Heathcliff, Mr. Rochester, Batman... What do these guys have in common? They are all deliciously, tragically tortured heroes and, as we all know, tortured heroes hold a special place in every romance reader’s heart.
So I’ve compiled here a variety pack of men who carry with them dark secrets and terrible pasts, who fight towards the light even though they’re much more familiar with the darkness, who overcome whatever the gods—and their authors—throw at them to win their way to a happily-ever-after. Sigh.
Dream Lake by Lisa Kleypas
Lisa Kleypas is not only a gifted story-teller but an exemplary writer—and in this latest of her Friday Harbor series, she puts to use all her considerable skills in a work of smart and absorbing magical realism. Alex is the alcoholic child of abusive alcoholic parents, an emotional wreck, an angry, lost man haunted both literally and figuratively by the past. In too many other romances, the heroine would act as an emotional Band-Aid for the hero, but Ms. Kleypas has far too much respect for her readers and her heroine to relegate her to a cliché. Her Zoe is also damaged goods, trying to work through a relationship with an emotionally unavailable parent. The breath-taking romance that blooms between them relies not on healing one another but on healing so they can find one another. I loved it!
Revenge of Lord Eberlin Julia London
Having made a fortune and popped for a title, the newly minted Lord Eberlin is back in England to destroy the young woman whose testimony as a child sent his father to the gallows, destroying his low-born family. Julia London has penned a fiercely angry man on a helluva seek-and-destroy mission and teamed him with a woman who is not going to roll over for anyone—wait a sec! She actually does but only after a toothsome dance where they parry wits and will. The steam level in this historical is ratcheted way high, in my opinion one of the reasons tortured heroes are so delicious; that no-holds-barred element they bring to their love-making. Strongly suggest asbestos mitts when reading.
Riveted by Meljean Brooks
This is such a smart book. Even better, it’s a perfect romance. And best, it has a fabulous tortured hero. Steampunk tortured hero alert! David is different. Think smokin’ hot-guy Borg with a soul. With a body composed of very hip prosthetics and living in a society that views him as one step above a freak, David could have been one angry guy. But in Ms. Brooks’ more than capable hands his anger is filtered through intelligence, sensitivity and honor. In other words, he’s Very. Sexy. And how brilliant of Ms. Brooks to pair him with Annika, a heroine equally inexperienced, shy, and just as determined to pursue her own debt of honor across the complicated, rich, and evocative world. If you’ve never read steampunk romance before, here’s the place to start.
Far from Perfect by Barbara Longley
Iraqi vet, Noah Langford returns home with a shattered body, wounded psyche, and a self-imposed mission to find the daughter his late step-brother abandoned before birth. Ms. Longley does a fabulous job of rendering a man on hair trigger: confused, isolated, yearning for normalcy and scared to death he’ll never find it, especially after he meets the kid’s mother, a woman with abandonment issues. This is a tender, touching and wonderful depiction of a tortured hero struggling to free himself of the past and a woman struggling to believe she’s worth sticking around for.