Does the May-September (er, October) Romance Still Work?

daphne du maurier

How do you feel about romance where there is a large age gap?

I recently read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and I loved, loved, loved it. The opening scene is spectacular and sets the tone for the rest of the novel. But as I read, I was surprised by the age difference in the hero and heroine. It didn’t bother me in the book. I realize that in its historical setting, it was accurate, and the fact that the hero was a widower made even more sense. But when I watched the film, which had actors fairly-well represented according to age, I got a different feeling.

wife husband

Watching it was quite different than reading it. And I wonder if such an idea is past its prime. While there’s nothing immoral or illegal about a May-September (or even December!) romance, does it still feel natural or even ho-hum when it comes to romance novels and films?

Before the longer life expectancies and medical advances we enjoy today, husbands could easily find themselves widowers if their wives died in childbirth. Seeking out someone perhaps younger and stronger could help survival. Or in some cultures, men couldn’t marry until they had built up an estate. Naturally, they’d probably prefer a younger spouse. Or a young ingenue could be guided in marriage by the steadying influence of an older man. To wit:


But in this day and age, it seems to be a more unusual pairing–especially when the news is filled with child predators and teachers in sexual relationships with minors.

What does this mean for romance novels? Is the May-September romance a thing of the past? Or is it still a legitimate tale of love?


About bellastreet

Living so close to Nashville has provoked Bella to take up fiddle lessons. Until her tunes no longer sound like amorous alley cats, she writes romance with a touch of weird. Visit her at
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11 Responses to Does the May-September (er, October) Romance Still Work?

  1. stephaniequeen says:

    Bella, this is a very interesting topic. I don’t think you find as many of these romance novels around with the older hero and younger heroine.
    But I love May-December romances, and in fact I wrote one–The Throwbacks. As the title suggests, the characters are on the old-fashioned side, so I know exactly what you mean about the phenomenon being more from the past.
    But then reading romances is all about fantasy, isn’t it? So whatever works!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. susanrhughes says:

    I like to be able to relate to the heroine, and I don’t fancy the idea of being with a much older man. Except maybe if he’s Harrison Ford…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Carol says:

    Daphne Du Maurier was one of my favorite authors when I was a teen. Though I prefer characters closer in age, I still think there’s a place for older men and younger women. Look at George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin. Beautiful love story!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. leighmorgan1 says:

    If love is genuine, age shouldn’t enter into it, yet when it screams of Anna Nichole Smith it’s just icky. Cher too has dated men 1/2 her age…I just can’t get into that. I certainly don’t want to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think it depends on the man and the woman. There still has to be that ‘chemistry’ that clicks between the couple.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Joan Reeves says:

    What an interesting question, Bella. Rebecca is one of my all-time favorite books, but the age thing never entered the equation because when I read it long ago when I was a mere child, I was also watching old Cary Grant movies on TV. To my thinking, older man meant Cary Grant, and what wasn’t there to like about the suave Englishman.

    In today’s world, most older man-younger woman combos are of the wealthy variety. It’s not something you see often in middle class. When I see a super wealthy man like George Clooney, Kevin Costner, Donald Trump, etc. the surprise would be if he chose a woman closer to his age.

    The whole mid-life crisis stereotype is built on men wanting to feel young when they start feeling old so they shed the same-age wife and pick up cute young things as mate as if youth will rub off on old age.

    I wrote an older woman-younger man romance OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER because I’d be more prone to root for that combination than the traditional one. After all, most aging women take care of their looks and their bodies and health, and they’re smart and have learned a lot about sex. *LOL* Andy Rooney once wrote an entire treatise on why older women were better.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. monarisk says:

    My mother in law was a widow at 35. She’d married very young and had four kids, 17, 16, 6 and 4, when her husband died of a stroke. My DH was the little one. Seven years later, after her daughter married and her older son graduated and worked, she remarried with a handsome officer eight years younger who had fallen madly in love with her. She was pretty and witty. In spite of his parents’ opposition, he married her and adopted the two young ones. I have never seen a man love and spoil his wife as my father-in-law did.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. E. Ayers says:

    Well, having been married to an older man… He was 7 years older. Two family members were married to men 20 years older. I guess I don’t give it much thought. Now marrying someone who is barely out of their teens when the guy is 80… that’s weird. That’s done for money! I always dated older guys. There’s a big difference between dating a 16 YO and a 26 YO! I’d take that 26 YO any day!

    Women marrying much younger men to me is weird. But I’d rather marry someone 5 years younger and in good physical shape than to marry someone older who isn’t. But I can’t imagine dating someone 1/2 my age. Oh, heck, I can’t imagine dating period. 🙂

    I have a minor character in my RC books and she’s 20 years younger than her husband. But the biggest difference I’ve written is about 12 years between Dallas and Rick.


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