matchmaker 3 and my current work-in-progress, Emilia’s Emancipation: The Matchmaker 4. The experience was nothing short of enjoyable and enlightening for both me and my characters as we traversed the societal minefields and pros and cons of this still taboo subject.
As in life, stories with an older woman/younger man dynamic provide just another avenue of instant conflict in addition to the opposites-attract conflict that usually abounds in romances.
For one, we as a society are yet governed by the man-as-provider, head-of-household mentality and with this mentality is the expectation that the head-of-household, the man in a romance (read boss/leader/protector…hero) should be the more experienced, thus older than the woman in a romance (read inexperienced/submissive/protected…heroine). When a writer turns the tables and makes the heroine the older of the pair, thus the more experienced boss/leader/protector, it pushes the accepted (and acceptable) dynamic into a gray area and forces the reader to question and reevaluate her own ideas and values.
In the case of my book Manifest Destiny I took the opposites-attract and the older woman/younger man dynamic to pair an older city-bred woman from New York with a country-bred cowboy from Colorado. So here you have an issue of class and location in addition to the age discrepancy. That the younger man was the more old-fashioned and settled of the pair and, in some instances, more mature than the older woman/heroine was a twist that I couldn’t resist tackling.
In Emilia’s Emancipation I deal more with the heroine’s sexual rather than emotional “immaturity”, her having been married almost right out of high school and with very limited sexual experience despite having a child. The hero, despite his “youth” and, as in Manifest Destiny, is still the more experienced of the two and the leader in the relationship.
In both Manifest Destiny and Emilia’s Emancipation I enjoyed the experience of going against the grain of “acceptable” male/female roles and hope I laid to waste some of the stereotypes and double-standards that still abound in romantic fiction and life. I certainly enjoyed trying <g>.