1/12/2023 0 Comments
Grumpy heroes in romance
Step right up, step right up, get your grumpy male heroes here! We’ve got your circus grumps, your broody gay grumps, your shifter grumps, and your hermit grumps. Each and every one of your favorite antisocial grumps is here!
Charlotte Stein has a whole harem of grump-humps to select from, ranging from the cold, sharp Halstrom in The Professor to the disapproving Artie in Restraint. However, my preferred Stein grump is Cyrian in Sweet Agony. Sweet Agony is the most unusual of courtships because the hero is so messed up (and grumpy) he can’t bear to be looked at, let alone touched. This sees the hero and heroine initially progress their relationship through correspondence (despite the fact they share a house where she’s the live-in housekeeper) which progresses from the hero’s criticism of her sweeping technique to playful letters about hair thievery. And, in a reverse of the usual order of intimacy, the first encounter between hero and heroine is a rather kinky (yet at the same time distant) encounter, and from there they gradually work up to more ‘normal’ but risky (for the hero) things like kissing.
Call it ‘wool porn’, call it what you like, all I know is that the second I read the blurbs for Amy Lane’s knitting series, I was hooked. Ms Lane cleverly marries the worlds of yarn and M/M romance in a series which includes: A Knitter in his Natural Habitat, How to Raise an Honest Rabbit, Super Sock Man and The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-Bearing Critters. There was no way I could resist the allure of manly man-on-man action combined with knitting, and imagine my delight when I discovered the grump-o-sexual allure of alpha grump Rance in The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-Bearing Critters. Because who doesn’t love a broody, gay grump-hump who knits like a demon?
Rance Crawford is an alpaca rancher, fiber mill owner, and self-proclaimed grumpy bastard. When sweet tenderfoot Ben McCutcheon moves onto Crawford’s rural road, Rance is very aware that Ben makes it a grand total of two gay men in their tiny town, and even though he is instantly, painfully smitten, believes any move he makes could be simply chalked up to being hard up. Using his best weapon and favourite skill, Crawford launches an awkward, wordless effort to make sure Ben is kept warm during the cold Colorado winter—especially his heart.
There’s no ‘wham-bam-thank you-man’ sex between these men, instead Rance woos his object of desire by knitting woollen gifts made from yarn spun from his own alpacas. This book delivers a roundhouse punch right in the feels with its taciturn hero whose knitting action speaks louder than words.
Possibly my all-time favourite paranormal grump is the mighty bear-cat shifter and hockey player Bo Novikov from Beast Behaving Badly (book 5 in the pride series) by Shelly Laurenston. Adored and loathed by fans in equal amounts, Novikov is equally detested by both his opponents and his own teammates.
Bo Novikov had made a name for himself by being what Blayne could only describe as pure asshole on skates…From what Blayne had heard, he never had a friendly word for anyone, even the cubs and pups who worshipped at his feet.
Note that ‘asshole’ here is code for ‘a grumpiliciously alpha grump’. In one of the more memorable twists on the love-at-first-sight experience, the heroine describes the hero to her friend thus:
Gwen held out a bag of popcorn. “I don’t know why you find him so scary.”
Now Blayne gawked at her best friend. “Gee, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it looks like he wants to cut my throat and watch the life slowly drain from my body so he can fuck my corpse without all that screaming-and-putting-up-a-fight distraction!”
Blayne puts her finger right on the number one hazard of dating an alpha grump—how does one differentiate them from a serial killer?
Another beloved romance grump of mine is the hero in Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Kiss an Angel. When we meet Alexander Markov, it’s as the intimidating husband thrust upon heiress and socialite Daisy Devreaux by her scheming dad. Daisy’s first impression of Alexander is that he’s a ‘very scary studmuffin’ and she soon decides that his scowl matches his stunning lack of humour.
She dug her nails into her palms and told herself she had no choice. “I, Theodosia…” She gulped for air. “…take thee Alexander…” She gulped again. “…to be my awful wedded husband…”
It wasn’t until she heard her stepmother, Amelia, gasp that she realized what she’d said.
The studmuffin turned his head and looked down at her. He cocked one dark brow in a vaguely inquisitive fashion, as if he wasn’t certain he’d heard her correctly. My awful wedded husband. Her sense of humor kicked in, and she felt the corners of her mouth quiver.
His brows slammed together and those deep-set eyes regarded her without a speck of amusement. Obviously the studmuffin didn’t share her problem with inappropriate levity.
Alexander’s initial grumpitude only makes it all the more delicious when Daisy finally coaxes him out of his hard shell of grump—though I like to think his inner grump always remained intact.
Who are your favorite grumps in romance? Are they women or men? And does love make them get their grump on less often or are they loved for (rather than despite) their grump?
(Rhyll Biest is completely in touch with her own inner grump and lets it all hang out whenever she can.)
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