A special Halloween treat! Fresh Fiction Reviewer Miranda Owen is letting us know her favorite paranormal romance heroes!
“I’m not the big bad wolf everyone makes me out to be.” – “Rocky Ride” by Vivian Arend
In general, I prefer heroes who are more Clark Kent than your typical bad boy or antihero, but there are a few amazing exceptions. My main beef with bad boy heroes is when they take on “alphahole” qualities, say or do things to the heroine that are reprehensible and can’t be easily – if at all – taken back, and use their supposedly sexy bad boy status to get away with anything. I also feel cheated if the author has the bad boy hero experience a miraculous epiphany in the last few chapters or pages of a book and completely change his personality without any believable buildup to see how the character got to that momentous change. I much prefer when an author digs deep into the psyche of a bad boy, explains his thinking, and changes his perspective and how others view him, rather than a fundamental and all-encompassing change that seems hard to believe. One of my favorite examples of a bad boy done right is Claudia Dain’s “Courtesan Chronicles” character Lord Dutton. For several books, Claudia Dain chronicles Dutton’s flaws, fleeting flashes of deep feeling immediately sandwiched between selfish impulses, slow decline and raking over the coals, before eventually giving him his own book and begins building him back up. It’s not that Dutton fundamentally changes who he always was, whether for good or bad, but having been brought so low, his perspective is greatly changed and that change, along with the realization that he has to do better if he wants the woman he’s fallen in love with, makes him a better man but still deliciously wicked and snarky as ever. I’ve recently read a slew of entertaining and seriously sexy books about heroes who are a little more devil than angel, but who are fascinating, exceptional, and who are multifaceted conundrums: SHADES OF WICKED by Jeaniene Frost, DON’T TRUST A KILLER by Cynthia Eden, MIDNIGHT WITH THE DEVIL by Emma Castle, FALL by Kristen Callihan, “Getting Hotter” by Elle Kennedy, and “Rocky Ride” by Vivian Arend.
He craved corruption, not evil. – MIDNIGHT WITH THE DEVIL by Emma Castle
All of the heroes discussed in this article at least started out as human, except for one exception – Lucien Star aka Lucifer aka The Devil from Emma Castle’s book MIDNIGHT WITH THE DEVIL. Lucien is supposed to be the ultimate big bad, and he does put the heroine in an extremely difficult situation, but it’s difficult not to be charmed by him. Lucien is up there with Peter Cook’s portrayal in the 1967 film BEDAZZLED, as two of my favorite interpretations of the devil. Even as Lucien ties Diana Kingston to him with seductive glances and naughty whispered phrases, the power balance shifts slightly when he becomes just as tied to her emotionally. Emma Castle manages to tell an erotic tale of damnation and sacrifice with a classically “evil” character but make the hero more human in more ways than one. The critical point for me, is that while Lucien undergoes a change of heart, the things about his personality that the heroine and the readers love so much basically remain the same.
Veritas: “Careful, someone might mistake you for a gentleman.”
Ian: “Anyone who’d make such a mistake deserves what they get.” – SHADES OF WICKED by Jeaniene Frost
When I first was introduced to vampire bad boy extraordinaire Ian in Jeaniene Frost’s ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE, I was mildly intrigued, but I wouldn’t have been unhappy to have him turned into a pile of ash. Over the years, and assorted books, the character has evolved while still keeping his shady edge. Ian’s fun, sexy, and more than a little wicked (in the best possible way). I had always hoped that he would be paired with a tough heroine who could maybe give him a run for his money and match him when it comes to swagger and an eye for danger. I pictured him with a woman like wolf shifter Marchessa from Saranna DeWylde’s PRINCESS OF THE PACK or the delightfully antisocial Imogene from Sara Dobie Bauer’s BITE SOMEBODY ELSE. Jeaniene Frost took me by surprise by pairing Ian with Law Guardian Veritas. I worried that Veritas would be too much of a goody-goody to have great chemistry with somebody as wild as Ian. Thankfully, Veritas has more layers than the Buffy persona she shows to the world. Veritas likes Ian the more she gets to know the real him. Both characters use different masks to cultivate a certain persona for reasons of protection as well as other more personal reasons. A law enforcing hardass with a compassionate side and a sinner with a heart of gold turn out to be a better combo and have more in common than first thought. I look forward to seeing Ian continue his journey in future stories.
“I want you to stop looking at me like I’m a villain. I want you to judge me for yourself.” – DON’T TRUST A KILLER by Cynthia Eden
Kace Quick rules New Orleans and most think he’s more bigshot crime boss than legitimate businessman. The FBI desperately want to lock him away for some crime – the bigger the better. Kace is knocked for a loop when FBI Agent Bree Harlow walks into his world. Normally a smooth operator, Kace becomes obsessed with Bree and tells her secrets he’s never told anyone else. Rather than seem oily, Kace surprises Bree with his kindness and consideration. Kace is a man who is no stranger to death and danger but often resorts to violence for honorable intentions. Cynthia Eden writes great antihero characters, and Kace is a prime example. Cynthia Eden’s books often keep the reader off-center by telling the story from multiple perspectives and including characters with complex and occasionally hidden motives. Kace does some digging and discovers that he and Bree have a lot in common after facing close encounters with murder. At a certain point, every action Kace takes and the decision he makes is all about trying to protect Bree. Kace’s attempts at protection prove frustrating for Bree at times, because she has trained for years to be able to protect herself and hunt monsters on her own. Bree and Kace make for a potent combination and a fierce pair tracking and trying to unmask a killer. The smoking hot trysts and thrills make for an enjoyable story and Kace is a hero worth checking out.
This is not good. I’m growing attached to a woman who thinks I’m an asshole. – FALL by Kristen Callihan
In FALL by Kristen Callihan, John “Jax” Blackwood is known as a rock star bad boy, but that’s not who he is at heart. John is a man who struggles with depression but manages to take meals to his little old lady neighbor. His bandmates are close friends, but he’s mentally in a very lonely place when he meets pet-sitter, professional friend, and jack of all trades Stella Grey. Kristen Callihan writes a great meet-cute between John and Stella. The dialogue and eventual evolving relationship seems very organic and the chemistry between the two is spot on. Like the characters in the other books discussed in this article, Stella and John reveal more to each other than they do with anyone else in their lives. I love John’s vulnerability, humor, and warm heart. Like many of these other heroes mentioned, John has his friends, but getting involved in a romantic relationship with Stella makes his life more complicated, but enriches it ten times more and adds some joy to his life that he was missing lately.
It drove her nuts that she could never quite get a handle on him. – “Getting Hotter” by Elle Kennedy
In HER RED-HOT BAD BOY Elle Kennedy and Vivian Arend write about two men who try very hard to get two women to see them as prime boyfriend material. In “Getting Hotter” by Elle Kennedy, Seth Masterson is a chain-smoking, tattooed SEAL who is hopelessly drawn to Miranda Breslin. The lure of the bad boy is something Miranda tries to resist, given a bad past experience, and she takes her responsibility as a single mother extremely seriously and doesn’t think Seth is daddy material. It’s not until the end of the book that readers learn why he is gun-shy about fitting into a role as a father but is honest with Miranda about his feelings and his flaws. Seth is a flawed hero, but I appreciate his straightforward attitude and willingness to step outside his comfort zone in order to be with Miranda.
In “Rocky Ride” by Vivian Arend, Mitch Thompson wants RCMP officer Anna Coleman to see him as more than just a sexy fling. Mitch is very much a hottie with a sweet side and has the same appreciation for family that Anna has. I like that it doesn’t take Anna long to see Mitch’s virtues and that he is a good man with genuine feelings for her. Mitch seduces Anna with the sexual adventures she craves but sneaks in some getting-to-know-you time in there to ensure that their relationship grows and thrives. I love when a hero goes the extra mile to woo a heroine and Mitch does that.
Here are some other books with bad boy heroes:
WORTH ANY PRICE by Lisa Kleypas
DEVIL IN WINTER by Lisa Kleypas
MUCH ADO ABOUT DUTTON by Claudia Dain
DANCE WITH THE DEVIL by Sherrilyn Kenyon
DREAM CHASER by Sherrilyn Kenyon
BLACK SILK by Sharon Page
LOVER AWAKENED by J.R. Ward
MIDNIGHT AWAKENING by Lara Adrian
THE WRONG BILLIONAIRE’S BED by Jessica Clare
ONE KISS FROM YOU by Christina Dodd
THE HIGHWAYMAN by Kerrigan Byrne
TO HAVE AND TO HARLEY by Regina Cole
DIRTY BASTARD by Jessica Clare
DUCHESS BY DAY, MISTRESS BY NIGHT by Stacy Reid
SO OVER YOU by Kate Meader
THE DARKEST PROMISE by Gena Showalter
A SEASON OF RUIN by Anna Bradley
DOUBLE TIME by Olivia Cunning
REAPER’S PROPERTY by Joanna Wylde
CHASER by Kylie Scott
AGAINST THE ROPES by Sarah Castille
KINGPIN by Alexa Riley
SWEET AS SIN by J.T. Geissinger
BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND DESIRE by Lorraine Heath
RUTHLESS by Anne Stuart
MY FORBIDDEN DESIRE by Carolyn Jewel
DUKE OF SIN by Elizabeth Hoyt
ROCK STEADY by Dawn Ryder