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29.11.2011 16:15    Comments: 0    Categories: Writing Romance  Writing Characters      Tags: michele albert  michelle jerott  cajun  hero  characters  

When Laura asked me to write a short piece on why Cajun heroes are popular, I said, "Sure!"  Then, when I actually sat down to write the article, I panicked.  Because while it's a good question, I soon realized there's no easy answer just as there's no neat, tidy description of what, exactly, a 'Cajun' is to begin with.


But the word 'Cajun' brings with it an inherent romanticism: of the Cajun-French culture and language, the timeless allure of Louisiana and its bayous, and the user-friendly Cajun philosophy of Laisser le bons temps rouler.  (In English, that's "Let the good times roll!")


Personally, I think much of the allure can be chalked up to the fact that a good many Cajuns are French speaking cowboys in pickup trucks.  I mean, what woman can resist a French speaking cowboy in a pickup?  Not me!  The peculiarity of the image alone is intriguing.


Now, if I had to give a practical answer, I'd say the allure has its roots in Acadian history itself, which manages to be tragic, heroic AND romantic all at once.  In 1775, the British exiled the Acadians of Nova Scotia.  It was a particularly bitter deportment: the women and children were separated from the men and all were sent on their way in many different directions.  After years of hardship, many Acadians settled in Louisiana.  There, these proud people who had persevered against tremendous odds, found a place to thrive.  Deeply religious and family-oriented, they were protective of their culture and language.  Today, Cajun French is still spoken in parts of Louisiana (although not as much as it used to be), and 'Cajun food,' 'Cajun music,' and 'Cajun culture' has found its place across America, not just in Louisiana.


If I had to resort to a literary rationale, I'd point to the romantic association of Longfellow's poem, Evangeline, based on the true story of Emmeline Labiche and Louis Arceneaux, two lovers who were separated for years before finally reuniting.  Visitors to Louisiana can still visit the Evangeline Oak, the legendary meeting place of Emmeline and Louis.  There you have it, romance hard-wired into that word, 'Cajun.'


But if someone pinned me down and demanded I give one single reason for the allure of the Cajun hero, I'd say, Chere, it's de accent, no?


After all, there's something incredibly sexy about a man with an accent, and especially if he's whispering French sweet nothings in the ear of his amoureause.

Also, Cajuns are quirky--and proud of it--and know how to have fun.  Cajuns eat things like boudin, dirty rice, crawfish (or mudbugs), po boys (and make sure dat po boy is dressed!)  They live on prairie farmland or swamps, in places with names like Atchafalaya, Bayou Teche, and Bayou Lafourche.  They don't just party, they fais do do, and because of their joie de vivre, they add to everything a little lagniappe (something extra).


In the romance genre, the Cajun hero is typically tall, dark and handsome--and difficult.  He can be charming, but he's more often an outsider and a loner, a man more comfortable living off the land than in a city and, of course, dere's de accent, chere.


I'm sure I haven't read every Cajun hero in the romance genre, but I can share with you a few very memorable ones.  Who can forget Tami Hoag's Cajun heroes?  Bad-boy Jack Boudreaux of Bayou Breaux (Cry Wolf), wild and solitary Lucky Doucet (Lucky's Lady) or on-the-edge cop Nick Fourcade (Thin Red Line.) How about Deborah Smith's hot, hunky vet Paul Velue (Loveswept #354, Hot Touch), and his rebel 'gator, Big Daddy?  How would you like to find a naked Cajun in your bathtub?  That's how Donna Kauffman's hero, tough-guy Teague Comeaux, makes his appearance in Loveswept #801, Bayou Heat.  They may not all sport a heavy Cajun dialect, but they all whisper Cajun sweet nothings in the ears of the lucky heroines.


This trend toward sexy and mysterious Cajuns goes beyond the romance genre, by the way.  One of my favorite non-romance Cajuns is Remy LeBeau of the X-Men (for those of you who haven't a clue, The X-Men is a comic book).  He's sexy, dark and dangerous, a thief trying to be a hero, in love with a woman who can't touch him, and of course, dere's de accent, chere.


My favorite Hollywood Cajun is Remy McSwain (Dennis Quaid) from The Big Easy. He's handsome, charming, walking a fine line between Good Guy/Bad Guy, and there's the accent (although in this movie, you'd best ignore it.)  And Tommy Lee Jones can do a mean 'chere,' as witnessed in The Client.  ("Nice suit, chere.") Tommy Lee is dark, dangerously charming, and definitely a tender tough guy.

So I think I may have it figured out.  A Cajun is a darkly seductive hero, an elemental male who can be charming as well as dangerous, and let's not forget the icing on the cake: (all together now!) it's de accent, chere.



NOTE: Permission is granted to reprint this article, providing the author credit is included.  Michele Albert/Michelle Jerott writes for Avon: Off Limits (10/03), Getting Her Man (10/02), Her Bodyguard (10/01), A Great Catch (9/00), All Night Long (10/99), Absolute Trouble (9/98).  She is currently working on next book.


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