Best Books: “Must Reads” Picked by Bestselling Romance Authors
I asked some popular authors to help me explain why Alpha Romance Heroes have become such perennial favorites among readers – including me!
And while we’re on the topic of True Confessions: I can trace my fascination with high-handed, domineering heroes to the tender age of 12, when I read the famous scene in which Rhett Butler scoops a bratty Scarlet O’Hara into his arms and marches her up the stairs to their bedroom. (Personally, I never thought that Scarlet deserved that man. Margaret Mitchell didn’t either, apparently, since Rhett left Scarlet standing in his dust at the end of Gone with the Wind.)
Many years later, while watching movie classics on a dateless Saturday night, I sat sobbing in my popcorn as a sweet little, lamb-loving Quaker girl (portrayed by Gail Russell) convinced John Wayne to end his gun-fighting days forever. That black-and-white classic, Angel and the Badman, inspired me to try my hand at writing Historical Romance novels, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since I consider myself a thoroughly modern, independent female, I often wonder why my heart still goes pitter-pat every time I read about a devil with swoon-worthy dimples. I mean, seriously: if the real-life me had to share a house with an incorrigible, Alpha Male for more than 24 hours, I’d probably kill him. (Excluding tomcats, of course.)
Fortunately, I have gobs of author friends who are far wiser than I. They volunteered to help me understand my addiction – er, I mean, the sprawling library that now threatens to buckle and crush said tomcat (who wisely stopped pouncing on my bookshelves.)
New York Times bestseller, Sabrina York is the award-winning author of the Erotic Romance, Dark Duke. She helped to put my mind at ease when she said, “Everybody loves a Romance novel hero, who's a bad boy: The gruff cowboy. The arrogant billionaire. The biker dude with the rough and tumble demeanor and gritty voice. You know he’s going to zig when you expect him to zag. You know he’s going to buck the system, and you know he’s going to stand up for what he believes in no matter what society demands—and that makes him mysterious and interesting and mouthwateringly appealing.”
(Oh, yeah. That zigging thing gets me every time . . . )
Sabrina went on to say, “Why do we crave the beast? One reason only. Because every woman secretly dreams of bringing him to his knees. That is half the fun of writing Romance novels with dark, sexy heroes. We know, in the end, they’re going to fall, and fall hard.”
“For me, the appeal of a rake hero is watching the process of redemption,” said Barbara Ankrum, bestselling author of the Western Historical Romance, Chase the Fire. “The love of a good woman transforms him. The character arcs in these types of books are deep, relatable and satisfying. Even today’s readers can find hope in the idea that love can redeem the most lost soul. Reality or not, it’s pure escape reading and a trope that many, many readers (including me!) love.”
“Personally, I tend to like them all, probably because I find it hard to separate (a Rebel from a Rake, and a Rake from a Rogue.)
“I mean a Rebel is a person who’s unorthodox… a maverick who follows his own path and couldn’t care less if he has the approval of anyone else. That’s pretty attractive to many women, especially those with opposite personalities.
“The Rake can be the perfect bad boy that most females love to believe they alone have the power to get him to settle down.
“And the Rogue is the scoundrel who can twist most women around his little finger and have them panting for more.
“Let’s face it, powerful men, who are attractive and charismatic, and hard-to-pin-down because they’re wild and fancy-free, make most women’s hearts beat just a little bit faster,” said Mimi Barbour, bestselling author of the Mystery, Special Agent Francesca. “They’re the material of fantasies, daydreams and make-believe . . . The funny thing is,” Mimi continued, “as much as these Romance heroes make interesting characters, I personally tend to write my heroes with a bit more sensitivity. Somehow, in today’s world, it seems more likely that most men just wouldn’t get away with such behavior. Or is it that the modern ladies wouldn’t put up with it?”
Award-winning author of The Last Vhalgenn, a Fantasy novel, Kayelle Allen said, “I think they're favorites because readers enjoy watching them squirm when things don't go their way. But (readers) also like it when (the rogue) comes back and figures out how to win after all. Nothing could be better than a cowboy rogue, unless it happens to be two of them.”
(So true, Kayelle!)
”I think Rebels, Rakes, and Rogues are favorite Romance novel characters,” said Lynda Bailey, author of Erotic Escapades of a Married Couple,“because of the thrill the readers can get from seeing all that manly rebellion tamed by the love of a good/loving woman -- or man, depending.”
“I see rebels, rakes and rogues as all cut from the same cloth,” said Shirl Henke, bestselling author of the Regency Romance, Wicked Angel. “They are all outsiders. Society, whether it’s the Regency Ton in 1812, or Miles City Montana, in 1880, does not consider them acceptable or trustworthy. Such outsiders are not worthy to approach their daughters.
"I’ve always favored creating educated half-breed heroes in my Westerns because they epitomize the 'man without a country,' belonging to neither red nor white worlds. Writing such a Romance novel hero -- smart, attractive, exotic and forbidden -- creates a magnet for the heroine. . . A man who will do what is honorable even when he exists in a society that has treated him badly (is the trait) that plucks the Romance reader’s heartstrings. What worthy heroine could resist such a man?”
USA Today Bestseller Author Donna Fasano, author of Reclaim My Heart, summarized the answers best when she said, “Every woman wants to tame a bad boy at least once in her life." That's why Donna likes to read and write about Romance novel heroes, who are rebels, rakes, and rogues.
Favorite Rebels, Rakes, and Rogues
Top Picks from Today’s Authors:
- Jack Colton from Romancing The Stone, the movie version (submitted by Donna Fasano)
- Jon Snow from Game of Thrones, the TV version (submitted by Sabrina York)
- Christian Langland from Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm (submitted by Barbara Ankrum)
- Willam Cuyler Thorne from Raven Hart’s The Vampire's Seduction (submitted by Kayelle Allen)
- Rhys Rhodes from Lorraine Heath's Love with a Scandalous Lord (submitted by Lynda Bailey)
- Rhett Butler from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (submitted by Mimi Barbour and the ol’ deWolfe Gal)