Sometimes characters standout on their own, separate from the story or romantic relationship. Other times a character doesn't fully shine until they are paired with their partner who brings out their best. And on rare occasions, a character becomes lost when they are paired up. Thus, you'll find, maybe I really liked a heroine/hero but not when they are part of a couple and maybe I really like a couple but not separately.
*The books eligible could be published in any year, they simply had to be read by me in 2018.
Clicking on book cover brings you to my review if I wrote one or Goodreads page if I didn't.
Favorite Heroine Nominees:
1. Sophia Stanton-Greville - The Hellion Bride by Catherine Coulter
He grinned at that. “Who was it who told me you were a regular hellion?”
“Some miserable man, I doubt not. Hellion —what nonsense! None of you can bear the thought of a woman making decisions for herself, being responsible for herself. You must always rule and order things to your own satisfaction, and you dare to call it protecting her.”
Really enjoyed how the heroine dropped some truth bombs and observations about sexism in her time. She called it out in the beginning of the story and tried to rail against the injustices.
2. Rowena - Forbidden by Helen Kirkman
There was more than one man round here who could do with having his head chopped off.
How could I not love a heroine who thinks this? :)
She had placed her body between him and his target. She had no weapons. None but those that women had. Words and looks. And the hidden thoughts of the mind.
Rowena was a great strong woman character, at a time and place where her gender left her pretty powerless, she uses all her skills and thinking to protect her and her child.
3. Jemdanee Kumar - Mr. Ridley by Delilah Marvelle
“It was not your analogy to use. It was my analogy. An analogy I used with respect. Do you have any idea how many white British men have referred to me and my people as being animals?”
His features flickered. “Kumar. Cease. That wasn’t what I was—”
“Be mindful of how you speak to me.”
His voice softened. “I will. I’m sorry.”
It was something. “Be mindful.”
Jemdanee is eighteen to the hero's thirty-two but she does a heck of a job of staying with him and challenging him. Along with her strength of character and heart, I really enjoyed her humor and lightness. I tend to lean towards dark and broody but Jemdanee reminded me that lightness can be a strength on its own too.
4. Elle Burns - An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
This was who she was when she was allowed to be free from fear.
A spy for the Union, Elle's strength, determination, and courage to take a chance on love was inspiring and emotional to read. Her anger and underlining pain give way to such a well of strength; she's the heroine you want to read about, hope you're a little bit like, and inspire to be.
5. Valerie Sanchez - Blindsided by Gwen Hernandez
I loved this heroine, she was smart, not only in her computer abilities but understanding how the hero was better equipped to handle certain situations and listened to him. However, there wasn't a lot of that happening as she was the one who dictated a lot of the efforts to help them out of their bind.
6. Sadia Ahmed - Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai
“It’s hard to make your peace with someone who isn’t around anymore. Or more accurately, to make your peace with never making your peace.” She smiled sadly. “But sometimes it’s the only thing you can do.”
I thought Sadia was a great complex, multi-faceted heroine. Her inner family stresses along with grief, motherhood, money, and sexual desires are laid out so bare and real. It feels weird to wax poetic about a "normal" woman character as if other heroines aren't "normal", because what is normal and all that but dang it, I feel like I don't read a lot of normal heroines. Sadia is all of it, a mother, stressed, a daughter, horny, a sister, a list maker, bisexual, a widower, hurt, and etc. Loved her character.
7. Evangeline Chandler - Hurts to Love You by Alisha Rai
The author did an amazing job showing the growth Eve goes through as the story progressed. Eve went from hiding her wants and desires to allowing herself to express them and making no apologies for them. Eve's personal growth kind of dominated the story for me as her character was so well thought out and written.
8. Lady Aslyn Hastings - Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath
“Associating with him, no matter how innocent, will lead you along the path to ruin.”
She bloody well didn’t care.
Aslyn started off very sheltered and buttoned up but with some inner thoughts that hint at a will striving to break free. I, personally, thought Aslyn stole the show a bit with her living in quiet desperation. Her journey and growth from accepting her gilded cage, to starting to question, finding herself, and finally expressing and owning what she wanted was so satisfying. Usually it is the hero who stands tall during the declarations of love but, here, oh the heroine brings it and I was cheering her on. Aslyn could have taken the easy road but she spoke her truth and I delighted in following along on her journey.
9. Lady Regina - Kiss Me at Christmas by Valerie Bowman
“All my life my family has told me what I should and shouldn’t do. What rules I must follow. And I’ve lived by them. Mostly. Where’s it got me? Lonely.
I really liked Regina as she was a wonderful combination of vulnerable and courageous. When she is talking with Daffin you could feel how much she liked him and how nervous that would make her but then she would charge on bravely, such a great character.
10. Jane Winston - My One and Only Duke by Grace Burrowes
Jane was a wonderful showcase of growing into her own, standing up to father, and being the more emotionally courageous one in putting herself out there to connect with Quinn.
She's a spy, doing what she can in a way she can, fighting for freedom, badass. I also used the word "crotchety" in my review about her and heroines don't get to be this enough, I really enjoyed that about her. Elle simply made the story for me, from the plot, setting, to romance, it was her courage and bravery that made this one of my favorite books of the year.
Favorite Hero Nominees:
1. DEA Special Agent Dawson King - True to You by Jennifer Ryan
An undercover hero that can't tell the heroine who he really is but finds himself falling for. He was strong, giving, and capable. However, even though he was sexy as all get out, he really makes this list because he could make one mean cherry tart.
2. Mick Trewlove - Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath
Never before had he ever been so weak-willed.
He was a man of strength, and yet he thought for her he'd go to his knees.
It's a little heartbreaking that Mick obviously just wants to feel acknowledged by his father, making him feel meaningful since he was given away as a baby. Mick was the hero where circumstances force him to have a tough outer shell but is angry and hurt over feeling abandoned. He was somewhat romance hero trope (a bit more sensitive) but how he fell for heroine made him very enjoyable to read.
3. Cadeon Woede - Dark Desires After Dusk by Kresley Cole
Cade had a certain sassy je ne sais quoi that I just couldn't help falling for and really liked.
4. Gabriel Brandon - Garland of Straw by Stella Riley
A Colonel in the Roundhead army, Gabriel ends up married to a Cavalier woman. His strong, steadfast, and generous attitude made him a hero for any time period.
5. Sam Fox - A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian
And while only a fool would believe that a kitchen table supper between a rich man, a black boxer, and a three-legged dog could be the beginning of something good, maybe Sam was more foolish than he thought.
Sam was such a strong character but in the most gentlest of ways. He had a similar shy, hidden aspect of his personality like Hartley, other hero, which due to their sexuality in their place and time is a necessity, but he also had rise to the front proclivity for, simply, caring. It was not an overdone martyr syndrome but no thought, generous, and loving way he made his choices. The way he acted, responded, and encouraged Hartley, was what made this story shine and fill my heart.
6. Leo Mardsen - Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas
He had choices, and each time he chose to accept the one invitation that placed him in the same country as her, so that help, should she need it, didn’t have to be summoned across oceans.
If you want a hero that pines, this is the story for you; I still get a little weepy remembering how Leo thought about the heroine.
7. Ryder McKay - Only in My Arms by Jo Goodman
"Because you have always been part of me," he said. "From the beginning. Not from the moment we met, but from the moment we were. There has been a place for you in my heart, under my skin."
This is the "alpha" male I loved reading about, smart, capable, and strong but still waters run deep with some vulnerability. That, along with the dry humor and snark, made him a must add to this list.
8. Kenny Kronek - Small Town Girl by LaVyrle Spencer
"How you doing, Kenny? I mean, with her gone?"
He waited a beat before answering, dropping his cheerful banter. "Worst day of my life."
I wished we would have gotten a little more Kenny but the way he loved his daughter and missed her when she left home, still makes my eyes water a bit. He also had a humorous and snarky side that was fun when paired up with the heroine.
9. Flynn - Brutal Game by Cara McKenna
This pick isn't a surprise if you've ever asked for a more steamy rec from me, I almost always scream calmly say Willing Victim by Cara McKenna. This sequel fell a little short for me but Flynn still captured my attention. The way he loves the emotionally guarded heroine is everything.
10. Cyrus Warner - Retreat by Jay Crownover
Hero was a cool, straight-shooter, sexily self-assured, and wary of love cowboy who wore motorcycle boots. He played off the heroine well, giving and taking when he needed to, I'm a big fan of when the hero gives the heroine what she needs.
A little surprised that my favorite hero comes from a book first published in 1993, lol. Gabriel is a man I'd take in 1600s and 2000s, though. Maybe the war and drama of it all swept me up but Gabriel was a man, he got things done and cared for the heroine, all while being sexy as sin.
What heroine and hero captured your heart this year?
Next time, Favorite Couple...