Hello from way down in New Zealand. Thanks so much to the Dames for having me over today.

My latest Regency romance is being released on 1 May 2012.  INVITATION TO SCANDAL, book two in my ‘Invitation to’ series. I’m having an Invitation to Romance Blog Tour to celebrate.  Collect all the clues on the tour and be in to win a $200 Gift Card from Amazon or B&N (your choice) PLUS a book basket containing 30 SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR books.

Today I’m talking about heroes. Have you noticed that in romance novels the hero’s traits usually don’t differ across the genres?  There is a certain type of man we all fall in love with. Sure, we usually write them as tall, gorgeous and charismatic, but we like them to have substance when they open their mouths.

We love our heroes to be compassionate, intelligent, humorous, selflessness, tough but tender, determined, and fearless when it comes to protecting the woman he loves.

If we delve deeper across genres, those qualities morph into other differences. Some books call for the hero to be extremely wealthy and domineering, or they have special powers like shape-shifting, or they are over the top, dominant alpha males like Vampires. We meet the beta male who quietly gets on and saves the heroine without too much fuss or, as in Regency romances; we meet the extremely arrogant peers of the realm.

In the Regency period, the period I write in, heroes tend to be very alpha. Not always, but it’s hard to have a believable peer of the realm who is not alpha. The world lay at their feet. It was impossible not to get a god like complex, or at the very least become extremely confident, bordering on arrogant. Kind of like today’s movie or singing super-stars.

The Regency heroes are usually devilishly handsome rakes, who start their journey to the HEA by seeing women as ‘disposal pleasures rather than meaningful pursuits’ as said by the heroine, Vesper Lynd, in James Bond’s, Casino Royale.

Since hero traits in romance are very similar, how do we make our readers fall in love with our hero in particular?

The crux is to have a believable and sustainable emotional conflict. If you nail this, you can help your reader fall in love with your hero (and heroine).

For example, in INVITATION TO SCANDAL, Rufus Knight, Viscount Strathmore, is trying to clear his late father of treason. He’s all about honor and atoning for his father’s perceived sin in order for his mother and sister to be accepted within Society.  He follows the letter of the law, and sees the world only in black and white. He will settle down with a pious wife and live an exemplary, if somewhat boring, life.

Rufus’s journey is all about understanding the true meaning of honor.  Rufus has tried all his life ‘to do the right thing’. What happens when ‘doing the right thing’ may not be honorable? Is right always right? Is the world more complex than he thought, and perhaps filled with many shades of grey?

It is of course the heroine, Miss Rheda Kerrick, who complicates matters for him.  She’s a woman who through her own terrible experiences knows the world is not black and white. She lives her life on the very edge of black, in deep grey territory, determined to be her own woman. She’s learned that sometimes you have to break the rules in order to do good.

When Rufus finally has the means to clear his father’s name, all he has to do is hand to the magistrate the woman he loves.  That’s when he faces his biggest dilemma—what comes first—love or honor?

It’s the combination of the internal conflict or fears, and the relationship between the hero and heroine, which drives their growth and their journey towards their happy ever after. [CLUE THREE: DARK]

There are many types of heroes. It’s the journey the hero takes, because of, and with the heroine, that makes us completely love him.  As we all know, behind every great man is a wonderful woman!

Here’s the blurb for INVITATION TO SCANDAL – book two in my Invitation to series.

Her secrets are coming undone…

Plagued by scandalous rumors, Rheda Kerrich will stop at nothing to restore her reputation and make an honest living for herself-and she’s determined to do it without a husband. But times are hard, and smuggling is a risky though profitable trade. So when a dashing agent for the English government catches her in the act, she desperately resists his charms and conceals her illicit profession. Until she realizes he may be the key to her ultimate freedom-and unbridled passion.

Rufus Knight, Viscount Strathmore, has never had trouble beguiling the ladies of Kent. When his search for “Dark Shadow,” a cunningly elusive smuggler, leads him to alluring and headstrong Rhe, her objections to his amorous advances merely incite a tantalizing game of cat and mouse. Soon, they’ll find the very secrets driving them apart could ensnare them in a love they can’t escape…


Read an excerpt

Rufus couldn’t help one further attempt at getting what he wanted—knowledge about the cask of brandy. He reached for her and pulled her back into his embrace. “Name your price. I am an extremely wealthy man, and I shall be very generous.” He paused and gently kissed her lips. “Especially if you tell me about the barrel.”

Rheda was beginning to hate the barrel.

She couldn’t look away; there was something warm and tender in Rufus’s eyes that seemed to be lulling her toward her own demise.

“How does five guineas sound?” He paused and ran his finger gently down her cheek, tracing the outline of her lips until they parted on a soft sigh. “I’ll double it if you tell me where you found the barrel.”

Her heart beat a wild pulse in her throat. A man just bartered for her as if she were a whore. She shouldn’t be surprised. Her actions were deplorable. She’d let him touch her, kiss her… To her great shame, she longed to do more. With him. With this beautiful, dangerous, rake.

Remember your mother.

Rheda twisted within his firm grip. “I am not for sale at any price, my lord.” With her pride hurt she uttered, “Let me go.”

His arms tightened. “Is the sum not enough? One hundred guineas?” She was shocked at the small fortune he’d offered, yet the purring quality of his husky voice quieted her alarm.

Vaguely Rheda realized she was letting him caress her again, stroking with hushed delicacy the column of her throat, her bare shoulder, her tingling breasts . . .

Slowly he bent his head, his lips following the path his fingers had taken, his soft caress sending desire shooting through her body. A tremor shook her as he tugged her bodice lower, deliberately exposing her breasts to his heated gaze and wicked tongue.

“Two hundred,” he said, his voice husky with want, before his tongue played in a leisurely erotic dance on her skin.

Rheda came to her senses just in time. Just before his mouth latched on to her nipple. Just before she forgot everything except what this man could make her feel.

She struggled in his arms, trying desperately to pull out of his tight embrace.

“Don’t be afraid, angel . . .”

She felt the soft brush of his breath on her ripe swells. If he suckled her she’d be lost, so she suddenly found her strength. Spying a heavy stick, she grabbed it and swung it at his head. It connected with a sickening thud, and he let her go. She fell backward on the grass as he struggled to his feet with a roar of injured pride.

“What the hell was that for?”

What is your favorite trait in a hero and why? What romantic hero best demonstrates that trait?

One, commenter will win a copy of INVITATION TO SCANDAL.  Open internationally.