I’m what the French tactfully call a woman of a certain age. I like to think of it as old enough to know better, but devil-may-care enough to do it anyway, while wearing a little black dress too sophisticated for twenty-somethings. (Realistically my life is more “wearing pajamas and petting a cat as I write about women who have adventures that involve little black dresses and sexy lapses of common sense.” Occupational hazard of being a writer. But you get the idea.)
In my real life, the same one in which I rock those fur-covered fleece PJs, I’m married to a wonderful man a few years my senior. We’re happy, romantic, and still passionate after all these years. I wouldn’t trade my silver fox for the world.
But I read a lot of books with heroes young enough to be my son, and I’m not ashamed of it. Younger men are pretty.
This is what the hero of Drive looks like. See what I mean?
Our favorite romance heroes have broad shoulders, abs of steel and a full head of hair, unless a particular hero’s head is shaved in a sexy tough-guy way because he’s a mercenary or an MMA fighter. We want a hero who’s young enough to have all the passion and erotic energy of youth, but mature enough to know what to do with it. A hero who can still get away with being wild. One who can sweep us off our feet, not just metaphorically but literally. (Full disclosure: my husband can still do this. I am a lucky, lucky romance writer.)
The only problem with these hunky young heroes, in my opinion, is they’re almost always paired up with women their age or even younger. Is this fair for some of us who’d enjoy a good cougar fantasy? Obviously not!
You could argue this is a touch of realism. It’s easier to find common ground with someone close to your age. You share experiences, pop culture references, in-jokes that someone much younger or older might not catch. It’s more likely you’ll agree on whether special occasions should be spent out dancing until dawn or having a lovely gourmet dinner, whether Friday drinks means savoring a high-end cocktail or splitting a couple of sixes of inexpensive beer, whether your winter vacation is back-country skiing or a resort on St. Thomas.
That’s all true, but the common romance trope of the slightly or even much older hero owes more to the societal rule that says it’s all right for men to date much younger women, but a little suspect for middle-aged women to go for younger guys. Older guys have power. Older women just have wrinkles. Right? (Insert disgusted snort here.) Luckily, women are slowly grasping more power and more control over their own destinies—and expanding their dating options as a result. If this meme is to be believed (I didn’t fact-check it), some well-known female stars are cougars, involved with significantly younger men.
It’s easier to be unconventional when you’re rich, famous, powerful in your field and not worried if the PTA, your boss or the ex-husband with whom you share custody is going to freak out. But if Madonna can do it, the rest of us can at least enjoy the fantasy of a hot younger hero to rock our worlds and shake us out of our middle-aged ruts.
That’s why I wrote Drive, the start of the Cougars, Cars and Kink series: to acknowledge that while we may savor powerful billionaires and worldly dukes as book boyfriends, we also enjoy delicious boy-toys who turn out to be something more. In my rich fantasy world, younger men are eager to learn what turns you on and what fun you can have together. They’re not so set in their ways they can’t adjust to yours with grace. Even a Dominant younger man may admit you know more than he does … outside the bedroom, where it’s a kick to let his gorgeous young body and dirty mind take charge. And if you fancy the submissive sort in the bedroom, think what fun you’ll have showing him the benefit of your greater experience and wisdom!
If you’re forty-five and just reentering the dating world, like my heroine Suzanne, you might want someone adventurous, someone who’ll help you make up for lost time, someone who doesn’t have quite as many emotional scars as a single guy your own age is likely to sport. And if you’re just starting to explore your own long-stifled kinky fantasies, you might want someone who came of age in a time when information and BDSM groups were just a few clicks away on the Internet, someone who knows what they’re doing and looks good in the leather pants. Neil, Suzanne’s hero, is thirty to her forty-five. He’s a Boston cop, not a naïve man-boy, but someone who knows just how rough the world can be. Still he has a young man’s energy, idealism and willingness to go for what he wants.
And what he wants is a woman who’s not sure she should be quite this interested in a younger man.
He’s a kinky dream come true—and her only protection from danger.
Eight months after her (cheating, almost-ex) husband’s death, Suzanne Mayhew has a plan to move on with her life. First step: sell off Frank’s classic cars, starting with the red vintage Mustang convertible he never let her drive. Second step: get her unexplored kink on with a delicious younger man.
Preferably the one an old friend sends around, ostensibly to check out the Mustang. Neil Callahan—Boston cop, Dom, fifteen years her junior.
Neil feels the mutual sizzle, but if the blush staining her cheeks is any indication, her flirting skills are a little rusty. Though his instinct tells him to take things slow with the recent widow, he can’t resist inviting her along for a test drive—for the whole weekend.
Throwing caution to the wind, Suzanne takes him up on it. But they’re barely out of the driveway when Neil’s cop instincts kick in. They’ve got a tail…and it looks dangerously like her ex’s secrets looming large—and deadly—in their rear-view mirror.
Warning: Spies, lies and vile bad guys. A meddling BFF. Inappropriate use of kitchen tools. Completely appropriate use of rope and floggers. Your mileage may vary, depending on battery life.