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10 Clichés of Erotic Novel Heroes

Priya has been previously shortlisted for the Margaret and Reg Turnill Writing Competition (2020) and the Val Wood Prize (2020).

Reading popular erotic novels is one of my favourite pass times. It’s not about the complicated romance that tugs at the core of every novel but the unintentional humour that simmers through most of them. The plotlines are so hilarious and the characters, even so, more that I just keep coming back to them. Even more, is the lack of originality in the way the characters are shaped, especially the novel’s heroes. This is why I’ve compiled a list of 10 clichés evident in erotic novel heroes and have also suggested alternatives at the end of the post.

"Money doesn’t make you happy. I now have $50 million but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.” –Arnold Schwarzenegger

"Money doesn’t make you happy. I now have $50 million but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.” –Arnold Schwarzenegger

1. Unbelievably, Unimaginably, Incomprehensibly Wealthy

There are different kinds of wealthy in the world - people who can afford a house in the Hamptons, people who can afford to send their children to Ivy League colleges and people who can afford to take annual trips around the world. Yet, our erotic novel heroes are not just wealthy; they are unbelievably, unimaginably and incomprehensibly wealthy. What I mean to say that our heroes are not just millionaires, they are billionaires. Last I checked, Forbes in 2019 counted that there are only 2,153 billionaires in the world. How is it that every erotic novel hero makes it to the list?

2. Wall-Smacking Hotness

I get this to an extent. Money can recreate an entire face, redesign a person’s wardrobe or rework an entire body. But our heroes aren’t about tummy suction or silicone or designer clothes. Na da. They are ultra-rich and wall-smacking hotness, which is, to be very honest, quite an unlikely combination. Give me the name of five billionaires who are undeniably hot. Any five from across the world.

Vibrant blue/grey/green eyes, tanned skin, lustrous hair, long limbs, broad shoulders, washboard flat abs --- they have it all. The perfect masterpiece God has ever created.

3. Chief Executive Officer

There are, if I’m not mistaken, three ways to becoming a CEO. One, you start your own company. Two, you devote yourself to the company long enough that the board elects you to become the CEO. Three, it’s a family business and you automatically take the helm after your father or mother decides to retire. Our heroes usually fall in category one and three. I’d still accept category three, but most of them fall I category I. They start their own business from scratch and become a billionaire by age 30. Hello? Not everyone is Mark Zukerberg. I really think you could be rich without having to be a CEO – trust funds, good investments, etc. But CEO? Really?

4. Excellence

Alright, so category three becomes the Chief Executive Officer of a Fortune 500 company after father/mother retire. Okay. Fine. But does that always necessarily mean that you also have to be awesome at what you do? All the time? Do you have to be the most feared person in the boardroom? Do you have to be able to sell sand in a desert? Do you have to have people dying to do business with you?

5. Incredible Taste

"Where there is no wine there is no love" - Euripides.

"Where there is no wine there is no love" - Euripides.

Have you seen how Mark Zukerberg always wears a plain blue T-shirt and Steve Jobs used to wear a no-fuss black turtleneck all the time? But our ultra-rich heroes are bedecked in Armani suits and Gucci shoes – have the finest taste when it comes to wine, chocolates, cigars, art - you name it. You could be rich without being a wine connoisseur or an art enthusiast. I find it even more difficult to believe because most erotic novel heroes have worked from the bottom to reach the top. Values are ingrained in you. How does a middle-class person suddenly start behaving like a snooty ultra-rich trust fund baby?

6. Commitment Issues

I can understand that a lot of people have commitment issues stemming from childhood experiences or failed relationships. But our erotic heroes don’t even want to be in a proper functional relationship. They make the woman sign f-ing non-disclosure agreements! That’s extreme!

7. Playboy Days

They are young, rich and good-looking - so why wouldn’t they attract a bevy of beauties from across town? They would and they do. So, it's always a given that the hero would've had his fair share of women before meeting the leading lady in the most surreal of instances whereby they take an immediate, almost primal attraction to each other. They are also, for some reasons, masters at the art of seduction.

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8. Bedroom Skills

Well, this seems to be the only acceptable fact about all the heroes; since they have had a lot of experience (#7), so they would naturally be amazing in bed.

9. Damaged Goods. Usually.

What’s an erotic novel without making our hero a fallen angel? So before you even start reading an erotic novel, be sure to expect that the hero has suffered from a heinous past and nothing can heal it, but the leading lady's love. Well, this is usually given to provide some depth to the characters otherwise the book would simply be struck off as a Mills and Boon. There are plenty of ways of providing depth to a character. Why always the abused past trope? It's becoming a terrible cliche the way lead characters in YA novels think they're not pretty but are actually very pretty. Ridiculous.

10. Point of View

You will read stuff like: ...

(he) is watching me; his face a mask not letting any emotions escape.

And there, in his beautiful eyes, is a wild desire mirroring the one inside me.

He is power and poetry, grace and perfection.

I met his vivid blue eyes. They were intense and unsmiling.

There are some books which also provide the guy’s perspective like in Beautiful Bastard and The Most Valuable Player but they are difficult to come by.

Suggested Alternatives

Cliché Alternative

Unbelievably, Unimaginably, Incomprehensibly Wealthy

Make him wealthy. Just wealthy.

Wall Smacking Hotness

Give him a physical flaw. A scar or a broken nose.

Chief Executive Officer

Make him the Chief Financial Officer or the Creative Director


Make him a people's person instead.

Incredible Taste

He doesn't know his wine. But he sure wears funky socks.

Playboy Days

He's too busy to sleep with women.

Bedroom Skills

The heroine teaches him what she wants.

Damaged Goods. Usually.

He's surprisingly from a normal family.


Give him a few chapters. We need to know why he's acting like a bastard.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Priya Barua

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