Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Favorite Romance Supercouples

Supercouples are prevalent in today's media-driven society. There is even an article of supercouples in Wikipedia. Typically you may think of celebrity supercouples like Brangelina, but to be honest, my interest lies more with romance novel supercouples. These are the heroes and heroines that have earned their place in your heart as a couple. That you think about, time after time, and wonder what they are up to. You reminesce reading about their love story, and name their kids, if they haven't already been named.

So what is my criteria for selection?
  • You can honestly see them staying together years down the road
  • They worked hard for their happy ending
  • They complete and heal each other
  • Their chemistry was scorching, but underneath is a deep, true love
  • They just "work" together. It's just a magic combination
  • I like/love both the hero and the heroine and I think they deserve each other
  • After reading thousands of romances, they are the couple that stays in your mind

So without further ado, I present my Romance Novel Supercouples!!! (drum roll...)

1. Wolf and Mary from Mackenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard
2.Zsadist and Bella from Lover Awakened by JR Ward
3.Butch and Marissa from Lover Revealed by JR Ward
4.Dain and Jessica from Lord of Scoundrels
5.Samuel and Leda from The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale
6.Lochlain and Emmaline from A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
7.Nikolai and Myst from The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole
8.Derek and Sara from Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
9.Carter and Bailee from The Texan's Wager by Jodi Thomas
10.St. Vincent and Evie from Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
11.Sam and Alyssa from Gone Too Far by Suzanne Brockmann
12.Chandos and Courtney from A Heart So Wild by Johanna Lindsey
13.Conrad and Neomi from Dark Needs at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole
14. Ben and Alayna from A Personal Matter by Karyn Langhorne
15.Scott and Vanessa from Fate by Pamela Leigh Starr
16.Sin and Callie from Born in Sin by Kinley MacGregor

Revising An Earlier Post on My Romance Reading Tastes

I was reading my blog and found that I had posted about some questions on reading tastes off the AAR website. I thought I'd refresh and see if my answers changed. Let me preface this by saying it is very hard for me to settle on just one of anything. But here is what I came up with. I added some urban fantasy questions because that is a new favorite genre of mine.

Favorite Romance: Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Favorite Romance Author: Anne Stuart
Favorite Funny: I wish I read more funny romances. I read books with some funny moments.
Most-Hanky Read: tie between Sweet Lullaby by Lorraine Heath and Lover Awakened by JR Ward
Most Luscious Love Story: Anything by Lisa Kleypas
Most Tortured Hero: Zsadist from Lover Awakened by JR Ward
Feistiest Heroine: Jessica Trent from Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Favorite Hero: Tie between Marquess of Dain, Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, Roger "Sam" Starrett from Team 16 books by Suzanne Brockmann, and Ben "Ice Man" Richards from A Personal Matter by Karyn Langhorne
Favorite Heroine: Jessica Trent from Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Favorite Couple: tie between Jessica Trent and Sebastian Ballister from Lord of Scoundrels and Bailee and Carter McKoy from The Texan's Wager
Favorite Family: Tie between The Montgomery/Taggarts by Jude Deveraux and Kresley Cole's MacRieves and the MacCallisters by Kinley MacGregor. If I could count The Black Dagger Brotherhood I might try. :)
Most Annoying Hero or Heroine: The hero from The Velvet Promise by Jude Deveraux. I hated him so much that it's the only JD book I actually gave away. What a total bastard (pardon my French)
Best Discovery/Buried Treasure: Teresa Medeiros
Your Biggest Glom (you try to buy all her books): Anne Stuart
Best Villain: Right now it's Stryker from the Dark Hunter books because I'm trying to figure out how he's going to be a hero in his own story. Well I guess I might also count Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer because he is on 12-13 yrs old when the series starts and he is a criminal genius.
Favorite Medieval: Born in Sin by Kinley MacGregor
Favorite Regency: Tallie's Knight by Anne Gracie
Favorite European Historical: Other than Lord of Scoundrels I would say My Darling Caroline by Adele Ashworth or Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
Favorite American/Western Historical Romance: The Texan's Wager by Jodi Thomas
Favorite Contemporary Romance (nonparanormal): A Personal Matter by Karyn Langhorne
Favorite Series Romance: The Soldier and The Baby by Anne Stuart
Favorite Romantic Suspense: Ritual Sins by Anne Stuart
Favorite Other Romance/Paranormal Romance: Lover Awakened by JR Ward/A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
Author You Gave Up On: Catherine Coulter/Brenda Joyce
Author Others Love That You Don't: Nora Roberts
Most Disappointing Read: Out of Sight by Cherry Adair
Worst Read: I can't really say right now. I don't read a lot of really bad books, thankfully.
Most Purple Prose: Sinful Secrets by Thea Devine
Favorite Virgin Hero: Sin MacCallister from Born in Sin by Kinley MacGregor
Favorite Bad-boy Hero: Justin Kinmurrie, Duke of Kylemore from Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell. He kidnaps the heroine and, um, doesn't take no for an answer. But he was a compelling hero.
Favorite Bad-girl heroine: Ghislaine de Lorgny from A Rose at Midnight by Anne Stuart. She starts the book trying to kill the hero.
Favorite Non-Romance with Romantic Themes: Tinker by Wen Spencer
Favorite Urban Fantasy: Nightlife by Rob Thurman
Favorite Urban Fantasy hero: Tie between Harry Dresden by Jim Butcher and John Taylor by Simon R. Green
Favorite Kickbutt Heroine: Joanne Walker from Urban Shaman by CE Murphy

Okay I think that's what my answers are, for now, anyway...

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Arrangement by Betsy Page

The Arrangement does have the rags to riches element that is prevalent with the heroines of Harlequin Presents, but this heroine is very accomplished in her own way before she meets the hero. Kate Elliot is a widow who runs her deceased husband's garage, and can fix just about any car. She has kept the roof over her mother and young siblings' heads for seven years since her husband dies. But things come to a head when Tyler Langston comes to town. Tyler's father Uriah has given him the ultimatum that he marry Kate, who Uriah met and became impressed with on a trip to the small town in Maine where Kate lives. Tyler has worked hard to run his family's company. Too hard to see his shiftless brother and sister squander it away, should they obtain controlling shares from his father if he does not marry Kate. Tyler goes to check out Kate and finds himself unwittingly attracted to her. But Tyler is a cool character, and manages to hide the depth of his feelings for her. Kate is happy to avoid Tyler, but pressure from an unwanted suitor to whom her mother owes a lot of money fairly drives her into Tyler's arms. When he asks her to marry him, she knows that she doesn't really have the choice not to. Love sneaks up on the married couple, and Tyler is not keen on falling. Kate deals with issues of going from a small town girl barely scraping by to being a rich man's wife, as well as her feelings for a husband she doesn't believe returns her feelings. This is a quick read, but a good read. The characters are vividly drawn. Tyler is a control freak, and it comes across. Kate is a practical woman who finds that she is not immune to love for her aristocratic, hard-edged husband. If you would like to read a Harlequin Presents that has a slice of small-town American life, with a heroine who is more at home in overalls with a wrench than designer fashions, I think you will enjoy this book as I did.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mr. Fix It by Crystal Hubbard

If reading a book is like eating a meal, then reading Mr. Fix It is like eating a gourmet meal. This is the first book that I have read by Ms. Hubbard, and I can tell you honestly, I was blown away at the skill of her writing. I have read few other books that gave me the impression that the author was a wordsmith. One example is Judith Ivory, who is not prolific, but beautifully writes historical romances. Language can be sparing and economical, or it can be flowery and showy. Mr. Fix It manages to be a happy composite of both. There is no overblown, florid prose in this book. But sentences tease the mind like the sweet smell of pink roses, or the explosion of flavor on the tongue when tasting a really good cheesecake.
I am a visual person, and each scene played vividly in my mind. Although Mr. Fix It is not written to intently describe every feature of the character's looks, you are given the details to form your own image of the characters in your mind. You know that Khela is pretty and has dimples that come out when she smiles. She is brown-skinned with peach undertones, and her body is toned from boxing practice. And we know that Carter is so beautiful that he could float by through life merely on his looks. Food is described with sensuous detail that tells me that Ms. Hubbard is definitely a foodie. And she writes of the best things in life with a knowledge that makes me think that either she has exquisite taste or is an expert researcher. I certainly learned a lot about many subjects as varied as the romance writing industry, architecture, gourmet food, and high fashion. Even though I felt very unsophisticated compared to Khela, it was refreshing and wonderfully destructive against stereotypes to have a Black female character in a book with such culture. And thankfully, Khela still manages to be a genuine, nice, and good person that you would love and admire, at the same time. Khela is a romance author, who would spend hours signing books or talking to fans. She also works very hard to write high quality romance books that are excellently researched, dispelling the stereotypes that romance novels are just trash. She understands how much they mean to people (and as someone who can firmly state that reading romance has gotten me through some awful times, this hits home personally with me). I can safely assure you that will definitely like Khela, if not love her as the heroine of this book. Carter is also likeable, but I would say that he turns out to be the more troubled counterpart in this romance. This is a twist because you go into the book expecting Khela to be more weighted down with issues and afraid to love.
I must tell you honestly as a writer, I felt mixed emotions as I read this book. I felt awe at Ms. Hubbard's writing skill and beauty. Also I felt despair at the thought that I could never write a book this delicious and written with such consummate skill. As an aspiring writer, I know that I am also encouraged to develop my craft and to be the best writer that I can to make minutes pass like seconds and hours like minutes like this book did when I read it.
As far as the interracial romance, by nature that is what this book entails. However, race is so not the issue in this book. I found it decidedly refreshing. Khela is a character whose insecurities in romance stem from being used in the past, not for fear of loving a White man. For Carter, being with Khela is the culmination of years of desire. It was love at first sight for him, even if he couldn't use the words in his mind. She is the woman he wants, for all that she is. If she happens to be Black, that is just part of who she is. His angst stems from the fear that he is not enough for her, or good enough for her. There is the conflict of loving someone who is famous, and all the drama that goes along with this. Also the fear of being wanted and used because of your success and material wealth. The first fear is Carter's, and the second is Khela's. They both have to overcome these fears to find happiness together. And race, simply does not matter. If you are the interracial romance fan who is mortally sick of the "I can't date a White man" song and dance that is far too common in this genre, I encourage you to read this book. It is like a breeze of fresh air tinged with newly blossomed flowers. I guarantee that this book will cleanse a jaded palate.
I thank you, Ms. Hubbard, for writing such a splendid book.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Darkness Chosen Quartet by Christina Dodd

Well, yesterday I finished Into the Flame,which is the last book in The Darkness Chosen series by one of my favorite authors, Christina Dodd. It was excellent, and somehow more and different from what I thought it would be.
I can defintely tell that a lot of thought and planning went into this series, and it paid off. For a long-time, hardcore, Christina Dodd fan, it was rewarding to read her major foray into contemporary Paranormal romance. It is not her first romance with paranormal elements. That would be A Well-Favored Gentleman, which is a historical about Ian Fairchild.

This series is composed of the following books:
  • Scent of Darkness
  • Touch of Darkness
  • Into the Shadow
  • Into the Flame

The things that I loved about this series:
  • Sexy, dangerous, strong heroes. They are alphas in the best sense of the word.
  • The mating bond forms early in the book (just like I like it). Each hero finds his woman and he is faithful and devoted to her.
  • The heroines can more than hold their own with their alpha and old-fashioned heroes
  • The action is unstinting. There is violence that is pretty in your face, but it was necessary with this story.
  • The villians are formidable and extremely wicked. Few romances have villains who are as unique and depraved. I firmly believe that Ms. Dodd spent as much time developing the villians to make them three-dimensional and formidable.
  • The sex scenes are hot, but also loving. But Ms. Dodd always did write some awesome sexy scenes. One of the reasons I love her books.
  • I just love shapeshifter romances, and how cool is it to have a family of shapeshifters. Konstantine Wilder is a wolf, as is Jasha, the firstborn. Rurik is a hawk, Adrik is a black panther, and Doug is a mountain lion/panther. The scenes where they are in animal forms were breathtaking to an animal lover like me. I also loved the twist that they had to be careful not to change too often because it brings them one step closer to losing themselves to the evil darkness that is part of their natures. This is especially key in Into the Shadow, Adrik's story.
  • The mythology behind the series is exceptional. Ms. Dodd starts by telling of a powerful Russian warlord who craves even more power. His way of obtaining that is by making a deal with Satan. In doing so, he damns every son born of the Konstantine Varinski dynasty. In order to break this curse, true love is required. How cool is this? Another thing I like about this series is that it does not stray away from Christian beliefs. I believe that Ms. Dodd probably wanted to write this book in such a way that it did go along with her own beliefs. As a reader of paranormal fiction, I have come to realize that most of the books I read will not be in line with my Christian faith. I just have to put things into context. In this story, I was very much in my element with the underpinnings of the parnormal context. I am very familiar with the battle against Satan, and it made this book resonate with me. It also helps me to feel that I can write in this genre and use my own beliefs and have readers who will enjoy the books.
  • I really got a kick out of the fact that the scion of the Wilders, Konstantine is the black sheep of the Varinski family. He actually falls in love with the woman he has taken, a cherished child of the Romany, Zorana, and runs off with her and marries her. He becomes an outlaw of his family in his rejection of evil. That was genius in my opinion.
  • Family is important. It is great watching the scenes where the Wilder family, although the Scion is damned because of his heritage, is a large, loving family. The brothers, Jasha, Rurik, and Adrik are very respectful and caring of their parents. They cherish their little sister Firebird. And as they bring home their brides, Ann, Tasya, and Karen, they are smoothly integrated into the family. They call Konstantine "Papa" and Zorana "Mama."
  • I love the moments of humor in this book. Without this humor, the storyline would be grim indeed. Recall that all males born of the Varinski Dynasty are damned. Yeah, that's a little risky to have the heroes be hell-damned evil men. But Christina pulled it off. The battle to fight evil is ever present and eloquent, and the grim aspects of that are lightened by humorous banter and lighter moments.
  • The last book, Into the Flame, was very interesting because she turned things around. In this book, the beloved, rare daughter of the family turns out to be not of their blood after all. But the father of her child, is actually the fourth Wilder son. Doug was a Wilder in many ways: alpha, sexy, powerful, a shapeshifter. But he was a little different also because he was raised separately from the Wilders. He is just the catalyst to bring the battle for the souls of the Wilder man out of damnation.
  • I like each and every heroine. They are all different, and strong in their own ways. Ann, Tasya, and Karen are tailor made for their spouses, and they fit seamlessly into the family, each bringing a different gift that will crucially aid in the battle against evil that the Wilders face. Out of the trio, Karen probably had the hardest battle to help save her man, Adrik. But her love truly does rescue him from the evil he has abandoned his soul to. The youngest Wilder sibling and the heroine of Into the Flame, Firebird is a feisty, yet thoughtful heroine. She proclaims herself spoiled, but she never seemed particularly spoiled to me. Instead she has a good head on her shoulders. She definitely has pride and self-worth, but she not a blond little princess, like she seems to think she is. When she realizes what needs to be done, she does it, without any whining or vacillations.

In short, Darkness Chosen is an excellent paranormal series. Although Ms. Dodd is an autobuy, the innovative storyline would have won me over regardless. But with Ms. Dodd's excellent writing, she takes this premise and executes it brilliantly. The Darkness Chosen series is unmissable.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Happy Ending: A Must Have

I was hanging out on the Amazon.com romance forum and a woman asked if a romance novel had to have a HEA (happily ever after) for you to be satisfied. Great question with only one answer from me. An absolute yes. When I read a romance I want that joyous ending. The couple is walking into the sunset together (or moonlight if they are vampires). I want them committed to each other. That means about to get married, married already, mated, bonded, any permanent covenant between them. And preferably with children in the future. No living together for a while or maybe we'll get married. No way.

HFN (happy for now) endings don't work for me. That is one of the things I dread about soap operas and television shows. You know that around the corner, a breakup is inevitable. Well at least in romance novels we should be safe from this. In a romance novel, I don't want to see a HFN ending. I spend hours afterwards feeling let down and fearing that in one, two, ten years the couple will be going their separate ways. That does not work for me.

Fundamentally romantic fiction to me is about escapism. Yes we have adultery, divorce, death, miscarriages, death of children that happens to really good, loving people in the real world. That's why have to have a bubble of safety around our romantic couple. They have to be immune to these events, even if they have had a very tragic life up to this point. I love angsty reads, but the angst must end prior to the end of the book. They can still have issues that need to be resolved, as long as the couple is together to resolve them. I find that the happy ending is even more satisfying in a book with tortured heroes and tormented heroines, and with scenarios that are so intense you often wonder how the writer will deliver the happy ending. And when she/he does, you sigh with tears in your eyes, close the book, and hug it against your chest.

To be honest, I really don't even like books where the couple is infertile, although I have read and enjoyed them. I always feel sad because their precious, everlasting love won't bring another life into the world. It's great when they adopt children together and give them love and a family. But at the same time, it's still sad because they can't have their own children. It makes me really, really sad in a way that lingers after I finish the book. I guess I take my romantic couples too seriously. What can I say? Despite all the crap I have seen in my lifespan, and how messed up this world is; deep down, I am an incurable romantic. I want to believe in love everlasting, and all that goes with it.

That is why I must admit to you today a terrible habit I have: I do read the end of books when I am deciding to read/buy a book. My sister is horrified by my habit. I will tell you honestly that it has come in handy. I have read the ends of books and decided that there was no way I would read the book. Like I said, the HEA is obligatory. Why put myself through the anguish of being disappointed so cruelly? Sometimes I read the end and it makes no sense. In those cases, I am likely to read the book out of curiosity. But if I really don't like the ending, the book goes back on the shelf at the store and I walk away. My time is too valuable to get my hopes up with what sounds like a great love story and then fall crashing to the ground, broken and bruised.

What about in other genres? I still love happy endings. Again, incurable romantic here. Escapism rules the day with pleasure reading. Pleasure reading meaning not for work or school, etc. Doesn't matter what the genre is, I still want the happy ending. Does that mean I have not read one single book with an unhappy ending that I did not enjoy? Not at all. But it is not the same level of fulfillment and joy with those books.

Case in point, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I love this book. It is incredibly well-written and vivid. Atticus Finch is an incredible hero who won my heart. I felt like I was there in that little town seeing everything that Scout saw. I still remember the scene with the rabid dog and how mild-mannered Atticus Finch calmly shot the dog before it could bite any of the children. I held my breath the whole time. This book was a love story about a girl and her father. It was also a coming of age story, and a story about injustice. I did not like that a man was wrongly accused and convicted and hanged. It hurts me to this day. However I can still love this book for the joy of experiencing Atticus Finch and the slice of life through Scout Finch's eyes. Let's just say I would have liked the book more with a happier ending for Atticus Finch's client. But Harper Lee wrote the book the way she was moved to right it, and I can't fault her for that.

When it comes to horror or thrillers, my happy ending is simple. I want the bad guys to be vanquished and for good to win the day. That is why I don't like a lot of modern horror. It seems as though a lot of times, evil is prevailing. Evil may seem like it prevails everyday, but the victory will be won by good in the end. I firmly believe that. Thus, any world that I would construct as an author will adhere to these same guidelines. Now I am not talking "paper tigers," as my writing teacher called them. "Paper tigers" are villians that are not very formidable and make the job of good vanquishing evil seem easy. I thought the villian in Tomb Raider was a very good example of a "paper tiger." He was so wimpy it was completely unbelievable that he could vanquish Lara Croft. You need a very scary, believeable villain, and you need to write the book in such a way that the reader fears that the villain may win, although deep down, they still have faith that good will win out. Doing this makes the happy ending more satisfying to the reader. Even in romances, a formidable adversary/villain is much appreciated by the reader.

Yes, even with movies, I am clamoring for the HEA. I love the ones that sneak up on you. You weren't expecting all to end well, and bang, it does. And when the ending is not happy or unclear, you sink like a stone. Yes there are a few historical movies with unhappy endings I really like, but there are other things that cause it to resonate with me. I will tell you right now, I hated the way 3:10 to Yuma with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe ended. I was totally bummed out for the rest of the day.

But getting back to the subject, please hear me, all romance novelists. When you write that romance novel, remember that it is the reader's escape, her safe place where love is pure and conquers all. Please remember that the benchmark is about the ending just as much as it is about the journey. Otherwise, the reader is left feeling a sense of desolation like no other. How fitting that The Backstreet Boys' song "Incomplete" is on.

Heroes to Die For (Part I)

A hero to die for is a hero in a book that you simply fall totally and completely in love with. It may be for a variety of reasons. But this man has won you over so completely, you cannot help but compare all other heroes in future books to him.

My qualifications for heroes to be added to my list are:

  • They show unforgettable traits such as bravery, love, selflessness, devotion to the heroine
  • Some of them are just truly good, wonderful men
  • They have had a journey that affected me deeply, such as going from a troubled past to become an honorable person
  • They are flawed, scarred, but also able to show love and do have a sense of what is the right thing to do
  • They show passionate, intense love and emotions towards the heroine that is distinguished from their interactions with other women
  • There is something so sexy and so seductive about them that I would probably throw myself at them if they were real men :)
  • They are strong and formidable in a fight.
  • They may be a bad boy, rake, or rogue, but there is a core of goodness that makes them irresistible to me
  • I could not get them off my mind long after I finished reading the book
  • I want to reread their books just to experience more of them
  • They have some ability that they are exemplary at

So now that you know what I look for in a Hero to Die For, let me tell you who my heroes to die for are (keep in mind this is an ever-expanding list as I continue to read more excellent books)

  • Ben "Ice Man" Richards from A Personal Matter by Karyn Langhorne
  • Christoff, Marquess of Langford from The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe'
  • Nikolai Wroth from the short story "The Warlord Wants Forever" in Playing Easy to Get by Kresley Cole
  • Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent from Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
  • Cory Booker from Cory's Salvation by Shana Azor
  • Scott Halloway from Fate by Pamela Leigh Starr
  • Simon Hunt from Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas
  • Roger "Sam" Starrett from the Team 16 Books, and Gone Too Far by Suzanne Brockmann
  • Shane "Scarecrow" Schofield from Ice Station by Matthew Reilly
  • Sin MacCallister from Born in Sin by Kinley MacGregor
  • Rafe Kendrick from Baby Love by Catherine Anderson
  • Alex Montgomery from Annie's Song by Catherine Stuart
  • Colin Wescott from Touched by Fire by Kathleen O'Reilly
  • Sebastian Durant from A Well-Pleasured Lady by Christina Dodd
  • Dylan Davis from Iguana Bay by Theresa Weir
  • Wolf Mackenzie from Mackenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard
  • James Ardmore from the Pirate Hunter by Jennifer Ashley
  • Grayson Finley from The Pirate Next Door by Jennifer Ashley
  • Austin Blackwell from Perils of the Heart by Jennifer Ashley
  • Christopher Raine from The Care and Feeding of Pirates by Jennifer Ashley
  • Captain Julian Reece Lambert from Wicked Lies by Laura Renken
  • Zarek from Dance With the Devil by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Vishous from Lover Unbound by JR Ward
  • Butch O'Neil from Lover Revealed by JR Ward
  • Hart Moreland from A Dangerous Man by Connie Brockway
  • Sheridan Drake from Seize the Fire by Laura Kinsale
  • Samuel Gerard from The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale
  • Sebastian Ballister, Marquess of Dain from Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
  • Jack Seward from All Through the Night by Connie Brockway
  • Derek Craven from Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
  • John McKenna from Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas
  • Devon Mathewes, Earl of Kerrick from Rules of Engagement by Christina Dodd
  • Lucian, Duke of Blackheath from The Wicked One by Danelle Harmon
  • Lord Martin Kestrel from Too Wicked to Marry by Susan Sizemore
  • Lochlain MacRieve from A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
  • Ethan MacCarrick from If You Decieve by Kresley Cole
  • Sebastian Wroth from No Rest for the Wicked by Kresley Cole
  • Conrad Wroth from Dark Needs at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole
  • Viscount Wynter Ruskin from Rules of Surrender by Christina Dodd
  • Robert Mackenzie, Earl of Hepburn from Some Enchanted Evening
  • Jack Penmartyn, Earl of Penmartyn from The Price of Innocence by Susan Sizemore
  • Remington Knight from One Kiss from You by Christina Dodd
  • Hugh MacCarrick from If You Desire by Kresley Cole
  • Courtland MacCarrick from If You Dare by Kresley Cole
  • Talon Drake from My Lord Pirate by Laura Renken
  • Marcus Drake from Night Shadow by Laura Renken
  • "Chandos"Kane Straton from A Heart So Wild by Johanna Lindsey
  • Lochlan MacGregor from Love Me Forever by Johanna Lindsey
  • Sebastian Townshend from Marriage Most Scandalous by Johanna Lindsey
  • Carter McKoy from The Texan's Wager by Jodi Thomas
  • Sam Gatlin from When a Texan Gambles by Jodi Thomas
  • Christopher, Earl of Blackmour from This Is All I Ask by Lynn Kurland
  • Luke Bardell from Ritual Sins by Anne Stuart
  • Reilly from The Soldier and the Baby by Anne Stuart
  • Colonel Sam Oliver from Special Gifts by Anne Stuart
  • Rafe McGinnis from Rafe's Revenge by Anne Stuart
  • Patrick Winter from Winter's Edge by Anne Stuart
  • Michael Dubrovnik from Glass Houses by Anne Stuart
  • Simon Navarre from Lord of Danger by Anne Stuart
  • Valerian Romney from Shadow Dance by Anne Stuart
  • Nicholas Blackthorne from A Rose at Mightnight by Anne Stuart
  • Harrison Bainbridge from Never Love a Cowboy by Lorraine Heath
  • Jefferson Randolph from Violet by Leigh Greenwood
  • Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Colin Berkhamshire from From This Moment On by Lynn Kurland

Okay so I love characters by some authors in particular! I will give you a break and post another list with more of my favorite Heroes to Die For. I'd love to hear who your faves are.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A Personal Matter by Karyn Langhorne Hits the Spot

I finished this book about an hour ago. It was a wonderful book. I haven't read a mainstream contemporary romance that I have enjoyed this much in years. I am so glad that it was recommended because it inspired me to get back into my interracial romance books. There are quite a few that I am ready to dive into now.

Alayna is someone that I identified with. I come from a family with lots of drama and it affected my life in various ways. I had to learn to step up and be strong, and take on a heavy leadership role in the family. Being a younger sister and a shy person, it was hard for me. Alayna certainly isn't shy, but she had to take on even more responsibility than I did. I am amazed at what she has accomplished for her age, even if she had to put her own personal life on the back burner. It's refreshing to see heroines like this, who haven't been out partying and going through men like a fish through water in their so-called carefree 20s. It's great fantasy to think all strong, beautiful, worthwhile women date their socks out. But truth is some of us don't have that opportunity because we're too busy trying to keep the roofs over our heads and meet our responsibilities. I think it's great for those of us who haven't dated as much because we were busy trying to get an education, get a career going, and taking care of family responsibilities, to have a heroine who shows us that we can find love too. And you want to see Alayna finally get a chance to have something for her. Thankfully, Ms. Langhorne delivers that in this book.

This book sends you through the whole gamut of emotions: hilarity, anger, joy, pain, passion, acceptance. There are no cookie cutter characters, no stand-ins. No person in this book always does the right thing or says the right thing. As a matter of fact, the so called good guys, might actually be bad guys, and vice versa. You have to read it to find out what I mean. It is like real life. It shows the good and the bad, and also shows that there is a payoff for the people who continue to do the right thing day after day. Because there are days when you ask, why I am doing this when it won't really matter in the long run?

When the book starts, it looks like things will finally get easier for Alayna, but her sister drops two bombs on her, and then it seems like the world is collapsing around Alayna's head. At the same time, she is asked to work as a paralegal with the most difficult lawyer in the practice, Ben "Ice Man" Richards, in exchance for a raise and a hefty bonus, that will come in handy to help to fulfill her mother's deathbed promise towards Alayna's sister. This seems like hell at first, but it is a turning point in Alayna's life. I have found in my own life, that things always, always get so bad that you think you can't handle it, right before things change in wonderful and incredibly good ways.

This is exactly what happens to Alayna. By accepting this assignment she finds love with the last person she thought she would. And she gets the strength to do something for herself that she has wanted to do for a long time, go to law school. Alayna has always tried to draw a very clear line in the sand between work and personal life. She is deeply distrustful of all White people, and doesn't even give them names in her head, but names them by their looks or characteristics. I believe that this is a manifestation of her attempt to keep herself isolated from things that can hurt her or change her focus. As a person who has worked in a hostile work environment (not always due to racial issues), I could identify with her drawing that line in the sand. You feel like that knife is waiting to plunge in your back, and that you cannot confide in anyone else. It's a very hard, lonely road.

Unbeknownst to her, Ice Man has been doing the same thing, but for different reasons. I really like the way the author showed both characters at their very worst at the beginning, and slowly peels away the armor to show that both Alayna "the extremely intelligent Black girl with the attitude", and Ben "the arrogant, jerk wonderkid with the really bad attitude" are really good people trying to do their best by their respective families, and keep their coworkers out of their business.
I love that it turns out that the one person that Alayna can count on when things really hit rock bottom is the "Ice Man," and he certainly comes through. He can handle her tough girl attitude, because it's his own defense mechanism.

Athough even the first scene between Alayna and Ice snapped with sexual tension, I thought that the tension built between the characters at a really realistic pace, as they came to see each other through discerning eyes, although I believe that Ben has had feelings for Alayna for a long time, and finally maybe got the chance to make his move. The author shows that the reluctance for people to consider dating interracial is not always do to the reluctance for one group to date outside their race, but sometimes it's because they are not sure that person would return their interest. Alayne certain is not the type to date a White man, as is made clear early on. And as Alayna asks herself "why not," the reader goes along with her as she opens her mind to the possibilities. Why not date someone who is right for you in all the right ways, even though they may be of a different race or ethnicity? I have never felt a reluctance to it, but I can see why some people might have those issues. Although it is certainly not a drawn out PSA about interracial dating as some interracial romances can be, the issues are there to consider in this book.

Now let's talk about the Ice Man. He is officially one of my favorite heroes (I came to that conclusion before I ever finished the book). I posted a question about metaphorical Knights in romance novels on my romance book groups. One of my fellow book reading friends suggested Ben the "Ice Man" Richards. She couldn't say enough good things about him. This made me search through about ten boxes of books in my garage to dig it out. I finally found it in the last box I looked in before giving up. Thank God I did. I really needed Ben in my life this past week.

Ben is definitely a knight. He is a little tarnished and shining at the same time. I don't want to spoil those who have not read the book, but I am awe that he managed to have a handle on his family issues and still manage to kick butt as a trial attorney at the same time. Even with all the stuff on his plate, he is the one who is there to help Alayna when her personal issues come to a head. Ben is no perfect hero. He is rather rude and very sloppy, but he has a heart as big as Texas as they say. He's also a little nerdy (a good thing to me as I like nerdy guys) but totally hot at the same time. Tall, built, handsome, with lovely gray eyes, and wears glasses. But he isn't one of those men that knows he's totally "the stuff". His arrogance is more related to his reputation as a good lawyer. But even still, this is a facade to keep people away from real Ben who is in some ways a complete marshmallow.

His interactions with Alayna are classic. She definitely keeps him on his toes, but he does the same to her. Even though the book is pretty much third person from Alayna's perspective, Ms. Langhorne does an excellent job describing Ben's body language and facial expressions that reveal a lot that is not said. I felt like I knew him very well by the time the book ended. And truth be told, I still want to know more. I'd love to revisit Ben and Alayna a few years down the road, and they better still be together! I believe they will. I believe in their love.

Well I could spend a lot more time talking about this book, but I think you should just read it. I sincerely doubt you will be disappointed. In fact, I wish I had read it sooner. But then, maybe I read it just on time.

Penelope and Prince Charming Charmed Me!

I finished Penelope and Prince Charming by Jennifer Ashley yesterday. I had started it months ago, and put it aside. Not that it wasn't good. I did the fatal reading habit thing: skimming ahead. The love scenes are definitely on the erotic side. As we have discussed, I am iffy about erotic elements in a "mainstream" romance. But on the second read the love scenes were tastefully done. I suppose that Jennifer felt that she needed to push the sensual envelope as the Nvengarians are very sensual, wild, and sexually explorative people. I think that she did compromise and kept things as tame as possible for a mainstream romance. And I use the word 'tame' in the sense that the love scenes are definitely hot, but the reasonably prudish romance reader who likes her love scenes could handle them.
Penelope... is a sweet love story about the power of love to redefine and to defy the odds. Penelope is a rather ordinary daughter of a baronet who resides in the country with her widowed mother. She is most definitely on the shelf after two broken engagements (neither of which are quite her fault, although it has earned her a reputation of a jilt). And in fact, she has almost given up on finding her Prince that her romantic heart quite longs for. In swoops a bonafide Imperial Prince, Damien. He was imprisoned by his rather insane, evil father, who feared him taking over his rule. And once freed, he fled his homeland, working hard to support himself until he became wealthy, and developed a reputation as a dilettante expatriate, equally good at seducing women as he is at charming diplomats. But when his wicked father dies, he realizes that his people need him, so he decides to take over the rule of the country from the ultra-powerful Council of Dukes, one in particular of which, Grand Duke Alexander, is determined to kill him to prevent him from subjecting Nvengaria to tyrannical wicked excesses as his father did.
In order for Damian to be accepted by his people, he has to fulfill the prophecy of bringing back the long lost Princess as his bride. His search brings him to the tiny town of Little Marching, in England, where he sees that the long lost ring that would mark the princess is in the hands of the frivolous baronet widow, Lady Simone. As he can obviously not marry a woman past childbearing age, he immediately asks for Penelope, her daughter's hand. But this is not a burden to him, as he is captivated by her. It is made clear that part of the attraction is due to the magic of the prophecy. However, I believe that there was a magic that came from the meeting of two soulmates, completely unrelated to the prophecy.
Quite frankly, after having been engaged the first time around to a complete scoundrel, Penelope doesn't want to be atttracted to the incredibly attractive, somewhat roguish prince, but her heart and her hormones are doing their own thing. Damien is a master at seduction and is drawn to Penelope in a way he cannot resist. Their engagement is inevitable, although Penelope has some misgivings, one of which is leaving her widowed, somewhat ineffectual mother alone, although she has a suitor in her lover, Mr. Michael Tavistock, who is the father of Penelope's good friend Megan (who will have her happy ending in the second book, The Mad, Bad Duke with guess who). Another would be her fears that an ordinary girl from the country could never be a good enough Princess to a man of the world like Damien.
Because of Damien's state official servant Sasha's adherence and belief in the old ways, there are tons of rituals that must be adhered to before the couple can consummate their relationship ( both are eager to do so), and this is fun to read about. Some of the rituals are downright sensual, and as Nvengarian believe a betrothal to be as binding as marriage, we get treated to some pretty hot moments. And for an adventure lover, you find that there are assassins that are determined to prevent the Prince from taking the throne, and will do everything possible to prevent it from happening.
This book has a little of everything: humor, sensuality, adventure, and magic. It also has funny, captivating secondary characters in the amusing, skirtchasing, but loyal unto death body servants and bodyguards that Prince Damien brings with him, his good friend Egan MacDonald, the Mad Highlander, and Duke Alexander, who although is the villain, he is a villain with very valid motivations and depths that keep you interested in him. As it is set in the Regency period, it has some of those conventions, including a cameo by Prince George.
I don't want to give too much away, but if you want to read a great book about fairy tales coming true, you will definitely love Penelope and Prince Charming. Jennifer did a great job of creating a country that is steeped in magic, wild tradition, and sensuality. It felt very real to me, and I definitely feel like Nvengaria could definitely still exist somewhere in Eastern Europe, magic included.
This time around, I found I couldn't put the book down. I finished reading a very intense book in Comanche Moon by Catherine Anderson, and this book hit the spot. I don't like any books that are too fluffy, but this book is light enough with humorous moments that it was a welcome relief. But it also has an intensity in the fiery attraction between the characters, and their true, deep love for each other, and not to mention the danger that haunts the couple at every turn. In addition there are dark fires that simmer in the Prince, as he tries to suppress and defy the primitive and ruthless part of him that reminds him of his cruel father. He might be a sexy, rich, handsome prince that could have any woman he wants, but he has suffered through poverty, torture, and hunger, and this makes him a very three-dimensional character that never gives you the impression of just being a spoiled playboy. Jennifer is great at writing sexy and somewhat dark heroes, and Damien is perhaps the darkest of them. James Ardmore (yum) from The Pirate Hunter would probably be a close second. Penelope is equally likeable. She might be from the English countryside, but it has not made her insipid. Instead she is a practical, loving, kind, intelligent, and loyal heroine, who has a gift for healing, which is which proves to an important part of the fulfillment of the prophecy.
In the end, I can't say enough good things about this book. Although I am convinced that a Nvengarian male might be a little too much for me to handle, I am glad that Penelope is up to the challenge. It is a fun romance, with a deeper message about not giving up on what's right, what's important, and the possibility of finding love, despite the disappointments in your past.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

My August Reads

Dark Side of the Moon. Sherrilyn Kenyon. A+ (Dark-Hunter, Were-Hunter, Betrayal, Isolation, Discredited Reporter, Police Conspiracy, Paranormal Romance). Rayvn, Susan. 8/4/08.
Fairest of Them All. Teresa Medeiros. A+ (Heroine in Disguise, Medieval, Family curse, Beauty, Family Trauma, Marriage of Convenience. Holly, Austyn. 8/10/08.
Murphy's Lore: Through the Drinking Glass. Patrick Thomas. A++. (Short stories, Urban Fantasy, Famous Mythological/Folklore Characters) 8/12/08.
The Doctor's Runaway Bride. Sarah Morgan. A+. (Beta hero, Pregnant, Obstetrician, Cold Feet, Misunderstanding, Fleeing from Altar, Harlequin Presents). Tia, Luca. 8/13/08.
The Greek Tycoon's Wife. Kim Lawrence. A (Marriage of Convenience. Reunited, Lost Loved Ones, Harlequin Presents) Nikos, Katerina. 8/13/08.
Shattered Dreams. Sally Wentworth. B. (Abusive/Uber Alpha hero, Misunderstood, Runaway Bride, Mistrust, Captive, Harlequin Presents). 8/14/08. Hugo, Kate.
Charming the Prince. Teresa Medeiros. A+ (Marriage of Convenience, Fear of Having Children, Medieval, Very Virile Hero, Illegitimate, Widower with Kids, Wicked Stepmother) Willow, Bannor. 8/15/08.
Highlander Untamed. Monica McCarty. A (Alliance through Marriage, Handfast, Distrust, Feuding Families, King James Scotland, Spy, Betrayal, Helen of Troy, Laird). Isabel, Rory. 8/16/08.
His Bride. Gayle Callen. A+ (Marriage of Convenience, Poor Relation, Sabotage, Widower with "Evil" 1st Wife, Mercenary, Hero w/ Limp). Edmund, Gwyneth. 8/17/08.
Rebellious Desire. Julie Garwood. A (Jealous Hero, Alpha hero, Duke, Repressed Memory, Secret Assailant, Hero in Pursuit, East Meets West (English and American). (Jered) Duke of Bradford, Caroline 8/21/08
The Billionaire's Blackmailed Bride. Jacqueline Baird. A+ (Revenge, Ruthless Hero, Broken Heart, Blackmailed, "Loveless Marriage," Illegitimacy, Harlequin Presents). Emily, Anton. 8/22/08.
Dream's End. Diana Palmer. A (Cruel Hero, Cowboy, Plain Jane in Disguise, Secretary). Curry, Eleanor. 8/24/08.
Love in the Valley. Susan Napier. A+ (Troubled Childhood, Adopted, Afraid of Love, Abused, Opposites, Chef, Lawyer, Opposites attract). Hugh, Julia. 8/24/08
Promises to Keep. Maura Mcgiverney. A. (Misunderstanding, Widower, Sibling Rivalry, Marriage for Child, Old Flames, Runaway heroine, In Older Sibling's Shadow, Honorable hero). Logan, Kathryn. 8/27/08.
Let the Night Begin. Kathryn Smith. A (Estranged marriage, Hardheaded heroine, Betrayal, Vampire, Brotherhood of the Blood, Victorian, Very Sensual). Reign, Olivia. 8/30/08.
His Wicked Ways. Samantha James. A+ (Tortured Hero (whole family was murdered), Tormented Heroine (rape/incest victim), Clan Feud, Revenge, Stolen Heroine, Enemies to Lovers. Cameron, Meredith. 8/30/08.

I enjoyed all the books this month. These heroes annoyed me: Curry, Hugo. This heroine annoyed me: Olivia.

Comanche Moon by Catherine Anderson

Comanche Moon was an incredible book. I stayed up almost to 2:30am last night reading it (although I try to go to be semi-early on the weekends because it messes me up for the weeknights since I have to get up really early), but finally made myself put the book down and go to sleep. First thing this morning I started reading it again, until I had to go pill my cat, and ended up moving onto my chores. I went the whole gamut of emotions reading it. It reminded me why I avoid books focusing on the Indian-Settler conflict. It is a very real and heartbreaking subject for me. I hate that large groups of the native peoples were exterminated, and most were driven to the edge of extinction, and now some of the tribes are barely hanging on. I definitely feel for the Native tribes, although I don't agree with slaughtering of homesteaders that was done. There is no "white hat" and there is no "noble savage." Just humans with different goals in conflict with each other. It is a complicated issue, with atrocities (and evil people) on both sides, and Catherine Anderson did a fantastic job of evenhandedly covering the issue. I haven't read one of her books for a while (just have been reading a lot of paranormal and urban fantasy and not too much mainstream contemps, and I had read most of her more recent historicals). And the funny thing is people look down on romances. I don't think a non-fiction book could have given me this experience as well, because the emotional component was there as we had Loretta who represented the settler side, and Hunter who represented the Native American side. Loretta and Hunter were three-dimensional, well rounded characters who you feel for and fall deeply in love with. Many times I could not find fault at the "wrong actions" of the characters because their motivations were very real. I would not want to be in any of the character's shoes for a moment. And to think that people like Cynthia Ann Parker, Quanah Parker, Geronimo, Sitting Bull, and many others from history lived it. It was a beautiful love story, with its share of heartrending, heartbreaking, and distressing moments. Many times I wondered how a happy ending could come out of it, but I was satisfied with the ever after for the couple, although you know that future for the Comanche people is bleak. If you want to read a wonderful love story that is at times brutal but also beautiful, I heartily recommend this book. There is no question that Ms. Anderson thoroughly did her research. I checked the article on Wikipedia about the Comanche and the Comancheros and she was spot on. I can't wait to read Comanche Heart, the story about Amy and Swift Antelope. What happened to Amy is beyond distressing. It still comes to my mind and I am filled with rage. But I was thankful that she was able to move past it and find a love with Swift Antelope that I would like to get closure on. It comes out in Spring of 2009 as a rerelease. Boy am I glad that they rereleased these books.

Friday, September 05, 2008

My Favorite Virgins

I am in the minority here. Simply put, I love virgin heroes in romance novels! Some readers want a hero who is very experienced with women because they find no thrill in the inexperienced hero finding his way with his first woman, the heroine. Let them have their rakes and players. I will take my sexy and novice heroes.

Fundamentally I am a romantic. I think that if the first person you sleep with is your true love, that is the best of both worlds. This is the ultimate romance, in my opinion. Also I like the vulnerability of the virgin hero. He had to have been through some journey in his life to lead him to the heroine's door in the unspoiled state. And finding out why is part of the fun.

Who are my favorite virgin heroes? Well take a seat and I'll tell you:

  • Samuel Gerard from The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale
  • Francis Haile, Lord Middlethorpe from Forbidden by Jo Beverley
  • Sin MacCallister from Born in Sin by Kinley MacGregor
  • Conrad Wroth from Dark Deeds at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole
  • Ciaran Tamberlane from My Forever Love by Marsha Canham
  • Carter McKoy from The Texan's Wager by Jodi Thomas
  • Scott Gregory from Secret Admirer by Susan Napier
  • Wren Tigaran from Unleash the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • James, Duke of Alford from The Naked Duke by Sally Mackenzie
  • Colin Wescott, Earl of Haverwood from Touched by Fire by Kathleen O'Reilly
  • Thomas Cavendish, Earl of Thornsbury from Three Dog Knight by Tori Phillips
  • Pascal LaMartine from No Sweeter Heaven by Katherine Kingsley
  • Simon Malmain, Earl of Falconer from Stolen Magic by Mary Jo Putney
  • Dane Calwell from Surrender to a Wicked Spy by Celeste Bradley
  • Michael McNeil from Wild at Heart by Patricia Gaffney
  • Hen Randolph from Laurel by Leigh Greenwood
  • Dr. Lawrence Digby from The Enchantment by Kristin Hannah
  • Lee Raven from The Cowboy and the Lady by Lorraine Heath
  • Noah LeCroix from Blue Moon by Jill Marie Landis
  • Richard from The Marriage Bed by Claudia Dain
  • Ford Colston from Forever in Texas by Jodi Thomas
  • Clement Barto from Beginner's Luck by Dixie Browning
  • Noah Cutter from His Secondhand Wife by Cheryl St. John
  • Judd Laurens from Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh
  • Jack the Hangman from My Lord Jack by Hope Tarr
  • Michael Kilbride from The Last Bride in Ballymuir by Dorien Kelly
  • Thorn Greenwood from Lady Lyte's Secret by Deborah Hale
  • Oliver Armitage from "Cupid Goes to Gretna" in The Love Match by Deborah Hale
  • Nicholas Arthur Seymore from Sweet Bargain by Kate Moore

..and, I feel both I and Cormia were cheated by the way that Phury from the Black Dagger Brotherhood by JR Ward lost his virginity!!

Some of these heroes are patiently waiting to be discovered in my tbr (to be read) pile. So most likely I will have a Part 2 list. Of course, I will always be on the search for more books featuring these most wonderful of heroes, the innocent and awaiting initiation by their heroines. I hope that authors keep writing them.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Three Cheers for Beta Heroes

Beta heroes get lost in the shuffle when it comes to romance. But in real life, let's be honest. Who would you want to marry? A domineering jerk or a sweet, lovable teddybear. I know what my answer is.
What defines a beta hero? He usually has these traits:

  • He thinks before he acts. He's a very good planner
  • He is more likely to be open with his emotions
  • He has a very essential core of gentleness that makes him want to care for others
  • His gentleness can heal a tortured heroine's heart in a way that an alpha hero cannot reach
  • He will be involved in cerebral/healing professions
  • He's an excellent friend, and a loyal lover
  • He's not arrogant, despite being very good at what he does
  • His calm nature allows him to resolve tricky situations and to soothe a high-strung heroine
  • His love for his heroine is an ardent, but steadfast flame that does not burn out
  • He is often quite witty because his intelligent brain has the answers before he opens his mouth

Who are my favorite beta heroes?

  • Carter McKoy from The Texan's Wager by Jodi Thomas
  • Geoffrey de Burgh from the De Burgh Bride by Deborah Simmons
  • Jake Burnett from Sweet Lullaby by Lorraine Heath
  • Francis Haile, Lord Middlethorpe from Forbidden by Jo Beverley
  • Avery Thorne from My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway
  • Harry Braxton from As You Desire by Connie Brockway
  • Justin Powell from Bridal Favors by Connie Brockway
  • Robert Carroway from England's Perfect Hero by Suzanne Enoch
  • Mick Tremore from The Proposition by Judith Ivory
  • Nathan Senatra from American Dreamer by Theresa Weir
  • Arden Mansfield, Lord Winter from The Dream Hunter by Laura Kinsale
  • Samuel Gerard from The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale
  • Houston Leigh from Texas Destiny by Lorraine Heath
  • Cleavis Rhy from Garters by Pamela Morsi
  • Dr. Winton Grey from A Convenient Wife by Carolyn Davidson
  • Aaron Wallace from The Way Home by Megan Chance
  • Dr. Caleb Chaney from The Doctor's Wife by Cheryl St. John
  • Ford Colston from Forever in Texas by Jodi Thomas
  • Ray Singleton from The Magic of Ordinary Days (Hallmark Movie, also a book that I haven't read)
  • Noah Cutter from His Secondhand Wife by Cheryl St. John
  • S.T. Maitland from The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale
  • Dr. Lawrence Digby from The Enchantment by Kristin Hannah
  • Will Travers from River of Eden by Glenna McReynolds

Yes, alpha heroes are very sexy. But don't discount the appeal of these wonderful beta heroes. If you want a guy to knock your socks off, and keep your feet warm, these guys will come through for you.

Alpha Males: A Little Goes a Long Way aka Get Out the Shovel!

Let's face it, most women like the fantasy of a take-charge man. Even if some of us (like me) wouldn't go near that guy in real life with a 10 foot pole. That man of the hour is the alpha male.
What defines an alpha male? I define an alpha male as possessing the following traits:

  • Tends to take charge in most situations
  • Very protective of women and children
  • Possessive of his heroine
  • Can be bossy and domineering towards the heroine
  • Doesn't easily open up about his feelings
  • Has a high sex drive and is very dominant in sexual interactions (this causes some to be ladykillers)
  • Likely to be employed in a dangerous or risky occupation

If you didn't clearly know what an alpha male was before, you can test a character according to these traits. I am sure that you can probably list more traits.

So these traits don't sound too bad, at least in moderation. But when the character is excessive about any and all of these traits, then you have the uber-alpha male. This dude has serious testosterone toxicity. He is so macho that you want to bring out the shovel and bash him over the head with it repeatedly, as you read the book. This is especially obnoxious if he is paired with heroine who cannot stand up to him.

Which authors do a great job writing alpha males?

  • Sherrilyn Kenyon/Kinley MacGregor: I think that she is particularly good at writing alphas because she always gives them a fatal flaw so that they don't come off as being adamantine and unapproachable. Also she is very humorous, which dispells any tension from the testosterone fumes. Also her heroes have beta traits as well (see next post). You just want to heal them and love them so that their hearts aren't so sad.
  • JR Ward: Her heroes are tortured and very sexy. They are also very sensitive in some ways, and display affection towards their women and their friends. I love these guys, but I admit I would run from them if I saw them coming down the street towards me in real life.
  • Lisa Kleypas: Writes sexy, confident, but loving heroes who would do almost anything to take care of their heroines and keep them happy. In short, they become irresistible. She shows alpha heroes in their very best light.
  • Connie Brockway: Writes intelligent, take charge, sexy heroes who are very demonstrative in their love for the heroines. They often have flaws that chip away at the stone facades of their composure.
  • Gena Showalter: Like SK/KM, her characters are often deeply troubled, flawed heroes in need of saving by the heroine.
  • Kresley Cole: Sexy, sexy heroes with marshmallow hearts. They are totally bonded to their heroines almost always early on in the books.
  • Susan Napier: These guys are brimming over with sex appeal, but they are often self-deprecating and funny. They fall head over heels for their often pretty normal heroines.
  • Jodi Thomas: Hard and desperate men of the west, who will always do what they can to protect the oneswho are unable to protect themselves and their women.
  • Loretta Chase: She is great at writing sexy heroes who are often so funny you can't help but laugh at their macho facades. They are often tortured heroes or have some sort of damage or trauma. If you aren't sure what I mean, read Lord of Scoundrels.
  • Christina Dodd: Her guys are seriously macho but you can't help but love them because they are so in love with their heroines. Also because they make you laugh.
  • Anne Stuart: You never know if this guy is going to kill you or make love to you. You are sucked into the mystery and the danger of these guys. Once they are won over, their heart belongs completely to their heroines and they will do anyting to keep them safe.
  • Carolyn Davidson: Very protective and loving, but often are not good at opening up. They are usually dragging the heroine to the altar instead of the other way around.
  • Jillian Hart: Troubled and tortured. Very protective and loving. They typically are not too commitment shy.
  • Celeste Bradley: A great mix of humor, tortured heroes, and madcap adventure.
  • Jennifer Ashley: Can you say thud! These guys will sexify you at first read.
  • Catherine Anderson: Her heroes are the ultimate protectors.
  • Melody Thomas/Laura Renken: Sexbombs on legs!
  • Nalini Singh: Women, children, any in need of protection, fear not. Well, the women must fear for their hearts.
  • Jillian Hunter: Very large, sexy heroes who often seem to be a source of humor in the books.
  • Jillian Hart: Writes strong, protective men.

Below are some great authors that I love, but often I have trouble with their heroes because they tend to be uber-alpha heroes (In other words, when I read them, I keep the shovel handy).

  • Diana Palmer: These guys cannot open their hearts to love. You need a can opener and a suit of armor if you are the women who want their love.
  • Linda Howard: They are fine if you like being dominated completely. In and out of bed. I had to draw the line at the hero with the gun rack on his truck. Sorry I just can't go there.
  • Beverly Barton: See above for Linda Howard.
  • Susan Fox: Pretty similar to Diana Palmer but you can usually get these guys to the altar without much fuss.
  • Honorable mention to pretty much all the Harlequin Presents authors: Why must you be so alpha? These guys have terminal testosterone toxicity. It clouds their thinking and they cannot seem to tell the difference between the wicked man-eating, lying ex-mistress and the sweet, innocent, current flame or wife-of-convenience. A good bash upside the head with my shovel hopefully will fix this problem, or so I hope.
  • Brenda Jackson: I have a love/hate for her heroes. They are almost always players. I hate players, but I think she tells a great romance story. My favorite hero by her is Sterling from One Special Moment (sigh)!
  • Lynne Graham: Why must you be such a prick! Why does she love you so much when I just want to kill you!
  • Stephanie Laurens: Sexy heroes but sometimes I don't know why they don't just put a collar and a leash on the heroine and get it over with.

The in-betweener. The romance author who can write a great alpha hero, or one that is completely shovel-worthy.

  • Johanna Lindsey: Great alpha hero: Lachlan McGregor. Bad alpha hero: Bradford Maitland.
  • Fiona Brand: Writes in the style of Linda Howard. Generally I like her alphas, but they are a bit too dominant for me at times.
  • Kathryn Smith: Really sexy alphas but sometimes they just don't get it.
  • Jude Deveraux: Bad alpha hero (I wanted to beat him to death with said shovel): Gavin Montgomery from The Velvet Promise (the only Montgomery I absolutely hate). Oh-so good alpha hero: J.T. Montgomery from The Princess.
  • Beverly Jenkins: Great alpha hero: Galen Vachon from Indigo (I love this guy). Annoying alpha: Chase Jefferson from Night Song(get out the shovel). I liked the book anyway though.

I think that alpha heroes are like any theme in romance. You pull out these books when you want to have the romance and drama of an alpha male. And when you finish the book, you may sigh and say, wow these guys are awesome. But perhaps you may also sigh in relief that they exist best between the pages of romance novel, where you are safe from them and their excess of male hormones, and they are safe from your shovel.

Please Shelve Under Erotica

I have a recent pet peeve. My pet peeve is the sudden influx of "erotic" novels in my romance section of the bookstore. Sorry guys, but erotica is not romance. Erotica is a story that includes elements designed to titillate, or that focuses on the description of the sexual interactions between characters. My argument is that some of the common themes of erotica by definition clearly exclude it from the romance genre. Let's compare and contrast.

  • Does not require a committed relationship between characters
  • May involve sexual acts that most people consider out of the norm
  • Can involve sex acts between more than one character at a given time
  • May involve same sex interactions
  • Focus is on the sexual, not the emotional
  • Will employ language that is very blunt and non-flowery to describe sexual acts, the sexual organs, or the interaction on a sexual level between characters


  • Involves the evolution between two characters which should end in discussion of a committed relationship, or the description of the characters in a committed relationship
  • Does not involve sexual interactions between characters other than the main two characters
  • Does not involve sexual acts that most people consider out of the norm
  • Focus is on the emotional, not the sexual
  • The language is more gentle in describing sexual acts, sexual organs, or sexual interactions between characters to give a sensual tone to the scenes

In general, these are major differences between erotica and romance. Then why, oh, why, does the bookstore shelve these two different genres together? I fear for the sweet little old lady who wants a nice romance and ends up with a book with three men sharing a woman, or pretty bizarre sex acts within (whips, chains, sex other than vaginal or oral, anal play, etc). I fear for myself! Unfortunately I have inadvertently bought what I thought was a mainstream romance and found the characters doing things I find extremely objectionable within the pages. At least, I would feel better if I was warned. If I saw on the back of the book, or on the spine, "erotic novel
", then I would know to be warned. And please, the term "erotic romance" is a contradiction in terms, at least for the clarification of the purchaser. Unless you want all people who don't like erotica to steer away from a novel called an erotic romance. Some of the book publishers are putting warnings on the back of the book, and for that I thank you.

I am very happy that a lot of the e-published authors are going into print and into mainstream bookstores. But if they are erotica writers, then it is not fair to market them as romance writers to the mainstream public.

I do realize that a lot of romance readers want the spicy read. I like sensual scenes in my books as well. Sensual, not downright erotica. Please realize that there is a difference and spare some of us hardcore romance readers who want the romance to stay romance. When we want to read a dirty read, we will be happy to go to the erotic section and pick one out.

And as for the paranormal romance, it's still a romance. Just because it involves shapeshifters, demons, etc, does not mean that the romance reader wants to read about deviant sex acts. If you want to write a paranormal novel with erotic elements, then call it a paranormal erotic novel, not a paranormal romance.

This has been stewing inside me for some time. I know a lot of the ladies like the erotic elements. I don't begrude them that. The publisher probably hooked them by disguising an erotic novel as a romance. But realize that you are alienating those segments of the romance novel consumers who don't want these elements in their romance books. And lastly, don't stick an erotic writer in a short story collection with romance writers. It sets readers up for pretty nasty surprises. I won't name names. I respect the writers for doing a good job at what they do , even if I don't want to read it.

If anyone happens to read this, I am not trying to be controversial. This is the heartfelt plea of a very concerned, longtime romance novel reader.