‘And he rode a Trojan Horse': an exegetical conversation about masculinity in the historical western romances of Amy Barry

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Under the names Amy Barry and Tess LeSue, I write rom-com historical romance and mass market historical romance for the US market (and by extension for the global market). These novels are Trojan Horses for my research on feminisms and romance, historical narratives of settler colonies, and masculinities in the context of heterosexual intimacy. In this paper I will focus on Amy Barry’s The McBrides of Montana series, which attempts to problematise the hypermasculine construction of the western hero (Lasco; Boatright) and to explore the potential emotional damage caused to men by the toxic hyper-masculinities embedded in the tropes common to both the western genre and the romance genre (Allen; Arvanitaki). These constructions of masculinity in the western include the elements of homosociality, outward expressions of masculinity, self-control, emotional repression, and isolation. Barry’s novels seek to address the questions: How can the western romance hero be represented without reinscribing the elements of toxic hypermasculinity? And how can I make visible the harmful effects of both the historical constructions of masculinity and the fictional constructions of heroic masculinity in the romance genre, while still delivering a romance novel that satisfies the existing market? This paper will draw heavily on bell hooks’ work, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love, and will attempt to unpack the complex cultural conversations at work in this particular romance series, in order to gesture at the conversations enacted in the romance genre more broadly.
Period29 Nov 2023
Event titleAAWP Conference: We Need To Talk
Event typeConference
Conference number28
LocationCanberra, Australia, Australian Capital TerritoryShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • popular romance studies
  • romance fiction
  • masculinities
  • romance and gender
  • western romance
  • creative writing exegesis