I have this theory that all Romance Novel Heroes (RNHo, from now on) are born under the astrological sign of Scorpio. Okay. Maybe not all of them, but a really, large majority for sure are Scorpios.
I'm a bit of a Scorpio expert. I attract them, them and Leos. I don't know why this is so, but most of the people in my life-’guys and gals-’generally fall into one of those two astrological signs. For instance, three of my best girlfriends are all born on August 13 in consecutive years. That would make them Leos for those of you who don't do the whole astrology thing. That's not the point. The point is that I can spot a Scorpio from 50 feet away in a blizzard. That's how good I am. I'm not an astrologer, mind you. I'm just a Scorpio expert.
There's a lot of false information running around about Scorpios. Most people who know anything about astrology are kind of scared of Scorpios. Most people who know nothing about astrology think that Scorpios are like Lord Byron. But Lord Byron wasn't a Scorpio (he was a Sagittarius), nor did he behave like one. The Romantic poet you are looking for as a model of Scorpionic behavior is Keats (jealous, possessive, and obsessed with death). I am going to clear up some common misconceptions about Scorpios and in the process prove to y'all that all RNHo's are, in fact, Scorpios.
Scorpios encompass people born between October 23 and November 22. It is a fixed, water sign. Water signs are feminine, but Scorpio is ruled both by Mars and Pluto. Yay! Which is a short-hand way saying they are ruled by war and death, but since they are in a feminine-ruled water sign, it is war and death, but only on the inside. Double yay!
I'm really only talking about male Scorpios here. Female Scorpios are bit different. One of my favorite astrology books is Sextrology by Starsky & Cox. Starksy and Cox posit that your gender matters in the way that your sun sign manifests itself. You can believe this or not, but as a long time devourer of all things occult (I wanted to be a witch as a child and have lightning bolts shoot out of my fingertips ala Bavmorda in Willow. Alas, apparently this is not possible), I can definitely tell you that this book is one of the best I've ever read on astrology. It is very detailed and quite different from so many other books, which read as if they were intended for kindergarteners. But to the point.
In the first place, Scorpios are not naturally inclined towards being hedonists or man-whores. They become them in response to bad childhoods and innate paranoia. That isn't to say they don't behave this way. They do, but they aren't enjoying themselves that much. This is because they are pessimistic to the point of being nihilistic. Cue the raging, cynicism of the RNHo whose distrust in humanity borders on a psychosis. Engaging in hedonism is the Scorpios way of both satisfying their enormous libido and their intense interest in the great mysteries of humanity; sex, death and God. And no, John Donne was not a Scorpio. He was an Aquarius. I know. I can't believe it either.
Even if Scorpios really aren't having it on with anything and everything, they want you to think they are. See, what Scorpios actually get up to is far less important that the fact that they appear to be bad asses. Sound familiar? Scorpios are the authors of their own bad reputations. They will lead you to believe they spent the weekend in some 48 hour orgy, when in reality they probably spent it watching a Law & Order: SVU marathon on TNT. They want you to think the worst of them. This is on account of the fact that they are actually quite sensitive, and their poor little feelings get hurted, ever so easily. Although, any self-respecting (and they all respect themselves, most fiercely) would rather die a thousand deaths than ever let on you have hurt their feelings. In fact, registering emotions or even facial expressions is the number one sin for any Scorpio. If his eye twitches, you probably dealt him a mortal wound. If he reacts violently, you probably just annihilated his very soul. You win!
In addition to being super-sensitive, Scorpios are also rabidly private and secretive. About nothing important, I might add. Banal, everyday questions are treated with the suspicion and paranoia of a CIA operative working in East Berlin during the Cold War. "What time is it?" you'll ask your Scorpio, innocently. "Why do you want to know?" he will reply. This is the beginning of a conversation I once actually had. It was like going down the rabbit hole, only to discover a world like True Blood if it had been directed by Stanley Kubrick and written by Vladimir Nabokov, and just as confusing.
If you can't tell already, all of these are characteristics of the RNHo. The RNHo is, too, also quite sensitive, underneath his rakish exterior as well as intensely private. Often, his bad reputation is an over-exaggeration that he allows to stand because he doesn't care enough to correct it or even likes the bad reputation because, in the words of Starsky and Cox:
The "loner" routine, Scorpio learns, really works for him, especially attracting women who suspect him of being "hurt" or "deep," both typically correct assumptions. (Sextrology 337)
Ha! Or you know, he's a spy or out for vengeance or something like that. Which brings me to another really important point: Scorpios are vindictive. Those sensitive feelings they have? Well, don't hurt them, because they will revenge themselves upon you, if only in their own minds. But still, you don't want that. Scorpios are all about the vendetta. They probably invented it. If you are their main-squeeze, they'll probably try to take it out on you sexually. Doesn't that sound like a plot of some book somewhere? I swear I've read that one before. "Her father killed my father (brother, dog, college roommate's second cousin's postman)! I shall ruin her! I shall ruin her so hard, her eyes roll back into her head and she'll scream my name for years to come! As she comes! Ahahahahahhahahahahahaha. Ha. Ha."
They are also rather possessive. Umm, do I even have to connect that one for you guys? Okay, I will anyway. Both the vengeance thing and the possessive thing explain why all Old Skool Heroes think kidnapping the daughter/niece/former-secretary of their nemesis will be a peachy keen idea. Scorpio To Do List: possession? Check. Vendetta? Check. Two birds with one stone? Check.
Scorpios, all of "em, are the reigning King o' the Mind Game. Although sometimes I suspect they have no idea they are playing them. This is because they are under the massive delusion that they're emotional landscape is obvious to everyone. They actually believe . . . try not to laugh . . . that they wear their hearts on their sleeves. Bwahahahahhaha! Okay. But of course, their emotions are not all obvious to anyone ever. Even we readers sometimes get confused on that one. "Wait! Hang on! He loved her this whole time?! Even when he stole her pet chipmunk, Mr. Fribbles, and sold him to the travelling circus? Or when he tore those letters, the last things she had from her mother?! Even then? Noooooooooooo. Baaaaaaaahhhh! This book makes no sense!" Yeah, welcome to Scorpio Island. Population? Every duke, rake, secret covert black ops guy with an eye-patch (or possibly a soul patch?); every second son that just inherited the title, every bastard born on the wrong side of the blanket; they're all here, controlling their very intense emotions. But the schools are excellent and there's a really awesome Thai restaurant just down the street.
In addition to controlling their already controlled, yet intense, emotions, Scorpios will drop Easter Eggs of Doom and Dysfunction into the middle of a totally normal conversation without warning! This is also common of the RNHo, who is often manipulative and yet, who only gives out important information about himself at really inconvenient moments. This is because Scorpios are loners and under the delusion that they are damned. This, too, is like the RNHo, who is always under that impression that: all women are whores, because Mommy Dearest was one. He can never love or be loved, because his evil uncle sexually abused him or his dog hated him or his dad sent him to school (the bastard!). Take your pick. Scorpios think they are damaged goods, and they and the RNHo, will invariably have some sort of mental break-down, alone, in the library, in which a crystal decanter of claret gets thrown against the fireplace because who could ever love a Beast?
Scorpios both look and act like penises. This is part of the reason why they get the reputation for being man-whores, even when they might be virgins.
. . . his serpent is generally thick, mighty long, and heavily veined [ . . . ] And his signature smooth-talking snakiness, along with a whispering hiss of a voice, match his reptilian good looks, all of which seem designed for one purpose-’seduction (Sextrology 339)
But like I said, they really love that bad reputation:
Being "a bad seed," he finds, has its perks, as it piques the curiosity of women who expect nothing more from him than sex, providing him with no-strings release while he continues to search for his own innocent and unsuspecting Kore [Peresphone] [ . . . ] So totally hands-off is he with these temporary sexual partners that he mightn't do more than unzip and be serviced, say, orally, otherwise remaining utterly composed if not completely dressed (Sextrology 341).
People, that just described the opening scene of Suzanne Enoch's Sin and Sensibility. It also describes the sexual past of every rake hero that every polluted the pages of a paperback novel.
But like I said, Scorpios aren't really man-whores because they are looking for The One, even when they aren't. This is why they work so well as RNHo's. They are eminently reformable, but only with the right gal.
. . . he'll fall for someone who can thus disarm him, an honest beauty who refuses to dignify anything beastly in his nature. Such a display of salt-of-the-earth character is what melts Scorpio's cold, cold heart and is far more a factor in affecting his loving interest than is any excess of female pulchritude. (Sextrology 339)
What Starksy and Cox mean is that hotness ranks lower than the ability to tame his beast, or make him feel less damned or lonely or you know, whatever the RNHo thinks his freakin' problem is.
But where Scorpios are really like RNHo's? The bedroom, of course! Check this out:
Scorpio takes total control of the proceedings, fucking with his partner's mind from the outset; building her expectation, he sets a mood of anticipation that sends her wriggling in excitement and frustration. He loves for his mate to lie perfectly still while ever so slowly caresses and kisses her, not allowing her to take his own pressing matters into her hands. He may even remain dressed [. . . ] (Sextrology 344)
And let's not forget that favorite RNHo pastime: using his dick to get the heroine to admit she loves him . . . no really! It's not just the sex!
Egging his partner on, the Serpent hopes to force a declaration of her urgent desire. (Sextrology 345).
Oh Scorpio! You adorable scoundrel, you!
And if still don't believe me that all RNHo's are, indeed, Scorpios. Then check out this final selection from Sextrology, "STR8 TURN-ONS" a list which includes, among other things: "innocence; (dominant) s+m; (dominant) b+d; teasing, tickling, torture; probing, fingering; maids, secretaries" (emphasis mine, 345).
Holy Mary! Maids and secretaries?! Innocence?!
I rest my case.