Monday, December 26, 2016

The Romancies - Part 5: Best Heroine and Hero

Sometimes characters standout on their own, separate from the story or romantic relationship. Other times a character doesn't fully shine until they are paired with their partner who brings out their best. And on rare occasions, a character becomes lost when they are paired up. Thus, you'll find, maybe I really liked a heroine/hero but not when they are part of a couple and maybe I really like a couple but not separately.

*The books eligible could be published in any year, they simply had to be read by me in 2016.
Clicking on book cover brings you to my review if I wrote one or Goodreads page if I didn't.

Best Heroine Nominees:

Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan  Something Wicked by Jo Beverley  Kiss Me While I Sleep by Linda Howard

Deception Island by Brynn Kelly  The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress by Victoria Alexander  The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne

Mad for the Plaid by Karen Hawkins  Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett  Duke of My Heart by Kelly Bowen

The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes

1.  Judith Worth - Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan
"It isn't all my fault," Judith said. "It's just all on my shoulders. Try it, sometime, and see how well you do."

Of course a Milan heroine is going to make this list. Judith gets a rude and loud wake-up call and shake-up in life. She becomes the one responsible for her siblings after her family is disgraced.

"If I'd married," she said softly, "I would never know what I was capable of doing. It turns out that when you take away my kid gloves and my morning dresses, I can do quite a bit. This may sound ridiculous, but I'm proud of myself." 

I loved her strength, resolute, angry, weakness, and heart. 

2.  Elfled Malloren - Something Wicked by Jo Beverley
Of course, probably few women went abroad well-armed.
Which raised the interesting question of why not? Men always thought women needed protection. Would it not be rational, therefore, to ensure that women could protect themselves?
Against men, she thought with a wry smile. Doubtless, therein lay the catch.

This heroine was just awesome with her damn the torpedoes attitude. 

"What?" Elf stared between her brothers. "Do you mean to tell me there are things a woman can do so as not to conceive a child and I don't know about them?"
"What use would they be?" Bryght demanded. "They're whores' tricks!"
Elf picked up a large, valuable Chinese vase and hurled it onto the floor. "The world needs changing."

I loved how Elf questioned societal and gender norms and called out the hypocrisy of them all. I also loved how she did have some shy vulnerability but didn't let it stop her.

3.  Lily Mansfield - Kiss Me While I Sleep by Linda Howard
If you've been wanting a heavier focus on the heroine story, then this would be for you. The story centers around Lily, a CIA assassin bent on revenge. She's smart, she's capable, and she kicks ass. 

4.  Holly Ryan - Deception Island by Brynn Kelly
Holly came from an abusive home, learned different ways to physically defend herself, and served six years in prison; she's not your average heroine. She's a character that initially you will have your guard up around, thinking she overplays her feminine wiles but as her background and personality is flushed out more, your respect for her will grow. She's a fighter.

5.  Lucy Merryweather - The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress by Victoria Alexander
"Have you ever kissed a woman with a mustache, Mr. Fairchild?" She fluttered her lashes at him.
"Not that I can recall. And certainly never deliberately."
"What a shame that you missed your opportunity then." She smirked and turned toward the dorr. 
"I do hate to miss an opportunity." He grabbed her, pulled her into his arms, and stared down at her. "Miss Merryweather." Before she could protest he pressed his lips to hers.
For a moment she hesitated, then kissed him back, hard and with a great deal of fervor. 
At last she pulled away and gazed up at him.
"If that is how you intend to chastise me in the future, Mr. Fairchild"---her voice was breathless and she made no move to leave his embrace---"I cannot promise to restrain from activities you find objectionable."
"You are driving me mad, Miss Merryweather."
"Then I have accomplished more than I expected this evening."

With a sort of bucket list to complete, I loved and greatly enjoyed Lucy's adventures. This heroine was a compelling force and the way she befuddled and intrigued the hero was a delight to read.

6.  Philomena St. Vincent - The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne
It had started gradually, her hell within the St. Vincent household. And before long, when Gordon had thought her broken, when his jibes and torments no longer seemed to effect her, her husband became violent. Acts that would land a man in prison should he enact them out on the streets were all perfectly legal if he perpetrated them on his wife.

Our heroine escapes from an asylum that her abusive husband placed her in and trades the title of Viscountess for governess. Her story is heartbreaking, the author gives us a poignant look into Mena that encompasses her inner strength, vulnerability, pain, fear, and will.

7.  Ailsa MacKenzie - Mad for the Plaid by Karen Hawkins
This heroine had wonderful depth, she wasn't feisty and head strong simply to relay "strength" but wonderfully smart, capable, and willing to listen. I enjoyed how Ailsa challenged the hero and how that intrigued him and I loved how she beautifully showcased the calm strength of a woman.

8.  Aida Palmer - Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett
Aida was a strong independent woman but her past involving her family had clearly made her emotionally vulnerable and the author did a great job showcasing both sides of her. This ying and yang of her personality made her endearing and engaging.

9.  Ivory Moore - Duke of My Heart by Kelly Bowen
Plainly said, this heroine was strong and awesome. She runs a...unique business and though life has thrown some obstacles in her way, she more than rises to the challenges.

10.  Megan Windham - The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes
If you were ever a little girl in glasses, Megan will steal a piece of your heart; her hurt and anger over her folly as a youth, her passion, and her quiet strength. Our heroine definitely gets handicapped by the time period she is living in but her personality in the face of it shines even brighter. 


Something Wicked by Jo Beverley

I have the right to vote because of women like Elfled, so she gets mine :)

2015 Winner

Jane Burke

2014 Best Heroines 

Best Hero Nominees:

Thirty Nights with a Dirty Boy by Shiloh Walker  Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid  The Cajun Cowboy by Sandra Hill

Maximum Exposure by Alison Kent  To Lure a Proper Lady by Ashlyn Macnamara  Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt

Deception Island by Brynn Kelly  Forevermore by Kristen Callihan  Heated Pursuit by April Hunt

A Midnight Clear by Emma Barry

1. Sean Lachlan - Thirty Nights with a Dirty Boy by Shiloh Walker
As this is a serial, there was a bit of lack to Sean's full backstory and point of view. Instead, the reader learns and becomes endeared to him with how he treats the heroine Ella. The sexual tension, push and pull between the two is hot and Sean will make any reader want to take a walk on the wild side.

2.  Quinn Sullivan - Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid
We don't get Quinn's pov but the author does an amazing job of writing the hero and heroine's interactions so that the reader can tell how much Quinn is fascinated and attracted to the heroine. Quinn didn't merely tolerate the heroine's quirks, he generally liked them and engaged with her.

3.  Raoul Lanier - The Cajun Cowboy by Sandra Hill
With scuffed boots, tight wranglers, snap button cowboy shirt, and a beat up cowboy hat, I'll never tire of reading descriptions of Raoul. This hero was frustrating, annoying, sexy, funny, and tough but really, I first described him as "sex on a stick". I couldn't leave him off this list.

4.  Finn McLain - Maximum Exposure by Alison Kent
There were so many little but immensely powerful moments from the hero Finn in regards to healing the heroine. He emotionally strengthened the heroine, that in my eyes is what makes a hero.

5. Dysart - To Lure a Proper Lady by Ashlyn Macnamara
But put him in a dark blue topcoat, buckskin breeches, and Hessians, and he looked nearly dashing, if rough about the edges. But that slightly ragged quality---the hair a bit too shaggy, the coarse shadow of reddish beard on his chin and cheeks---hinted at adventure. Perhaps even danger.

Hello! Dysart starts off as a chameleon to the readers as he adopts many personas to mask his true identity. He's the bad boy from the other side of the tracks that is more hotly honorable than bad. I was instantly intrigued by him and probably more attracted to a fictional character than is proper.

6.  Asa Makepeace - Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt
"Lily of the valley." He made her feel exotic, still dressed in her sensible gray frock, only her hair loose about her shoulders.
"Lily of the valley," he murmured. "I'll remember that scent forever now, and whenever I smell it again I'll think of you, Eve Dinwoody. You'll be haunting my tomorrows forevermore."
She gasped and turned, looking up at him. She'd thought that he'd be smiling teasingly at his words but he looked quite serious and she stared at him in wonder. Had he always carried this part of himself inside? This wild poetic lover? If so, he'd hidden it well underneath the aggressive, foulmouthed theater manager.

Asa was darkly erotic in the most sweet way. He recognized that his approaches to the heroine had to be gentle (emotionally) and all on her terms, which he then executed in scorching hot ways. The way he suspected about the heroine's issues but refused to treat her any different as a woman, acknowledged and encouraged her desires, and then when he finds out her issues, how he gives her agency and power while still feeding her desires and his own, make him more than deserving to be on this list.

7.  Rafe Angelito - Deception Island by Brynn Kelly
Our hero is the first of his kind that I have ever read, his character was intense in the compelling story of his life.  His childhood was horrific and because of that we can see why he's guarded but he also had a great sense of humor with some sarcasm and edge to it. Rafe's story was heartbreaking and a riveting tale of how the human spirit endures.

8.  St. John Evernight - Forevermore by Kristen Callihan
Readers of the Darkest London series have seen Sin forged in the fire and his broody, moody, and not feeling good enough for Layla had real roots, which made his character heartbreaking and darkly sexy.

9.  Rafe Ortega - Heated Pursuit by April Hunt
He was bravery, loyalty, and a kick-ass attitude wrapped up in a six-and-a-half-foot mass of hard muscle.

This hero had heart and charm in spades. He's the risk his life but never his heart alpha male that over saturates this sub-genre but crushes and kicks to the curb any cardboard cut-out notions. Rafe had personality, wit, and magnetism; he felt real to me and I found myself lusting right alongside the heroine.

10.  Joe Reynolds - A Midnight Clear by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner
Midshipman Joe, y'all. Seriously. The way he pursues the heroine, gifts her books, and reads them, will swoon you to death. The way he stands up to her Admiral father will have you cutting in line to have his babies. He's the hero we all read romances for.


Heated Pursuit by April Hunt

This was a close race between three but the pleasant surprise of this being a debut and hitting all my loved tropes, pushed this one to the front. Rafe's charm didn't hurt matters either.

2015 Winner

Duke of Avendale

2014 Best Heroes  

Who captured your heart this year?

Next time, Best Couple....

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