Being a female reader, I tend to take notice of the male secondary characters more often than the female, so forgive me if I focus on the guys more than the girls in this post. In high school, I never fell for the captain of the football team or the Homecoming King. Instead, I inevitably always developed a huge crush on his best friend. Now some (number not to be said aloud) years later, I’m still doing the same thing. In most of the books I read, its not the dashing hero I fall in love with, it’s the second male lead, be he the hero’s best friend, brother, cousin, sidekick, or crime fighting partner. Nope, I don’t go gaga over Batman, I’m sweet on Robin. You can have Robin Hood, I want Will Scarlet. Forget about Maverick, I want The Goose. You got it. I don’t go for the pilot, I fall for his wingman.
I don’t need a character analysis to know why that is. In most books, the hero is the ultimate alpha male--strong, serious, often tortured. While that might do it for some, for me the attraction lies elsewhere. It’s the secondary male lead who usually sweeps me off my feet, mainly because he’s a foil for the hero. Where the hero is often stiff and rigid, the wingman is laid back and at ease. Where the hero is dark and brooding, the wingman is funny and charming. The secondary male character brings to life those fantastic and often humorous scenes that bring the cocky hero back down to earth. He humanizes the leading man, often taking perverse pleasure in the past and present mistakes the hero makes in his pursuit of the heroine. He’s the one person who can give the hero a reality check without fear of getting punched out for his efforts--most of the time.
Now while I love those strapping secondary men, a big pet peeve I have about them getting their own books is when they change from one book to the next. I hate when I fall in love with them as the funny wingman in the first book, and then suddenly he becomes the tortured and serious hero when he steps into the spotlight in his own book. What happened to him? Where’d the humor go? Where’s the twinkling eyes, the charming grin? Why did he change on me?
Another issue authors face is reader expectation. Secondary characters need to live up to the high potential set up for them in the previous book. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a book, fallen head-over-heels for the wingman, rushed out to buy his story only to be majorly let down. How could such an intriguing character, who managed to capture my attention in only a handful of pages, get such a lame follow-up story? What was the author thinking? A fascinating secondary character deserves an equally fascinating story of his own.
When it comes to secondary characters demanding their own stories, Acheron Parthenopaeus of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series is probably the most anticipated secondary character in the history of paranormal romance (his story is coming out Aug. 8th -- squeeee!). Though he’s been a player in almost all of the Dark-Hunter books, Kenyon has done a brilliant job of keeping Ash’s story a deep, dark secret--from both readers and from the other characters in the series. It only makes us want to know him more. Fans have been clamoring for his story ever since he first came on stage with his ever-changing hair and silver eyes and now, after some 20 odd Dark-, Dream, and Were-Hunter books, Ash’s story is about to unfold. Why has it taken Kenyon so long to tell his story? Probably because reader expectation for this character is so high, he needs a PHENOMENAL story for him. Will Kenyon succeed? I sure hope so. Apparently Acheron’s story is so big, she’s had to break it into two books. Ooo, I can’t wait!