To me, heartbreaker heroes aren’t necessarily the ones who are “sexy and they know it”, but the ones who are and either don’t flaunt it or don’t even know it.
A few months back I was participating in an Alpha Hero Hop and had a picture of a man’s abs on the sideboard of my blog. A reader emailed me and asked whose abs those were because up until then, I hadn’t released a book with a guy being THAT muscular (huge difference between what was muscular back in the late 1700s, early 1800s and today). A few weeks later, I released a book titled His Yankee Bride which had a hero who did all sorts of physical labor and could very well have been as muscular as the man featured.
(And his future wife is looking rather swanky on the cover, wouldn’t you say?)
John, the hero from His Yankee Bride doesn’t give a second thought to his muscles; but our heroine Carolina sure does:
Carolina willed herself to stay calm as she walked over to where John was working on the roof of the carriage house. It wouldn’t do to let her excitement get the better of her and spill the water.
John’s tall, broad form came into view, and Carolina halted beneath a shade tree to watch him for a minute as he straightened and pulled his shirt over his head. The sun glistened off the sweat that covered his muscled abdomen and chest. She swallowed. Hard. He was very well formed with hard planes and thick muscles; he looked like he’d been chiseled from marble. He balled up his shirt and ran it across his face and shoulders.
He could certainly use some water, she thought, resuming her steps. “John,” she called.
John’s body jerked in surprise at her shout, and he lost his footing. With what Carolina thought might be an Englishman’s curse—something about Zeus—or was it deuce?—John slid down the steep incline of the roof and over the edge. He was spared an untimely, and quite possibly painful, meeting with the rock-covered ground when his hands found purchase with the edge of the roof just as he went over.
“Did you require something, Carolina?” he asked as cool as can be while dangling from the edge of the roof.
“T-to give you water,” she stammered; still in shock.
Later in the book, she admires his muscular form a bit more but I couldn’t find another appropriate passage that was longer than a sentence…
But it’s not just about a great body that makes a hero a heart throb, in my opinion. That only goes so far. But rather his actions. I’m not a fan of the brute who tells the heroine just how it’s going to be. I prefer to see a softer side. One that’s there when she needs him–even if he does fight his attraction for her every step of the way:
“I’ll go after Carolina,” John said automatically, as his friend stumbled up the stairs. “Wait, Carolina,” he called as he chased after her.
She didn’t slow.
He sped up his pace. She didn’t have that much of a lead on him, besides she was wearing slippers and a skirt!
He continued to run after her and grimaced every time she stumbled or tripped. But she kept running and he stayed right behind her. “Carolina, stop.”
She was within arm’s reach now, and he reached for her, grabbing a fistful of fabric and bringing her to the ground with a strangled whimper. “Let me go. I must find Gabriel,” she cried, trying to break free of his hold.
“He already knows.”
“Are you sure?” she choked between sobs as she took to her feet and wiped her eyes.
John nodded. His mother had been prone to vapors—leaving him with just enough knowledge to comprehend that when these moods hit, it was best to stand there quietly and not say anything, lest you upset them further.
“Stop staring at me!”
Or perhaps he was wrong. “I’m not staring,” he said slowly.
She sniffled and used the heel of her hand to dry under her red-rimmed eyes. “Yes, you are. Now go away.”
“To tell me Gabriel knows…”
“No,” he said gently, stepping closer to her. “I came because I thought you might like some company.”
“For once, John, I don’t want your company.”
He was taken aback. The past few weeks, he’d tried everything he could to avoid her company, and now she was telling him she didn’t want his? “Then what do you want?”
“To go far, far away,” she said with a sob.
He started. Her broken tone would suggest she wasn’t jesting. “Carolina, what’s happened?”
Sobs wracked her body again, and she crumpled to the ground before him.
He sank down next to her. “Shh,” he crooned in her ear, taking a seat on the grass as close to her as he could. “It’ll all work out.”
“No, it won’t,” she said between sobs.
On impulse, John wrapped his arms around her and pulled her onto his lap, then bent his head and pressed his cheek atop the crown of her head. Her soft, curly brown hair felt good against his skin. He closed his eyes. He was here because she could use a friend, nothing more, he reminded himself as he began to rock her from side to side.
Carolina leaned closer to him, pressing her face against his chest. “I hate her,” she whispered.
And then of course is the moment when he gives in:
Just then, something else hit her window; then again; and again; almost like it was raining small stones. Somebody clearly wanted her attention; but who, and why? Had one of the hands been injured today and in need of her salve? Her blood turned to ice at the thought, and she shoved the window up as fast as she could. “Who’s there?”
“Shh,” was the only response.
Carolina scanned the moonlit ground outside her window. “Who’s there?” she asked again, whispering this time.
Carolina’s breath caught. “John?”
“The very one,” John said, stepping out into the moonlight from a little grove of bushes.
“What are you doing?”
“I came to talk to you.”
A series of soft thuds sounded, presumably created by the rocks he’d been holding hitting the ground. “And possibly something else.”
Carolina’s chest tightened painfully. “Does this something involve a bed?”
“Gads, Carolina,” he burst out in a harsh whisper. “Must you always be so forward?”
Stung by his harsh words which only compounded the hurt she’d already felt from his not-so-subtle insinuation, Carolina gripped the edge of the window pane and brought it down decisively.
Immediately, rocks or acorns, or whatever it was he was throwing, started pelting her window again. Thank goodness her room was the only one on this side of the house and her mother was a sound sleeper, or they might have a visitor.
A slow smile spread across her lips. He was mighty determined to talk to her. Slowly, she eased the window back open.
“Did that make you feel better?” John asked from below.
“Perhaps a little.”
John shook his head and took a step closer to the window. “All right, just jump whenever you’re ready.”
“Yes, jump,” he confirmed. “I originally thought I’d scale the wall and convince you to leave with me in a dignified manner, but then I realized you’d probably find jumping all the more romantic.”
“And why would I be jumping?” She cringed at her tone. It was that same sarcastic, condescending tone Mother used when speaking to anyone she felt inferior.
“So you can ride off with your prince—or should I say, me—into the moonlight.”
John ran his hand through his hair. “You were right, Carolina. Must I say more?”
“Yes. I think you must.”
“Of course you’d think so,” he muttered. He blew out a deep breath. “Carolina, I want to marry you.”
John has several other scenes that chalk him up to one of my favorite heartbreaker heroes, but I can’t give away the entire book or it wouldn’t be so fun to read on your Kindle, Nook or other eReader.
So…what qualifies a hero as a heartbreaker in YOUR opinion.
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