When it comes to the types of heroes in romance novels, we all have our favorite Man Candy. The question is, what is yours...?
Heidi Hormel - I Heart Tortured Heroes
The tortured, wounded, or just plain broke down hero is my jam. Yep. That’s the hero #Iheart.
This is the guy who’s so flawed because of past experiences and hurt—whether psychologically, emotionally, physically, or all the above (preferably that one)—that he can’t love or even connect with others, let alone the heroine.
Oh, no, you say. This is just a bad boy by any other name. Nope.
These heroes are trying to be good or positive, and are loners, celibate, or cut off from everything or everyone. Apparently, I want these guys to really suffer before they find their happy ever after. What’s even odder is that I don’t write these heroes. I just don’t have the heart to break them down so completely (but I’m working on it).
Some of my favorite tortured-type heroes were done by Laura Kinsale in books like Seize the Fire (where the hero was a pianist and artist at heart but forced by his father to serve in the Navy) or The Prince of Midnight (who has vertigo and can no longer ride as a highwayman).
Jamie Fraser of the Outlander series is often a tortured hero (by Black Jack Randall most often).
What about in a more modern setting? Where have I found a good tortured hero?
Most often in books where a sports figure can no longer play the game, the hero has been the cause of losing a loved one, or a warrior. But not the guys who turn to motorcycle gangs or becoming a man whore to deal with their pain.
I’ve decided that I love the heroes to be tortured, then healed by their heroines because it shows real commitment to change and overcoming adversity. That’s what my English lit analytic side of my brain says. My lizard, emotional brain just says give me more.
Heidi has a new book coming out this month! The Cowboy & The Showgirl, is available for pre-order NOW. To find out more about Heidi and her books you can visit her website, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Ali Williams - I Heart The Everyday Hero
I love me a tortured hero, all angsty and broody. I also love that bad boy, anti-hero type, who sends my heart a-pitter-patter. But the hero I’ve become more and more drawn to is the everyday hero. This is probably, in no small way, due to my current addiction to small town romances.
There’s something about close knit communities that I find really comforting, and the heroes who you find there—not billionaire playboys, or princes from little-known European monarchies—are the everyday heroes. They’re local business men, or family guys, or people who have just come into town looking for a place to call home. And I like that.
I like discovering heroes I could see myself settling into a life with.
Think Vaughn Brooks, the university band director in Regina Hart’s book Mystic Park, or Jake Davis, the widowed firefighter in Victoria Dahl’s book Fanning the Flames, or even gorgeous architect Declan Hyde in Kimberly Lang’s book More than Anything.
Each of these heroes have one key thing in common: they’re nice.
Nice guys aren’t boring. They’re funny and intelligent and decent human beings, and I think that a heroine who has, or is trying to get her shit together deserves a hero who has the same goals.
Also, in an era when we’re talking about consent and #metoo, it’s important to me some of the romance heroes I meet aren’t just going to bowl into a situation and rescue their heroine. Don’t get me wrong, I love an escapist tycoon romance with the best of them, but most of the time I’d rather the heroine work through her challenges herself. I want her hero to be supportive and to help the heroine face her challenges, but not to dominate the narrative in a way that leaves no room for her talents and skills to shine.
So yes, give me your everyday guys and your small town heroes; I can’t get enough of them.
Ali Williams is a romance editor, academic and writer, and one of the hosts of Into the Stacks: The Bookcast, a podcast about speculative fiction. For more information about Ali and her projects, check out her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Trish Wylie - I Heart The Anti-Hero
These aren't just the guys your mother warned you about. Oh, no. If anything, they're the ones who should set off alarm bells in every self-respecting heroines head. Some of them even made me wonder how on earth the author was gonna make me believe these guys deserved a happy-ever-after. Yet, somehow, they always do. And that's why anti-heroes have become my new reading addiction.
It could be argued there's a blurry line between bad boy, tortured hero and anti-hero. But for me, the anti-hero pushes the limits, and the very fact I need to be persuaded he deserves a HEA, keep turning the page to see if he does, and end up falling for him despite everything, says it all.
Let's take Ruckus by LJ Shen as an example of a blurred line. Dean is a mess. He's a tortured bad boy. But he's also an addict and an alcoholic, neither of which make him traditionally heroic. When Rosie needs him most, he isn't there. He has disappeared into a bottle, literally drowning his sorrows. It's not that we don't understand why he did it or can't empathize with his pain. It's simply that the heroic thing to do would involve him setting those things aside and putting Rosie's needs above his own. Of course in the end—SPOILER ALERT!—she is his salvation. But there's still a tiny shred of doubt in the corner of my mind that if he ever lost her, Dean would slip back to his old ways. His love for her hasn't changed him, it's simply made him want to try to be a better man. And she loves him because she believes, despite knowing everything (or maybe because of it), who he is inside matters more than the number of times he's screwed up.
The whole Sinners Of Saint series has heroes who are far from wholesome. But what I love most about both Dean and Vicious, in the first self-titled book of the series, is the gritty edge to them which makes them more than 'just' your typical bad boy or tortured hero.
And LJ Shen (who you may have guessed is one of my new favorite authors) takes it a step further in Sparrow, with a guy who is everything a reader like me (independent, pro-feminism and equality, with a strong sense of what I consider to be right and wrong) shouldn't like. I can't say too much without spoiling the whole story, but realistically, this guy should be in jail. For life. Add to that what he puts the heroine through, how he manipulates and browbeats and controls and basically does everything possible to get her to hate him as much as he, deep down, must hate himself...
Remind me again why I kept reading and still re-read this book?
Oh, yes. Now I remember. It's because the author handled the story with such a deft touch that I got it. Through the heroine's eyes, I got him. These guys aren't just damaged or broken or rough-edged. They're never fully redeemed, either. What they are, is what I think every human being on the planet hopes to be: Loved despite their worst flaws, just as capable of loving someone with every fiber of their soul as the rest of us, and deserving of a chance to become so much more than they were before they found that love. And that, my friends, is the best kind of Happy Ever After.
To find out more about Trish and her writing (and don't forget to check out her editorial this month!), you can visit her website, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
So, what is your man candy in a romance novel? Vote for your fav or tell us what's missing from our list in the comments or using #ManCandy on our Social Media.