by Lea Franczak)
Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where's the street-wise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?
Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need
The first line and verse of the '80s Bonnie Tyler song Holding Out for a Hero (written by Dean Pitchford and Jim Steinman) reflects what I've been feeling about romance stories lately.
"Where have all the good men gone?"
Don't get me wrong, I can become invested in a story about a tattooed bad boy or the damaged, self-destructive hero from a dysfunctional family as much as the next romance junkie. However, more and more I find myself cherishing a self-confident hero who is comfortable in his own skin. He falls truly-madly-deeply in love with an emotionally tortured or damaged heroine and he rescues her from herself. The story's heroine will eventually claim him as hers, but I fall for him hook, line, and sinker, too.
I say to her, "No, no, girl, your honey is mine!"
An emotionally healthy hero is hard to find, and when one of them leaps from the pages he is greeted with a fist pump, and an imaginary kiss, from this reader. It's been awhile since I've found a new hero who feeds my need for a "good guy." Maybe it's because there is an appetite amongst readers of romance for the emotionally tortured ones who need saving or redemption, the heroes with damaged souls.
So, when I need to satisfy my craving for that all-around great// guy, I turn to four extraspecial keeper books, and the heroes have commonalities:
• They don't have tattoos.
• They are not wimps.
• They have dominant personalities but are not arrogant or overbearing.
• They are neither biker nor billionaire.
That's not to say that I don't like tattooed bikers, or tattooed billionaires, for that matter, but it just so happens that my keeper heroes aren't either. Who are the guys who have won my undying devotion?
Everett Hughes, the internationally famous, heartthrob movie star from Beth Kery's steamy erotic romance Exposed to You.
Joy chuckled at the same moment that Sarah whispered, "Be quiet. He's coming this way." Joy glanced in the direction where Sarah was staring and suddenly found herself looking into shadowed, gleaming eyes that were trained directly on her.
A memory flickered in Joy's brain and faded elusively. Something inside her quickened.
She looked away. It must be true what they said about Everett Hughes: His insouciant good looks and easygoing charm reputedly had the power to stun a woman. His sex appeal was utterly effortless, but that didn't make it any less potent. She was vaguely aware that Sarah went stiff as a board next to her.
"Oh my God," her friend whispered shakily.
Joy blinked at the sound of the deep, resonant voice. Everett stood right next to their table, an expectant look on his face, his gaze fixed on Joy. Sarah was looking at her, aghast.
"Uh… Yes, I'm Joy," she said, her feeling of disorientation only escalating. She crushed the napkin in her fist.
(Find out more at www.bethkery.com.)
Ronan O'Rourke, the battle-tested, brave and sensitive New York fireman from Anne Calhoun's emotionally charged erotic Christmas novella Breath on Embers.
The weather was warm for March, sunny and promising an early spring as she walked home up Second Avenue. The bars had thrown open their big windows and uniformed firefighters, EMTs and police officers spilled out onto the patios lining the streets. She would have ignored them all if a big blond, several Guinnesses to the wind at one in the afternoon, hadn't treated her to a terrible come-on line as she crossed the avenue, but when she scanned the group it was black-haired, blue-eyed Ronan who sparked something deep inside.
Standing in a cluster of rowdy uniforms, he was serene as opaque glass, but heat and promise rose from his body like a mist from the lake on a cool morning.
(Find out more at www.annecalhoun.com.)
Daniel Rokov, the charismatic and driven homicide detective from Mary Burton's gritty romantic suspense Before She Dies.
"All work and no play makes Charlotte a dull girl, counselor."
"All work keeps Charlotte liquid and her bills paid, detective."
Naked, he rose off the bed and moved toward her until he was inches away. Towering, he fingered the pearls around her neck. She smelled of Chanel and him. "We should have dinner sometime."
She grinned. "We just had dessert."
"I'm talking about real food. Tables, chairs, forks, knives, and spoons."
She didn't pull away. "I don't think so."
"You've got to eat sometime."
"We drew a line. It has to remain fixed and secure."
He curled the pearls around his index finger. "The defense attorney doesn't want to be seen with a cop?"
"Maybe the cop shouldn't be seen with the older defense attorney."
"Three years doesn't count as older. And I don't care who sees me with you."
She untangled his finger from her pearls. "We are judged by the company we keep."
The wistful, if not sad, edge surprised him. She wasn't talking about him. But who? Another mystery. Another reason to want her.
(Find out more at www.maryburton.com.)
Reese Bareden, the formidable police detective with a heart of gold from Lori Foster's Bare It All.
His keys. New panic exploded. "You're leaving?
He took one look at her and dropped the clothes again. In three long strides he reached her. "I'll only be gone long enough to shower and get clean clothes." He held her shoulders, hesitated, then drew her into his chest.
Warmth and Reese's unique scent enveloped her. He didn't wrap those thick arms around her, didn't crush her close. He merely held her.
Fascinated, curious in a way she hadn't experienced in far too long, Alice lifted her hands to rest against his bare chest. That soft cushion of chest hair, a few shades darker than that on his head, teased her palms. She rested her cheek against him and inhaled deeply, wanting to eat him up.
The top of her head didn't reach his chin. She felt his heartbeat against her cheek. He smelled of man, sex and excitement, but at the same time, he filled her with peace and contentment. "I'm sorry. I keep imposing when I don't mean to."
"I want you to."
That made no sense. "You want me to impose?"
He put one hand to the back of her head, tangled his fingers in her hair. "I want you to tell me what you think and feel. I want you to confide in me."
I have favorite bad-boy and/or emotionally tortured heroes, too, but my four guys are standouts, and I never tire of reading their books. They have their peccadilloes. It wouldn't be realistic if they didn't have a single fault (although, Everett Hughes is about as close to the perfect guy as I've ever read — lol), but their "normalness" and the way they overcome relationship conflicts and romance their heroine are why they meet my definition of awesomeness.
Are you all about the bad boy or do you like a knight in shining armor? What books would you recommend where readers can find a memorable good guy? Leave a comment here or if you hang around on Twitter, tweet @HEAusatoday and let's talk heroes.
Lea Franczak cannot remember a time when she didn't have a book in her hand. She's read and enjoyed multiple genres but is especially partial to contemporary and erotic romance, dark gritty romantic suspense, paranormal romance and has recently become a New Adult junkie. Lea has been blogging and reviewing since 2008 and is active on Goodreads. Lea is also HEA's Tweeter Extraordinaire. Follow HEA on Twitter (@HEAusatoday).