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Lauren Dane

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: Three to Tango by Lauren Dane, Megan Hart, Emma Holly and Bethany Kane

REVIEW: Three to Tango by Lauren Dane, Megan Hart, Emma Holly...

Oh dear. Yes, that’s what I said when I finished reading this book. During the various stories I also said the following: WTF!?, Shut UP!, No way…, and Huh?

Three to Tango is a collection of four novellas all featuring m/f/m ménages and the tag-line on the cover says “sex is best when it’s one-on-one … plus one”; this is a little misleading because while two of these stories are about ménage relationships, two are more love triangles where the third person causes angst and discord.

three to tango I picked this volume up because I’ve read and enjoyed Emma Holly’s books–this winter I went on an Emma Holly read-a-thon after a conversation with Dear Author’s Janet; I’ve also read Lauren Dane’s Inside Out, which I loved. I had never read anything by Megan Hart, though I’ve been meaning to, and Bethany Kane is a new-to-me author; I love reading collections of short stories, they are great during my short commute to work or for a quick read on an evening when I don’t have the energy to read for hours.

I was sitting in the airport, waiting to board a connecting flight on the way home from a short business trip and reading an advanced reading copy of Three to Tango when I emailed Jane to comment that this read a lot like a draft. Particularly Lauren Dane’s and Emma Holly’s stories struck me as less polished than other of their work that I’ve read.

Three to Tango suffers from two main problems:

  1. Unpolished writing.
  2. Absurd scenarios.

dirty/bad/wrong by Lauren Dane

This is the story of Ava, who returns to her hometown upon her mother’s death and comes face to face with men from her past, Luca and Angelo. Ava has mommy issues (her mother was a selfish alcoholic who slept with married men). Angelo has being gay issues. Luca’s issue is that Ava and Angelo have issues that keep them all from being together.

Of the four, this story has the most flow problems. Sometimes I was confused about the activity going on, and that distracted from the emotional arc of the story. Other times the writing felt unpolished. The story itself is has great emotional potential, but the writing kept dragging me out of it. Here are two examples (the story is full of other examples):

She hesitated as past and present swam in her vision, disorienting her with a wave of memory so very strong and sweet. Her first days there when Maryellen had ever so gently tapped her shoulder each time she found her looking at the floor.

The first sentence is overwritten. The second is confusing. In the context of the story flow we understand that in the second sentence Ava is remembering how Maryellen helped Ava during a difficult time in her life by showing her kindness and caring.

Here’s another example:

The downy trail of hair leading from his navel inside the waistband of his jeans led to places she’d never forget.

I understand this sentence. And in my opinion it’s overwritten. In the sentence before this one we learn that Luca is in jeans, so delete “inside the waistband of his jeans”. The trail of hair shouldn’t have “led” in the same sentence that it’s “leading”. How about this:

”The downy trail of hair led to places she’d never forget.”

The writing in dirty/bad/wrong feels rushed and it was examples like these that made me comment to Jane about draft-like quality of this book. I don’t recall the same feeling of rushed writing in Inside Out, which as I recall was an emotional, tight book with characters that I loved.

In the end, I found the story less than compelling because the overwritten, rushed writing kept grabbing my attention away from the emotional drama of the three characters. F.

Just for One Night by Megan Hart

This story is the bright spot in the anthology. In Just for One Night Kerry and Jeremy have been dating for a long time and live together, they’re happy and comfortable together, except that Kerry still fantasizes about her high school best friend Brian. Jeremy encourages her to sleep with Brian because the thought of his girlfriend having sex with another man turns him on.

What follows is a satisfying emotional journey where Brian and Kerry have their one-night stand, then realize they want more. While Brian and Kerry each sort out what they really want, Jeremy gets hot imagining them together in bed. Of the characters, Jeremy is the least interesting and I found his actions were thoughtless and short-sighted. This story engaged me, the writing was tight. B

Flipping for Chelsea by Emma Holly

What I like best about Emma Holly’s books is that she creates memorable characters that she treats with respect and care. But I absolutely did not buy into this story because I don’t for a minute believe Liam’s acceptance of being part of a ménage with his BROTHER and the love-of-his-life.

Shay (Seamus) isn’t Liam’s blood brother; however, they were raised together and both called the same people Mom and Dad, and ‘brother’ is how they think of each other throughout the story.

I understand why Liam loves Chelsea. I understand why Shay loves Chelsea. I understand why Chelsea loves Liam. I understand why Chelsea emotionally loves Shay, but I do not understand why Chelsea needs Shay in a sexual relationship. And I absolutely do not believe that Liam would agree to include Shay in the romantic and sexual relationship that might develop between him and Chelsea.

In the end this story didn’t work for me because it felt contrived, and I didn’t believe the characters actions. What really killed this story was when Liam made a revelation about a past relationship/encounter. I  absolutely did not believe it fit with the character I’d come to know throughout the story—this particular moment crashed the entire thing and reduced it in my mind to a gratuitous set up solely for the reader’s titillation rather than a true emotional journey of the characters. F.

On the Job by Bethany Kane

This story is tightly woven story with polished writing. In fact, if not for the ménage I’d probably have rated it a B, even with Walker’s crazy dominating wacko-ness. However, the occurrence of the ménage was such an absurd set up for a spanking (you messed with another dude? I’m going to punish you…even though I told you to do it) that it ruined all credibility of Walker’s character.

Walker and Madeline were in love until Walker joined the Secret Service in an effort to pull himself out of poverty and make something of his life. He comes back into Madeline’s life as her bodyguard, hired by her friend Tony to keep her safe. Tony has pissed off the Russian Mafia and thinks Madeline might be killed because he’s convinced everyone (except Madeline, who considers Tony a good friend and occasional fuck-buddy) that he’s Madeline’s finance.

Are you still with me?

Madeline and Walker come back together and have hot sexual encounters with Walker dominating Madeline and getting all possessive and telling her she’s his. Fast forward and they’re all on Tony’s yacht when Walker decides to spank Madeline for touching another man, then does an about face and tells Madeline to give Tony a blow job because he’s going to prison.

WTF?! Seriously. W. T. F.

Thankfully this was the last story. I am done with Three to Tango and just want to erase this book from my brain. F.

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