I read romance. Yes, I do. I especially love historical romances. The ones with plucky historically-anachronistic plucky females and the heroes befuddled by them.
I don’t review them. It’s impossible for me to really be subjective about romances. I either like them or I don’t. It’s often not a matter of writing mechanics or character development or plot arc.
It almost always is whether that particular set of characters makes my heart ache. How does one review that? I have no idea. It’s entirely subjective.
But once in a while a historical romance comes along that completely blows me out of the water. The first of those (since I was a wee lass secretly reading historical novels to learn about love from the naughty bits) was Joanna Bourne’s The Spymaster’s Lady. The novel opens with the hero and heroine imprisoned together and attempting to escape. A startling, and cunningly-laid revelation about the heroine threw me for a loop and had me rereading the first chapter just to catch the expert way the author laid the foundation for aforesaid surprise.
More recently I’ve had two historical romances featuring “broken heroes” lurking in the shallows of my subconscious.
I’ve been trying to figure out whey these two books so appealed to me. In both cases, the alpha male has a major obstacle to overcome, can barely communicate, and have a kind of caretakerish female as their love interest (which totally doesn’t appeal to me usually. No nurse dramas for me, thank you).
The first one was Jennifer Ashley’s The Madness of Lord Ian McKenzie . The hero, Ian, has what we would today call Autism spectrum. He’s high functioning, but in those times was locked up in an asylum for a large portion of his life.
The second one I just finished tonight, although it was written back in the early 1990s (old skool). Laura Kinsale’s Flowers From the Storm features a hero who suffers a stroke quite soon after first meeting the heroine and then spends the entire book recovering his ability to speak and fasten buttons. The other cool part of this book is that the heroine is Quaker. I suppose you’d either love or be driven insane by her style of speech (thou-thee)
At least part of my fascination stems with an alternate, more fragmented POV. Both heroes look at their love interests literally with different eyes than your normal rakes.
Not your typical alpha dudes. I suppose its their quintessential mix of strength and vulnerability that appeals. Or possibly its watching love unfold despite their brokeness. I’m not sure.
It’s possible they linger in my brain because of professional jealousy. I would love to write, but have no idea how, a character like those broken heroes with such an alternate POV. In some ways, Ashikaga from Tiger Lily is my attempt at that.