Let's face it: tastes differ. Especially when it comes to romantic leads.
I know my tastes when it comes to fictional men are a little . . . off. I'm more likely to crush on the hero's sidekick rather than the hero himself, I'll skim through thirty pages of stuff blowing up (okay, maybe I'll slow down for the explosions) to reach two pages of awkward infatuation, and I'd ditch Neo in a heartbeat for some quality time with Agent Smith. I imprinted on Tom Baker's Doctor early on, and so I've got a weakness for expressive eyes and a goofy grin. (And long coats and scarves, but that's another matter entirely.) Ten minutes with Miles Vorkosigan would probably drive me insane, though it would undoubtedly be an interesting madness.
In short, my fictional crushes are usually not the sort that would look good in a photo shoot -- or, at the very least, wouldn't express what I find so endearing about them. And that's okay.
What it means for writing is that I've learned to separate out what qualities get me interested and see where they overlap with what interests my heroine. Sure, I like a tall, skinny guy with glasses, but would Evie? What's more likely to sweep her off her feet? (Does she want to be swept off her feet?) And, more importantly, does that aspect of his character fit with everything else I've envisioned for him?
Still, I'm slowly learning that there are some common factors that I really like in romantic leads: wit without cynicism, the ability to be stoic in the face of overwhelming odds, a habit of introspection even if those thoughts are not shared. (And, for some reason, cyborgs. I just really like cyborgs. Go figure.) I don't know yet that I can adequately turn these loose associations into a character, but examining my reactions and understanding them makes it easier for me to figure out how to provoke a similar reaction.
Granted, tastes in fictional romantic leads don't necessarily translate to the outside world, nor the other way around. The darkly brooding type might be quite a draw while he's safely between the covers of a book, but off the page he's more likely to be the Darth Vader Boyfriend. (And, as Captain Awkward so succinctly states, you do not want to date this man.) Or, as Kate Beaton shows, dude watching with the Brontes has its limits. But this is fantasy -- as is, in a way, all fiction -- and so we're free to dream up a few things that can stay safely on the page.
So, what particular qualities do you like in your romantic leads? This can be as deep as "seeks to do good in an unjust world" or shallow as "pleasantly lumpy a la Daniel Craig." Action hero? Non-action hero? Wounded but steadfast? Puppy-dog enthusiasiasm? Bespectacled and shirtless?
. . . mmm, bespectacled and shirtless . . . Sorry, got a little distracted there.