He Hurts So Good: Connie Brockway on Romances with Tortured Heroes


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 51ZmXFYf2GL._BO2,204,203,200_AA300_SH20_OU01_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 51cbu0S0jPL._SL500_AA300_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.

Connie Brockway is a USA Today and New York Times bestselling author. Her latest novel is The Other Guy's Bride. She is published by Montlake Romance.

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Comments (7)

The steam level in this historical is ratcheted way high, in my opinion one of the reasons tortured heroes are so delicious

Posted by: Supreme Snapback Hats | Monday January 7, 2013 at 4:49 AM

Hi Connie! I love tortured heroes. They always seem more fascinating because of all their hang- ups and their journeys to a HEA are never smooth sailing.

"Strongly suggest asbestos mitts when reading" - just hooted with laughter when I read that!

I'm a huge Lisa Kleypas fan and loved your comments about 'Dream Lake". Alex was the perfect tortured hero! I loved the banter between Alex and the ghost. Lisa always manages to bring wonderful touches of humour to her books.

I will have to check out the other books you mention. I'm always on the look out for great tortured heroes!

Posted by: Carol Cork | Wednesday October 24, 2012 at 2:11 AM

Gotta love a tortured hero. I have a certain weakness for Healthcliffe, have since the 9th grade.... Thanks for the new book recommendations!

Posted by: Chris Ciolli (@ChrisCiolli) | Saturday October 6, 2012 at 9:09 AM

I LOVED Dream Lake (and the entire series). Been reading LK for years and love all her work. I will have to read the others posted here. Thanks for the reviews :)

Posted by: Rosie | Thursday October 4, 2012 at 3:51 PM

I would also add Gabriel Ross Sullivan from Linnea Sinclair's Rita(TM)-winning Gabriel's Ghost.

Posted by: Willa Blair | Thursday October 4, 2012 at 3:18 PM

Thank you for including Dream Lake, Connie. I can't wait to read these delicious-sounding books by Meljean, Barbara and Julia--love those tortured heroes!

Posted by: Lisa Kleypas | Thursday October 4, 2012 at 2:00 PM

Connie, thank you so much for mentioning FAR FROM PERFECT, and for saying such lovely things about my wounded warrior. :0)

Posted by: Barbara Longley | Thursday October 4, 2012 at 10:23 AM

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