Kate Quinn’s Top Ten Heroes

the lion and the roseGuest Blog by Kate Quinn, author of The Lion and the Rose (A Novel of the Borgias)

Any book-loving gal has a list of fictional boyfriends—they get us through lonely Valentine’s Days, bad break-ups, and countless daydreams. And if you’re a historical fiction buff like me (I was reading it long before I was writing it) then chances are your book dates aren’t vampires, werewolves, or black-ops soldiers, but knights in shining armor, Highlanders in kilts, or gladiators in spiked leather. Here’s my list of top ten fictional heroes . . .

1. John of Gaunt, from Anya Seton’s “Katherine.” I read the story of King Edward III’s princely son and his scandalous Cinderella romance with a low-born girl when I was about fourteen, and heroic Prince John (quite literally carrying his lady away from an abusive marriage on a white horse!) ruined me for teenage boys.

2. Mr. Rochester, from Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre.” Sorry, Mr. Rochester has my heart even over Mr. Darcy: the original brooding alpha male after which all other alpha males must brood inadequately. His verbal duels with Jane prove once and for all that intelligent conversation is the best aphrodisiac.

3. Jamie Fraser, from Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series. Fiction’s most famous Highlander hero captured my heart when I was in high school, completely ignoring most of my class trip to France because I was too busy tearing through “Outlander” to spare a glance for the Eiffel Tower. Who doesn’t love humorous, fierce-hearted, red-haired Jamie? And kudos to Diana for bucking the trend by making the hero both younger and more virginal than the heroine for once!

4. Rhett Butler, from Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind.” Rhett’s river-boat charm, dashing courage, and devotion to his lady won me over along with every other woman in America. And how cute is it that this ultra-macho man’s man was self-confident enough to collect European fashion tips for the couture-starved Confederate ladies?

5. Uhtred of Bebbanburg, from Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories. This blond Viking-reared Saxon strides through six books as Alfred the Great’s most feared champion: a cranky warrior with snappy one-liners and a great big sword. Cornwell coined the phrase “lord of war” and this man defines it to the life.

6. Horatio Hornblower from C.S. Forester’s Hornblower series. Moody melancholy men might be frustrating to date in real life, but between the pages, Horatio Hornblower is totally worth it: a brilliant naval commander who thinks nothing of taking on four French warships single-handedly, but worries compulsively (and adorably) about his uncontrollable hair and his cheap shoe-buckles when going to dinner at his lady love’s.

7. Xavier March, from Robert Harris’s “Fatherland.” A German detective in an alternate-history world where Hitler won World War II. Secretly anti-Nazi despite his mandated political party, the brilliant and taciturn March is a police investigator on the trail of the Final Solution—and also a total hunk.

8. Sam Damon, from Anton Myrer’s “Once an Eagle.” An idealistic farm-boy who joins the army in World War I, wins the Medal of Honor, fights through WWII as a general, and ends his career as a military observer in Vietnam. Sam Damon is as cute as movie-star Matt; saintly-good but somehow not a bloodless prig or a cardboard white-hat.

9. Emperor Claudius, from Robert Graves’s “I, Claudius.” Just to prove that not all heroic men are men of action. Claudius won my heart even before I saw the TV series: a man who overcame a stammer, a limp, and a scornful family to become a fiercely intelligent scholar and one of Rome’s shrewdest Emperors.

10. Leonello, from Kate Quinn’s “The Lion and the Rose.” Hell yes, I’m including one of my own characters! Leonello is my latest fictional hero, a snarky bad-ass with a gift for knife-throwing who acts as bodyguard to the Pope’s golden-haired mistress (and yes, Popes really did have mistresses back then). The thing that amakes Leonello different from most romantic heroes? He’s a dwarf, and he lives in a world that ridicules him as a freak. But this little man has a lion’s heart in a small body: the sarcasm of Mr. Rochester, the intelligence of Emperor Claudius, and the passion of Jamie Fraser all locked in one small package—and there will be one lucky girl in “The Lion and the Rose” who is smart enough to look past his height and see him for the hero he is.

BLURB: The Lion and the Rose

From the national bestselling author of The Serpent and the Pearl comes the continuing saga of the ruthless family that holds all of Rome in its grasp, and the three outsiders thrust into their twisted web of blood and deceit . . .

As the cherished concubine of the Borgia Pope Alexander VI, Giulia Farnese has Rome at her feet. But after narrowly escaping a sinister captor, she realizes that the danger she faces is far from over—and now, it threatens from within. The Holy City of Rome is still under Alexander’s thrall, but enemies of the Borgias are starting to circle. In need of trusted allies, Giulia turns to her sharp-tongued bodyguard, Leonello, and her fiery cook and confidante, Carmelina.

Caught in the deadly world of the Renaissance’s most notorious family, Giulia, Leonello, and Carmelina must decide if they will flee the dangerous dream of power. But as the shadows of murder and corruption rise through the Vatican, they must learn who to trust when every face wears a mask . . .

Buy: The Lion and the Rose (A Novel of the Borgias)


Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written three novels set in ancient Rome: “Mistress of Rome,” “Daughters of Rome,” and “Empress of the Seven Hills,” all of which have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate made the jump from ancient Rome to Renaissance Italy for her fourth and fifth novels, “The Serpent and the Pearl” and “The Lion and the Rose,” detailing the early years of the Borgia clan. She also has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with a small black dog named Caesar, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

Buy: The Lion and the Rose (A Novel of the Borgias)

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