By Miranda Owen
They’re a sign of your strength. That you’ve been tested like no other man and you emerged victorious. You will always be victorious. They make me feel safe like nothing else. —THE WOLF OF KALININGRAD by Sara Wylde, (Lola referring to her husband’s scars)
How far will she go for her family?
Lola Carter’s addict brother stole from the wrong man: the legendary Wolf of Kaliningrad, a scarred beast of a man who shows no pity and no mercy. When her brother is taken captive by the Wolf, Lola will do anything to save him. The Wolf offers to trade her life for her brother’s… if she’ll marry the monster.
Only this is no beauty and the beast tale. The Wolf is about to learn that Lola is a fierce adversary who can be just as beastly when it comes to saving herself and claiming something she wants more than anything else: her monster’s black heart.
If you search the internet, you’ll find an amazing number of romances featuring scarred or wounded heroes – with both physical and mental scars. It was difficult for me, initially, to pinpoint exactly what I am drawn to in these stories. A common accusation by heroes in these novels is that the heroine is only attracted to them out of some misguided desire to play Florence Nightingale, or out of a bizarre fascination for the freakish. It’s an accusation that I feel is also somewhat directed at the reader of these types of stories as well. Even though I know those are not the reasons I enjoy reading about these heroes, I was never quite able to articulate my reasons until reading THE WOLF OF KALININGRAD by Sara Wylde.
In Sara Wylde’s novel, the heroine expresses how the hero’s scars represent strength and make her feel safe. Like the heroine in THE WOLF OF KALININGRAD, Kresley Cole’s heroine in “The Warlord Wants Forever” takes the hero’s scars as a mark of virility and a sign of a warrior, and a badge of courage. Something that applies to just about every story I’ve read with a scarred hero, is that whether the wounds are physical or psychological, the scars indicate a strength of character or some type of physical or mental fortitude. That strength can’t help but be an admirable trait, and something that sparks your interest to learn more about that character.
Do you want to know how your scars affect me? Do you? They cause me to ache for a time I was not there for you, for the stupidity and ignorance shown you, but your appearance does nothing to change my feelings, except to widen the understanding between us. My love is unconditional… — BEYOND THE MASQUE by Kae D. Jacobs
The theme that created hope out of desolation in the beloved story of The Phantom of the Opera come to life in Jacobs Beyond the Masque.
Burdened from birth with a facial deformity, musical genius Erik Gautier once strives to master humanity, making his will law, but now he struggles to accept an offer of love from the woman he loves, the woman who once betrayed him. How can he bring himself to trust again? Should he? Will he knowing submit his mind and heart to quench the emotional deprivation when others have turned away?
Learn of the compelling opposite that flood Erik s life as he confronts justice and mercy when he is unable to escape his past.
Romance Historical [Granite Publishing, On Sale: March 11, 2009, Paperback, ISBN: 9781599360324 / ]
In my youth, I – like many others – was drawn to the classic stories of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and the beloved “Beauty and the Beast” fairy tale. Admittedly, for a book junkie, the first incarnations of these stories that caught my imagination were THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA film featuring Lon Chaney, and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST as interpreted by French poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau. As I got older and began reading romances, I unconsciously searched for the perfect blend of myth and eroticism that I found in those films. Like with Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, there are a multitude of books reinterpreting Gaston Leroux’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Some stay in a historical setting, while some are more contemporary. Each author deconstructs the story and reimagines it with results that vary from the fantastic, the sweet, and even veering into unabashed erotica. The quality spans the good, the unusual, as well as badly written fan fiction.
Each reader has their own preferences and there is something out there for everyone. As a historical romance fan, I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled on BEYOND THE MASQUE by Kae D. Jacobs. The book is about 700 pages, and the prose is flowery at times, but I love it. The book is very romantic, almost very Song of Solomon-esque at times. Jacobs’ story picks up just about where Leroux’s story ends, and she weaves together a convincing historical romance.
BEYOND THE MASQUE is told from alternating perspectives and fleshes out the two main characters and enables the reader to sympathize with them and cheer on their unconventional romance. This book has the best version of the “Christine” character. In this book Christine is a product of her times, but she is not quite the passive damsel in distress that she appears to be in some incarnations, and is more self-aware than in other adaptations. This book does not, as I’m told other “Phantom-inspired/spin-offs” do, make Raoul into a villain.
If you enjoy THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, or if you just enjoy romantic historical fiction, you might enjoy this book. It is written in the style of the time period being written about. There is an extensive character description/biography at the end that I found very helpful to refer back to. In spite of its length, I find this story thoroughly enchanting and it is a favorite re-read for me.
She felt an overwhelming tenderness for Sydnam Butler, who had demonstrated almost incredible courage and suffered so much yet had pieced his life back together with determination and dignity though he believed himself untouchable ever since. — SIMPLY LOVE by Mary Balogh
She spies him in the deepening dusk of a Wales evening- a lone figure of breathtaking strength and masculinity, his handsome face branded by a secret pain. For single mother and teacher Anne Jewell, newly arrived with her son at a sprawling estate in Wales on the invitation of an influential friend, Sydnam Butler is a man whose sorrows- and passions- run deeper than she could have ever imagined.
As steward of a remote seaside manor, Sydnam lives a reclusive existence far from the pity and disdain of others. Yet almost from the moment Anne first appears on the cliffs, he senses in this lovely stranger a kindred soul, and between these two wary hearts, desire stirs. Unable to resist the passion that has rescued them both from loneliness, Anne and Sydnam share an afternoon of exquisite lovemaking. Now the unwed single mother and war- scarred veteran must make a decision that could forever alter their lives. For Sydnam, it is a chance to heal the pain of the past. For Anne, it is the glorious promise of a future with the man who will dare her to reveal her deepest secrets…before she can give him all her heart.
Romance Historical [Dell, On Sale: February 27, 2007, Paperback / e-Book (reprint), ISBN: 9780440241973 / eISBN: 9780440336228]
Mary Balogh has created one of the most beloved scarred heroes, and one of the most beloved group of scarred heroes in the minds of many romance fans. When hunting down the best stories in this subset of romance, time after time fans expressed their love for SIMPLY LOVE. In SIMPLY LOVE, Mary Balogh takes a man scarred physically by war with PTSD and throws a woman with mental scars from a sexual assault in his path. Despite the heavy themes and powerful emotional resonance, Mary Balogh manages to tell a compelling and entertaining story about two flawed characters without resorting to melodrama, or creating happiness that seems hollow or artificial. The beauty of this story is the friendship that develops between the hero and heroine and the small-scale triumphs and tragedies that lead to personal epiphanies and a revised definition of what happiness means.
One of my favorite scenes in SIMPLY LOVE is one in which the heroine gently admonishes the hero’s well-meaning family to stop treating him as though he is a tragic figure, and to focus on his heroism and bravery instead. Like in her later “Survivors’ Club” series, Mary Balogh takes two characters who were victims to tragedy and transforms them into survivors. Through knowing each other and talking through their problems, they move forward in life and experience joy.
Mary Balogh has said on her website that she never did research before creating these many fascinating characters with various injuries and survivor’s guilt, but rather relied on her writer’s imagination and sense of empathy. Her “Survivors’ Club” series is a tour de force and each Survivors’ Club member occupies a special place in the heart of readers who adore the series as much as I do. Although each character has different ailments and personalities, the individual emotional struggles are very similar and very human. Mary Balogh is one of my favorite writers because she chronicles a character’s imperfections, making them seem very real and pulling the reader on their journey with them.
Although she was ashamed to admit it now, the darkness in him had been the largest part of his allure. It was such an anomaly, a contrast to what she’d known from life. It had made him dangerous. Exciting. Sexy. But that was a fantasy. This was real. He suffered. And there was nothing sexy or thrilling about that.
— LOVER AWAKENED by J.R. Ward
Zsadist is the most terrifying member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.
In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly war raging between vampires and their slayers. And there exists a secret band of brothers like no other – six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Of these, Zsadist is the most terrifying member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.
A former blood slave, the vampire Zsadist still bears the scars from a past filled with suffering and humiliation. Renowned for his unquenchable fury and sinister deeds, he is a savage feared by humans and vampires alike. Anger is his only companion, and terror is his only passion—until he rescues a beautiful aristocrat from the evil Lessening Society.
Bella is instantly entranced by the seething power Zsadist possesses. But even as their desire for one another begins to overtake them both, Zsadist’s thirst for vengeance against Bella’s tormentors drives him to the brink of madness. Now, Bella must help her lover overcome the wounds of his tortured past, and find a future with her…
In LOVER AWAKENED by J.R. Ward and STEALING KATHRYN by Jacquelyn Frank, Zadist and Adrian both come by their beastly appearance under incredibly different circumstances, but both have outer appearances that reflect their inner turmoil and self-loathing.
In LOVER AWAKENED, Zadist is a vampire whose innocence, sense of self, and face are forever altered after years of sexual slavery to a female oppressor. Even after physically being released from his imprisonment, his mind remained a place of torment until meeting, falling in love, and being loved in returned by beautiful fellow vampire Bella. Fans can’t help but get sucked into the whirlpool of emotion in LOVER AWAKENED. I love how J.R. Ward followed up with Bella and Zadist in the novella FATHER MINE.
STEALING KATHRYN by Jacquelyn Frank is very much what I’d consider to be a “Beauty and the Beast” type of tale with an otherworldly and unique spin on the classic fairy tale. Somewhere between erotic dreams and nightmares, Kathryn is pulled into Adrian’s world – first as his prisoner and later as his lover. Adrian’s physical appearance is tied to the build-up of negative energy that surrounds him. As the unlikely bond and attraction between Kathryn and Adrian grows, he resembles a normal man more and more. Jacquelyn Frank does such a stellar job of building anticipation and creating sexual tension that sparks and sizzles. STEALING KATHRYN is one of the most intoxicating and deliciously erotic “Beauty and the Beast” stories I’ve read.
New York Times bestselling author Jacquelyn Frank invites you to explore a strange and sensuous world of darkest desire ruled by an extraordinary being who is about to meet his earthly match. . .
Sandman. Angus. Morpheus. He is known by many names, except his true one, Adrian. When he departs his world, it is to enter the sacred space of sleep, and he is not there to sow sweet dreams. Adrian’s mission is to reap the dark energy of nightmares, work that has twisted his soul as well as his once-handsome face. Now, he lives only to await the day darkness finally overcomes him. . .and to collect exquisite reminders of what he’s lost. . .
But there is one treasure that stands apart. Having risked everything to obtain her, Adrian soon realizes his mistake. For Kathryn has a wholly unexpected power over him, not only for what she represents, but for what for she is: a soul with desires as strong as his own, tempered by compassion that could save Adrian from his self-made hell–or condemn them both. . .
Romance Paranormal [Zebra, On Sale: May 1, 2010, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781420109849 / eISBN: 9781420119312]
I am mad…I always will be. But if I hadn’t been mad, I wouldn’t have found Jamie…I work. So, I want to stay mad.
— A MACKENZIE CLAN GATHERING by Jennifer Ashley
The author of The Stolen Mackenzie Bride returns to the tumultuous and passionate world of the Mackenzie clan as a family celebration is shaken by an unexpected danger…
The Mackenzie clan has gathered for Hart’s birthday at the sprawling family estate in Scotland. But before the festivities can start, the house is robbed, and thieves make off with an untold fortune in rare art.
Ian Mackenzie and his brothers must do what they can to retrieve the family treasure, but Ian is distracted by a family friend who claims he might have the power to “cure” Ian of his madness forever. All the Mackenzies must draw together as courage, love, and a tantalizing mystery serve
to strengthen their bond, and redefine the meaning of family.
Romance Historical [InterMix, On Sale: November 17, 2015, e-Book, ISBN: 9781101615959 / eISBN: 9781101615959]
Most fans of historical romance know who Lord Ian Mackenzie is. Years ago, when Jennifer Ashley first wrote about Ian in THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE, something about that character spoke to romance fans which made him an instant fan favorite. Ian is a Scotsman living in the 1800s and he has Asperger’s. Jennifer Ashley does a great job of detailing the dangers somebody who is different faced back in that earlier point in history. I love Ian because of his loyalty and love for his family, his quirky charm, and his Sherlock Holmes kind of brilliance. I don’t know whether it’s the author or the fans who have fallen more in love with the character over the years, but Jennifer Ashley certainly has painted a richer portrait of him over the last few years. Although any story Ian pops up in is delightful, I think the most recent installment – A MACKENZIE CLAN GATHERING – really brings the character full circle. In A MACKENZIE CLAN GATHERING, Ian seems to finally give the same kind of acceptance he gifts others with to himself. I can’t wait for the next Jennifer Ashley story about the tightknit Mackenzie family.
More books to find your perfect scarred hero:
- SIMPLY LOVE by Mary Balogh
- REVEALED TO HIM by Jen Frederick
- COWBOY TO COMMAND by Sabrina York
- LOVER AWAKENED by JR Ward
- RAVISHED by Amanda Quick
- TEXAS DESTINY by Lorraine Heath
- ENGLAND’S PERFECT HERO by Suzanne Enoch
- STEALING KATHRYN by Jacquelyn Frank
- WHEN SHE SAID I DO by Celeste Bradley
- THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE by Jennifer Ashley
- YOURS UNTIL DAWN by Teresa Medeiros
- TO BEGUILE A BEAST by Elizabeth Hoyt
- DANCING AT MIDNIGHT by Julia Quinn
- THE RAVEN PRINCE by Elizabeth Hoyt
- THE ARRANGEMENT by Mary Balogh
- THE ESCAPE by Mary Balogh
- MIDNIGHT RISING by Lara Adrian
- WITH THIS KISS by Victoria Lynne
- BEAST by Judith Ivory
- FIRELIGHT by Kristen Callihan
- ONLY YOURS by Susan Mallery
- THE DARKEST KISS by Gena Showalter
- WHAT A LADY MOST DESIRES by Lecia Cornwall
- BEYOND THE MASQUE by Kae D. Jacobs
- “THE WARLORD WANTS FOREVER” by Kresley Cole
- BEAUTY AND THE BILLIONAIRE by Jessica Claire
- TAPESTRY by Karen Ranney
- MIDNIGHT ANGEL by Lisa Kleypas