- Diana Palmer originally wrote the “romances” of Simon and Callaghan in two separate books (Beloved and Callaghan’s Bride respectively) released in 1999. But I didn’t read them until the books were packaged as a two-in-one in 2005 as The Hart Brothers: Simon and Callaghan – although the “why” of this decision is beyond me. Originally I’d thought only to include Simon and Callaghan here, but then I remembered Tira, the heroine from Beloved, and she is nearly as obnoxious as Simon. For most of the story, Tira screeches at Simon. At the same time, Simon is not only convinced that she’s a slut, but that she’s the slut responsible for his best friend’s death. And, of course, he can’t control his raging lust for this horrendous woman. Beyond these obvious negative points are more subtle, nuanced issues: Tira is 30-ish, and remains wholly unaware of her body parts. During one scene in which Simon cannot control his raging lust, they go to second and third base (the bases as I understood them as a teen, which may be different than how they are defined today). She is shocked, I tell you, shocked by the experience. The idiotic Simon can’t figure out that she’s never been touched. I can’t decide which of them is more stupid: that a grown woman is ignorant of her body or that a man can’t figure out she is.The hero in Callaghan’s Bride isn’t quite on a par with Simon, but he’s thisclose. He hates birthdays because of a his evil mother, and when Tess, the heroine, bakes him a birthday cake, he has a tantrum and throws it. As for Tess, she’s one of those naive and pitiful heroines we are meant to feel sorry for; what I really wanted to do was slap her upside the head for being attracted to such an ass. She’s young, so her lack of knowledge about her own body was a little less annoying, but their “love scenes”, which are really semi-intimate, are hilarious, such as when Callaghan tells Tess that it’s okay for her to touch his shirtless chest because “even teenagers do this”. But like his brother, Callaghan is angry about the lustful feelings Tess inspires in him, and treats her like dirt throughout, which while lowering even further my assessment of him, certainly did nothing to raise my esteem for her being a doormat.
- Meagan McKinney’s Plain Jane and the Hotshot, which I read the same year it was published – 2003 – was the first book to earn an “F” from me in more than a year. Jo Lofton is a music teacher with an inferiority complex who goes on a wilderness trip to mend a broken heart. That’s where she meets Nick Kramer, a handsome fire jumper who’s also been burned. Although one reason I wanted to slap Jo upside the head is that she feels the need to justify to him why she’s on the pill in 2003, she’s so stuck in “he hurt me bad” land that she can’t see Nick is a good guy…over and over again. She read more like a petulant teen than a 25-year-old woman.
- While Joan Johnston’s Captive captivated me, The Cowboy did not. Like Simon and Tira and Callaghan and Tess, both the hero and heroine from The Cowboy inspire violence in me. In this story of two young lovers broken up by a long-standing family feud, death, financial difficulties, and a secret baby force their interaction years later. I can’t really say it better than Liz Zink did in her review of this 2000 release:
“Neither Trace or Callie could be considered likable characters. At first Trace offers to help pay Callie’s bills if she’ll have sex with him until he tires of her. Then he becomes the too-good-to-be-true hero, rescuing Callie and her family at every turn. As for Callie, she spends most of her time whining and obsessing over the fact that her family can’t make it without her, that she must single-handedly save the ranch. Gone With the Wind this is not. Even after Trace eventually fixes the situation for her and threatens to take his son to another country, she continues to bemoan the fact that only she can save the ranch, she can’t leave, her family can’t make it, ad nauseum. At odds with her own martyrdom, during the middle of a serious crisis, she and Trace have their first love scene in the front seat of his car. What?”
- Dream Lover was Virginia Henley’s first hardcover release…if it’s in a similar vein to her earlier books, I can only wonder how she achieved this feat when many other authors, whose books I think are far better, did not. Although the story’s heroine, Emerald Montague, certainly annoyed me – brushing one’s pubic hair has never seemed like foreplay to me – it’s the hero, Sean O’Toole, who deserves a kick in the b_lls. This fine, upstanding Irishman decides that the perfect revenge against her father, aka the man who done him wrong, is to kidnap her, sully her, then discard her back to her family. Now, it’s one thing to plan such outrageous revenge, but it’s another to actually go through with it, which he does, even though he loves her, and if I remember correctly, she’s pregnant with his baby!
- When I first attempted Elizabeth Lowell’s Only series, I couldn’t get past Caleb Black, the hero from Only His. I tried again in 2004, and of the six books in the series (the last two are off-shoots), I graded three straight B’s (Only His, Only You, Only Love) and two B+’s (Only Mine, Winter Fire). Not so with Autumn Lover, which earned a C- from me. That’s a generous grade considering the hero’s behavior toward the heroine, but it’s nonetheless one I eventually came to, particularly after reading Winter Fire, where Hunter Maxwell’s redemption after treating Elyssa Sutton so badly is complete.We’ve all read Hunter Maxwell in other romances; he’s the hero who believes all attractive women are evil sluts because his first wife (or girlfriend) cuckolded him. So he treats Elyssa like dirt after she hires him to work on her ranch. So why isn’t this heroine one who deserves a good slap upside the head? Unlike Palmer’s heroines above, there’s a haunting dignity about her that even Hunter can see, and it saved her from being a total doormat to me. As for Hunter, while he spends the last third of the book in trying to make up to Elyssa his bad behavior, nothing can mitigate his “dog in the manger” attitude and horrible behavior throughout the first two-thirds. That said, this hero is the only character on my list whose book wasn’t a wall-banger.
- There’s one last hero I’d like to mention, but only briefly this time because I’ve talked about him ad nauseum before: Graelam de Moreton, whom the reader first meets in Catherine Coulter’s Chandra, and then again in Fire Song. In Chandra he rapes the heroine’s maid in order to gain Chandra’s compliance, yet the author was so intrigued by him (this from an interview we did), that she decided to give him his own romance later in the series. I wasn’t, and it was after the experience of reading these two books that I bade a less than fond farewell to the author’s Medievals. In my mind Graelam de Moreton did not deserve his own story; after his behavior in Chandra, he deserved not just a knee in the nuts, but total castration.
In Slow Dancing with a Texan by Linda Conrad, Lainie doesn’t “need” protection from Texas Ranger Sloan, not because she can handle it herself but because she keeps on saying that she is not in danger – while ducking for the next bullet.
In Susan Meier’s Baby on Board, Max has to leave his hometown because he has an illegitimate child, which ruins his name and happiness and that of the child and its mother, his family and friends, and after twelve years it also threatens his chance of happiness with another woman. All while he is not really the father of the child but protecting the mother of the child who was raped…???
Bryn in The Sheiks’s Wife by Jane Porter has to leave her husband because his brother makes advances to her and plots against them… she doesn’t even try to tell her husband her side of the story… after three years he wants revenge because he finds out they have a son… when he finally finds out about his brother he’s still of the opinion she has been unfaithful but “allows” her back as his wife, which she accepts…
To me this one tops the bill: To Catch a Countess by Patricia Grasso. Victoria has dyslexia and is therefore regarded as being stupid. She is humiliated all the time and sometimes even made to humiliate herself. Her husband to be, Alexander, in general also finds her stupid and happily humiliates her as well, and she still thinks the world of him.
Sometimes I wonder why a book gets published…
TSTL heroines are guaranteed to make me stop reading the book, toss it in the re-cycle pile, and do my best to wipe the entire book from my memory.
The jerkiest hero that comes to mind is from a book that many people consider a classic DIK: Rome from Linda Howard’s Sarah’s Child. I love a lot of LH’s books, and am willing to overlook some astounding alpha-male, testosterone-laden chest thumping, but Rome made me want to scream. He was just so terribly, terribly scarred by life and loss that being cruel and dismissive of Sarah and her pregnancy was justified. Poor guy. That was one book where I was rooting for the heroine to grow a backbone and leave him, and raise the baby the “hero” didn’t deserve by herself. Just thinking about the book makes my blood pressure rise. Excuse me, I need to go calm down.
Bettie: Another vote for Rome Matthews! He expected Sarah to forfeit all her dreams in order to marry him, and until she became pregnant, she did. What a self-centered jerk he was!
graceC: Ditto. I know exactly how you feel. To this day, I still can’t look at the book without feeling a bit miffed. A close runner up goes to the hero in another of Linda Howard’s novel An Independent Wife, but the reason it’s a close second is because the heroine let the hero bully her into submission. If there was a most misleading title prize in book history, that’d be it.
Ami: You’re right about Rome. Linda Howard has written some of my favorite heroes but Rome absolutely infuriated me. He was self-pitying, self-obsessed and a complete emotional coward. Sarah was expected to live by his rules, he would ‘forgive’ her pregnancy if no mention was made of it. If she didn’t pretend the pregnancy (and later the baby) didn’t exist he threw tantrums. Some jerks can be redeemed but it just didn’t happen, even at the close of the book I wished someone would do him bodily harm. Wow – I’d forgotten how mad this book made me…
Oh, and I would probably throw Sarah in as a stupid heroine for being such a doormat.
Cammie: Yeah – and what was it that made him [Rome] so tortured? Oh, yeah, it was only that his two children and wife had been killed. What a whiner. He should’ve just gotten over it.
Seriously, Rome is one of the few jerk romance heroes who I think actually has cause to be tortured. Not saying that I would have put up with his treatment, but I wouldn’t throw a sarcastic “poor guy” his way for his troubles.
As always, tastes are individual; for “K”, Lena from The Shadow and the Star was annoyingly TSTL, but author Lisa Kleypas wrote a DIK review of the book for us years ago. Three of Linda Howard’s heroes were listed, and though Rome Matthews wasn’t defended this time around, he remains loved by as many readers who would like to knee him in the nuts. One of Catherine Coulter’s Regency-set historical heroes was mentioned, but while two of her medieval “heroes” were also listed, one was defended. Elizabeth Lowell’s Only series features heroes some readers adore, but others despise. Laurie couldn’t abide Hunter Maxwell but had far less of a problem with Reno Moran, whom Suzanne hated. Certain other authors and/or characters also made multiple appearances. Diana Palmer was mentioned by four of AAR’s current staff, and while Karen Robards has had her share of hits, some of her characters are apparently not so lovable. Other authors and/or characters to “earn” more than one mention here include Patricia Grasso and Judith McNaught. Personally, though it earned DIK status here at AAR, I’d like to see violence done to both leads from McNaught’s Once and Always – hero Jason Fielding for his abominable behavior toward heroine Victoria Seaton (he flies into a rage over her supposed infidelity and rapes her on their wedding night), and hers for letting him off scot-free. And while McNaught may have re-written Whitney, My Love, many of our readers have long memories; the original version’s vivid scenes refuse to fade away.
So, who, and for what reason, lands on your list of heroines you’d like to slap upside the head and heroes you’d like to kick in the b_lls?
(with Laurie Likes Books)
(AAR uses BYRON for its romance reference needs)
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