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Connie-Brockway

For Love of A Hero

For Love of A Hero

funny-pictures-marine-bunnyIn my review of Lauren Dane’s Drawn Together, I made reference to the fact that Brody Brown from Coming Undone is in my Top 5 Favorite Romance Heroes of all time. I had a couple of people contact me via Twitter or Email to say that I should do a post on Favorite Heroes, so here goes…

I should say first that I’m fully aware that there is a certain hero-type that works best for me. While I have warm feelings for a lot of different romance heroes, it’s what I call the Caregiving Alpha that does it for me every time, and heroes of that sort appear more than once in my Favorite heroes list. I like them big, bossy, and completely focused on taking care of the heroine (even better if it’s to varying success for most of the book). I also like when the hero knows he’s in love first and he’s wooing the heroine hard. That being said, I’m also a total sucker for an alphahole, which I know many a reader objects to. I also love a hero who starts off buttoned up, and slowly, with the love of a heroine who might be a bit of a hoyden, thaws. Well, hell, really, I like a lot of different hero types.

Let me also say this: I acknowledge the brilliance of Jamie Fraser and Roarke. I agree that in the pantheon of “Great Romance Heroes” many a reader would list them first. They don’t appear on this list. Sorry.

For now, here’s Kati’s Definitive (Until She Reads the Next Hero She Loves) List of Favorite Romance Heroes:

5. Wulfric Bedwyn, Duke of Bewcastle, Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh – Honestly? I don’t love this series. But I love Wulfric. From his first appearance on the page in Slightly Dangerous:

He was tall and well formed and dressed with consummate elegance in a coat of blue superfine over a waistcoat of embroidered gray with darker gray pantaloons and white-topped, shining Hessian boots. His neckcloth was tied neatly and expertly but without ostentation. His starched shirt points hugged his jaw just so. Both garments were sparkling white. He held a tall hat in one hand. His hair was dark and thick, expertly cut and neatly worn.

His shoulders and chest looked broad and powerful beneath the exquisite tailoring, his hips slender in contrast, and his thighs very obviously in no need of a tailor’s padding.

But it was not so much his impressive appearance that held Christine silent and rooted to the spot, spying when she ought to have moved on. It was more his utter assurance of manner and bearing and the proud, surely arrogant, tilt of his head. He was clearly a man who ruled his world with east and exacted instant obedience from his inferiors, who would, of course, include almost every other living mortal – a fanciful thought, perhaps, but she realized that this much be the infamous Duke of Bewcastle.

He looked everything she had ever been led to expect of him. He was an aristocrat from the topmost hair on his head to the soles of his boots. -Kindle Location 301

to his very sweet epilogue. He is a character who evolves with every moment he’s on the page. As a reader, we’re privy to his innermost thoughts. We know that his overwhelming love for his wild-natured family consumes much of his time. We know that he adores them, and that the cloak of responsibility that he took on at a very young age sheltered his siblings from more demanding society. He is buttoned up, and everything that is proper in the ton. But when he meets Christine Merrick, a poor woman of no means, he is both repulsed by her wild behavior, and drawn to her sunny and unpresumptuous nature. He can’t seem to help himself. And as he falls for her, he thaws. It makes him one of the most compelling and delightful heroes I’ve ever read. I adore Wulfric and Christine’s love story. They are beautiful foils for each other. But it is his slow thaw that makes the story.

4. Lucas Hunter, Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh – Ah, Lucas. Now here’s an alpha male as advertised. Panther Changeling Lucas Hunter meets Sascha Duncan, an unfeeling Psy (humans who have self-programmed not to feel emotion) while working on a business deal with her mother, Nikita. The Psy and Changelings are not at war yet, but strongly distrust each other, so their dealings are expected to be contentious. That is, until Lucas meets Sascha, who he knows immediately feels emotion and he suspects many other things too. His cat is intrigued, the man is determined to make her feel something for him. He feels connected to her from the start, and that fact is reinforced when she shows up in his dreams:

He’d expected only darkness but the most inquisitive pleasure welcomed him into his dreams.

Slender fingers traveled down his front as he lay sprawled on his back, exploring him so carefully that he felt owned. No woman had ever come close to owning Lucas Hunter, but in this dreamworld he allowed her to play. After endless moments, the fingers stopped their stroking and he felt the brush of wet heat against his nipple. His dream-lover was taking her time licking circles around it, arousing him to fever pitch. Opening his eyes, he tangled a hand in the silky curls cascading over his chest.

Her head rose and night-sky eyes met his.

He wasn’t surprised. The panther in him had found Sascha Duncan enticing from the start an in this dreamworld, it was okay to let that fascination free, to indulge his feline curiosity about this most unusual woman. Here there was no possibility of war and she was no longer an emissary of the enemy.

“What do you think you’re doing, kitten?” He let his gaze wander over the dark honey of her skin.

Those eyes widened in shock. “This is my dream.”

He chuckled. Even in his dreams, she was as willful as she was in life. He’d begun to suspect that not everything was efficiency in Sascha. No, sometimes she just liked sharpening her claws on him. “I’m at your mercy.”

She made an annoyed sound and sat up on her knees. “Why are you talking?” -Kindle location 1064

Lucas is one of my favorite heroes because he is extremely alpha, bossy and demanding, but man, he respects his woman. He respects her ability and is more than happy to help her explore her sensual side. Not just sexually, but the side of her that loves chocolate-chip cookies, and cuddling babies, and throwing a temper tantrum. He embraces that temper, her intelligence and cherishes her completely. It makes him an altogether compelling hero, one whose love story I go back to again and again.

3 – Brody Brown, Coming Undone by Lauren Dane – Brody is another prime example of a Caregiver. His folks died when he was young, so he had the care of his younger siblings, Erin and Adrien. He did his best by them, and worked hard to be sure that they had the best in life. He’s a guy who is extremely content in his own skin. He’s got a great reputation as a tattoo artist, he’s got family close by who he adores, and he’s got women when he wants them. But when he meets Elise and her daughter, Rennie, the rug is completely pulled from under him. He knows Elise is wary, that she’s been through something awful, but he’s so drawn to her and her daughter, he can’t seem to stay away. When he discovers that she’s escaped¬† a horribly abusive marriage, his need to protect and care for her and her daughter go into overdrive:

Brody wasn’t sure what had happened. He’d headed to her studio after not touching her for three weeks. He needed to see her, to talk to her alone. The phone calls had been all their busy schedules had allowed, but he needed more and he could admit it. After that night where she’d revealed so much of herself on his porch, he’d been overwhelmed by how much she made him feel like protecting and taking care of her. He felt a lot more for her than he’d ever planned to, and he needed some distance to work it through. As he’d rolled out of bed that morning, he knew he’d been a dumbass for not seeking her out. Knew he needed her in his life and accepted it.

He needed her companionship. Missed the spot she filled in his life. – Kindle location 1998

What woman doesn’t want to be loved like that? He woos her by being there. Constantly. He’s the ultimate sweetheart. Loving, gentle, despite his brawn, patient and sweet. He has a temper, but nothing about these two females pulls at it. All he wants is to make them happy and to be with them. He’s this fabulous fantasy hero for me. I adore how protective, yet sweet he is.

2- Colonel Jack Seward, All Through the Night by Connie Brockway – In my opinion, All Through the Night is one of the most finely crafted, entertaining, beautiful romances in Romanceland. Which is probably why I adore Jack Seward so much. He’s a guttersnipe, adopted by a ruthless man, crafted into a single minded, seemingly soulless soldier. He is tremendously successful, yet, bereft of love. When he meets the widow Anne Wilder, he knows that she is perfect for him. He falls in love with her quiet dignity, her solemnity, the fact that she is a model of what women in public should be. Yet, he doesn’t really have time to pursue her because he’s after the Wrexhall Wraith, a thief who is brazenly preying on the rich women of the ton. During his first interaction with the thief, he discovers that the thief is, in fact, a low born woman. The thief uses those same feminine wiles to entrance him enough for her to escape. Jack pursues the Wraith relentlessly. He MUST capture this woman who has ensorcelled him. So, imagine his surprise when he finds that the thief is none other than his beloved paragon of womanhood.

She averted her face, unwilling to meet his gaze, and after the first few strains of music, she made no attempt to keep her artificial smile on her lips. Indeed, they trembled and lost all hint of pleasure, mirroring her distress far too clearly. They had been soft beneath his kiss, soft and tended and, for the space of a heartbeat, yielding.

He wanted her. He wanted her as much, no, more than he had wanted the thief. Which was impossible.

Pain washed through him, pricking him with the knowledge of his inconstancy. He pulled her nearer. Her gaze flickered to and from his face and she recoiled from his embrace. [...]

Lithe and supple as a willow, she moved in his arms and beneath his hand. Her body was unlike those of other gentlewomen; no softness padded her slender form. Indeed, her fragile appearance belied her tensile strength. He could feel smooth muscle beneath his palm, the strength in the fingers grasping his hand so tightly in her futile attempt to hold him distant.

It intoxicated him. It bewildered him. It set him on fire.

She speared him with a look of distress and anger. She did not want to be here. Too damned bad.

He closed his eyes and pulled her closer still and breathed deeply. She smelled warm and angry and clean, devoid of any masking properties of perfume or soap –

His eyes opened slowly, like a man who knows he will witness some horror. His breath grew shallow. Strength and passion, no betraying scent. Dear God, no. [...]

“My thief,” he said. – Kindle location 2838

The cat and mouse game between the Anne and Jack is fabulous, with wonderful twists and turns and some truly amazing chemistry. Plus, there’s this scene with a chair that is just…amazing. This book is one of my very favorites to recommend, so if you haven’t read it, I urge you to give it a try. If you do, I hope you’ll let me know if you like it.

1- Jack Travis, Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas - For the longest time, Roarke was my favorite hero. Suave, sophisticated, ruthless. But then I read Jack Travis.¬† Ella Varner has taken over care of the infant son that her sister abandoned. She’s only taking care of him until her sister can complete some time in a rehab center. Ella is determined that the baby’s father be notified of the baby’s existence. She knows her sister runs with a fast and flashy crowd in Houston and information she has received indicates that Jack Travis, son of an oil magnate, Churchill Travis, and successful businessman in his own right is the baby’s father.¬† She goes to his office to meet him.

Aware of the figure approaching from one of the hallways that branched out from the reception area, I turned gratefully. I assumed it was the receptionist, back with the bottle. Instead I saw three men walking out, all dressed in expensive-looking suits. One of them was fair and slim, the other short and a bit portly, and the third was the most striking man I had ever seen.

He was tall and big-framed, all hard muscle and easy masculinity, with dark eyes and heavy well-cut black hair. The way he carried himself – the confidence in his walk, the relaxed set of his shoulders – proclaimed that he was accustomed to being in charge. Pausing in mid-conversation, he gave me an alert look, and my breath caught. A blush crept over my face, and a hectic pulse began at the front of my throat.

One glance and I knew exactly who and what he was. The classic alpha male, the kind who had spurred evolution forward about five million years ago by nailing every female in sight. They charmed, seduced, and behaved like bastards, and yet women were biologically incapable of resisting their magic DNA. -Kindle location 722

Jack what I’d describe as the quintessential Caregiving Alpha. He is everything I want in a hero and nothing I don’t. He’s a playboy: easy going, rich, gorgeous but dominant. He’s a gentleman, the kind who open doors for a woman, and insists on paying for dinner, but also bossy and willing to manipulate a situation to get what he wants. But in reading him, I never doubted that the respects Ella. He admires everything about her and wants nothing more than to make her life easier. He shows this by endlessly taking care of her – he puts together a baby crib for her. He helps her get a meeting with a powerful individual in Houston, he arranges for an apartment for her. By giving the care that he does, he woos both her and the reader. Smooth Talking Stranger remains a total comfort read for me, and Jack is a hero that I go back to time and again.

So now, I ask you, Dear Author readers, who are your favorite heroes and why?

 

REVIEW: The Other Guy’s Bride by Connie Brockway

REVIEW: The Other Guy’s Bride by Connie Brockway

Dear Ms. Brockway,

When I found out the news that this story is about Harry and Dizzy’s daughter, I was initially excited. Until I sat and thought for a minute and realized that it’s been so long since I read “As You Desire” that I have absolutely no recollection of it and its two principals at all. With that in mind, when I sat down to read “The Other Guy’s Bride,” I did it as if it’s a stand alone book about a bunch of people I’ve never encountered before which turned out to work just fine.

The Other Guy's Bride	Connie BrockwayGinesse Braxton is the eldest child and – so far – only daughter of famed Egyptologists. She’s been raised around the subject and in Egypt for most of her life and feels the burden of “proving herself” in a famous family. She also seems to attract trouble where ever she goes and whatever she does to the point that her exasperated parents finally sent her back to England where she’s finished a degree in ancient history at Cambridge. It’s while studying some ancient texts there that she came across clues that might lead her to the ancient lost city of Zerzura. This! she feels might be her redemption and chance to establish herself in the field of Egyptology – if only she can work out how to get there.

Taking her fate in her own hands, she sets off for Egypt where she meets a fellow passenger with a spectacular case of mal de mer who is traveling to Egypt to marry a British Army officer stationed at an outpost not far from where Ginesse feels her lost city might be found. The officer, Colonel Lord Pomfrey, is to send a troupe of soldiers, lead by a man he describes as a scoundrel, to escort his betrothed after she arrives in Cairo. But poor Mildred can’t take another minute of sea travel and in this, Ginesse sees her chance. Talking the young woman into disembarking and taking the long scenic route to Egypt by train – and I’m thinking it’s going to be a long trip from Italy around the Mediterranean to Egypt – Ginesse travels on under Mildred’s name where she meets Jim Owens who has been charged to bring Mildred to her fiance.

Jim is the scoundrel Pomfrey describes him as but he’s got quite a backstory which includes being indebted to Pomfrey which is something Jim is desperate to escape from. Doing travel duty across barren desert seems like a relatively easy way to pay it off until Jim starts to get to know his charge. She’s intelligent, willful, resourceful, can get into a scrape in the blink of an eye and seems to know a hell of a lot about a country she’s never set foot in. She’s also the most – to him – attractive woman he’s ever met and as the journey proceeds through various and assorted issues and problems, he’s finding that delivering another man’s bride might end up being the hardest thing he’s ever tried to do.

Before I really get started talking about the book, I have to get some name issues off my chest. Ginesse. At first glance I debated, “Hard G? Soft G? Hard G or soft G? How the hell do I mentally pronounce this? Finally I resolved on soft G because I didn’t want to think of drinking in an Irish pub the whole time I was reading the book. Then there are two secondary characters Magi and her nephew Haji. Sorry but the two names together sound like a comedy team. But I digress.

The first part of the book is interesting. I like the character set ups and watching Ginesse manage things to her own satisfaction. She’s supposed to be intelligent and she acts that way. She’s supposed to be inquisitive and imaginative and, again, that’s how she acts and what she does. Watching her overcome the obstacles in her path is fun. Jim isn’t really so much of a scoundrel as he is a man who’s had a tough road in life but who has fought to maintain his sense of self, to live life on his own terms and not be trapped by the circumstances of it. He has a deep sense of honor about this debt he owes Pomfrey and as Ginesse gets into various predicaments, I can almost see him grinding his teeth as he’ keeps on keeping on’ to get her where she’s supposed to go and off his hands.

But then comes the lusting. Lots of lusting. On into the desert and more lusting which then changes to standard “No, no we can’t do this. Wait, let me tilt my head so you can kiss my neck better. ” During this section I lost the feel for the Edwardian Egypt setting and felt I was trapped in any number of historical romance books I’ve read before.

Just as I was wondering if we’d ever get back to some interesting action, Ginesse and Jim are stupid with lust and let danger sneak up on them. Idiots. Now comes some good stuff with the Tuaregs and then! the rescue – which is sort of anticlimactic but okay if you want to downplay that I’ll go along. That is until the supremely stupid consummation scene. Yeah, he’s been worried and she’s been worried, for days, about what’s happening and going to happen but even with the slavers momentarily – momentarily! mind you – out of the picture that is NOT the time to give into their lust. And what happens then is more silly standard romance nonsense on Ginesse’s part – he didn’t say he loves me so I will deny my own love, turn him down and potentially face all the ruination that Jim has so thoughtfully laid out. WTF? I am so tired of this ” I won’t settle for 70 % if I think there’s 100% out there” romance heroine logic. He’s sure as hell not going to ever fall for you if you push him away and out of your life, is he? Sigh…

These push/pull interactions continue as everyone who needs to be there ends up at the army outpost then the mystery of the lost city of sorta solved, and along the way Ginesse discovers what is and really isn’t important to her about Egyptology. Now that is one part I feel is well done since the end of the book requires Ginesse to switch gears about what she wants from life. Often a romance heroine will – seemingly – toss out her life’s ambition once twue lurve hits her but here clues as to how she’s really feeling versus what she’s always felt she wants are laid out well enough that I can buy her ultimate decision regarding continuing the search for Zerzura. I also really like the humor and bantering dialogue from all – well most – of the characters throughout the book. And the fact that two characters – Mildred and Professor Tynesborough – don’t turn out anything like I initially thought they would.

My dislike of the fact that Ginesse won’t accept Jim’s many proposals until he says the magic three words is countered by the wonderful proposal he tenders to her once he realizes what the issue is. That whole scene in the cave as the sandstorm rages around them is wonderful – though I did wonder how the horse was handling the shirt over his eyes for the extended period of time. The slightly overdone romantic gestures back in Cairo and the Happy Family epilogue don’t light my fire but at least Jim now knows what his lady wants and he does deliver them.

So there are elements of the book I really do like while others leave me flat or with feelings of romance ennui. I think the book stands on its own merits and if readers either haven’t read “As You Desire” or if, like me, that book is a hazy, happy memory, I feel they’ll do just fine jumping into this one. Yeah for the Edwardian/Egyptian setting and thank you for the explanations of the liberties you took with things in the story and the fact that the facts you include in it don’t come off like a history lecture. B-

~Jayne

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