I was talking recently to a friend about the general “hotness” of firefighters and why they are so popular as a romantic hero. I wanted to understand the appeal. I know firefighters are supposed to have buns of steel but most firefighters I know are balding (which can be sexy, after all I never knew my husband with a full head of hair). But let’s be serious: romance shelves are filled with series featuring male firefighters, rescuing animals and making women swoon.

And readers seem to swoon too. So I thought it might be time to investigate. My only problem was the first two people I asked about firefighter romances weren’t very interested. The first person said, “I think they’re all too short.” Too short? What? I picture firefighters as being tall, but then I realized the person I was asking was five feet 11 inches tall. She told me that she crosses off actors and many sports figures from her list of hero ideals as well, since they just aren’t tall enough and wearing high heels is important to her. Plus, she just wasn’t interested in the firefighter profession for her hero.

My other reader wasn’t impressed by firefighter romances since she connects firefighters with reckless risk takers, or adrenaline junkies. And her theory was that they peak at a young age and after they hit 35 or 40 they are much less physical. Her example was Al Bundy who peaked in high school playing football. Apparently she had a really bad experience in her real life that built up a road block in her fantasy world. So her ideal hero was not the thrill-seeking adventurer.

Their responses gave me something to ponder since I saw in both the same bias: a reader perception created by experience. The reader always brings a little something to a book, their biases based on experience. It’s the same reason why some people aren’t fond of sex in historical romances, being under the impression, rightly or wrongly, that without regular showers the lovers would always be dirty. So my two readers were put off by firefighters as heroes simply due to their own perceptions. Which is valid, but it complicated my research into why firefighters are popular romance heroes.

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So what tickles one reader’s fancy might be a stumbling block for another. Ah, romance. Isn’t it good there’s a romance out there for each of us no matter what bias we bring to the read? So, for those who DO find firefighter romances appealing, here are some for you to try out:

Jennifer Bernard’s Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel series hooked me with Book One, The Fireman Who Loved Me. Bernard’s fifth full-length novel, Four Weddings and a Fireman (Avon; February 25, 2014) catches us up with Vader. The longtime caretaker of his mother who was injured in a car accident, Vader is stymied in his quest to get promoted at the station by his girlfriend, Cherie, who runs hot and cold on him. Why? Well, Cherie’s got an old secret she’s trying to keep but when her sister arrives back in town she’s got more than herself to protect. Will Vader figure out Cherie’s sePure Heatcret while also managing to make captain, or will their relationship dissolve? Bernard writing is steamy so be sure to have a cool drink nearby. This one is perfect to read during the last throes of this strange winter; it will definitely raise the temperature. You can read this as a stand-alone, but if you love sexy firemen, be sure check out the rest of the series.

If you prefer your romances a little less hot, then try Gail Gaymer Martin’s two sweet firefighter romances. The first one, The Firefighter’s New Family (Harlequin Love Inspired, January 2014), follows to families as they come together after the drama of surviving a tornado. Rescued by the Firefighter (Harlequin Love Inspired; March 18 paper/ April 1 e-book) follows Paula Reynolds in her search for a new life, a new job and a new home—she’s not looking for a new love. Naturally, she encounters the handsome firefighter who’s determined to win her even though he’s not looking for another relationship. 

My personal preference is for the hotter variety of romances so I’m also looking forward to the May release of M.L. Buchman’s Pure Heat (Sourcebooks Casablanca; May 6, 2014). I think what appeals the most to me besides the great sexual tension is all the characters, both male and female, are firefighters. And don’t we want to be able to see ourselves as the hero/heroine? Buchman’s characters from her Night Stalkers series are now fighting wild fires in the States, so you can expect suspenseful plotting, damaged characters you’ll want to root for, and guaranteed fun reading.

So are you a firefighter fan and if so, who’s your favorite author? Kathryn Shay, Jill Shalvis, Jo Davis or….?

Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com, a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors Adventures in Fiction in February, an annual author reader tea in June, a readers conference in November, monthly literary events, and book clubs. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.