In my First Look on Susan Carroll's The Lady of Secrets , I talked about the fact that, in the beginning of the book, it was not possible to tell which of the two men introduced in the first chapter was the hero, although it was obvious that one of them was. [SPOILER ALERT!]
It is not unusual to find two men vying for the heroine's attention but it is less likely that you won't be able to pick out the hero pretty early on. In The Lady of Secrets I really thought that Sir Patrick Graham with the sad eyes would end up with Meg, our Lady of Secrets. It turns out I was wrong. Meg's preference for the less-refined Armagil Blackwood, foster son of an executioner, becomes apparent after several chapters. And, truth be told, I had the same preference. Sir Patrick turned out to be a more problematic character. You'll have to read the book to get the whole story.
There is closure at the end and both Sir Patrick and Armagil find a measure of peace. And Meg? Here is what Armagil Blackwood has to say as they sail away from England.
“I do love you, Margaret. I thought I should tell you that in case you are still having trouble reading my eyes.”
She placed her hand along his cheek, smiling mistily up at him. “I fear you will always be a difficult man to read. So I am very pleased to hear you say you love me. You should mention it more often.”
“Every day, milady. You may depend upon it.”
Lisa Kleypas's Sugar Daddy includes two viable heroes. Liberty Jones had been in love with Hardy Cates from a young age. And we knew that Hardy was in love with her as well. In fact, he apparently loves her too much to tie her to a ruffian with an uncertain future and he rejects her as he leaves town to pursue his future.
Sugar Daddy is a complex story, involving a back story about Liberty's mother and oil millionaire Churchill Travis, who befriends Liberty and later employs her, where she meets his oldest son, Gage. Gage begins his relationship with Liberty thinking that she's his father's mistress. Things, as you might imagine, do not go well. But they eventually come to respect and—yes—possibly love each other. Then Hardy reappears. Hardy has built his own company and is on his way to becoming a wealthy man in his own right and he's finally ready for Liberty.
It's hard to tell who to root for in this complicated triangle. Both of our heroes are definitely fanciable. Lisa Kleypas gives us her usual satisfying ending but we have to wait until the very end of the book for it.
“I have to say goodbye now, Hardy.”
He stared at me with bitter understanding. We both knew there was no room in this for friendship. Nothing left but childhood history.
“Hell.” Hardy caught my face in his hands, kissing my forehead, my closed eyelids, stopping just short of my mouth. And then I was wrapped in one of those hard, secure huts I remembered so well. Still holding me, Hardy whispered in my ear. “Be happy, honey. No one deserves it more. But don't forget… I'm keeping one little piece of your heart for myself. And if you ever want it back… you know where to find it.”
And this delicious odd man out gets his own HEA in the next book.
Now, let's get to Libby's London Merchant, a traditional regency by Carla Kelly. When I first read this book, I was convinced until almost the very end that the hero was the man who actually didn't get the girl.
Benedict Nesbitt, Duke of Knaresborough disguises himself as Mr. Nesbitt Duke, candy merchant, and goes into the country to check out the woman one of his friends is going to marry. An accident lands him in the home of his friend's intended, but the intended is not there. Instead “Mr. Duke” meets Libby Ames and things proceed from there. Throughout the story, we get to know Nez and we get to know Dr. Cook, both of whom are very interested in Libby. As Nez is the smooth aristocrat and Anthony Cook is a charmingly bumbling doctor, it seemed apparent to me that Libby would find true love with the duke, It is, after all, a Regency Romance. Even after he initially offered her carte blanche rather than marriage, I felt certain that he would come about and true love would out.
Apparently true love did out, but not as I expected.
She got up and dusted the bits of sand off her dress. She held out her hand to the doctor and pulled him to his feet. When he was standing up, she threw her arms around him and began to giggle. In another moment he was laughing, too, and it was the most wonderful sound she had ever heard.
She raised her face to his. “Kiss me, Dr. Cook,” she demanded.
In Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, it seems pretty obvious from the beginning that Abby is going to end up with Travis Maddox, but somewhere long before the half-way point of the book Parker Hayes makes an appearance and we begin to wonder. And, in many ways, Parker seems like the better choice. And Abby feels the same way after she starts dating Parker.
I had been divided into two separate people: the docile, polite person I was with Parker, and the angry, confused, frustrated person I turned into around Travis.
Naturally, Abby opts for angry, confused, and frustrated, although, as in all good romances, a lot of that is mitigated in the end.
The two heroes plot can be harrowing for a reader, particularly if the hero you're rooting for doesn't get the girl. In some cases, however, the losing hero does get his own book, which is come consolation to both of us.
How do you feel about this trope? Fun? Not so much? Has your favorite hero gotten short shrift?
Myretta is a founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, www.myrettarobens.com and on Twitter @Myretta.