I know, I know: Mark Zuckerberg is an unlikely sex symbol/romantic hero. But the young, successful tech entrepreneur is the hot new hero in romancelandia -- the new aristocracy, if you will. Technology has invaded all aspects of our lives -- including our romantic lives. It's about time that the tech world started showing up in romance novels via hacker heroes, girl gamers or novels told with tweets. Here are 7 reasons to love romances set in today's tech scene.
Smart is sexy
In a survey of romance readers, I asked what they found most attractive in a hero and intelligent was one of the top 3 most desired qualities -- ranking higher than the typical tall dark and handsome alpha male.
"I absolutely love a smart hero who can think five moves ahead of any situation and gives the heroine a challenge," says Brenna Aubrey, author of the novels At Any Price and At Any Turn which feature a couple who are proud geeky gamers. A smart partner also challenges a heroine to show how smart she is, rather fall into the trap of downplaying her intelligence for the sake of the guy's ego.
Coding requires intelligence -- and it's not just something for guys. The hero of The Bad Boy Billionaire's Wicked Arrangement, Duke Austen, works with a team of developers compromised of guys and girls who might just star in their own romance.
Passion is sexy
A startup requires passion to power through long hours, a fiercely competitive environment and the possibility of striking it rich or totally flaming out.
"In today's day and age, being super-tech savvy is quite a powerful thing," says Julie James, author of It Happened One Wedding. "Also, I think tech heroes (and heroines, for that matter) tend to be very "into" their field of expertise -- and I think it's always sexy to have a character who is very passionate, successful, and articulate about his career and/or interests.
That intense passion isn't just reserved for work, but for the hero or heroine, too. That's hot.
Young, hot billionaires
Billionaire heroes have a long history in romances and most of them made their money from some vague "enterprise" or an inheritance. With the successful founder of a tech startup or a smart investor, it's totally plausible to have a hot, young guy earn his own damn fortune.
In Aubrey's novels, the hero, Adam Drake "is a software prodigy, having developed his first big success while still a teenager. He sold the game for millions to a big gaming company and made himself a millionaire at seventeen." Onward and upward from there!
Bad Boys who break the rules
Ah, the bad boy hero with his perfectly fitted jeans, tats, and messed up hair, promising all kinds of trouble. The kind of guy you could never bring home to meet the parents -- unlike the stereotypical polished and professional billionaire guy in a suit. The tech hero blends the best of both -- the wealth and power of the super rich hero (and what it allows in the story) with the rule breaking required of someone immersed in a culture focused on innovation, disruption, and shaking up the status quo.
Julie James explains how Kyle Rhodes, the hero of About That Night, exemplifies the mixture of brilliance and bad ass behavior: "He hacked into Twitter after his supermodel ex-girlfriend posted a Tweet with a link to a video of her cheating on Kyle with a famous actor. I think Kyle sums up his particular "skill set" best: "In tech terms, he orchestrated a distributed denial of service attack against a global communications network through the use of a "botnet," a network of computers infected via malware without their owners' knowledge or consent. Or, in the common vernacular, he hacked into Twitter and crashed the site for two days in what was undoubtedly the most boneheaded move of his life."
When my bad boy billionaire needs to fake an engagement with the heroine (long story) he hacks into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare to create "proof" they've been together all along.
Tech scene romances = fast paced stories
In a historical romance it can take days for love letters to be exchanged. Now entire dramas can unfold over the course of an evening of texting or tweeting.
As a writer, there was one downside to the speed of tech: startups rose and fell and got sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in the time between drafts (and no, I'm not a slow writer). It's a challenge to write and publish a book at the speed of the tech world. As a reader and author, I have to be content with my story being a snapshot of a particular moment in time and know that it will be outdated the minute I write it.
Romance in real time
Dialogue isn't just spoken -- it's tweeted. Feelings are not just confessed in person, but in blogs (the new shouting from the rooftops?). Romance in real life is no longer confined to in person encounters or handwritten letters. These new romances represent our love lives as we really live them, both online and off.
Julie James has a funny story about the intersection of tech, fiction and real life: "A few months before I began writing the book, Twitter shut down because of a denial of service attack -- and I remember that people were freaking out because they couldn't get onto Twitter for several hours. I thought it would be fun to use that as part of Kyle's backstory -- and it worked! People really seemed to get a kick out of Kyle going to prison for crashing Twitter. To this day, I still get joking tweets from readers whenever Twitter shuts down, asking me if Kyle is up to his antics again. :)"
Authors like Brenna Aubrey, Julie James, Teresa Medieros are incorporating tech into their romances. The group Wyrd Romance has recognized this "growing demographic" and is seeking submissions for an anthology called I Heart Geeks. A spokesperson for Wyrd says, "I feel that these smart, funny and passionate people deserve a spotlight whether they are Trekkies, programmers or scientists"
"We live in a modern age where much of our lives are lived online and these stories reflect our changing world," Aubrey says. "I love writing about geeky heroes who are the movers and shakers of this new virtual world."
Not tech savvy? You can still enjoy a geeky, techy romance
Aubrey doesn't get too deep into the tech in her novels. "I do so with a light hand to avoid any confusing jargon. My hero and heroine relate to each other over their geeky loves, mostly Adam's game, and so I explain just enough to get the point across to the reader without making it confusing or clogging up the plot with details they don't need. Just enough to paint the picture of a unique and modern environment providing the backdrop for this romance."
Romances that incorporate texts, tweets and the rest of the tech world represent the world we live in and read like truly contemporary romance novels.