I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what i like and what I don’t like when it comes to romance novel heroes. Figuring out what I don’t like is fairly easy. I don’t like heroes that are assholes, who care more about themselves than about their heroines. I especially don’t like heroes that believe rape is a viable form of seduction. Even in romance novels (or hugely popular soap operas), no means no and the fact that he stops raping her doesn’t make him a good guy–hence my problem with Luke Spencer (Laura too, for that matter) on General Hospital. Gloria Monty should have been shot for having a rape victim marry her rapist. Sorry. No real life victim would choose to marry someone who raped her.
Anyway, figuring out what I do like was a little harder, so I decided to make a list of my absolute favorite heroes, hoping that it would lead me to the traits I like in a hero. So, in no particular order, here they are.
1. Cameron Quinn from Sea Swept by Nora Roberts Nora writes wonderful heroes, and Cam is one of my favorites. For the first 14 years of his life, he lived in fear of his abusive, biological father, and at the start of the novel he is in the process of stealing Ray and Stella Quinn’s car, hoping to make his way to Mexico–being in Maryland, he had a far way to go. He’s quickly taken in by the Quinns and spends the rest of his adolescence learning how to be a man from Ray. As an adult, he lives the rock star life as a champion boat racer, but is forced to return home after Ray is killed in a car accident and his brothers (the heroes in the other novels in the series) are made guardians of Ray’s youngest stray, Seth. He’s not happy about it, but he stays, turning his entire life on its head. When he meets Anna, it is lust at first site, but he tries to stay away from her because she is Seth’s social worker. Of course, his great intentions go out the window pretty quickly. What I like most about Cam is that he has this unassailable moral code. He stands up for the people that matter the most to him and he doesn’t back down.
2. Jack Montford from No Other Love by Candace Camp Jack is an interesting hero. He was born into both British and French nobility and was scurried out of Paris by an American couple (friends of his mother) on the eve of the French Revolution. That same night, both of his parents are killed by the mob, making him the Earl of Exmoor. Unfortunately, by the time he and his sisters arrived in London his grandmother and the rest of his family had already been told that he had died and when he was brought to the house, his evil cousin’s mistress had him (and his sister) sent away before any of the other family members could see him–she wanted the cousin, Richard, to remain the Earl and the only way for that to happen would be for Jack to remain dead. In the end, circumstances intervened and Jack grew up in the country with a woman known as Granny Rose. At this point his name was changed to Gil, and he lived a fairly decent life, despite living in abject poverty on the Exmoor Estate (right under evil cousin’s nose!). Then, he meets Nicola, the unwilling object of the Earl’s affections and his life changes again. The Earl recognizes Gil as young John Motford and sets out to have him killed. Yep, poor Jack never had it easy. Years later, bitter over what he thinks is Nicola’s betrayal, Jack becomes a highwayman, out to get Exmoor’s blood. Things get a bit crazy from there, but through it all Jack is shown to be a caring man, who is willing to give up his revenge for the woman he loves.
3. Grayson Smith from No One Left to Tell by Karen Rose I’ve recently re-read this book and it made me remember just how much I really liked Grayson. He hadn’t had the easiest of lives as a young child and a dark secret plagued him until the last 1/3 of this book, but Grayson was an amazing man. He stood up for those who needed help, no matter who they are, and he felt bad when it was clear that Ramon Munoz, a man he prosecuted and who was convicted of murder, was innocent of the crime and that he was the pawn of a power hungry family. (Both times I read this book, I kept picturing the Romney clan as the powerful family, even though he really didn’t have much in common with the bad guy.) In the end, Grayson was willing to lose his career to make things right for the people he felt he had wronged, even though he had nothing to do with what happened.
4. Kyle Rhodes from About That Night by Julie James When Kyle was introduced in A Lot Like Love, he was in prison, convicted of being a cyber-terrorist by the former (i.e. corrupt) State’s Attorney. In this book, Kyle has just regained his freedom and wants nothing to do with the criminal justice system ever again. All he wants to do is get on with his life and start up his own internet security company. What he definitely doesn’t want is to deal with Rylann Pierce, a new Assistant State’s Attorney, who needs his help on a case. It doesn’t help that he is incredibly attracted to Rylann and has been for the better part of a decade, having met her when he was a grad student and she at the very end of her 1L year of law school. What I like about Kyle is that he’s able to let go of his anger and move on with his life. He didn’t let his past mistakes rule his life. I also like that he didn’t want to be second place in Rylann’s life. He didn’t want to have to hide in the shadows because she was ashamed of him.
5. Oliver Talbot, Earl of Stewkesbery from An Affair Without End by Candace Camp Of all the heroes in the Willowmere series, Oliver is my favorite. He is no stranger to responsibility and when circumstances place him as his American cousins’ guardian, he is more than willing to take them in and turn them into something acceptable by British, Regency society. What he isn’t, however, is used to fun or spontaneity. Enter Vivian, she who stirred him up with an offer of a no strings attached affair and the opportunity to investigate a string of jewel thefts. What I liked about Oliver was that he was willing to help his cousins, whom he’d never met before, just because they were family. I liked the fact that he wasn’t afraid to get dirty, playing with his dog. And what I liked most was the fact that when he commits himself to something, he doesn’t back out.