By Miranda Owen
In general, I prefer the nice guy, Clark Kent-type heroes to bad boys. But if I do like a bad boy hero, I like him to have hidden depths. All the heroes on this list are nothing short of amazing, and would make great fictional dates to snuggle up with for an hour or two this month of love while reading their stories. Benedick Lisle is a vicar, a gentleman, a great listener, and a hunk. This gallery of rogues and rakes are a tantalizing group of charming yet complicated hotties. Callum MacCreath and Mick Trewlove are men bent on revenge, but are swayed by love along the way. Julian Danvers and Ruan Bettancourt fall head over heels by a woman who takes them by surprise. Rhys Tremayne makes an unlikely knight-errant, but manages to wear it well and win the woman of his dreams. Lord Dutton has taken a few well-deserved knocks over the years before proving himself worthy of Anne Staverton. I invite you to check out these six sinners and one saint.
WALLFLOWER MOST WANTED by Manda Collins.
Benedick: “Don’t make a saint of me, Sophia. I’m a man. Nothing More. I do the job I’ve been called to do. But I am not without flaws. Without sin.”
Sophia: “I never said you were a saint vicar. In fact, I’m rather hoping you aren’t. Because I would like it very much if you kissed me again.”
Reverend Lord Benedick Lisle – or Ben to his family and friends – is typical of the kind of sweet and sexy nice guy heroes written by Manda Collins. I admit to having a soft spot for nice guy heroes. The first reaction from some romance fans when presented with a vicar hero, is to be skeptical about whether a vicar can be hot. As Ben reminds Sophia, he is merely a man and he woos her with words, actions, and with a steamy seduction backed up with honorable intentions. Rather than a self-righteous and obnoxious Mr. Collins from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE type of clergyman, Ben cares about people and tries to help them in their everyday lives, as well as minister to their souls. And a caring, entertaining, guy who is devoted to his woman and respects her mind and independence is hot.
A DEVIL IN SCOTLAND by Suzanne Enoch
“…when he’d arrived it hadn’t been with the idea of surviving much past killing Dunncraigh, anyway. Two things had begun to alter that – meeting Margaret, and setting eyes on Rebecca again. And what the devil he meant to do about that, he had no idea.”
Callum MacCreath in A DEVIL IN SCOTLAND by Suzanne Enoch is a brooding and incredibly masculine gothic hero. Bent on avenging his late brother, all that intensity is swoon-worthy and a potent combination, when paired with an affection for animals and his young niece. His purpose when he returns to his homeland of Scotland, after so many years away, is to cut down anybody who might have had a hand in his brother’s sudden death – even his brother’s widow if it turns out she’s involved. Such a dark focus requires a certain amount of coldness. However, as Callum gets to know his former flame all over again, this Highlander becomes a fiery hero and his is a passionate love story. Callum prowls around his estate like the wolf he keeps as a pet. His sexual magnetism is something that jumps off the page and bewitches this heroine.
LORD RUIN by Carolyn Jewel
“I do love you, Anne. I am your slave if you would but have me.”
Ruan Bettancourt, the Duke of Cynssyr, in LORD RUIN by Carolyn Jewel, first becomes involved with his future wife Anne, under some of the most awful circumstances. Despite a very inauspicious beginning, Ruan falls hard for his Jane. Although Ruan is a powerful man who has had a diverse and extensive collection of lovers in the past, he is humbled by his unexpectedly strong feelings for his wife. I can’t help but find him to be a somewhat sympathetic character as the story progresses, because Jane’s love seems to forever elude him, even though he tries his hardest to win it. His wild past haunts him in LORD RUIN, and acts as a barrier to Jane believing his professions of love. I love the eroticism in this book, and the way a bad boy is enthralled by a woman who he ordinarily wouldn’t notice. High drama, a little mystery, and unrequited love make for a decadent and amazing love story.
RESTLESS RAKE by Scarlett Scott
“…he saw a beautiful woman, smart and prickly and bold and odd, and he was fascinated. Fascinated in a way that had nothing to do with the fortune she brought with her.”
The opening of RESTLESS RAKE by Scarlett Scott is a little reminiscent of DEVIL IN WINTER by Lisa Kleypas, but the story soon takes a turn that is very different than the Kleypas story. Julian Danvers, the seventh Earl of Ravenscroft, is enjoying a quiet evening at home when Clara Whitney bursts into his home and his life. A marriage of convenience is proposed. Clara naively thinks she can get Julian to abide by her rules. Julian has his own agenda but is charmed by this young American. Julian’s witty internal monologue and attempts to get Clara to be as into him as he is into her make this story worth reading and give it a touch of charm. I also really like the hidden depths Scarlett Scott gives Julian. Many historicals detail the dangers young woman are exposed to and how they become disenchanted and jaded. In RESTLESS RAKE, Julian reveals how he was preyed upon by women of the ton and his feelings of self-loathing about feeling as though he’s prostituted himself to provide for himself and his family. This is a different perspective of the classic rake character. I like Julian and root for him to win the heroine’s admiration and love. Scarlett Scott does a fantastic job of building the sexual tension.
BEYOND SCANDAL AND DESIRE by Suzanne Enoch
Instinctually, she knew he was dangerous, very dangerous indeed, in ways she’d never even considered a man might be perilous.
Like Callum in A DEVIL IN SCOTLAND by Suzanne Enoch, Mick Trewlove in BEYOND SCANDAL AND DESIRE by Lorraine Heath is a man on a mission of revenge. While Callum preferred more direct methods for confronting those in his crosshairs, Mick concocts an elaborate revenge fantasy with a few people as collateral damage. Mick isn’t a bad man, but years of having to scrape by and work his way up in the world the hard way has altered the way he sees life in a profound way. Mick is the kind of rags to riches businessman hero that fans adore, and this story has the sensuality and drama that are hallmarks of a Lorraine Heath tale. Over the course of this book, Mick’s developing feelings for debutante Lady Aslyn Hastings throws a wrench into his plans. He starts to want her more than revenge.
DUCHESS BY DAY, MISTRESS BY NIGHT by Stacy Reid
“I missed you. The memory of your laughter, your taste, your passion haunted me beyond reason for the past several days. My dreams are plagued with memories of our night together. I’ve concluded, Duchess, you have been indelibly seared into my thoughts.”
I love Rhys Tremayne in DUCHESS BY DAY, MISTRESS BY NIGHT by Stacy Reid. Like many of these other heroes, Rhys does a lot of shady things for a few good reasons like providing for and protecting his family that he loves. While he may use deception in his business dealings, when it comes to expressing his feelings for Georgiana Rutherford, the Duchess of Hardcastle, Rhys doesn’t hold anything back. The sexual encounters between Rhys and Georgiana are raw and stunning. As hot as things get between them, what makes their relationship so special is the way they can be real with each other. Rhys gives Georgiana everything her aristocratic husband didn’t – passion and emotional support. Knowing each other prompts them to grow and become better people. A man used to dealing with criminals strives to be a knight in shining armor for the lady he loves.
MUCH ADO ABOUT DUTTON by Claudia Dain
“Dutton had, by the most singular and uninspired method, become a complete lackwit where Anne Staverton was concerned. He had cornered her, snarled at her, accosted her, and failed with her.”
Edward Preston, 3rd Marquis of Dutton has an amazing trajectory over the course of the Courtesan Chronicles. At the start of the series he is a notorious rake and womanizer but with each book he sinks more into dissipation and his life goes off the rails. How much of his downfall is orchestrated by the shrewd, cunning, and totally fabulous Lady Dalby, and how much is just his own fault is debatable. One thing that’s crystal clear with each book is his obsession with his Anne. After several punches from several characters, and several rejections by Anne, he hits his low point in a spectacular way. By the time he and Anne get their own story in MUCH ADO ABOUT DUTTON, he has learned a few things and the sexual tension between he and Anne has reached it’s zenith. Lord Dutton, whether you want to slap him or cheer him on, is a great reason to check out the Courtesan Chronicles by Claudia Dain.