The Allure of the Impossible Romantic Interest

elizabeth bennetAs is most often the case in a romance novel, one or both main characters is considered an impossible catch. Hero or heroine, this particular lead is often regarded as the cream of the crop, the tip of the top, and the best of the best. He’s the most eligible bachelor. She’s the rarest diamond of the first waters. And so forth.

Why is this? I believe it is because the allure of catching an “impossible catch” is too great to pass up. The impossible catch is a huge draw for readers, myself included. The best books walk the fine line between impossible and actual, and your heart quickens with the leads as they fall in love.

Generally speaking, if the impossible catch is the hero, he doesn’t want to be caught. In fact, he strives vigorously to avoid any situation that might end with him at the altar. When he’s caught though, it’s what he most desires and that is very sexy.

If the impossible catch is the heroine, she generally has multiple options of marriage. She’s the belle of the ball. Her hero is not a good match for her economically speaking, but she doesn’t care… it’s his heart that matters most!

Some of my favorite “impossible catches” include Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, Edward Cullen from Twilight, Mr. Edward Rochester and Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre, Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones, Justin Allistair of These Old Shades, and Sidonie Forsythe from Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed.

Who are some of your favorite impossible-to-catch heroes and heroines?

What Makes a Hero Sexy?

black knight“The hero is sexy,” or some variation, I see a lot when reading reviews. I’m guilty of the same. It got me thinking. What makes a hero sexy? It’s really hard to pigeon-hole as there are many characteristics that can make a hero sexy. Here’s a list of what I came up with:

The White Knight – He’s brave. He’s strong. He’s good. He rescues damsels, even if it’s at an inconvenience to himself. He’s true to his ideals. He wears uniforms — whether it is chainmail or fire resistant or camouflaged, etc. — and he’s proud of the uniform he wears.

The Black Knight - He’s not a polar opposite to the white knight — like he and others think — but he doesn’t hesitate to work outside the law if it suits him. He doesn’t stand for incompetence, rudeness, or laziness. He gets the job done and doesn’t complain. He prefers to be alone and to work alone and can be easily irritated by the interference of others (read, heroine) but melts like butter with the right girl.

The Alpha – He’s confident. He’s popular with his buddies, the ladies, the elderly, kids, and dogs. He’s got solid work ethics, strong morals, and treats his mother well. He can cut loose with the best of them, sweet talk a girl out of her undies in under a minute, and generally oozes sex appeal.

The Beta - He’s quiet. He’s secure in every way from his masculinity to his ideals to his career and in his lot in life. He’s going to hold your hand in public, bring you to the weekly family barbecue, unabashedly carry your very girly purse, doesn’t mind your hot-pink lipstick on his face, and will squire you about town in genuine delight. He’s friend and lover all in one.

There are many more types, of course. The list is not definitive. Several of the qualities can easily describe each of the four hero types. But they are all sexy. What else makes a hero sexy in your book?

Fall in Love with these Beastly Heroes

when beauty tamed the beastI don’t know about you, but I grew up on Beauty and the Beast, and to-date it is still my favorite Disney cartoon. I love Belle’s quiet grace and inherent sweetness, not to mention she doesn’t flinch at the unexpected, like talking objects. She knows when her imagination is caught up in a book and when reality can inspire the imagination to take flight.

But let me be honest, as much as I love Belle, I love the Beast more. I’m tempted to say I like him best in his beastly form, but he’s a pretty hot French prince too. Some think his name is Adam, but this distinction comes from another source, not the Disney cartoon. To Disney and little girls everywhere, he is simply the Beast.

My love for this particular movie has translated to my romance novels. In the romance genre, a beastly hero is not actually a beast (unless we are talking paranormal romances, and then that’s a whole other ball of wax.) Instead, he’s a man who is either naturally ugly (think big noses, harsh features, black eyes… hawk-like) or horrifically wounded (heroes with aching heads fit here too.) Generally speaking, the hero is scarred on his face and/or torso and has a beastly temper to match his beastly looks. He is almost always a (rich) recluse, locked away in a mansion or castle.

His heroine, like Belle, is usually a beauty who sees beneath the surface of his gruff exterior to the aching heart within the man. As she tries to crack the protection around his heart and scale the walls to the softie lurking within — he’s trying to build more barriers. A beastly hero constantly pulls away and tries to hide from his feelings. Every extrication attempt fails, until suddenly he yields to the love he feels. When he does, it’s extremely hot. No wonder this is one of my favorite plot tropes!

Here are some of my particular favorite romances, featuring beastly heroes:

Tell me about the beastly heroes with whom you fell in love. Share in the comments, because I am always looking out for the next diamond in the rough!

Best Romantic Short Stories

scottishbridesGuest Post by Sandra Scholes

Picture the scene, you don’t have much time at work; so in your break you can only do one thing to keep you happy while your friends have gone out shopping or come back from their dinner – read! But because you don’t have much time you want something you can devour quickly and enjoy immensely.

Here are my top ten short stories:

  1. Gretna Green by Julia Quinn in Scottish Brides
  2. Make a Joyful Noise by Carla Kelly in A Regency Christmas Carol
  3. A Tale of Two Sisters by Julia Quinn in Where’s My Hero?
  4. The Christmas Ornament by Carla Kelly in Carla Kelly’s Christmas Collection
  5. The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole in Playing Easy to Get
  6. A Lady’s Pleasure by Robin Schone in Captivated
  7. White Out by Linda Howard in Upon a Midnight Clear
  8. Miracles by Judith McNaught in A Holiday of Love
  9. The Demon’s Mistress by Jo Beverley in In Praise of Younger Men
  10. The Mad Earl’s Bride by Loretta Chase in Three Weddings and a Kiss

What are your favorite romantic short stories?

What are Your Favourite Comedy Romances?

Guest Post by Sandra Scholes

We have gone through the erotic romance novels, the paranormal ones,
and Regency, but what about the good old comedy romance novel? What is
it that makes a comedy romance good enough to read?

It could be the setting, the characters, or the general story of how
they all interact. Or, as in some of these novels, it could well be
the scrapes the main character gets into, be prepared for a kidnapping
that goes awry, a reformed con man, a private investigator cum
bodyguard, an unwitting photographer, and an undercover cop all spell
disaster in the face of love and as a reader you will love them for
it.

Here is my top ten of comedy romances – you will have your own, and as
a rule I don’t mind you sharing them with me.

  1. It Must Be Love by Rachel Gibson
  2. Baby, Don’t Go by Susan Andersen
  3. He Could Be the One by Elizabeth Bevarly
  4. Aphrodite’s Kiss (Time of Your Life) by Julie Kenner
  5. A Perfect Fit (Time of Your Life) by Sheridan Smythe
  6. Be My Baby by Susan Andersen
  7. A Ghost for Maggie by Emily Carmichael
  8. Faking It by Jennifer Cruise
  9. Do Not Disturb by Christie Ridgeway
  10. Born to Be Wild by Patti Berg

Photo Credits:  HikingArtist

Review: Everything I Know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell

Genre: Non-Fiction look at Romance Novels

Who is Sarah Wendell? She’s one of two romance bloggers behind Smart Bitches <3 Trashy Books. She knows her stuff. You should listen to her. She’s funny too!

Who Should Read This Book? Non-romance readers wanting to know what’s the big deal about this genre.

Who’s in the Book? Big name authors and you! Readers of Smart Bitches’ romance blog who answered questions while Sarah wrote the book. Sharon S. from LRP is in it too! See page 108.

A Chapter of Note: “We Know Good Sex” describes how romance novels and erotica romance has taught women to love themselves, their bodies, and sex. Several readers share how romances changed their opinions and views about sex and took charge in the bedroom and out because of them. One of their stories might resonate with you.

Review: This book is an important contribution to the genre, but I felt it wasn’t really aimed at me, a romance reader, but more to enlightening people about romances. That I believe is the main and foremost goal of the book and I did not take away from it as much as I did from Sarah’s first book which shared some fun things about the genre itself.

Additionally, the beginning of the book seemed overly defensive of our reading choice, but that could just be me. I got the feeling while reading (and this is my own words) that the standard phrase was “I know I won’t get a multi-gazillionaire, super hot, ex-pirate, tycoon who owns his own Greek island paradise with a hoard of servants, but I’ll get a guy who can be my own heavily flawed hero…” with an underlying “So back off!” and “See? I’m not a delusional female with a hoard of kittens in my cupboards.” Exactly the opposite vibe the book was trying to send. So while I liked parts, there were parts that I didn’t like so much too.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Buy: Everything I Know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels

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My Favorite Tropes: Secret Baby!

Guest post by Carla F.

Secret Baby! The phrase just screams for capitalization and an exclamation point. Of course, this plot is when a couple goes their separate ways without the hero knowing that the heroine is pregnant. (Sometimes the heroine doesn’t even know.) The couple could have been separated by war, controlling parents, a misunderstanding, etc.

It is my impression that there are many readers that dislike this trope. It can be problematic depending on how the author deals with it. Unfortunately, many times these stories involve one or both parties who are Too Stupid To Communicate. The “breakup” could have been avoided if he/she could have just explained their thoughts/feelings. Sometimes just saying, “I love you” (when in fact the person does love him/her) would have made a difference.

Then there are the Contemporary stories where the couple forgets the condom. Sure it happens in real life all the time, but I would like to see at least my romance characters show a little responsibility. Of course, wearing a condom doesn’t always work because they seem to break a lot (or so I have read). This especially seems to be a problem for the millionaire/playboy/tycoon types. In fact, I am beginning to think that these types have extra strong sperm that just busts right through the latex, and someone should develop a new line of condoms just for them.

So why do I like Secret Baby! plots? In most of these the reader knows about the child before the father does. It is fun watching the other shoe drop. (Bad historical example: Duke of Candlewyck: “My portrait gallery is so huge that I had forgotten all about this portrait of great-uncle Basil. I never realized that Sarah’s son looks just him…Bloody hell!”) Then it is interesting to see how the hero deals with this knowledge. How he does this can determine whether you love or hate him.

If the author can avoid the situations that I mentioned above (especially Too Stupid To Communicate), I am ready to go buy the baby shoes and the onesie.

Secret Baby Plot:

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Books that I enjoyed with the Secret Baby! plot include:

  • Everyday, Average Jones by Suzanne Brockmann (Contemporary) - Melody Evans is saved by Navy SEAL, Harlan “Cowboy” Jones, from terrorists. The attraction is immediately and intense, but Melody always wanted to marry someone who is average and not someone who takes risks. Melody and Cowboy return to their separate sides of the US. Yes, yes this is one where the condom breaks but Cowboy’s attempts to convince Melody that he is the man for her is so sweet and sexy that I can ignore that.
  • Texas Wedding for Their Baby’s Sake by Kathryn Albright (Western) - The hero Brandon goes off to fight in Texas after having to watch his brother kiss his secret fiancé, Caroline, in front of the whole town (-10 points for that reaction, Brandon). He is wounded physically and mentally in the war, and he knows that he can no longer marry Caroline. When she receives his letter telling her to find someone else, she heads west to find him.
  • Scandalizing the Ton by Diane Gaston (Regency) - Lady Lydia Wexin is rescued from a reporter that is harassing her by Adrian Pomroy, Viscount Cavanley. Lydia has been hurt and so Adrian carries her indoors, and thing progress from there. The next morning, Lydia insists that Adrian leave because she was already a target of so much gossip because of the death of her husband.
  • No Place to Run by Maya Banks (Contemporary) - When Sam Kelly was undercover, he had a brief affair with Sophie Lundgren. The mission falls through and Sophie vanishes. When Sam next sees her she is pregnant and tells him that his life is in danger.
  • Circumstantial Memories by Carol Ericson (Contemporary) - I had to have one with amnesia as part of the plot. Julia does know not where she was heading when she had her accident. She doesn’t remember anything about her life including who is the father of her baby. After returning from a multi-year assignment, secret agent man, Ryder McClintock, is stunned to see Julia living in his town. When he didn’t hear from her, he thought that she didn’t want to continue their relationship.
  • The Masquerade by Brenda Joyce (Regency) - It is actually the sister that bears the hero’s baby in this one. (Yes, hero.) Elizabeth “Lizzie” Fitzgerald was supposed to meet Tyrell de Warenne (who she has loved since she was a child) in the garden during the masquerade party. A mix-up causes Lizzie’s sister to be out in the garden at the appointed time. The sister and Lizzie go off to have the baby, and when he is born, Lizzie decides to claim him as her own. Things don’t go smoothly when Lizzie returns home with the child.

Ones that I didn’t enjoy so much include:

  • Seducing Simon by Maya Banks (Contemporary) - I really wanted to like this one, but couldn’t in the end. Simon catches the woman he is about to ask to marry him with another man. He comes home and starts drinking a lot. His roommate Toni, who has always loved him, seduces him. Trouble is that he doesn’t remember it the next day. When she becomes pregnant, she puts off telling him for a long time because she is afraid of his reaction. He goes all asshat when she finally tells him, because she didn’t tell him earlier.
  • The Frenchman’s Marriage Demand by Chantelle Shaw (Contemporary) - Millionaire Zac knows that the baby that his mistress Freya is carrying cannot be his so he throws her out. When Freya is in a traffic accident, her grandmother takes the daughter to Zac to watch over because she doesn’t want the responsibility. Zac is not happy about this at all. He insists upon a paternity test and demands that Freya and the child come with him to Monaco. He calls her names and orders her around, but thinks that she will just get back into bed with him because he is so irresistible. Unfortunately, she does.

What are you favorite Secret Baby! stories?

More Secret Baby polls!

My Favorite Tropes: Marriage of Convenience

Guest blog by Carla F.

Merriam-Webster defines a trope as “a common or overused theme or device”. However, it seems to me that it can only be “overused” if it brings nothing new to distinguish itself from all the others. The one thing more satisfying than reading a romance is reading one that has your favorite plot. It is like when you slip on that old, ratty, soft sweatshirt that is still in your closet after all these years and laze around at home all day.

Marriage of convenience (MOC) plots were my first love (and I have never forgotten them ). In a MOC the couple decides to marry for financial and/or matter-of-fact reasons. My love of this type of plot started in the days when in romance novels, the woman didn’t lose her virginity until her wedding night. The only way to read more sexually explicit love scenes was in a MOC. It might be days or sometimes even years, but you know the couple will have sex as surely as they will fall in love. “Harlequin Presents” had a lot of these back then. I remember books by Anne Mather and Charlotte Lamb in particular. The woman would have a brother/step-brother/father who was about to bring the family firm/family to financial ruin, and she would have to marry the millionaire/playboy/tycoon to save it/them. (Of course the added bonus with these types of marriages is that you got to live the life of the stinking rich, but of course the woman didn’t care about any of that.) Nowadays you don’t see that many MOC plots in “Harlequin Presents” because the woman has to become the rich man’s mistress in order to save the day! The times have changed.

There are many reasons for a MOC besides saving the family business, and these are reflected in some of my favorites:

  • The Admiral’s Penniless Bride by Carla Kelly – (Regency) - Sally Paul was set to be a companion to an old lady, but the lady dies right before Sally shows up. With no money left, her only choice seems to be the workhouse. Lucky for her she goes to spend her last money on a cup of tea and encounters Sir Charles Bright who can tell that Sally is in trouble. He offers to marry her because he feels sorry for her, and he needs to marry anyway.
  • The Stranger I Married by Sylvia Day (Regency) - In this one Gerard Faulkner, Marquess of Grayson, wants to embarrass his mother and have her stop hounding him to get married by asking the scandalous Lady Isabel Pelham, who is the lover of one of his friends, to be his wife. Pel has just turned down her lover’s marriage proposal because she doesn’t want to marry again with love involved. She does accept Grayson’s proposal of a MOC. The couple settles down in friendship, but continues their romances outside the marriage. Gerald leaves their home when a tragedy strikes. When he returns years later, he wants a real marriage with Pel.
  • A Daring Proposition by Jennifer Green (Contemporary) - Leigh Sexton desperately wants a baby, but not marriage. No way is Brian Hathaway going to just make a deposit at a sperm bank. He wants to be involved in his child’s life so he wants marriage.
  • Miss Winthorpe’s Elopement by Christine Merrill (Regency) - Her brother is a bully and wants to continue to control her money. Bluestocking Penny Winthorpe has had enough, so she climbs into a carriage to go get a man to marry her. She finds one when her carriage almost runs over the drunken Adam Felkirk, Duke of Bellston, who because of severe investment losses is trying to kill himself.
  • To Tempt a Saint by Kate Moore (Regency) - This is another one were the woman wants to gain control of her money. In this book, Cleo’s evil uncle leaves her and younger brother just barely scraping by on a farm. Alexander Jones who saved the prince’s life needs Cleo’s money so that he can invest in a gasworks that will light up the streets of the horrible London slum, St. Giles. (Well-lighted streets will help him find his missing brother.)

A MOC plot that didn’t work for me was Bought for Marriage by Margaret Mayo (Contemporary) this “Harlequin Presents” was like the ones that I used to read. Dutiful daughter is sent by ailing father to go to his enemy (say what?) to save the family business. Greek tycoon demands marriage.

Seems like I read that one before.

Do you like Marriage of Convenience romances?

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What are some of your favorite books with this type of plot?