May-December romance

Back in the early 90s, when I first started reading romance, I remember reading a few books where there was a big age difference between the hero and heroine. Of course, the hero was always the older one.

In one book, the hero was in his late 30s and ended up with a 19-year-old woman. At the time, that didn’t gross me out because I was barely a teenager…37 and 19 seemed equally elderly to me.  But now that I’m older, that age difference isn’t romantic—it’s grooming.

Bad Boys DoI was thinking about this recently as I read Victoria Dahl’s latest contemporary, Bad Boys Do—a novel that’s sure to be one of my top picks of 2011. The story features 29-year-old Jamie Donovan, a bartender with a bad-boy reputation, and Olivia Bishop, a mid-thirties teacher whose much-older husband left her for a much-younger woman.

Age plays a big role in keeping Olivia and Jamie apart, as she believes he’s someone she can fool around with but doesn’t think he’d want to settle down with her. Jamie, on the other hand, is thrilled to have a relationship that feels like an actual relationship instead of a hook-up. He’s ready to grow up and man up, and being with Olivia encourages him to do both.

When she’s with Jamie, Olivia can explore the youthful side of herself that she suppressed throughout her marriage. Of course, one thing that makes this story different from the ones I read in the 90s is that both characters are well into their adulthoods when they get together. They’re not a coupling between a starry-eyed innocent and a jaded man approaching middle age.

Another difference is that the older person in the relationship is the woman. It’s unusual in romance, especially when the age difference is more than a year or two. But it’s a kind of relationship I hope to see explored even more.

How do you feel about age differences in romance? Do you know of other novels where the heroine’s older than the hero?


  1. The only novel I can think of off the top of my head is Tim by Colleen McCullough.

    As to age differences, 10 years either way is my personal window so that’s been my reading window too. My contemporary, friends to lovers, romance has an older heroine (almost 4 years). However, at this stage in the writing process I’m viewing this story more for perfecting craft than publishing.

    I agree I’d like to see more stories where the heroine is older. I’ll definitely check out Bad Boys Do 🙂

    1. How funny – my contemporary also has an older heroine, but she’s only a couple of years older. I love the dynamic there because if you grow up with someone it can be really hard to see them as something other than the boy who annoyed you growing up. And as a writer, it’s a challenge to make the hero come off as a mature, strong man even as the heroine’s discovering how he’s grown up.
      Fun stuff!

  2. I think in Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas the heroine is slightly older than the hero. And wasn’t in Pleasure Me by Monica Burns the heroine older as well? I like to read May-December romances from time to time. They are a nice change. Will be definitely reading Bad Boys Do now.

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